Sunday, 19 October 2014


Former Disney matte painter and Buena Vista Visual Effects chief, Harrison Ellenshaw takes an up close look at one of the Profiles in History mattes currently up for auction as we speak.  The glorious artwork is from the Van Heflin-Lana Turner epic GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947) and I'm told by Jim Danforth that Howard Fisher was the artist responsible, with whom he worked at Film Effects of Hollwood in the early 1960's.    *Auction photos all courtesy of Craig Barron


click to enlarge and enjoy even more!
I was initially planning on completing the Lands of Wonder matte survey here with this second installment, though once I sifted through the considerable volume of worthy matte shots I had put to one side for just such an event I quickly realised I had way too many images for just two installments, so a third article focusing solely on science fiction worlds and future shock will be forthcoming soon.
However, before we venture down that path - and as things more often than not tend to work themselves out when I'm prepping these blogs - some exciting fresh photographs of wonderful Golden Era MGM matte art have literally just this moment fallen into my lap from my inbox, courtesy of former ILM and Matte World visual fx man Craig Barron.
Craig went along to the Profiles in History showroom with fellow matte exponent Harrison Ellenshaw and the duo cast their experienced gaze over a myriad of mattes and other Hollywood memorabilia.  Craig had mentioned to me a while back that, if permitted, he'd happily photograph some of those wonderful old Newcombe department matte paintings just for this blog and your very, very appreciative correspondent, one NZPete.  Well, true to his word Craig sent me several very nice high quality pictures of some of those mattes, including one I'd completely overlooked in the preceding article - a rare Chesley Bonestell painting likely to be from DESTINATION MOON.
MGM's WORDS AND MUSIC (1948) theatre frontage - a Metro specialty.

I'm always intrigued as to how other matte painters and visual effects exponents feel about their vintage and largely anonymous and unheralded counterparts, in terms of technical matters such as blending and command of the various mediums available to achieve their artwork, so I asked Harrison Ellenshaw for his opinion, and here's what he said:  "I was thrilled to see so much genuinely amazing artwork. As cynical as I may seem sometimes, I really do have an enthusiasm for all the creative arts... at least those that are wonderfully executed.
To be specific about what I saw at Profiles in History this week: the relatively small size (about 20 x 24" for most) was impressive.  I always thought that since I learned to paint mattes on, at the time, small glasses - 26 x 35" and other matte artists outside Disney thought that was much too small, the MGM pieces that size were probably to make them faster to produce, making them even more amazing. 
The drawing, perspective, composition and attention to important detail just blew me away.
The use of different mediums was also especially impressive. using white chalk on top of ink, goache etc can produce a soft texture that is hugely effective. Definitely a lost art.
Only one or two "clunkers" (or "wincers" as I call them) in the whole collection.
It is too bad that we don't know the names of the artists who did this. I truly hope this stuff goes to good homes." [Me too: Pete]

My favourite genre of the artform was the glittering theatre signage.

So, prior to my second Lands of Wonder episode (which by the way has some terrific stuff therein) I feel the absolute necessity to examine a few of those Profiles in History mattes in detail - one of which qualifies as a Land of Wonder contender for this fan - that being the GREEN DOLPHIN STREET panorama.
Of course, your humble author would be most grateful of any other photos which might come my way from other lucky purchasers of any other auction mattes.  I know of at least one reader who's bidding on the TARZAN / TRADER HORN matte painting of Africa, and as at this writing I've had communiques from another longtime follower who has in fact won his bid at the auction and now happily owns some nine MGM matte paintings.  I'm assured good quality photos will be forthcoming in due course.
Arrestingly detailed close up from the GREEN DOLPHIN STREET establishing shot.  This is what matte art is all about.
More from the same...
Harrison & Craig admire a rare Chesley Bonestell panoramic painting, probably from DESTINATION MOON

The painting for a shot I'd never picked as being some form of trickery - from SEA OF GRASS (1947)

A closer look at just how much was painted in by the anonymous matte artist under Warren Newcombe's supervision.  It's simply staggering in it's boldness, with not only the crowd added in but even the lower extremities of some people painted in as well to match their actual bodies!!  See below....

Composite with different foreground painted elements, possibly not used, but a wonderful demonstration of MGM's matte cameramen and their skills at pulling together the real and the concocted as one.  Blows my mind folks!
Finally, as an art lover - and that includes fine art and gallery paintings as well as these celebrated mattes - I hope the individuals contemplating or purchasing matte art do so for the love of the artform and it's importance in movie and entertainment history, rather than as a purely speculative venture, which personally speaking, I detest.  These exquisite pieces deserve to be seen, displayed and enjoyed, NOT packed unobtainably in a shipping crate somewhere in a basement where the so-called market forces will decide their next disposition.  :(




Now what could be more glorious as a start point for the Lands of Wonder than this stunningly designed Mark Sullivan matte from Akira Kurosawa's DREAMS (1989)
I love these old time Technicolor mattes from the 1940's, with this being a BluRay image from Fox's STATE FAIR (1945)

A Robert Scifo matte from the king of pop, Michael Jacksons MOONWALKER (1988), itself a great little show jam packed with stunning Dream Quest visual effects, mattes and animated interludes.  More of these of a more sci-fi bent will show up in Part 3 of Lands of Wonder.... watch this space.
Another Bob Scifo matte from MOONWALKER depicting the imaginary city and environs where anything may happen.

Albert Whitlock's oil boom town in the hugely entertaining John Wayne show BIG JAKE (1971) which has the distinction of having a jaw dropping number of very violent killings for an MPAA 'G' Rated picture of the day!  Note the matte here, which shows distinct and very unusual vertical matte lines bissecting clouds etc, which only become evident when viewing same on BluRay and aren't apparent on other formats.  Very odd indeed, almost as if, as an afterthought the director decided to change from 'flat' to 'scope' mid stream.  Heck, it may be, as Polanski made just such a decision mid way through FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS and the matte artists at Shepperton had to expand their mattes and other shots to now accommodate the CinemaScope screen.  True story.
An exquisite Mario Larrinaga pre-production illustration sent to me by Mark Sullivan (thanks so much Mark) for the film ISLAND OF LOST SHIPS (1929)

A pair of Sersen mattes from The Ritz Brothers' THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1939)

The fx heavy comedy epic, THE GREAT RACE (1966) with mattes by Albert Maxwell Simpson and Cliff Silsby - both old hands in the matte trade from way, way back.


Rocco Gioffre's depression era New York cityscape from Eddie Murphy's HARLEM NIGHTS (1989)
Disney's THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1957) with Peter Ellenshaw's brushwork and distinct style (look at those skies... pure Ellenshaw)
The original Cecil B.DeMille silent version of KING OF KINGS (1927) with photographic effects credited to Howard A.Anderson.  Anderson's brother Darryl was a glass shot artist so he may have had a hand in these shots?
A terrific film that would have benefitted even more by further inclusion of mattes to tell the story - Ray Harryhausen's VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969).  Matte artist was Gerald Larn at Shepperton Studios.

I just love vintage Warner Brothers matte shots from the 30's & 40's... there was just something about them.  This is from Errol Flynn's VIRGINIA CITY (1940).

Another evocative VIRGINIA CITY matte...and in HD too!  This film is loaded from start to end with many mattes.

Same film.  Artists included Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga, Hans Bartholowsky and maybe Chesley Bonestell.

Albert Whitlock's plague of locusts matte shot from the very feeble EXORCIST II - THE HERETIC (1977)

More Whitlock magic from the same dire film.  John Boorman regular Ned Beatty was even in it, though not once did he squeal like a pig.  What were they thinking?
Another of those wonderful Warner Bros. mattes, with this one from THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (1941).

Same film

Disney's DAVY CROCKETT KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1955) was a compilation of tv episodes, and was loaded with great Peter Ellenshaw matte shots, with these two being my personal favourites.
I've got a career tribute on Ken Marschall coming up, though I couldn't resist throwing in one of Ken's memorable mattes.  This one's from THE TERMINATOR (1985) with more painted than you'd first think.

Orientalism as seen in a film called RUMPUS IN THE HAREM (1956)
Republic's FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953) was largely a Lydecker brothers miniature showcase, but did have this matte painted shot.  Artist unknown, though pioneer Lewis Physioc did paint on many Republic pictures early on.
Gangster era Chicago in all it's nocturnal glory as painted by Albert Whitlock for STING II (1982)
Mario Larrinaga matte from THE GAUCHO (1927)

The excellent historic bio pic GLORY (1989) would utilise the talents of Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton of Illusion Arts to create some views of this important moment in Civil War history.

Another GLORY matte just prior to all hell breaking loose.  Terrific film.

Speaking of The Civil War, one cannot go past GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) which as we know was a massive effects show, packed with mattes by Jack Cosgrove and his small team of helpers.  This remarkable shot is to me, one of the most effective yet least 'spotted' painted mattes in the film.  Right after the main title montage of matte art we get this beautifully designed and executed shot.  A masterpiece of not just brushwork (sky, trees etc) but jaw dropping optical cinematography by Clarence Slifer.  Almost certainly a full painting with skillfully composited live action dropped in probably using bi-pack methodology, which Slifer mastered in a number of scenes in the film.
Another BluRay matte from GONE WITH THE WIND
Same film - Atlanta in panic mode.  Matte artists were Jack Cosgrove, Jack Shaw, Albert Maxwell Simpson and Fitch Fulton, with Byron Crabbe doing early matte effects work before his premature death.

Those old Roger Corman 'Poe' films were pretty good and always had good matte shots.  This is from THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) and I'd bet my pinky finger that Albert Whitlock did these - uncredited.  They have all the hallmarks of Al's brushwork - the skies and wonderful feeling of backlight look so to me.

Irving Block's panoramic full matte painting for the interesting sci-fi show KRONOS (1957)

My grand dad took me to see this as a kid (at the Central theatre in Papatoetoe, South Auckland) and I loved it.  LT. ROBINSON CRUSOE USN  (1966).  Peter Ellenshaw and Jim Fetherolf were matte artists.

An early sign of a talent to watch out for and great things to come.  This is one of Mark Sullivan's high school glass shots from the late 1970's.  Definitely sums up the title of this blog post.
The oil boom has provided matte artists with much to work with in a great many films over the years.  Among the best examples must be Albert Whitlock's remarkable matte work for the George C.Scott film OKLAHOMA CRUDE (1973).  Not only beautiful paintings but lots of intricate 'gags' worked into the shots such as 'working' oil derrick pumps, smoke and movement.  Matte cinematographer and compositor was longtime Universal fx man Ross Hoffman.

Peter Ellenshaw had his work cut out for him with the large matte show THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1954) for Disney

Four more of the 60 odd Ellenshaw mattes from SWORD AND THE ROSE.  Peter was assisted by a junior Al Whitlock and Cliff Culley.  Just love Peter's handling of clouds and moonlit skies... as good as it gets folks!

Speaking of Peter Ellenshaw, one of his earliest assignments whilst under the wing of future step-dad Walter Percy Day was the Laurence Olivier historic picture FIRE OVER ENGLAND (1937).  This looks like a combination painting and miniature foreground trick shot.

Lisbon as depicted in FIRE OVER ENGLAND

Same film.... Craig Barron's indispensable book The Invisible Art features a wonderful, hilarious anecdote from Peter Ellenshaw regarding this scene and how bloody wrong it all went until saved at the 11th hour!

Another big film for matte shots was the under rated THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) with a ton of mattes.

Michael Pangrazio seen here with his full painting for an important establishing shot in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), an Oscar winner for VFX.
The dark, disturbing, sadistic and frankly, totally fucking off the wall HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2 (1988) had some dazzling make up fx, a million gallons of gore and good matte work in it's favour.  Cliff Culley was matte painter.

Also from HELLBOUND is this tour de force set piece with some of Culley's best work up on screen.
An all time fave of mine, 30 SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944) well deserved it's FX Oscar.

Universal was king of the desert epics - albeit low budget desert epics:  ALI-BABA AND THE 40 THIEVES (1944)
David Lean sadly never got the gig for VIKING WOMEN AND THE SEA SERPENT (1957), Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder were both busy - so Roger Corman took the helm.  Mattes by Irving Block, Jack Rabin and Louis DeWitt.

New York's Metropolitan Museum as visualised by Albert Whitlock for Sidney Lumet's THE WIZ (1978)

A dreadful, hopelessly misguided film, TOYS (1993) did have spectacular design and visual effects work.  This shot is a winner, with combination live action, 'pop up' miniature hose and a Mark Sullivan matte painting tying it all as one.
A whimsical Fred Sersen department matte from the excellent TALES OF MANHATTAN (1942)

Disney's ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974) was probably the studio's biggest matte shot film, with scores of delightful shots.  Alan Maley was in charge of matte art, with Harrison Ellenshaw and Deno Ganakes assisting.  Matthew Yuricich was even hired to take some of the matte workload off the Disney boys.

While on Matthew Yuricich, I can't resist dropping in this terrific BluRay image of his painted battleship row from the still exciting TORA TORA TORA (1970)

Percy Day and Peter Ellenshaw mattes from A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) - aka STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
Now, these static frames may not look anything special, but this approaching tornado sweeping across the Kansas landscape is probably the best tornado ever committed to film.  The film is THE LEARNING TREE (1969) and Albert Whitlock painted the landscape and sky beyond the field, and manufactured a subtle, yet utterly convincing stormfront
Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) used MGM's matte department to the full, with painters Lee LeBlanc and Matthew Yuricich kept busy.  This is one of my favourite shots from the film.

As previously mentioned, the old Warner Brothers Stage 5 trick department really produced some great shots during the 30's and 40's, with these being just two of a truckload of trick shots seen in the misunderstood PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (1944).  Jack Cosgrove and Byron Haskin supervised the ton of miniatures, mattes, process and full scale physical effects.  Great work throughout.

Moscow's Red Square during the Cold War era as seen in the James Coburn spoof IN LIKE FLINT (1967).  I don't know why the painting is so awkwardly cropped, unless it was prepped as a flat shot with considerably more headroom?

Also from IN LIKE FLINT with Emil Kosa jr as chief matte artist.
Tim Burton's BATMAN (1988) had a number of matte painters attached - Leigh Took painted this wonderful view of Gotham City...

...whilst Doug Ferris painted this view.

J.P Trevor painted this expansive glass shot...
J.P Trevor's glass painting which would ultimately be barely visible due to excessively smoked up set and foreground miniatures.
...and this view which may be either Ray Caple or Brian Bishop renderings.

William Wyler's smash hit BEN HUR (1959) had dozens of mattes, especially in this elaborate opening sequence.

Another BEN HUR matte shot. Lee LeBlanc and Matt Yuricich were principle painters.

Lots of amazing special effects abound in this Clark Gable actioner BOOM TOWN (1940) - with phenomenal full scale infernos, mattes, models, process, complex optical super-impositions and the lot all worked a treat.  Top shelf tech work all the way.

Fox's CALL ME MADAM (1953) was Matthew Yuricich's first solo painting gig, but not without heavy departmental politics that came with the assignment.  According to Matthew Ralph Hammeras also painted on this film.
Matte art with fireworks overlay from DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940)

BluRay image of one of Al Whitlock's best shots from his latter career - Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD (1981)

The late, talented Robin Williams, seen here comped into an elaborate matte painting from Steven Spielberg's overlong and tiresome HOOK (1991).

The HOOK matte painting on display at ILM.  Artist not known.
Civil War era Mississippi as painted by Albert Whitlock for the late Andrew V.McLaglen's SHENANDOAH (1965)

A stunning Mark Sullivan painted matte from TAKARA (1986)

Major set extension from the Korda epic THAT HAMILTON WOMAN (1941)
An almost invisible Doug Ferris matte as seen in Terry Gilliam's odd ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1988).  Bold to run a matte line through the sky like that, but well executed all the same.
One of the best of the Universal sci-fi shows of the 50's, THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957)
An effective, though uncredited matte from the excellent Samuel Fuller Korean war drama, THE STEEL HELMET (1951)

A rare behind the scenes look at the Denham matte set up for a Peter Ellenshaw shot in TREASURE ISLAND (1950)

The hugely under rated monster flick THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) featured amazingly bold and creative animation design and imaginative fx camerawork which exceeded Harryhausen's fairly conservative fair in many respects (no hate mail please) - as well as some great Ralph Hammeras glass shots such as this.

A few more of Ralph Hammeras' glass painted shots.

The world of the aerial daredevil as depicted by Universal matte artist Russell Lawsen in the Rock Hudson melodrama THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1958)
A beautiful Michele Moen matte supplemented by foreground models and interactive light inlays from BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

We all know how much NZPete loves the old Warner Bros matte shots.... a selection from the Gary Cooper/Michael Curtiz western BRIGHT LEAF (1950).  I love that top left frame - a full painting that looks just such an icon of the old west in itself.  Career matte artist Paul Detlefsen retired from movie work in 1950 to pursue gallery painting so this may well have been among his last.
Post war Japan as painted by Russ Lawsen for BATTLE HYMN (1956)

A couple of barely noticeable mattes from the classic John Wayne picture THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949).  Lewis Physioc was long time Republic fx man and matte painter and may have been involved, though I've not researched it.

I've always loved this scene from OUR MAN FLINT (1966) which as a kid on tv (in awful pan & scan 16mm prints) looked so bloody cool.  L.B Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil kosa jr and Howard Lydecker were all credited.

Another view of same.  Partial miniature, partial matte art and all so well combined to great effect.  Love it!

Disney matte artist Michael Lloyd painted these unique rock formations and valley for the Bette Midler comedy OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987)

Great effects from a lousy film:  Mark Sullivan's atmospheric matte art and stop motion do wonders for a tedious affair that was HOUSE 2-THE SECOND STORY (1987).

From the same film, a full frame Mark Sullivan painting.

HOUSE 2 matte
An unknown title from Paramount, probably from the late 1920's or early 1930's.  Jan Domela would no doubt have painted it and Irmin Roberts was cameraman here... but what's the film?
The exciting true life adventure PAPILLON (1973) employed Albert Whitlock's talents to extend a beachfront and add scope to the vista, invisibly.
A rare high resolution image of one of Peter Ellenshaw's most celebrated glass shots - from 20'000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954).  Peter was the maestro at sailing ships on canvas (or glass).

Another Ellenshaw masterpiece from the same film.  An elaborate multi element trick shot with same group of extras matted several times (on original negative) into different areas of the frame, and this in turn doubled into an extensive (and stunning) matte painting.

Captain Nemo's lair from 20'000 LEAGUES according to Peter Ellenshaw.

The Edgar Allen Poe COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) was great value and full of laughs with the cast of luminaries enjoying themselves no end.  Again, one of those mystery matte shows, though I'd bet my cat that Albert Whitlock painted the mattes, as the work looks so much like his, as does the blend where the matte line runs straight across the middle of the frame - something Whitlock was never afraid of.  Those stickly branches crop up in all the Poe films BTW.
Unforgettable moment from an unforgettable film... KING KONG (1933) ... a classic in all respects.  Enough said.

Another complicated fx shot from KONG, with layered glass art, miniature tree and two separate live action plates.
The 1976 incarnation of KING KONG left a lot to be desired (like friggen' dinosaurs fer Christ's sake!)... but it did have it's plus points:  a beautiful, lush John Barry score, good pacing, some (I said 'some') decent fx shots and Jessica Lange.  Skull Island looked positively 'high school play' as far as set decor and design goes... pitiful.  The painted mattes (by Lou Litchtenfield) I felt were poor and many of Rick Baker's KONG moments were a laugh riot.  Worst line:  "You damned big male chauvinist ape!"   At least Peter Jackson got it right.
The much anticipated log over the chasm set piece from the '76 KONG was dismal.  Extremely poor art direction and soundstage tv soap styled lighting design... !

At last, something of quality... a barely detectable matte painted scene from the still rollicking JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1959).  Great entertainment and still a joy on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Same film... those aren't 'magic mushrooms', just matted mushrooms - a completely different kettle of fish!
Les Bowie's matte shot of period Hong Kong and steamer from Hammer's TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961)

Solid matte work which worked a treat for RKO's BACK TO BATAAN (1943)

A minor classic, COLOSSUS, THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969) was a frightening 'what if' scenario where the world's two super computers (USA & Russia) join forces and start to lay down the rules.  Several great mattes by Albert Whitlock depicting both the super computer (which is probably as powerful now as this very laptop?) as well as the top secret military installation (above) housing said machinery.


COLOSSUS again, with everything aside from the carpark area being Whitlock's oil paint on glass.  Where the hell is the BluRay on this fantastic movie?
Silent era glass artist and special effects man Conrad Tritschler's work is very hard to come by, which is why I attempted recently to buy this rare as hell personal photo album which came up for auction via eBay.  As a total novice who'd never even visited eBay before, I sadly made a botch up of the whole exercise and missed out (by a mere 60 seconds).  I did manage to get some adequate captures from the eBay page  though, with this wonderful before and after from the Douglas Fairbanks adventure DON Q - THE SON OF ZORRO (1925).

A brilliant glass shot by veteran matte expert Pierre Schildneck from the Spanish picture LA DUQUESA DE BENAMEJI (1949). An utterly striking effect, executed as a tilt down shot.

From the same film
Percy Day painted this fanciful matte for the George Bernard Shaw adaptation MAJOR BARBARA (1941)
Lex Luthor fiddled while Naples burns.... or something like that.  One of Peter Ellenshaw's mattes from the highly questionable SUPERMAN IV (1987)
Another of Peter's extraordinary mattes from SUPERMAN IV - and in high resolution too!

Now, I know some of the chosen shots I've included are sort of stretching the bow a little, but it's hard to find a suitable 'theme' to display many of my collected matte archive so I have to figure out ways to squeeze worthy shots in where I can...and this one's definitely worthy.  Mike Pangrazio's dizzying birds eye view from the pretty enjoyable THE SHADOW (1994). One doozy of a matte if ever there were one.... and in beautiful 1080p resolution no less!
Pangrazio... a man of great talent, and as far as I know, living here in New Zealand and busy at WETA.

Albert Whitlock's painted view of Rommel's tank division in the Libyan desert from TOBRUK (1966).  The shot (and others) was recycled for the 1971 war film RAID ON ROMMEL

Unknown title from Paramount, circa late 1920's.  Jan Domela probably painted it.
For the mammoth made for tv film PETER THE GREAT (1986) British matte artist Cliff Culley provided a large number of period mattes covering Russia, Germany and Britain.
An uncredited matte from the Errol Flynn costume epic THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953)
Fred Sersen's matte department at 20th Century Fox painted this and other mattes for THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)
An Albert Whitlock landscape matte from the imaginative tv pilot THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974)

In ROBIN HOOD-PRINCE OF THIEVES (1990) matte painter Michael Pangrazio not only painted this view of 12th Century Jerusalem, but also played the role of the holy man in the minaret calling the faithful to prayer.
The city of Kiev during the time of the Tartars from the Yul Brynner picture TARAS BULBA (1962).  Russell Lawsen painted most of the shots and received his one and only screen credit after more than 30 years in the trade.
Also from TARAS BULBA is this ravine sequence which utilised Albert Whitlock's brushwork for some shots.

A spectacular Mike Pangrazio matte from the pretty amusing spoof HOT SHOTS 2 (1993)

A rare, still surviving glass painting, now in a private collection, as painted Percy Day for the Laurence Olivier film HENRY V (1944)
The 1979 version of DRACULA was a well done take on the Bram Stoker myth.  Albert Whitlock painted the mattes along with associate Syd Dutton, with this example being an especially well hidden trick shot where everything above the heads of the actors has been matted in flawlessly by cameraman Bill Taylor.
Another Whitlock shot from DRACULA (1979)

An uncredited Syd Dutton matte from Robert Redford's THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (1988)

The thrilling (who'd have thunk it?) Powell-Pressburger film THE RED SHOES (1948) with ethereal matte art and opticals.
One of Robert Stromberg's painted canyon shots from the hugely enjoyable TREMORS (1990)

Two more of my absolute all time favourites... a pair of Jack Cosgrove mattes from DUEL IN THE SUN (1947)

The eerie and hair raising I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943).  Mattes possibly by Fitch Fulton or Chesley Bonestell

A really good espionage drama from Michael Powell, THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) had some very interesting effects shots such as this uncredited matte.  I wonder whether Percy Day might have been involved?
A telling before and after of a mighty Peter Ellenshaw matte from Disney's THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952)

Another Ellenshaw before & after from ROBIN HOOD
One of Jan Domela's mattes from the Bob Hope comedy NEVER SAY DIE (1939)

Percy Day matte shots from CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1946)
One of Albert Whitlock's incredible matte shots from Stanley Kramer's SHIP OF FOOLS (1965). Everything here, except the ocean, is painted - even the ship!  Universal submitted the film to the all knowing AMPAS for Oscar consideration for Whitlock's work, but they found it unworthy!
Rocco Gioffre's fairy tale Christmas matte that concludes Joe Dante's GREMLINS (1984)

Matte work here overseen by Eugene Lourie from the film CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965)

Transitional matte paintings that form the basis of a fantasy set piece from the Russian made film THE FLYING CARPET (1958)

An early two tone Technicolor film, Warner Brothers' VIENNESE NIGHTS (1930)
The now somewhat dated THINGS TO COME (1936) had great fx shots, with lots of foreground and hanging miniatures by Ned Mann and matte art by Percy Day.  This looks like a Day glass shot to me.

Percy Day painted top up matte from THINGS TO COME

THINGS TO COME again - with this monumental shot I suspect it's a meticulously engineered hanging miniature by Ned Mann, which was his specialty.
Scenes set in China and Burma from the Fox war soaper CHINA GIRL (1942).  The guy's head goes through the matted roof line in that top right shot.  I should do a blog on people's anatomy that vanishes through matte lines... there's plenty of it folks!
Not really a land of wonder, but what the hell... a Matthew Yuricich matte painted top secret institution as seen in George Pal's rather intriguing THE POWER (1968)

A pair of uncredited matte painted shots from the Rat Pack remake of Gunga Din, SERGEANTS THREE (1962)

Michele Moen's beautiful and extensive matte art from Renny Harlin's CLIFFHANGER (1993).  The painting is somewhat more expansive as the shot is a pull out and pan down.  Wonderful sense of light here.

Jan Domela mattes from the Dorothy Lamour (mmmmmmm!) sarong epic, HER JUNGLE LOVE (1938)

Matte from THE CORSICAN BROTHERS (1941) with Howard Anderson in charge of photographic effects, so it's a high likelihood that Darryl Anderson painted the mattes.

So many beautifully executed mattes and all round visual effects, WILLOW (1988) was top shelf in the tech stakes.  Here is a wonderful Christopher Evans matte shot.  Craig Barron shot and comped all of the mattes.

ILM artist Paul Swendsen at work on a key WILLOW matte painting.
...and here's the final composite which appears as a rapid tilt up on screen.

An astonishing film on so many fronts - the giant mechanical dragon being one such front - SIEGFRIED, DIE NIBELUNGEN (1924) deserves a spot in Lands of Wonder.

Multi layered glass with miniature elements and an actor added via the Dunning process from the film CREATION (1931)
The film SKULLDUGGERY (1970) was set in New Guinea, though the requisite scenery was provided by Albert Whitlock
An Emilio Ruiz glass shot from THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1959)
Again, not really a genuine contender for a Land of Wonder, but I've been trying to find a way to show this nice high resolution Albert Whitlock matte painted shot from  THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962) and I guess this will have to do.  You don't like it... well, sue me.
Another of those many mystery Paramount shots that I have, with no clue as to title.  Possibly THE SHEIK or maybe BEAU SABREUR from the late 1920's - who knows?  All I know is that Irmin Roberts photographed it and composited the matte.
The Japanese film industry have had a long tradition of using interesting effects, usually guys in monster suits stomping on Tokyo, though alot of those films have good matte art.  These shots are from MOTHRA (1961)

Great work here from KING KONG VERSUS GODZILLA - one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays immortalised.

A revealing look at a highly imaginative glass shot devised and executed by Jiri Stamfest for a film called NEXUS (1994)

...and here's Jiri's glass shot when correctly aligned for the stills photographer, though not quite as it will finally appear on screen naturally.
Two Jan Domela matte shots from Gary Coopers LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935)
Columbia's MASK OF THE AVENGER (1951)
And to conclude, as the sun rises slowly in the east, thisAlbert Whitlock matte from the better than you'd think seventies thriller, THE CAR (1977).  An exceedingly groovy movie!

Well friends... that oughta do it for today.  Next and final part of Lands of Wonder will concentrate on science fiction worlds and future shock, with some excellent high quality mattes from BluRays that look great.
So, till next time.........




  1. Can you post the results of the auction - I'm curious to see if I had any chance.

    1. Hi Steve

      Well, I'm not privy to that, but I believe one can find out via the online Profiles auction site if one 'signs in'. What I can tell you from info passed directly to me, at least some of the lots went for very affordable prices - with one buyer (and reader of my blog) telling me that to his surprise he had his bid accepted for $750 for a package of 6 very nice Newcombe mattes. That's not much more than $100 a piece! Of course one must factor in the percentage that the auction house take, as well as airfreight - which from my few experiences is very, very costly. Plus import taxes etc for overseas buyers. US buyers could obtain these pieces no sweat, but us foreign types, it's another story!

      I'm told the lovely Green Dolphin Street went way up to around $3000 or so - likewise for the Cairo painting. From what I could see when looking at the lots on the site a few minutes ago, most had just one bid, some had two and another had three bidders. Some had none at all. I wished I'd risked divorce and tried for some of those beauties... but auctions are a mystery to me, let alone from the other end of the earth.


  2. Yeah, I regret not trying now that I see how undervalued these items sold for. Could you find out from Harrison and Craig since they examined the paintings closeup, if there was any methodology to the different media employed in a matte - for instance was gouache always used for the underlayer.

    1. Hey Steve

      I'm very disappointed that you - a hardcore matte art fan no less - did NOT but a dozen or so pieces. :( I'd have fully expected an email from you with wonderful attachments showing details etc! Well, not to worry, I have assurances from a couple of successful buyers who read this site that high rez pics WILL be forthcoming once said mattes arrive.

      BTW I've asked Harrison for his professional comment as you've requested. So watch this space.


  3. Hey Steve

    I've had a response from Harrison which appears below:



    To be honest, I really have no definitive idea how they achieved what they achieved. Since everyone involved is no longer with us, any existing information is second hand and subject to error. Jim Danforth might know more and so might Bill Taylor. But last week Craig and I discussed each of the pieces with a combination of admiration, amazement and much speculation. I, like you, have no idea why they aren’t smudged.

    I can say this much. Every matte artist learns to create paintings differently usually taught by a mentor matte artist. Albert Whitlock learned to use oil and used that all his life. He was dismissive of acrylic. My father started by using oil (as taught by Pop Day) and converted to acrylics when they first came out in the early 60s. Peter eventually convinced Alan Maley to use acrylics. When I first arrived at the Disney matte room in 1970 Alan insisted that I learn using acrylics. I was a rank amateur and I was definitely “thrown into the deep end.” Alan remarked that even though it would be much more difficult to learn than oil, one day I would thank him. Which I certainly did.

    I'm not much help for your blog reader, sorry.

    All best,


  4. Great post, Pete!

    By the way, I think the Chesley Bonestell panoramic painting belongs to an Apes movie. You can clearly see a Lawgiver statue behind Craig Barron...

    1. Hi Joan

      Nice try, but no... it's not from any APES movie and is definitely Bonestell's work from the early 1950's. The auction showroom has a number of props, costumes, photographs and all sorts as well as mattes, which is why the Lawgiver can be seen looming over Craig's shoulder.

      All the best


  5. Even on first seeing it I was struck by all the great matte paintings in BIG JAKE (I especially liked the distant lightning shots during the climax) which seemed unusual for a John Wayne western.

    RUMPUS IN THE HAREM was a Three Stooges short from the Shemp period so the matte shot you posted was almost certainly (make that "coitenly") lifted from another movie. I wonder what?

    1. Hi Brett

      Yeah, all solid work in BIG JAKE with more mattes than may be noticeable. The canyon 'leap' by Chris Mitchum on the motorcycle is totally invisible as a trick shot. Those lightning shots look so cool, with meticulous interactive 'flashes' on the painted walls and roofs too. Whitlock painted a lot of mattes on The Duke's Universal and Warner Bros films, and I believe that Michael Wayne always asked for Albert.


  6. Once again i am entertained and informed, thanks Pete, I especially enjoy seeing new B+W mattes.
    Thank you.