Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Today's issue of Matte Shot - the third and final entry in a series of three Lands of Wonder specials - is a bonanza indeed, even if I do say so myself.  I've sifted through my vast (and I do mean vast!) collection of matte shots and effects clips and put together a healthy exhibition of future worlds, fantasy lands, visionary technology and even post apocalyptic devastation from a myriad of films and tv shows originating from numerous photographic effects practitioners.  Some shots will undoubtedly be instantly familiar, though quite a number probably won't be so.
I've endeavoured to secure as many high definition matte shots from BluRay discs wherever possible (and when available to me), with the resulting matte artistry looking spectacular indeed in most cases.

I grew up in the 1960's and, believe it or not, animated tv shows like the futuristic Hanna-Barbera cartoon THE JETSENS actually had a profound effect on me as to how I perceived 'the future' and all it had in store.  Likewise television series such as LOST IN SPACE and the original STAR TREK had much the same effect on this writer and had me utterly captivated no end.  I fondly recall in those days staying for long periods at my grandparents house - a real treat that I looked forward to - though the one negative offshoot of the visits were the banning of TREK and DR WHO etc as my dear Grandma, who was very religious, felt that the very notion of man going into space and landing on the moon etc was ludicrous - possibly even the work of the devil himself (!) and must surely be the notion of crazy people and such ideas were dangerous to a young and impressionable mind (this was some years before Neil Armstrong did his big thing mind you)!  Those were the days!

So, without further delay, we've got an awful lot of wonderful mattes to look through, so let us wander down the gallery of wonderful, visionary matte trick shots and relive some of those glorious cinematic moments (and some not so glorious...!)

By the way, my apologies to those who tell me my blogs are way too long (and boring?)... take it up with my lawyer.



The wacky trip to the Red Planet according to Universal visual effects man David S.Horsley and matte painter Russ Lawsen for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS (1953)

Robert and Dennis Skotak set up an in camera glass shot for the film AFTERMATH (1982)

Ridley Scott's still brilliant ALIEN (1979) stands the test of time for superlative film making in all departments, complemented by an absolutely perfect ensemble cast of players.  Despite it's 50's monster movie origins, ALIEN hit's paydirt from frame one and never let's go.  The frame shown above is one of several mattes painted by Ray Caple which were dropped from the final edit.  Shame, as it's a really interesting shot.

Also from ALIEN is this matte painting by Dennis Lowe.  Dennis told me how he painted this in gouache onto shiny black vinyl, stretched onto a 4x8 foot frame. The artwork was used to great effect in the film with Jerry Goldsmith's tense underscore.

Another ALIEN matte that never made the final cut.  Ray Caple was matte artist.

The short lived mid 70's tv series spinoff PLANET OF THE APES had a few Matthew Yuricich matte shots here and there.  The episodes shown here were 'Legacy' and 'The Trap'
Mattes from the Japanese monster flick ATRAGON (1963)

BluRay grab of a Matthew Yuricich shot from the regrettably weak, and inexcusably cheap final Apes entry, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1974) - a film that could have been quite good had money been put into it by Fox.

Another BluRay Yuricich shot from same film.
An atmospheric Syd Dutton matte from the quirky film THE RUNNING MAN (1987)
A nicely designed matte by Bob Kayganich from the film MOONTRAP (1989), which, as I recall, was quite good.
The second Apes picture BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1969) had a number of mattes by Matthew Yuricich, with this (HD) view of a nuclear devastated New York being sufficiently popular to show up in several other films such as the tacky 1979 Richard Harris actioner THE RAVAGERS.

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES - New York in desperate need of a spring clean.

ILM provided a lot of mattes for the Lucasfilm tv movie EWOKS-THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR (1985) with Michael Pangrazio as principle matte artist and Craig Barron as vfx cinematographer.

Another artfully rendered matte from the same tele-film.

Disney's big budget space epic THE BLACK HOLE (1979) suffered from a hopelessly childish premise and strictly by the numbers direction, though some interesting miniatures and matte shots were worth a look.  Chief matte artist Harrison Ellenshaw.

A David Mattingly matte from THE BLACK HOLE

Same film
Now, when it comes to intelligently designed, even retrained visual effects that were never overplayed and are used principally to service the narrative, BLADERUNNER (1982) stands out in a class of it's own.  This shot is a Matthew Yuricich painted matte.

Also from BLADERUNNER is this jaw dropping shot, though technically not actually a painted matte.  Rocco Gioffre told me the atrium type roof was a large format photographic blow up, carefully cut out and mounted on glass to allow for frontlight/backlight compositing of a number of elements outside the atrium to wonderful effect.  Gorgeous shot both by way of VFX art direction and flawless, almost subdued execution. This type of scene if carried out today would be some bloody awful, in your face CG 'event', art directed in such a way as to defy logic, physics and the patience of the viewer. Give me strength!
1982 was a big year for Douglas Trumbull - with both BLADERUNNER and BRAINSTORM being huge photographic effects assignments for his Entertainment Effects Group, and Doug also directing BRAINSTORM (shown here).  As with many of EEG's projects, Matthew Yuricich was resident matte painter and here was assisted by his son Dana Yuricich.    BluRay mattes.

Several undetectable Yuricich mattes are featured in BRAINSTORM with above shot being all painted except nearest bit of road where Christopher Walken cycles home at night.  Actually the film was a brilliant concept, though not entirely successful in the greater scheme of things, no doubt as the lead actress died in murky circumstances part way through the shoot. Still, an enormously entertaining film, and one I'd love to see a reconstructed directors cut of one day, as I know a bunch of great optical fx set pieces were left on the cutting room floor.
While a half dozen mattes were used in BRAINSTORM it was really the optical effects and jaw dropping photographic wizardry as supervised by Richard Yuricich (Matt's brother) and Dave Stewart which took my breath away.  Mind bogglingly complicated optical composites, with often fifty plus elements meticulously combined in 65mm format at EEG. This remarkable shot is one frame from the staggering 'Heaven' sequence.  I can't understand how this film was overlooked for Oscar consideration for the effects work.

The feature film BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (1979) was actually a neat little slice of sci-fi escapism and I recall enjoying it immensely at the magnificent Civic Theatre in Auckland back in the day (That's the theatre that Peter Jackson wrecked in KONG).  Syd Dutton was matte painter and did a bang up job with many excellent shots that were very clearly the skilled brushwork of one who been mentored by the great Albert Whitlock.

BUCK ROGERS... one phenomenal matte shot indeed.

Same film - a multi-part Bill Taylor composite with people matted with actual mirrored LA skyscraper, a Syd Dutton painted cityscape and Lyn Ledgerwood's miniature vehicles!
While Syd Dutton painted the mattes for the feature film of BUCK ROGERS, other artists based at Universal's Hartland provided mattes for the subsequent tv series.  David Stipes supervised the mattes and photographic effects with Jena Holman painting most of the shots such as above, and Dan Curry painting others.

One of the tv series of BUCK ROGERS shots, from episode 'Dream of Jennifer'.

BUCK ROGERS: 'Slave Girls' episode matte by either Jena Holman or Dan Curry.
Also BUCK ROGERS is this Jena Holman full painting based upon and adapted from a similar Syd Dutton matte from the feature.
An undetectable and extensive Matthew Yuricich matte that nobody noticed from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE 3rd KIND (1977).  Virtually all paint here with just the area where the 3 people are running being real.  All BluRay frames.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS matte painted landscape and rocks, model helicopter and small area of sound stage set (right)
Another CLOSE ENCOUNTERS matte. Two different live action plates and extensive matte art by Matthew Yuricich.
One of my all time favourite mattes, from an excellent techno-thriller: COLOSSUS-THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969).  Albert Whitlock regarded this shot as the single most difficult trick shot of his career.  Bill Taylor explained the breakdown of the shot to me as being 'the ulimate cel overlay shot'.  "When Al needed to isolate or create a highlight on a painting he would tape a large cel over the dry painting and then paint on the highlights he wanted to control separately onto the cel.  For example, if Al wanted to show cloud shadows moving over hills, he would paint the hills in shadow on the main glass painting and then paint the highlights on the cel.  The scene in COLOSSUS where the giant computer powers up there were many large cel overlays of all the indicator lights which Ross Hoffman painstakingly exposed onto the painting with short shutter dissolves.  As the lights come on progressively in depth, they were timed precisely to match the real practical lights coming up in the small foreground sound stage set... and all done on original negative with many passes through the matte camera".
The high tech security zone that protects super computer COLOSSUS - all matte art by Al Whitlock.
The essential George Orwell literary masterpiece, 1984 was required reading when I went to high school.  Both film adaptations were good, with the eighties version starring John Hurt and Richard Burton an outstanding film.  Mattes by talented British artist Ray Caple.
From the sublime to the ridiculous - CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON (1954) with mattes by Irving Block & Jack Rabin.
Matte artist Ken Marschall will be the topic of next month's blog post, and here's one of Ken's mattes from the Melanie Griffith sci-fi kind of thing CHERRY 2000 (1987)
The forth Apes film, and an unjustly maligned one at that - CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972) was pretty good despite the tight budget.  BluRay matte shot here painted by Matthew Yuricich.
The post apocalyptic actioner DAMNATION ALLEY (1977) had a truckload of not very good optical effects where almost every shot had new, weird skies superimposed in over existing location footage, I believe as a post production consideration.  Lots of roto work and bad blue screen shots abound... but I kind of liked it back in the day.
DAMNATION ALLEY - a future Las Vegas buried in sand.  Matthew Yuricich reworked and painted over a large photo blow up for this film in secret when no one was around while he was over at Future General on CE3K apparently.
Jim Danforth's city of glass from the low budget but not too bad THE DAY TIME ENDED (1980).
One of my fave 70's black comedy/action shows was the Paul Bartel flick DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) which was a real hoot.  Despite doubts in some circles, I can confirm this  matte was painted by Matthew Yuricich.
The inevitable, though redundant follow up to DEATH RACE 2000 was the strictly amateur affair DEATH SPORT (1978) with only Claudia Jennings' nekkid body to recommend it.  Mattes credited to Jack Rabin, who had a long career in camera effects and opticals though was a matte painter in the 1940's on several films for Eagle-Lion.  He also worked at Fox and I think MGM as a matte artist at different times.
Although I've never seen any of the shows, I'm informed that this is an Illusion Arts matte from the tv series DEEP SPACE NINE.
A stunning BluRay grab of a Brian Flora matte from Sly Stallone's DEMOLITION MAN (1993)
Same film with Mike Pangrazio providing this shot.
Still DEMOLITION MAN, with one of Mark Sullivan's mattes... and in BluRay too!

... and here's the second Mark Sullivan matte shot from same film.

An Oscar winner for special effects, George Pal's DESTINATION MOON (1950).  Chesley Bonestell's mattes weren't recognised by the Academy who selected Lee Zavitz' physical fx and flying rigs as more deserving.
Rocco Gioffre painted this dramatic view of nuclear aftermath for the entertaining little film DREAMSCAPE (1985)Lots of great effects in this little gem - stop motion, miniatures, opticals, transformations - a bitchin' H bomb sequence and more!

The United States compact version, with all the landmarks seemingly right at your fingertips. A Matthew Yuricich matte shot from a Mastercharge television commercial.
High Definition grab from David Lynch's DUNE (1985). 

Albert Whitlock in front of his DUNE glass painting

Also from DUNE is this monumental Syd Dutton matte shot.

DUNE again, with Dutton and Albert's son Mark largely responsible this time.

The still popular DR WHO spawned a couple of feature films back in the mid sixties, with this being DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 (1966).  Matte artist was Gerald Larn at Shepperton Studios.
Although a perfectly dreadful film, ENEMY MINE (1985) at least had terrific ILM effects work in it's favour.

ENEMY MINE BluRay frame.
A Sean Joyce matte (in BluRay) from ENEMY MINE.  Apparently Sean was very fond of Whitlock and his technique so painted this matte as a sort of unofficial tribute to one of Albert's shots from GREYSTOKE... or so I've heard.

ENEMY MINE.  Artists involved were Caroleen Green, Frank Ordaz, Sean Joyce and Christopher Evans
The closing shot from ENEMY MINE. 

The second Star Wars film (by my reckoning) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) was an Oscar winner in the effects stakes.  Lots of great mattes by Harrison Ellenshaw, Ralph McQuarrie and Michael Pangrazio

A stunning Ralph McQuarrie matte from same film.
One of Harrison Ellenshaw's EMPIRE matte shots.

Same film, I think also painted by Harrison Ellenshaw if my memory serves.

Mike Pangrazio's matte art from same film.

James Cameron's ALIENS (1986) wasn't on a par with the excellent, measured Ridley Scott film largely due to Cameron's reliance on comic book characterisations from a largely un-engaging cast saddled with hokey cornball dialogue; though it did deliver in the thrills and spills department (perhaps too much so, with about 3 climaxes too many!).  Terrific special effects throughout - both practical and visual where Cameron came to the fore with seemless action set pieces and shocks. The film well deserved it's SFX Oscar, though heavy politics dictated just who received the statuettes. This broad establishing matte painting was made by Robert and Dennis Skotak, although I read somewhere That artist Peter Melrose had a hand in the proceedings too?  *Photo by Dennis Lowe

ALIENS Skotak matte art with camera move
Speaking of James Cameron, we musn't overlook Jim's productive early career in special effects work.  Jim was a talented matte artist and modeller long before turning his hand to directing.  Here's a flawless glass shot from the still terrific John Carpenter show ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).  "Call me Sssnake!"
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK shot, entirely painted except the water.  Artists on the show included Jena Holman and James Cameron.

An intriguing effects shot, presumably by Peter Ellenshaw, from a 1959 Wonderful World of Disney episode called EYE'S IN THE SKY.
Although there are a couple of painted mattes in the film FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966), they don't figure in any of the shots I'm demonstrating here.  Still a damned good sci-fi film which has a number of landmark trick shots such as this one with the white corpuscles and the lumen of the thoracic descending aorta.  Art Cruickshank was an Oscar winner for his special photographic effects work.

I love this shot.... and it's BluRay for your added enjoyment, at no extra cost!!!  :)
Same film.  The one regrettable drawback was the incredible dullness that was Stephen Boyd, who on screen was the thespian equal to watching grass grow! 
The so-so sequel to AIRPLANE, called unsurprisingly AIRPLANE 2 (1982) had this matte by Mike Minor.  Incidentally, the rest of the world knew these films as FLYING HIGH and FLYING HIGH 2
Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) was and remains an extraordinary technical achievement.  This is my favourite fx shot as supervised by Wally Veevers.  No matte art in the film anywhere but still worthy of inclusion here.  A very large miniature set and multiple live action plates matted in.  Looked something else in 70mm.

Ray Harryhausen's THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964) was one of the best of those Morningside Productions, even though Ray's animation is minimally used.  Lots of good effects though, mostly by Les Bowie, Ray Caple and Bob Cuff.  I think it's Ray's only ever adventure in CinemaScope, which was probably a relief to him.

Same film - miniature sets with actors added by travelling matte to surprisingly good effect.
The hokey FLIGHT TO MARS (1951) with matte work by Jack Cosgrove and Irving Block.

FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) wasn't that much of a hit back in the day, though now commands a cult status.  Lots of varied effects work throughout, with just a handful of matte painted shots such as this full painting (with tiny, unnecessary 'water' element added) by veteran MGM artist Henry Hillinck.  BluRay grab.
One of sci-fi cinema's most recognisable fx shots - the great Krell power plant from FORBIDDEN PLANET.  Howard Fisher painted this larger than normal matte to permit a tilt down. A glorious high rez BluRay frame

Another Henry Hillink full painting from same film.  Matthew Yuricich assisted his mentor on this one.

Split screen matte from the Japanese monster film GAMERA VS GUIRON
Lou Litchtenfield's Palace of Ming the Merciless from FLASH GORDON (1980)
A wonderful matte whose providence has alluded me for years.  The film is a Gene Roddenbury tv movie called GENESIS II (1972) with no special effects credit.  Looking at it carefully I feel it could only really be by Whitlock, Danforth or maybeYuricich, given the feeling of backlight and haze.  Jim Danforth said it's not his and Bill Taylor couldn't positively identify it as being one of Whitlock's that he could recall.  I reckon Albert did this one as an outside job as it has all the hallmarks of his work.
A Japanese monster mash up with the dubious label THE GIANT MONSTER GAMERA (1965)
BluRay frame of one of Steve Begg's matte painted shots from the very, very strange dystopian nightmare HARDWARE (1990)

Now, I expected to snooze through this one but actually found it rather good:  PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962) was an engrossing, intelligently handled affair, especially surprising considering it's an American International film!  Director/star Ray Milland does a great job with a low budget here.  FX shot by Ray Mercer & Co. I think.
While strictly a 'B' movie, ICE PIRATES (1984) had some neat effects shots with this nice matte painting by David Stipes.
Elements that made the ICE PIRATES shot included a cleverly constructed futuristic monorail, afixed over the top of a standard gauge model train (bottom right).  David took careful measurements of angle and perspective of the quite rudimentary miniature set up to ensure a match with the camera placement of his live action plate photography (top left). The monorail and track was masked off and animated frame by frame as a latent image element to be added in a separate pass into the glass painting .
The final composite with painting, miniature and live action blended.  David told me he was always inspired by Albert Whitlock's famous 'El Train' matte shot from THE STING and this project offered an ideal chance to pay homage.
A rare test composite of a matte painting by Leigh Took made for a special IMAX film for a Canadian company in the early 1980's.
Leigh at work on the detail of the IMAX matte.
Detail from a stunning matte painting produced at Illusion Arts for a General Motors commercial.  Artist probably Syd Dutton or Robert Stromberg.
Irving Block and Jack Cosgrove mattes from William Cameron Menzies' INVADERS FROM MARS (1953)
The mattes just kept getting bolder with each Lucasfilm STAR WARS picture.  This is a Chris Evans painting from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
Close brushwork detail of above.
ILM matte from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
A beautifully rendered Ewok village painting by Chris Evans (I think?), again from RETURN OF THE JEDI
The final shot with multiple rear projected plates set in.  Note, the painting has been 'flopped' possibly due to some directorial decision at the last minute.
Another spectacular JEDI full painting, I think by Frank Ordaz.  Large walkers are still to be added.
One of Michael Pangrazio's sprawling matte paintings from JEDI.  It's been years since I saw the film and I can't recall if this made the final cut or not?
Another of those JEDI mattes I'm unsure whether it was used - though it's been 30 years since I saw the film.
RETURN OF THE JEDI - once again a matte which I think may have been dropped at the eleventh hour.
One of Albert Whitlock's uncredited matte shots from ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964).  I vividly remember seeing this on the big screen at the Capitol cinema in Balmoral, Auckland when I was a kid.  Loved it!
New Zealand was never known for special effects films until Peter Jackson started to get the ball rolling.  Most of our stuff was arthouse or pseudo highbrow affairs that desperately tried to steer clear of any remote possibility of making any money.  Geoff Murphy's THE QUIET EARTH (1985) changed all that by being 'popular' (!!!)  Also of note for one of the few NZ films to have a matte shot, with this iconic shot being an original negative in camera shot painted by Brent Wong.
I can't stand those Japanese monster movies, but some of their science fiction films are pretty good.  LATITUDE ZERO (1969) was one such picture and was packed with visual effects and lots of matte shots. The site imdb lists Fumio Nakadai as 'special effects scene manipulation' - a bizarre credit in itself but may mean 'matte artist'?
Same film.  Some great effects work in this movie, with some ingenious shots with full screen miniature sets and people added in by travelling mattes (not the above shot - this is painted).
BluRay grabs here of a selection of Matthew Yuricich's Oscar winning mattes from LOGAN'S RUN (1976)
Possibly Matthew's best shot from LOGAN'S RUN
Washington DC in the 23rd Century
The domed city from outside... LOGAN'S RUN

Three part matte shot from LOGAN'S RUN - real beach, separate location water feature foreground and Yuricich painted midground stonework.
And the inevitable (short lived) tv spin off of LOGAN'S RUN (1977) with more Yuricich matte art seen here in the pilot.

The spectacular opening tilt down matte from the wretchedly abysmal ET ripoff MAC AND ME (1988).  Matte painted by Syd Dutton with Bill Taylor photographing and compositing same.
...and the final scene (it didn't come soon enough!)  from the toe curlingly bad MAC AND ME.

Harrison Ellenshaw's extra-terrestrial vision from Nicholas Roeg's unforgettable THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976). Coupled with The Kingston Trio's Time to Remember on the movie's soundtrack and you have one hell of a haunting sequence.
Syd Dutton painted this shot for MAD MAX 3 - BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985)

The intriguing tv miniseries THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1983) had a number of Ray Caple mattes.  The less said about the naff model cinematography the better...
One of Matthew Yuricich's before and after matte shots from MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987)

A BluRay grab of one of Russell Lawsen's mattes from THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956)

Dream Quest Images had a field day with the sheer variety of impressive effects in Michael Jackson's MOONWALKER (1989) with Robert Scifo as resident matte artist on a number of shots.
Another BluRay Robert Scifo matte from MOONWALKER

One of Ray Harryhausen's best pictures, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) had loads of effects work, with some excellent stop motion as well as model work and sodium travelling matte work putting actors into miniature settings.  The matte shots have intrigued me, with several names (all uncredited) being associated with them.  Les Bowie and Ray Caple are generally accepted to have painted the mattes, though Shepperton's matte department under Wally Veevers also have been mentioned in some Harryhausen material.


The hugely successful NEVER ENDING STORY (1984) was a showcase for Jim Danforth's skills as a matte artist.  Although Industrial Light & Magic had the assignment a number of shots were handed to Jim to carry out... and very successfully at that.  This, and a number of Jim's shots wound up being recycled in the follow up a few years later. All exquisite BluRay images here.

NEVER ENDING STORY:  I once told Jim that I feel this is his best matte shot.  Such skillfully painted crystal formations with an incredibly real sense of translucence - not something always easy to achieve with the paintbrush.

Another Jim Danforth glass shot from NEVER ENDING STORY that's an absolute winner.  This one also reappeared in the 1989 sequel.  Jim's sense of light and his hues here as seen in high definition are just sublime.
Also from NEVER ENDING STORY is this ILM matte shot - I think painted by Caroleen Green.

The sequel, NEVER ENDING STORY PART 2 (1989) was also a big effects show, with Derek Meddings in charge, and Albert Whitlock providing the matte shots back in the US with significant input from Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor.  Leigh Took also painted some additional mattes in the specially set up effects department in Germany, where the film was shot.
Same film - Syd Dutton and Albert Whitlock original negative matte shot.  BluRay HD screen captures.

Same film - a stunning Syd Dutton matte painted shot that I find particularly appealing.

Rocco Gioffre painted this beautiful full painting  for the Joe Dante made for tv film THE OSIRIS CHRONICLES (1994) which is also known under the title: THE WARLORD-BATTLE OF THE GALAXY.   The final shot has spacecraft in the background and a group of real people matted into the foreground stairway, with all the other 'people' being painted by Rocco. I'm delighted to say that this wonderful (and large) matte painting is in my own study upstairs and I never fail to find inspiration from the piece each and every day.

A second matte shot by Rocco from THE OSIRIS CHRONICLES depicting the worst of times.
Disney's THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA (1964) had some interesting views of pussy cat heaven as painted by Jim Fetherolf.

The film PREDATOR 2 (1990) had little in common with the first film, but stood it's ground quite squarely as a gutsy, balls to the wall action flick with gore galore.  Three matte painters worked on the film, with this being one of Rocco Gioffre's matte shots.... and in BluRay too!
Same film, with Mark Whitlock having painted this shot.

Hammer's THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (1955) was a gripping, well handled event that spawned several sequels and reboots.  More painted mattes than you'd first think, with some just being visible on BluRay.  Les Bowie and Ray Caple handled the mattes, possibly assisted by Derek Meddings who began his career as one of Bowie's matte and title artists.  This shot works well, with an invisible soft blend just above the people's heads with the tree and most of the spacecraft painted on glass.
Also from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT is this glass painted interior of Westminster Abbey.  I know it's not a futuristic shot or film for that matter, but it's sci-fi, and solid sci-fi at that.
Same film - now this is a brilliant matte shot that I'd never spotted until seeing it on BluRay, with everything painted in except the small area of road under Brian Donlevy.  Terrific shot by Les Bowie.

The follow up, QUATERMASS 2-ENEMY FROM SPACE (1957) with effects supervised by Pinewood veterans Henry Harris and Bill Warrington.  Mattes probably by Cliff Culley.
Also from QUATERMASS 2 (1957)

The original Paul Verhoeven version of ROBOCOP (1987) requisitioned several very fine matte painted effects shots by Rocco Gioffre, by all accounts one of the most talented practitioners within the medium.  BluRay screencaps.

Exquisite BluRay matte by Rocco Gioffre from ROBOCOP Damn, this is good!

ROBOCOP wide view of Delta city as painted by Rocco.  Gioffre's associate, Mark Sullivan also painted a couple of shots, though only one made it into the final cut.
Many hated the sequel, ROBOCOP 2 (1990), but I didn't mind it all and found much of it quite amusing.  Terrific stop motion work and astonishing matte art.  Above is one of Rocco Gioffre's remarkable paintings prior to the addition of the live action plate.
BluRay frame demonstrates a 'textbook' composite with perfect match of hues and 'light', and no matte lines visible.  I'd always assumed it to be a regular location until Rocco sent me his painting before & afters. Jeez folks, this is good!

Also from ROBOCOP 2.  I'm trying to recall what Mark Sullivan told me about these shots... I suspect they weren't actual matte paintings and may have been miniatures. My memory ain't what it used to be.  I know some of the shots in the sequence were assembled from still photographs.
The nuclear reactor matte (unfinished test) from ROBOCOP 2.
Also from ROBOCOP 2 was this massive tilt down from an entirely painted skyscraper onto street level live action.

A pretty good little monster flick very reminiscent of the Universal Jack Arnold type shows of the 1950's was the 1977 William Shatner film KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.  This (and below) are the climactic shot where an entire town has been enveloped in a bloody great big spider web.  Matte artist was Cy Didjurgis

The giant pullback from KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS
The kind of quaint ROCKETSHIP XM (1950) had some quite effective mattes by Irving Block and Jack Rabin.


Shepperton's matte department, under Wally Veevers stewardship provided a wide range of matte shots for SATELLITE IN THE SKY (1956).  Matte artists around that time were George Samuels, Bob Cuff and Julian Kay
More matte art from SATELLITE IN THE SKY

Albert Whitlock's interplanetary visual effects and matte art from George Roy Hill's 1972 film of the 'head trip' Kurt Vonnegut novel SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE.
This is an intriguing Doug Ferris matte shot, though from what, I don't know.  Possibly a television commercial?
Matthew Yuricich and Michele Moen painted several mattes to extend the credibility of the wafer thin premise that was the cringe inducing teen sci-fi flick SOLAR BABIES (1986)
The popular 1974 Gerry Anderson series SPACE 1999 was a big hit down here, and was as good as visual effects tended to get on television at the time, and for years afterward.  Brian Johnson and Nick Allder supervised supremely well, with everything done on original negative with held takes for a remarkably clean on screen finish.  Brian farmed out the matte paintings and some tricky opticals when required to old friend Ray Caple, with whom Brian had worked with back in the early Hammer days with Les Bowie.
Ray Caple matte from SPACE 1999
Same show

SPACE 1999
I've always had a soft spot for the Frankenstein legend and it's numerous incarnations on film.  This interpretation of the Shelley fable however missed the mark by miles: FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND (1990).  Only worthwhile for some nice mattes and visuals courtesy of Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor's Illusion Arts.  Director Roger Corman did alright with the Edgar Allan Poe stories in the 1960's but this film is a complete and utter fiasco.
Speaking of fiascos'  - LucasFilm's "what the hell were they thinking" poultry epic HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) literally laid an egg with audiences and critics alike... and not a golden egg either!  Some quality ILM visual effects and mattes by Frank Ordaz and Caroleen Green were not enough to save this 'turkey'... or, duck as the case may be.  I recall when the film came out the distributor here quickly reconsidered the box office potential of said film and retitled it as HOWARD - A NEW BREED OF HERO with not so much as a hint of our feathered protagonist to be seen on any publicity material!  Where the hell was Elmer Fudd when you needed him most: "It's duck season"   BLAMMMMMM!
Although 10 years too late to really work, Mel Brooks' spoof SPACEBALLS (1986) had a few mild chuckles amidst the top shelf visual effects by a variety of outlets.  The matte shots were all farmed out to Illusion Arts, with Syd Dutton, Robert Stromberg and Albert Whitlock handling necessary chores with pleasing results.  This is a Syd Dutton shot, and like the others here, it's a BluRay grab.
Same film

Same film - I recall this as being a Robert Stromberg painting which starts in close and pulls out as a nice full reveal.

Same film:  Al Whitlock was assigned this spoof matte of a most iconic sci-fi vista that we all know so well.

UK artist Doug Ferris painted this matte for the Sylvester Stallone picture JUDGE DREDD (1995).  John Grant was matte shot cameraman.
The old STAR TREK television series didn't rely too heavily upon painted mattes, but on occasion Linwood Dunn would hire Albert Whitlock to paint the 10 or so mattes, some of which would be re-used in modified form in other episodes.  The matte above is arguably the most well known of the Trek matte shots and featured in more than one episode as well as the end credit montage each week.  I love this one and as a kid it used to always set my imagination a-glow whenever I saw the show on tv.

Another Albert Whitlock matte from STAR TREK.  Sadly, this and most of the others would ultimately end up being tampered with for DVD release where the original shot has been altered via CG to meet a more 'X Box' era acceptablity.

Rare, original 35mm (faded) test clip of one of Al Whitlock's STAR TREK mattes.
Skip ahead more than a decade and we have the long anticipated feature film STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE (1979).  I liked it personally and feel it's entirely in keeping with the old sixties show and never sold out to pacify a modern audience (as the new so-called reboots have).  Great effects work by Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra and Richard Yuricich - with mattes by Richard's brother Matthew and a young Rocco Gioffre.  All BluRay images.
Same film:  Matt Yuricich mentioned having arguments with Trumbull over this matte shot as Doug kept insisting upon having minute detail and what have you across the other side of the bay - phenomena Matthew assured him would never so much as be visible in real life, let alone show up on film. 

I've never cared for this STAR TREK matte shot.  It's a complete turn around, design wise from the initial views of the planet Vulcan (see below) which to my mind worked so much better.  I got the impression from Yuricich that perhaps he didn't paint this and someone else - maybe Gioffre - executed the matte late in the game.

Matthew Yuricich finishing off the Vulcan planet matte as originally intended for the film.  Somewhere I have a comp of this matte but can't seem to find it.

Another of the Vulcan mattes which differ considerably from those originally prepared by Yuricich.

STAR TREK - THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)... looking for V'ger.
The immediate sequel, STAR TREK II - THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) was a lively experience and featured only a few mattes of the so called Genesis Cave by Christopher Evans and Frank Ordaz.    BluRay screen captures here.

Same film - this shot caused concern among the young ILM artists as they felt the composition of the shot was all wrong and drew attention to itself in an unnatural manner.  Chris Evans matte painting.
Also from STAR TREK II is this Frank Ordaz full painting as part of the same sequence.

The next in the series, STAR TREK III-THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984) wasn't on a par with the first two in my book, though the ILM effects were of a suitably high standard.  Matte shown here I believe was one of Frank Ordaz' shots.
Same film.

Same film
Also from STAR TREK III.  Ironically, Christopher Lloyd, who played the Klingon baddie here once had a wonderful character 'Jim' in an episode in the 70's sitcom TAXI where he took the tv networks to task for cancelling STAR TREK.  Funny how things pan out, huh?
The fourth installment STAR TREK IV-THE VOYAGE HOME (1986) was a heap of fun and offered ideal set ups for gags and humour.  A few mattes by Chris Evans and Frank Ordaz, with the above being Frank's painting.
A spectacular Chris Evans matte from STAR TREK IV which would also turn up years later in one of the spin-off tv series, albeit heavily cropped at the sides to fit the 4:3 tv screen.

A terrific matte painted shot by Michael Pangrazio and Craig Barron from STAR TREK IV - THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991).
There were several latter day spinoffs of STAR TREK for television in the 1990's, none of which I watched, so I'm not able to give any qualified title identification to those below other than they're most likely from assorted episodes STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION.  Various effects houses worked on the shows, with matte painting more often than not outsourced to Illusion Arts.  Syd Dutton is shown above with one of his impressive TREK matte paintings.  *A very thorough and true labour of love STAR TREK site can be found here, and whilst it's as in depth as one could ever wish for, it's a tricky bugger at try to navigate.
A rare pic of the preliminary block in by either Robert Stromberg or Syd Dutton for an expansive TREK matte shot.

This is definitely one of Robert Stromberg's spectacular full paintings, rendered at Illusion Arts.
I'm unsure which of the tv shows this came from as I picked it up off an excellent Star Trek website and didn't record the title.  I'm not entirely sure it's a traditional matte (looks it) or a later CG type digital environment, which I try to avoid on this site.

STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION Illusion Arts matte painting.
Robert Stromberg shown here putting the finishing touches upon a large matte painting at Illusion Arts facility.
A revealing look at the construction of a key ST-TNG matte shot where both matte art and a foreground miniature lend an added dimension to the fictional locale.  The actors were then dropped into the vista by blue screen.

Not sure of the show, probably one of the STAR TREK-NEXT GENERATION episodes... but a nice shot.
A high resolution image of a ST-TNG matte shot, with the actual painting in progress shown below.
An unidentified Illusion Arts staffer poses with a substantial sized matte painting (see above).

An excellent high definition image of one of Syd Dutton's mattes from ST-TNG.  The fluttering flag on the pole is an old Whitlock bi-pack trick and one in which cameraman Bill Taylor has utilised many times on a variety of projects.

I incorrectly labelled this in the previous blog post as being an unknown shot from a 1920's film(!) - though it is in fact one of the STAR TREK-NEXT GENERATION mattes from the 1990's.

While Illusion Arts provided the bulk of the mattes for ST-TNG, Dan Curry was another artist who supplied matte paintings to some episodes.  Here is Dan's original artwork all framed and on display.

Here's the Dan Curry matte as seen in the final show (from a high definition screen grab).

A stunningly crisp BluRay image of a Robert Stromberg painting from ST-TNG

Close up detail from Stromberg's matte art.
Last TREK matte - I don't know the show or series... probably THE NEXT GENERATION.
Two of Matthew Yuricich's matte shots from the exciting 1973 future shock SOYLENT GREEN.
Steven Spielberg's ET (1982) stole the fx Oscar from far more deserving BLADERUNNER and even POLTERGIEST... but don't get me started on bloody Oscar injustices!  I seem to recall this is mostly a tabletop miniature set up, with a Chris Evans backing painting of the city and opticals for interactive light and so forth.
Also from ET is this seemingly 'nothing shot' which was in fact an important turning point for the Industrial Light & Magic matte department as their first ever trial of original negative matte photography.  The ILM matte staff had been big fans of Albert Whitlock's first generation 'held take' methodology and wanted to adapt it for improved results.  A simple split screen with a painted night sky with moon and clouds proved the ideal opportunity.
The famous final shot from ET, with multi-plane glass paintings: one each of foreground, midground and background - with a studio light source as the sun.  The bikes and riders were, I think, go-motion puppets and were matted in separately.  Matte photography Neil Krepela and Craig Barron.
An amazing circuit board city matte painting by Syd Dutton from an episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE tv series.
The intelligent Michael Crichton book THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN was transposed to the big screen as an outstanding and tense science fiction film by Robert Wise in 1971.  Here, in HD is one of Albert Whitlock's matte painted shots where all is painted except the ocean.  The film was put up for Academy consideration for Whitlock, though it didn't make it past the first hurdle.  I always felt that it might have better succeeded there if a joint Doug Trumbull, Jamie Shourt & Al Whitlock nomination had been sought, as Trumbull's work was really inventive and contributed so much to the outcome of the story.  Excellent film!
Another of Whitlock's shots from THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN... in BluRay too.
One of Frank Ordaz' numerous glass paintings made for the LucasFilm tv movie EWOKS - CARAVAN OF COURAGE (1985)
ILM matte artist Frank Ordaz

More of ILM's highly imaginative EWOK mattes

A Michael Pangrazio matte from EWOKS.  I understand all of the mattes were made as original negative shots to maintain image integrity for television.
Jim Danforth was assigned a couple of mattes on EWOKS as the workload at ILM increased somewhat.

A dramatic vertical painting was used for a vast tilt down shot for the EWOKS telefilm.
Lastly, another great EWOKS matte, with this one a Frank Ordaz rendition.  There are plenty more mattes in those two EWOK films but space here is filling up fast.
A BluRay frame of one of Russ Lawsen's mattes from Universal's THE LAND UNKNOWN (1957)
Same film
Paul Lasaine's awe inspiring original painting for ALIEN 3 (1992) that didn't kook half as good on screen due to the director's demands which saw the sky turn orange and other unwanted changes.

Although still a great little film, THE TIME MACHINE (1960) was pretty slipshod in some of it's effects work - with horrendous composites, flawed matte art perspectives and astonishingly poor model photography (all of which inexplicably won an Oscar!).  Gene Warren was in charge of effects with Bill Brace painting mattes.  I heard that veteran artist Luis McManus may also have painted some shots.

The best matte by far in THE TIME MACHINE
Same film - the Eloi Temple seen in longshot.  Matte art with rather phony foreground miniature foliage... not too good!

Ahhh yes..... a classic, both as a film entertainment and as one of the most iconic matte shots of the 1970's, STAR WARS (1977) was, and remains a one of a kind risk venture for it's creator George Lucas that actually proved fruitful both in financial and critical terms.  Still a great film after all these years, despite Lucas tampering with it and making misguided changes. 

Harrison Ellenshaw's  royal throne room matte painting from STAR WARS
Final comp
Harrison Ellenshaw pictured here recently with one of his original STAR WARS glass paintings.

John Carpenters' STARMAN (1984).  Matte painted by ILM's Frank Ordaz.

One of those wonderful Universal Studios fifties space operas that still make for welcome viewing, THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) scared the hell out of me with those damned Metaluna Mutants (great make up by Bud Westmore and Millicent Patrick).  An intelligent film for the genre, with some neat effects by David Horsley (who was fired mid stream), Clifford Stine, Roswell Hoffman and Russell Lawsen who's matte that is above.

A great high resolution image of the Metaluna matte shot, with a ton of optical overlays and rotoscoped interactive light gags.
Another Russ Lawsen matte from the final act of THIS ISLAND EARTH.  Love the explosions throughout this film... in fact I've rarely seen such great pyro work.
An extensive Ken Allen matte painted interior of the colony on Mars from TOTAL RECALL (1990)  BluRay image.

A Bob Scifo matte painted ending from TOTAL RECALL
Charles Band made a whole slew of low budget horror and sci-fi type quickies in the 1980's - a producer several steps below Jerry Bruckheimer, and several steps above Jess Franco (!)  This film is TRANCERS (1984) and was a bit of a laugh as I recall vaguely.  No idea who did this shot, which looks like a foreground cut outs on glass sort of a deal to me.

Chesley Bonestell's prologue to George Pal's WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953)
Future city matte from an OPSM Opticians tv commercial
Not yet mega-director James Cameron shown here painting a matte for Roger Corman's BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980)
A futuristic matte painted by one of Dream Quest's artists for an unknown tv commercial.  May have been the brushwork of Ken Allen or Bob Scifo.
Jim Danforth's painted lair for a multitude of miserable megalomaniacs in MEGAFORCE (1982)... another of those interminable 'quarry pit' wasteland mutant epics that proliferated in the 1980's.

Also from the embaressing MEGAFORCE is this really impressive multi part trick shot.  Jim Danforth told me it wasn't one of his shots and must have been done by Introvision, who were the film's prime effects supplier.  Tim Donahue and William Mesa were in charge of visual effects.
Dream Quest Images contributed an impressive and  all encompassing matte painted opening shot to the 1988 remake of THE BLOB.  The whole shot was fabricated in the matte department, including the town, layers of cloud in addition to the more stratospheric matter.  Artists were Ken Allen and Jesse Silver.
Matte artist Richard Kilroy paints in detail for a post nuclear blast nightmarish vista of Los Angeles for TERMINATOR 2 - JUDGEMENT DAY (1991).  Richard explained the shot to me:  "Here is some of my brushwork on T2.  I painted all of the leveled buildings up to the background skyscrapers.  Rick Rische took over at the tall buildings and the light passes down the streets (which was done as an overlay by him).  I'll never forget when I was painting on this one, Bob Skotak walked by as I was working, he stopped and said, "The camera's gonna love this."  Best compliment of my matte career."   

Nuclear devastation in TERMINATOR 2

I'm going some day to do a blog post on Irwin Allen's fx shows as I have a number of great shots and clips.  This set are quite interesting in as much as they predate the current trend of 'virtual sets' by 40 odd years.  The show was an unsold pilot called THE MAN FROM THE 25th CENTURY (1968).  Almost every shot I have in my files from this show is a full matte with actors blue screened in, as these examples above demonstrate.  L.B Abbott was effects boss, though I have no idea who painted the many mattes.  Emil Kosa died that year and these don't look like Matt Yuricich's work to me?
A shot from a little known (to me) British/German tv series STAR MAIDENS (1976).  No clue about the visuals.

Quite a lot was achieved on a tiny budget for Roger Corman's GALAXY OF TERROR (1981).  Robert and Dennis Skotak were effects men on the film, with a young James Cameron as art director.  An unapologetic but kind of fun flick.  Hell, any film with Sid Haig, Robert Englund, Ray Walston and a giant rapist slug can't be that bad?

Either a painted top up or a hanging miniature as seen in the Japanese film GAMERA VS GUIRON (1969)

And to conclude... I know this isn't 'science fiction' but it is a classic shot I overlooked in the last Lands of Wonder article... Zoltan Korda's JUNGLE BOOK (1942).  This is one of many Fitch Fulton mattes featured in the movie.

Well friends, that's about it for another blog post.  Next up is a career retrospective on two of the matte shot medium's best kept secrets, Ken Marschall and Bruce Block.  You're going to enjoy this one, I'm sure.



  1. I can't believe that anyone would complain that your blogs are too long. My only complaint (IF I had one) would be that we have to wait too long for the next installment! But I'm having a great time exploring your archives, so what the heck...

    1. Hi Brett

      I'd do them more often but just don't feel there's sufficient audience out there to warrant all the hard work. I can count about a half dozen people internationally that I know share your sentiments, but judging by the 'stats' - which I check on a regular basis - an awful lot of folks just tune in for less than a 5 minute 'glance', with only a handful of devout hardcore maniacs spending 45-120 minutes at a time on the site.
      Do spread the word among your movie community buddies though!


    2. Hey, Pete, I suspect your have MANY more followers than you know, or that the site stats tell you. This series is/was terrific, as usual! I am frequently overwhelmed by the sheer talent of these wonderful artists, matching paint to film. After reading one of your posts, I seek out clips showing these often astonishing mattes in action. Please keep up the phenomenal work!

  2. One of your "unidentified" TNG matte paintings is the Picard Vineyard in France, where Picard's brother (Jeremy Kemp) still runs the family business.

    The last Trek Matte you show is from Voyager--note Neelix among the crew in the foreground.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I'll have to leave it as is though as it's a risky venture when I go back in and 'fix' these BIG blog posts.


  3. Thanks for digging deep for those Gamera mattes. With all the emphasis on rubber suits and miniature effects it's nice to see some notice given to the dedicated paintbrushes serving in the trenches.

  4. This article is just amazing!

    wonder if you have you seen this documentary about emilio ruiz del rio, matte painter a model maker from spain that worked on many international productions shot in spanish locations.
    It's really interesting and it can be found online.

    1. If it's the doco I'm thinking of, then yes, I have a dvd of it which was given to me by a Spanish friend who has worked with Emilio and is currently preparing a book on Spanish special effects.

      No question about it... Ruiz was one of the greats and his work always inspires me with both it's pure no nonsense simplicity and excellence in seemless finished trickery.


  5. Thank you for your blog. Read the comment about those who think it's too long. My problem is that it's too short. Seriously, you are doing something great here. For those of us who prefer physical and tactile effects over cgi your blog is invaluable. Please keep up the great work.

  6. One of my favorite websites! Excellent job! Where did you find a Blu-ray of The Land Unknown?

    1. Hi Foxman

      Glad you enjoy my efforts - I always welcome feedback.
      Re: LAND UNKNOWN, it's available as a Region B BluRay in Europe, specifically Germany. I don't have it on BR myself, just DVD, but got those screencaps from the review of it on the excellent DVD Beaver website (see link at top of my page).



  7. Hi Pete. A friend says that Jim Danforth didn't paint the Never Ending Story matte, the shot with the golden mountain peaks that appears on your blog here just under Danforth's painting of the crystals from the same film. Can you confirm that he did? Cheers, Alan.

    1. Hi Alan

      I've asked Jim and he said: "No, I didn't paint that shot but wished I had as it's a nice one".

      So it must have been an ILM shot. Sorry for the mix up.


  8. epic stuff as usual,dear sir...epic....greets from Holland,Europe

  9. Your "Last Star Trek matte" is actually from Star Trek Voyager. The figure in the striped outfit is Nelix, who was often dressed in 'distinctive' clothing.

  10. So happy to have stumbled across your site...have already spent many hours reading after it finding yesterday. Will have to pace myself!

    A quick note. In the Space: 1999 section, the second bridge matte isn't from Space: 1999 but from an unsold pilot produced by Anderson called The Day After Tomorrow. TDAT recycled sets, props, and miniatures from 1999. It also featured several actors who had appeared in 1999, including series regular Nick Tate.

    With regard to Megaforce...It's far from a classic but considered a guilty pleasure by many. In actuality it was not a post-apocalyptic mutant terror film but a kind of Delta Force-type film, played broadly in a rather cartoonish manner and directed by Hal Needham.

    Have already recommended the site several times today, please keep up your fantastic work!

  11. Regarding the Robert Stromberg nightscape painting from ST-TNG, the full shot is different to the detail shot -- see the second window from the right, under the circular device: the full shot has a triangular shape in it, the detail shot does not.

  12. This is a fantastic website! I proposed that one day all these artists write a book on how these were put together, held takes, interpolative -- all of it.

    This is the best thing until that ever comes along.


  13. Just want to say - your website is wonderful.