Friday, 23 March 2018

JUNGLE TREK - A Matte Painted Adventure



Hello friends and assorted special effects freaks - and I do mean that in the nicest possible way  ;)  It's that time again where, after a sweltering summer break I have finally found the motivation to plod away at one of these mammoth blogs.  It's always a strange process trying to come up with new topics for these blogs as I have so many matte images I want to share, so it can be a struggle trying find a decent enough reason.  Generally, I find that while walking my dog blog ideas spring to mind, with a myriad of flashbacks to particular films I've seen and how they might figure in the greater scheme of things in a potential matte blog.  Today I have something that I'm sure many of you will find quite interesting and really not really examined until now - the wonders that are the matte painted jungle.

If you are anything like me many of you will have been weened on the old TARZAN pictures and various assorted daffy jungle adventures featuring exquisitely presented heroines of the Dorothy Lamour or Maureen O'Sullivan magnitude - and to a lesser extent Maria Montez - with these glossy though wafer thin scenarios usually produced on larger than life backlot sets that have been extended into magical make believe locales by way of our best friend, the matte artist.  In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible I have included some classics, some lesser efforts and a handful of best forgotten films that span the all encompassing 'hand painted' traditional matte shot era.
For my money, the painted jungle was never better than that depicted in the 1933 bona-fide classic KING KONG.  Matte artists Mario Larrinaga, Byron Crabbe and Albert Maxwell Simpson  created the quintessential 'gardener's nightmare' - a foliage rendition of Dante's Inferno where danger lurked at every junction and a sense of unease was near palpable for the viewer.  That damp, humid, tangled hell painted on glass made KONG every bit as memorable for me as the creatures that inhabited the environs.
The same could not be said for the Dino DeLaurentiis reboot in 1976 which while having a few okay points (like John Barry's score), was a complete and absolute let down in the jungle stakes, such was the dreadfully unimaginative production design on Dino's film which for all intentions seemed to have been shot in a garden centre nursery.  I'd love to have seen what the proposed but unmade Universal adaptation THE LEGEND OF KING KONG might have been like. 


At least Peter Jackson got it right on the money with his version of KONG, and as a true devotee of the original I'd have expected nothing less from Jackson.
I've assembled a fairly substantial collection here with plenty of great TARZAN vistas, some WWII jungle movies, a few pirate yarns and plenty more.  Among the collection here are some very rare images and some never before seen photographs from family albums of old time matte exponents which, as good fortune would have it, fell into my hands fairly recently, for which I'm ever grateful.

So folks, let us stock up on mosquito repellent, fill our water canteens and set our compasses to "adventure" as we hack and slash a path through the cinematic foliage ...

Enjoy

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I really cannot proceed without proper recognition and homage to the Goddess of jungle pictures, Paramount's own Dorothy Lamour who made many a flimsy tropical romp all the more memorable...

The Siren of the Sarong herself, Dorothy Lamour, with a collage of Jan Domela mattes from just two of her many tropical island epics, ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1941) and HER JUNGLE LOVE (1938)


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This beautiful jungle vista was painted by Mark Sullivan for a proposed Jim Danforth project JONGOR around 1985, though I don't think it ever got finished or far into production.

One of the better films of the genre, the Arnold Schwarzenegger monster flick PREDATOR (1987) was one of the most dazzling displays of pre-CG era photographic effects by R/Greenberg and Associates based out of New York.  The matte shots were contracted to artist Bob Scifo in Hollywood and included this great shot in an altogether audience jarring moment

Walter Percy Day, known as Pop Day throughout the British film industry, is still regarded as the grandfather of UK trick photography (or, 'Process Shots' as he preferred to be credited).  For a number of years in the early 1920's Pop based himself in Paris and was in constant demand to the French film industry producing scores of elaborate mattes and other effects.  This shot is from one such French film though I don't know the title nor year.

The matte shot world's best kept secret would have to be the astonishingly talented Ken Marschall who for more than 25 years would turn out more than one hundred remarkable original negative matte shots together with effects cameraman and business partner Bruce Block under the banner Matte Effects.  This exquisite rendering for the film DANGER ISLAND from the mid eighties was classic Marschall matte magic - painted in acrylics onto special black glossy art cardboard and as was often the case, rendered at Ken's kitchen table at home!  Marschall is also well known among marine art collectors for his many wonderful paintings depicting The Titanic and other vintage era ocean liners.

I've always had a soft spot for left of centre film maker extraordinaire Samuel Fuller.  A real life war hero and tough guy who never minced words and called it as he saw it.  His interviews are always illuminating to say the least.  Among his many films was this interesting one set in Indo-China, CHINA GATE (1957).  Oddly, a 20th Century Fox logo precedes the film but the effects were credited to Linwood Dunn who had for decades been a part of RKO (which I think might have closed up shop around this time).
Another matte from CHINA GATE.  Well worth catching.

Norman Dawn was unquestionably the pioneer of matte photography, having developed glass shot methodology as early as 1907.  Among his many decades in the business, Dawn produced nearly 900 trick shots, all meticulously recorded and indexed for future historians.  This shot is from the 1920 silent picture THE ADORABLE SAVAGE.  The ocean beach is real, the village is a backlot set at Universal with the background landscape a matte painting all combined in camera.

There have been numerous incarnations of the classic KING SOLOMON'S MINES with this one being from around 1985 from the Cannon Films outfit - and the resulting low brow film shows the fact.  Not sure who did the mattes, possibly Cliff Culley or Leigh Took?

An invisible matte shot by Syd Dutton for the 1980's tv series MAGNUM P.I with Tom Selleck.  The episode was Two Birds of a Feather.  The same matte was used in at least one other instance.

I kind of enjoy some of these formula, by-the-numbers African adventures from the 1950's.  TANGANYIKA (1954) was just such a show and had a couple of nice Technicolor mattes by artist Russ Lawson.  The one at left was recycled (in b&w) for the horror show THE LEECH WOMAN.
...as the title suggests, the film sucked...big time!

Paramount made many a jungle movie, often starring the exquisite Dorothy Lamour in the most fetching of sarongs and HER JUNGLE LOVE (1938) was one of many.  The film was Technicolor and although I have a copy it's too awful to get decent frame grabs from so here are Jan Domela before and after photos..  The sea is a real plate, the middle portion a set at Paramount and the rest a Domela painting.
Another Jan Domela shot from HER JUNGLE LOVE (1938).  Gordon Jenning was effects supervisor and Irmin Roberts was matte cinematographer.

British matte artist and optical effects wiz Doug Ferris created this expansive African vista for a UK cigarette commercial in the 1980's.
Doug's matte art that still survives today along with numerous others.  Doug started as a matte painter at Shepperton under Wally Veevers around 1962 as part of Wally's large and well equipped and highly regarded photographic effects department.

A big special effects show was Columbia's THE DEVIL AT 4 O'CLOCK (1961) with veteran technician Lawrence W. Butler in charge of the many effects shots with cameraman Donald Glouner.  I don't know who did the matte painted shots but some are pretty good as shown above.  I know that Al Whitlock did numerous mattes as an independent contractor to Butler-Glouner after leaving Disney in the early 1960's and on through his tenure at Universal so maybe Whitlock had a hand in.
More mattes, miniatures and split screen fx from DEVIL AT 4 O'CLOCK.  The huge model volcano was built in Larry Butler's rural property apparently as he wanted excavation work done and it just suited him down to the ground.

A dazzling matte painted shot by Mark Sullivan for the film MIRACLES (1986).

Equatorial West Africa as realised by Albert Whitlock for the epic GREYSTOKE - THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984).  This view - one of many mattes in the film - was entirely manufactured as a complex visual effect by Whitlock and cameramen Bill Taylor, Dennis Glouner (son of Donald) and Mike Moramarco.  All painted, with elaborate cel overlay effects art and animation gags for the burning lava, waterfall, birds, lightning and sunlight 'God Rays', not forgetting the classic Whitlock moving clouds trick (produced with multiple soft horizontal split screens).

Another jaw dropping vista from GREYSTOKE is once again entirely painted and features subtle cloud drift split screen gags and sun rays.  I am happy to report that he painting still survives and this along with several other rare Whitlock matte paintings that I have high res images of will be featured in a forthcoming Whitlock Special, where I'll have as many of Albert's mattes as I have been able to acquire - many of which have never been seen before!  Stay tuned.

GREYSTOKE mighty tilt up from river boat to smoldering volcano.

Old time Newcombe pastel matte from MGM's CONGO MAISIE (1940)

As a teen I enjoyed this one, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975) although it all looks pretty hokey nowadays.  Derek Meddings was in charge of the highly variable effects, with Roger Dicken's mechanised-puppeteered dinosaurs and Ray Caple providing several mattes.
LAND THAT TIME FORGOT matte by Ray Caple.

Now here's one I found on the web recently that I'd never spotted in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981).  Alan Maley was chief matte artist.

An interesting matte shot by an unknown artist from Republic's FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953).  Brothers Howard and Theodore Lydecker handled the many excellent miniature sequences and action material.

Not really a jungle per se, but a great swampy forest in a galaxy far, far away none the less.  Harrison Ellenshaw painted this and many other shots for George Lucas' THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

I have absolutely no time for those silly Jim Henson fantasy things, and THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) really did my head in as did that Miss Piggy-Yoda -Fozzy hand puppet in the second Star Wars picture (above)...Oh my God.... Anyway, the matte above is excellent - as are all of the shots in this tiresome film - and is a fitting example of the talent of ILM's matte department during it's golden era.  Mike Pangrazio and Chris Evans were principal artists.

Nice before and after Albert Whitlock matte from the film SKULLDUGGERY (1969) - a film I've never been able to track down. Beautifully handled light raking across the rockface.

Alan Maley shot from Disney's THE WORLD'S GREATEST ATHLETE (1973).

One of Charles Schneer-Ray Harryhausen's best pictures was the under rated MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961).  Matte shots were under Wally Veevers' supervision at Shepperton Studios, so the painters were possibly George Samuels, Bob Cuff, David Hume or others.

Also from MYSTERIOUS ISLAND is this great shot that harks right back to the original KING KONG.  A full painting here with animated waterfall effect and actors added in via the yellow backing sodium vapour travelling matte method.

Same film.  Apparently Harryhausen didn't care much for this matte painting and added in a flock of birds over it in post production, and in doing so added another generational layer to the effect, multiplying the grain factor somewhat.

Jan Domela rendered this tropical paradise for the Hope-Crosby comedy THE ROAD TO BALI (1952).  Most of this frame is painted - even the statue on the right - with just a central stage set for the people.  

There were some real nifty and imaginative trick shots in the James Coburn spy spoof OUR MAN FLINT (1966), with this island hideaway of the arch villain being especially groovy.  The great L.B Abbott was in charge along with another great, Howard Lydecker.  Veteran Fox matte artist Emil Kosa jnr painted the mattes.  Kosa had been with Fox continuously since the early 1930's with his father also being one of Fred Sersen's matte artists.

Matte from the Japanese monster film GAMERA VERSUS BAGERON (1966).

Universal made many good sci-fi and monster flicks in the 1950's, and although THE LAND UNKNOWN (1957) wasn't a standout it did have a decent quota of live action monsters, volcano's, peril and crazy characters.  Clifford Stine was effects chief and Ross Hoffman handled the optical cinematography.  Old timer Russ Lawson was matte artist.

I don't recall the tv series BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE ever having played here in New Zealand, though it seems to have a good many mattes and other effects.  Jim Danforth's Effects Associates were visual effects provider, with both Jim and assistant Mark Sullivan supplying matte painted effects shots such as this.

An evocative, though ultimately unused matte shot by Jim Danforth from BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE (circa 1982).  Mark Sullivan helped Jim with some of the mattes on this show and he told me that there was a pet shop next door to Jim's effects premises and the frequent chirps and birdsong of a myriad of caged parakeets really set the scene for the matte painters next door.

Another Danforth matte from BRING 'EM BACK ALIVE, a television series from the early 1980's that was loosely based upon a 1930's feature of the same name.

Mark Sullivan painted a number of wonderful mattes for the Dodge Company in the 1980's for their tv commercials.  Mark told me that this painting was for a 1984 commercial Dodge-Hawaiian Sunrise.

I love war pictures and BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL (1957) was a solid, tough entry in the genre.  Ray Kellogg was matte supervisor at Fox, having been one of Fred Sersen's artists as well as his right hand man since the 1930's.  I always wondered if this shot was an on location glass shot as the actor's head is partially visible through an area of the painting rather than being cut off by a photographic matte line.

Warner Bros. matte shot from PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945) starring the always terrific John Garfield.  Among the artists at Warners then were Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga, Chesley Bonestell, Hans Bartholowsky and Vern Taylor.

Val Lewton's eerie I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943) had mattes from RKO's resident artists such as Albert Maxwell Simpson and Fitch Fulton.

Nice CinemaScope matte from Fox's THE PIRATES OF TORTUGA (1961).

John Landis' very funny COMING TO AMERICA (1988) was the perfect vehicle for Eddie Murphy, and unquestionably his best film (way before he sunk to all time lows with his last 100 films!).  The movie opens with the sensational flyover set piece where the camera flies straight through the Paramount logo and into the mythical kingdom situated somewhere in Africa.  The sequence still looks fantastic, combining motion control miniature jungle foreground set with moving clouds and the distant palace as matte art.  Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor were chiefly responsible, with help from Albert Whitlock and miniatures from John Dykstra's Apogee.
More from the COMING TO AMERICA flyover.  I read somewhere that Apogee used broccoli sprayed extra green for the jungle foliage.
COMING TO AMERICA flyover moves in onto the palace and surrounds.  Syd Dutton was primary matte artist.  Nice parallax shifts of the trees in the foreground suggests some sort of multi-plane gag.
Craig Barron's company Matte World supplied this invisible matte painting to ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990).  Michael Pangrazio was matte artist.
For Irwin Allen's 5 WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962) Emil Kosa jnr painted various mattes under longtime associate L.B Abbott.

No blog on painted jungles would be complete without including the early Technicolor mattes by Fitch Fulton for the Korda film JUNGLE BOOK (1942).
JUNGLE BOOK was one of ten films up for Best Special Effects Oscar consideration in 1942, with effects boss Lawrence W. Butler being the sole effects credit and thus the only individual on the nomination ballot.

Matte painter Fitch Fulton was the father of legendary trick shot man John P. Fulton.  John's daughter told me that Fitch had a unique ability to in addition to painting very well, but paint with not just his left or his right hand but with both hands simultaneously if necessary!
More jungles from JUNGLE BOOK.  They really wrote the book on jungles for Jungle Book.

JUNGLE BOOK lost temple.
There are also some miniature jungles in JUNGLE BOOK which are utilised to the full during the firestorm finale.  Some shots utilised forced perspective or foreground miniatures merged with artwork under Production Designer Vincent Korda's supervision.

Peter Ellenshaw contributed a huge number of mattes and other effects for Disney's IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1961) made at London's Pinewood Studios.  British matte artist Cliff Culley was also involved with Pinewood's matte department Ellenshaw's base of operations.  This shot above is a virtually full painting with just two small slots of live action people added in.

The cheapskate Cannon Films churned out endless fodda during the 1980's, mostly Charles Bronson shoot 'em ups and excrutiatingly dire Israeli made sex comedies, they also tried their hand at emulating the Indiana Jones franchise with misguided titles such as ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (1987).  Ken Marschall and Bruce Block provided matte shots for the picture that were of a vastly higher calibre than the movie deserved.
BIRD OF PARADISE (1951) from 20th Century Fox.  These shots would be recycled in later films and tv shows.

Another Fox film, CHINA GIRL (1942) with Fred Sersen's special effects department at work.

The enormously talented Mark Sullivan not only paints mattes but also is a master of stop motion animation, models and effects photography.  These are shots of Mark's from the very strange HOUSE II - THE SECOND STORY (1987)
Stop motion, miniature setting, live action people and matte art all by Mark Sullivan and perfectly blended as one for HOUSE II (1987)

Next to the original KING KONG some of the best matte painted jungles are to be found in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949) which was to prove an Oscar winner for it's technical creator, Willis O'Brien who as we know was the key creative force behind KONG and it's overall look.  Above left is a very rare mock up matte for the opening shot of MJY.  The picture at right is the final matte painted shot as it appeared in the film as a massive tilt down.  I believe O'Bie himself rendered some or all of the matte painting shown at left and although few people are aware of the fact, O'Bie was a highly skilled artist and had painted mattes for several films.
Here we have an extremely rare, never before seen, behind the scenes photo of one of the MIGHTY JOE YOUNG foreground painted glasses with the production clapper boy ready for a take.  The photo was taken at a different vantage point to the 35mm motion picture camera which is why the matte art fails to line up with the limited set.  The view through the cinematographer's camera will be perfect.  Using foreground painted mattes ensured perfect fidelity of the composite shot in camera.
More glass painted magnificence from MIGHTY JOE YOUNG.  A team of matte artists were employed on the film with Fitch Fulton being principal artist with Vernon Taylor, Louis Litchtenfield and Jack Shaw making up the remainder of the team.

A good behind the scenes photo of associate animator Ray Harryhausen adjusting the Joe model with the beautiful glass painted jungle seen beyond.
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG - stop motion puppets and glass painted setting.

MJY utilised some 31 glass paintings at a cost of $800 per matte according to RKO production memo's from 1949.

Magnificent painted jungle from MJY.  The lion is a rear projected element and the river is a live action element matted in.

A good view of the matte artist's technique and detail as well as miniature rear projected actor. Willis O'Brien began using miniature process within his animation set ups back on KONG in 1933 and refined it further for the sequel SON OF KONG and really nailed it for MIGHTY JOE YOUNG.
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, like Kong before him, is exploited back in so-called civilisation.  Here we have a 'hip' nightclub simulating Joe's jungle home.  Much of this shot comprises matte art, with just small pockets of live action.

It's not by any stretch a jungle, more a forest, but it's magnificent all the same so in a rash editorial decision NZPete has included it anyway.  It's an ILM matte from one of the EWOKS television films I think.
Vintage MGM matte from the 1942 Hedy Lamarr show WHITE CARGO.
Another invisible Newcombe shot from WHITE CARGO (1942).

Pioneering effects man Norman Dawn did mattes for the 1935 serial THE LOST CITY.
Matte painted jungle, trees, roof and probably mountain from John Huston's UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984).  No effects credit but I was told by Jim Danforth that it had a mixed history, though I can't recall the exact details.  I recall that Jim was given the assignment initially and for some reason or other it went to another artist.  Maybe Yuricich or Whitlock - I can't recall?

One of Paramount screen goddess Dorothy Lamour's numerous 'sarong epics', BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON (1942) had a lovely sound to it's title.  A few mattes from Jan Domela give the film a 'location' flavour.

Uncredited mattes from the low budget 1946 THE FLYING SERPENT made by the poverty row outfit Producer's Releasing Corporation.
Paramount's Sri Lankan epic ELEPHANT WALK (1954) was a grand Technicolor visual effects showcase indeed, with the full gamut of trick shots and large scale danger.  Excellent photographic effects by the great John P. Fulton which included miniature destruction by Ivyl Burks expertly combined with live action by Irmin Roberts; terrific travelling matte cinematography by Paul Lerpae where angry elephants stampede through a burning hacienda - combining modelwork, live actors and elephant mayhem all as one, and several fine matte shots by Jan Domela.  The top left shot is great as it combines a number of 2nd unit elephant plates - shot by Irmin Roberts - with an actual hillside setting, with Domela's matte art blending it all together seamlessly on Paul Lerpae's optical printer.

Even as far back as his amateur days, master animator and all round effects wizard Ray Harryhausen was creating his own jungle adventures in the early 1940's on 16mm film in his father's garage.  This is an excellent example of foreground glass art adding depth to an otherwise flat two dimensional miniature set.  This method was employed extensively on films like KING KONG (1933) to brilliant effect.
A rare before shot for a Percy Day matte for the British film MEN OF TWO WORLDS (1946).  The film was a Technicolor show but I've not been able to track it down as yet.
The final on screen matte composite by Percy Day for MEN OF TWO WORLDS.

I only learned recently that ILM were still employing traditional matte art - albeit sparingly - as recently as 1993 as evidenced with this magnificent Christopher Evans jungle scene for the Spielberg movie JURASSIC PARK.  A wonderful piece of art that, sadly, was completely misused in the final film as shown below, where the 'new breed' of CGI jockey's at Lucas' establishment seemed determined to screw with Chris' delicate brushwork and hues as much as possible to the point where the painting is 'rendered' a worthless throw away shot by digital tampering!
The on screen mish-mash that befell the beautiful original painting by Chris Evans, who in my opinion, really nailed it with mere brushes, pigments and a considerable instinctive understanding.  God, give me patience!

Michael Pangrazio painted this jungled clad mountain complete with the bad guy's lair for the still pretty funny Charlie Sheen spoof HOT SHOTS-PART DEUX (1993).  Pangrazio was a key player at the time in the establishment of Matte World, along with Craig Barron and I think Chris Evans.  Best line in this movie, and one of the all time great in jokes:  "I loved you in Wall Street".
The long, long, long awaited live action dinosaur Looney Tunes flavoured hybrid, MRS BURMA has had my spidey-senses a tingling for years, though I don't know when we'll ever get to see the finished product.  Master effects wizard and matte painter Mark Sullivan is the sole driver behind this one and the clips I've seen just blew my mind.  

One of my favourite films of the fifties and definitely one of the best visual effects shows of that decade that was not so much as nominated for an effects Oscar (shame on the Academy), THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954) was produced by sci-fi maestro George Pal and directed by former chief of special effect at Warners, Byron Haskin.  Not only that, but the great John P. Fulton oversaw the many, many complex visual effects that encompassed pretty much every trick imaginable.  Great matte shots by Jan Domela, elaborate multiple element split screens by Irmin Roberts, optical, animation and roto work by Paul Lerpae and top shelf miniature flood and destruction by Ivyl Burks and his crew.  A terrific show once you buy into the premise that hordes of pissed off ants can be the ruin of mankind.  Saw this originally on tv way back in the early 1970's and was hooked by the film and the notion of 'trick photography' ever since.

STAR TREK II - THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) was a good, solid entry in the Starship Enterprise stakes and worked very well.  This is the original matte art for the so-called Genesis Planet shot which according to various interviews the matte artists responsible, Chris Evans and Mike Pangrazio just did not care for.  They stated that the shot was badly designed from the start and no amount of skillful painting could breath believability into the shot (see below).
The final shot.
Another matte from STAR TREK II-THE WRATH OF KHAN which reminds me of the memorable money shot from the Jules Verne 1959 classic JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH.

The rollicking John Wayne sea adventure WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1949) was an entertaining yarn from Republic Pictures.  No matte credit but possibly the work of one of the early pioneers in the artform, Louis Physioc, who painted many mattes over the years for Republic.
A nice little matte painted extension and cel animated lightning from the Columbia pirate yarn HURRICANE ISLAND (1951).  Larry Butler and Donald Glouner would have been running that studio's effects shop, with matte artists possibly Juan Larrinaga and others.
Now, this isn't a jungle at all but it's still a very intriguing matte shot that is all the more so as we can appreciate just what has been altered by the unknown artist.  I'm not sure of the film other than an inscription FEMMINA.  I can't find anything about it other than it's likely British (or at least the mattes were made in the UK for perhaps a Continental film) with this and many other before and after pictures having been dumped at the British Technicolor Laboratories back in the early 1960's, with the vast stack of photos winding up in several private collections over the years.



Before and afters originating from that same 'dumped' stack of pictures, this instance from Disney's TREASURE ISLAND (1949) with maestro Peter Ellenshaw completely transforming the landscape to resemble that of a Caribbean island complete with shipwreck.
A good BluRay frame from the same film.

Not exactly matte art as it were, more a miniature foreground set (and plane) against a vast painted backing from the Howard Hawks film ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939).  Chesley Bonestell was artist on this show, which was one of seven pictures up for the Visual Effects Oscar that year, though the thoroughly deserving Fox epic THE RAIN'S CAME took home the statuette.
Extensive matte work for this shot from PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (1944) - a film absolutely loaded to the teeth with mattes, miniatures and process shots.  Really good work throughout by Warner Bros' Stage 5 Effects Department headed at the time by the great Jack Cosgrove.  Edwin DuPar was visual effects cameraman on the numerous and extremely well engineered miniature set pieces.  Paul Detlefsen was chief matte artist, with others such as Mario Larrinaga, Jack Shaw, Chesley Bonestell and Hans Bartholowsky in the department.  A tour de force of motion picture trickery.

Again, not exactly a jungle but a most picturesque of forests on some distant planet as seen in the film FLASH GORDON (1980).  Veteran matte man Lou Litchtenfield and assistant Robert Scifo provided a number of mattes for the film.
Same film.  I'm a sucker for extreme perspectives in matte work and just can't get enough of it.

Lou Litchtenfield matte from FLASH GORDON (1980).

The Universal tv series TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY from the mid eighties had loads of matte shots in it, with some handled by David Stipes at the off-site Universal Hartland operation, a few done at Effects Associates by Jim Danforth and the bulk done at Universal by Syd Dutton under mentor Albert Whitlock's watchful eye.  This shot is a Hartland matte, shot and composited on original negative by David Stipes.  David told me who painted it ages ago but I can't recall... maybe Sean Joyce or Mike Pangrazio?
Another matte supervised by David Stipes for TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY tv series.  I recall David saying this shot wasn't used in the end.
A selection of Syd Dutton matte painted shots from TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY.  Bill Taylor was chief visual effects cameraman.  The influence of Syd's mentor, Albert Whitlock is very clear when we examine that marvellous 'Whitlock-esque' night sky in the lower left frame.  I call that Al's donut clouds and you can see that style in countless Whitlock shots from THE BIRDS to CAT PEOPLE and much else in between.

Speaking of Whitlock, here's one of Albert's mattes from the Robert Shaw pirate adventure SWASHBUCKLER (or as it was called internationally THE SCARLET BUCCANEER) from 1976.  A very bold matte shot here with the split extending up the middle of the frame and into the tree.  The left side is an actual location while the right side is entirely a Whitlock fabrication, which until the advent of BluRay was near impossible to detect!

A good Humphrey Bogart - John Huston picture though marred by quite poor matte work, ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942).  Warners Stage 5 must have had a lot on their hand when this rolled into production as the model work shown at right isn't up to par either.  
I've never really been a fan of those Japanese guy-in-a-suit monster movies (although I really dig those wonderfully politically incorrect 70's Japanese Yakuza flicks, those incredible Lady Snowblood slaughter-fests and the ice cold Scorpion series ... lets hear it for Meiko Kaji - she did for merciless arse kicking what Dorothy Lamour did for sarongs).  Anyway, above is a shot from MOTHRA (1961) - one of the better monster epics though, and has a few nice matte shots by an uncredited artist.
Another view of MOTHRA's jungle habitat.

Tropical shenanigans are afoot when Rock Hudson sets foot in Java for THE SPIRAL ROAD (1962).  It's a Universal film so I'm not sure about the mattes as this was right around the time when long time resident matte painter Russ Lawson was retiring and newcomer Albert Whitlock was coming on board.  I know that both Lawson and Whitlock contributed mattes to another film that same year, TARAS BULBA, so who knows.
A pair of mattes from the 1937 Fox film SLAVE SHIP.

Russ Lawson mattes from Universal's WHITE SAVAGE (1943) where that studio's answer to Paramount's Dorothy Lamour was the quite delightful Maria Montez in scores of films.

Most people aren't even aware that there was an earlier SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON that was produced by RKO in 1940.  Not a bad yarn by any means and made all the more viewable by the marvellous and expansive matte painted shots by old time artist Albert Maxwell Simpson who began in matte work around 1914 with D.W Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION and continued on as a busy matte artist well into the 1960's.
More great before and afters from SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON.  The film was among some 14 films nominated for best special effects in 1940, an amazing number of contenders.
More SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON.  Matte artist Al Simpson also had a hand in some of the KING KONG matte work back in 1933 and was for some time the President of the Matte Artists and Illustrators Union.
An awe inspiring matte painting from SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1940) that occupies almost the entire frame.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that fellow matte exponent Fitch Fulton had a hand in these as he was with RKO at the time doing work on CITIZEN KANE and other films.

Disney turned out many pictures that utilised the talents of it's matte department over the years, with LT. ROBIN CRUSOE USN (1966) being just such a film.  Peter Ellenshaw painted some delightful mattes for the film with the degree of experience and confidence that was his benchmark, with his matte art not just topping up a set but extending all the way round into the immediate foreground as well.
I remember seeing this with my Grandfather back in the day (at the Cinecentre Theatre in Manurewa if any other Kiwi readers are out there?).  The film builds to a wonderful, effects filled climax involving pirates, stone idols and a freakin' load of pyrotechnics.  I've only selected a few frames here but the set piece is incredible and is one of Disney's best effects animation contributions ever.  I'm an absolute sucker for great old time cel animated effects woven into live action and Disney were, unsurprisingly, at the very top of the game when it came to this sort of sheer magic.  
A couple of larger than life mattes of the haunted Cuban castle by Jan Domela from the classic Bob Hope comedic creepfest THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940).

If anyone can help identify this film then let me know.  It's a (still surviving) original Lee LeBlanc matte painting from an MGM film, probably from the late 50's to early 60's.  I was thinking maybe the Frank Sinatra war film NEVER SO FEW (1959) though I don't recall the shot.  A number of Lee's original matte paintings from his days at MGM are in the care of his daughter and I feel privileged to have copies of them, with more to follow.
Close up detail with Lee LeBlanc's technique and brushmanship beautifully demonstrated.

Hammer Films didn't always make horror flicks, in fact they made a variety of genres such as this excellent war film THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (1958).  This is a Les Bowie matte shot.

An early (circa 1930), though unfortunately never fully realised project by Willis O'Brien was CREATION.  Byron Crabbe painted this multi-layered glass shot of jungle which was blended into the miniature set, with an actual river matted in by split screen.  The studio shelved the project though it did serve as a working model for the eventual KING KONG a few years later whereby the same techniques and improvements would be enabled.

I can't overlook the somewhat overgrown Washington DC of the 23rd Century as depicted in LOGAN'S RUN (1976).  Matthew Yuricich won an Academy Award for his many matte paintings here.
LOGAN'S RUN.  For some of these shots Matthew painted directly over the top of large photographic prints, a method he was most familiar with when he worked at both Fox and MGM whereby it became a fairly standard practice.  The difference here however was, the old studio's made black and white enlargements even for proposed colour mattes, and the visual effects supervisor on LOGAN'S RUN (L.B Abbott) made colour enlargements.  Yuricich had so much difficulty in attaining the proper painted values and hues as the predominant 'red' in the developed photo emulsion would seep through and bugger up the colour pallette under the harsh lighting needed during photography.
More LOGAN'S RUN jungle madness.  Pass the weedkiller.

As previously mentioned, NZPete loves extreme perspective in matte paintings and MGM's Newcombe department could draw and paint anything due to the team largely being technical illustrators.  This extensive matte is from BATAAN (1943) and is one of my favourites.  Rendered with the most delicate of pastel crayons and chalk for the most part, I've always been amazed at how well those MGM shots look on screen given the methods preferred and dictated by Warren Newcombe.

The sequel to the above mentioned film was BACK TO BATAAN (1945) and was even better than the original.  This time it was an RKO production with Vernon Walker in charge.  Matte artists probably Albert Maxwell Simpson and Fitch Fulton would be my best guess.  This shot is cool.  A full matte painting supplemented by two or three slots of live action soldiers on the dreaded Bataan Death March.
Rice paddies and dense jungle of The Philippines courtesy of RKO's matte department for BACK TO BATAAN.

Mattes from the RKO film FLIGHT FOR FREEDOM (1943).
One of those crazy though fun Universal costume romps, COBRA WOMAN (1944) was another vehicle for the popular Jon Hall-Maria Montez duo who made dozens of these things over the years.  Russell Lawson would have been matte artist with David Stanley Horsley running the effects department.

Rocco Gioffre painted this jungle scene with a burning nuclear reactor for ROBOCOP 2 (1990)
The tough and gritty war picture THE NAKED AND THE DEAD (1958) had to hold back on the level of 'grit' that was in the original book, but it's a great movie none the less with a terrific cast that includes Cliff Robertson, Aldo Ray and the always reliable character players Richard Jaeckel and L.Q Jones.  The WarnerScope mattes were probably done by Lou Litchtenfield.  

The overlong and drawn out Gary Cooper-Cecil B. DeMille bio-pic THE STORY OF DR WASSELL (1944) had some okay jungle action sequences all done in miniature such as the above,  Gordon Jennings was nominated for an Academy Award.

Norman Dawn pretty much invented the matte process back in the very early silent era and would carry on painting mattes for decades.  For some years in the 1940's Dawn was one of Newcombe's matte artists at MGM and worked on several high profile films.  This shot is from the James Stewart show MALAYA (1949).
Another Norman Dawn matte from way, way back, this time from ORIENTAL LOVE (1917)
It's not jungle, more Louisiana swamp, but I like the matte so here it is.  Cecil B. DeMille's THE BUCCANEER (1938) made by Paramount and with matte art by Jan Domela and composite photography by longtime associate Irmin Roberts.

I like old war pictures, and BOMBARDIER (1943) is a good watch.  Mattes of hidden airstrips in the jungles of the Pacific and a high volume of impressive miniature bombardment and mayhem which saw this film nominated for a special effects Academy Award for RKO's Vernon Walker.  Paul Eagler was effects cameraman and Linwood Dunn was optical cinematographer.

The grand daddy of all jungle movies, especially as it applies to matte painted environs must be the original KING KONG (1933).  This pic is actually a publicity department paste up, albeit a very good one, that utilises some of the original Byron Crabbe-Mario Larrinaga matte art as well as additional production illustration.
A before and after test from KONG from the famous log across the chasm sequence though I don't think this shot appears in the final film.

The painted jungles in KONG are almost palpable in their rich, atmospheric play of light and shadow where the audience can expect anything to leap out from behind a dense mass of flora.
Sensational deep layer glass shot with multiple planes of painted glass adding so much dimension.  I've never really figured out the composite here.  It may be a Williams Process Shot as I don't think rear projection screens were big enough back then, let alone the brilliance and even spread of the projector's throw.  A fantastic composite whatever way.

It just don't get any better than this folks!  The beast is stop motion of course, but then so is the running man, until he passes behind the tree and then re-appears as a real actor either matted or projected in.
The monumental log scene, which remains as iconic a slice of Hollywood pop culture as anything else.  The same glass shot was used in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.
A typical multi-layered glass shot from KING KONG.  Matte artists were Byron Crabbe, Mario Larrinaga, Albert Maxwell Simpson and Henri Hillinck.

This illustrates the single layered foreground glass shot within a miniature set.


As part of a special bonus feature on Peter Jackson's KING KONG (2005), Jackson had WETA Workshop here in New Zealand engage matte painter Michael Pangrazio as a glass artist in order to demonstrate the multi-layer glass shot method as used by Willis O'Brien in the old KONG.  Here we can see Pangrazio laying in foliage on various sheets of glass as well as a distant backing.
Mike paints less distinct scenery for the most distant backing and gradually increases the level of detail for the nearer glasses.
Wider views of the glass shot set up at WETA Workshop with miniature foliage in place for the animation test.  

As hinted at in my introduction, the Dino DeLaurentiis reboot of KING KONG (1976) wasn't entirely without it good points, though Art Direction was not one of them.  In a word, abysmal.  The production design and dressing of the Skull Island sets was so bloody bad as to be an insult to all that we loved about KONG (not to mention not having a single friggen' dinosaur to be found anywhere!  What gives Dino?).  Here is the '76 version's log across the chasm sequence and a more depressing state of affairs I've rarely seen.  Thankfully Peter Jackson got it right with his KONG with lush, forboding flora and an ever increasing feel of menace and danger.  Well done Pete.

The Joseph Conrad story transferred to the screen as LORD JIM (1965) had several invisible matte shots by Peter Melrose at Shepperton Studios.  Additional trees and an evening sky have been painted in.
The Devil's Island convict escape melodrama WE'RE NO ANGELS (1955) had this excellent Jan Domela matte shot.

Even before Kong film makers had created a primeval world inhabited by prehistoric beasts and wild, uncharted jungles.  THE LOST WORLD made in 1924 stunned audiences with it's depictions of that world in a manner that completely stunned viewers of the period.  Willis O'Brien was the heart and soul behind the visuals with Ralph Hammeras charged with painting the numerous glass shots.
A selection of Ralph Hammeras' glass painted effects that still look astonishing today nearly a century on.

An exceptional glass matte shot from THE LOST WORLD (1924) ranks as one of my all time favourites.  Note the tiny figure climbing up the rope ladder to the summit.  This film was the forerunner of so many more advanced techniques from stop motion and glass paintings, to early and quite effective travelling matte photography.

Astonishingly, the special photographic effects in the 1924 version far outshone those which were featured in the much later Irwin Allen DeLuxe Colour CinemaScope remake of THE LOST WORLD in 1960 (see below).

Irwin Allen's seriously flawed rehash of THE LOST WORLD (1960) was a bit of a joke on most every level.  Not even L.B Abbott's photographic effects held up against the O'Brien-Hammeras visuals of the old silent film.  Ironically, Willis O'Brien was engaged by Irwin Allen on this version too, on the assumption that stop motion would be utilised (it wasn't) and a general consensus seems to be that Irwin just wanted O'Bie's name associated with his film for prestige.  Pictured above is an Emil Kosa jnr matte painted composite shot.
A flaming conflagration ends Irwin Allen's THE LOST WORLD (1960).

Some nicely brooding glass shots by Byron Crabbe for the RKO film THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), filmed at the same time with several of the same cast members and on the same sets for the most part, as KING KONG.  Possibly the most re-made, re-imagined, re-booted story of all time, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME has resulted in the same premise of hunting humans for sport in countless other movies.

A Jack Shaw matte painted shot from the original ONE MILLION BC (1940) produced by Hal Roach.  Special effects chief Roy Seawright was Oscar nominated for the effects on this show.
I've absolutely no idea how this picture got to be here.  Must be the devious work of some foreign hackers??

This moody view is about the only memorable thing to be found in A GAME OF DEATH (1946), which was yet another in a long line of Most Dangerous Game copy cats.  Made by RKO so the matte might have been by Al Simpson.


One of Jan Domela's mattes from Paramount's DR CYCLOPS (1940), yet another Oscar nominated movie in the effects category.

Although an exceptionally weak movie in itself, SON OF KONG (1933) did move the trick work up a notch or two, with this magnificent glass shot of Skull Island being a hands down winner.
Miniature jungle foreground augmented and stop motion dinosaur, with glass painted expanse of forest beyond, with the actors rear projected frame by frame into an unpainted area of the glass.  SON OF KONG had good technical work.
SON OF KONG glass shot with projection of actors on ridge.

Matte painter Lee LeBlanc had much experience in the industry having trained as a commercial artist Lee got work at 20th Century Fox around 1941 building miniatures from which he gravitated toward the specialised work that was matte painting in Fred Sersen's photographic effects department.  Lee worked for Fox for many years as one of a large stable of artists until an opportunity arose over at MGM where a replacement head of matte painting was required when Warren Newcombe announced his retirement in 1956.  LeBlanc got the job and along with fellow Fox compatriot, cameraman Clarence Slifer moved across town to MGM.  One of LeBlanc's former artist colleagues from Fox, Matthew Yuricich, was already ensconced at MGM.  The painting shown above is one of a number of rare pieces that Lee saved when he left MGM and retired in 1963.  The film is GREEN MANSIONS (1959), and although it's arguably Audrey Hepburn's worst film, it does feature some dazzling matte work.
Clarence Slifer's tilt upward from Anthony Perkins onto LeBlanc's matte art in GREEN MANSIONS.

Detail of LeBlanc's matte art.  Thankfully, Lee's daughter now cares for the dozen or so mattes that were saved.  Films such as BEN HUR, PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES and others.
The grand closing matte painting by Lee LeBlanc from GREEN MANSIONS is an exquisite piece in it's own right.  For the final composite the actors will walk toward the setting sun and face each other ... yep, it's as hokey as that!
Close up detail...just what NZPete lives to see.

The Hepburn-MGM film wasn't the only incarnation of GREEN MANSIONS.  Here is a rare Mario Larrinaga conceptual painting rendered decades earlier for a proposed, though unmade 1933 production.

A pair of painted jungle mattes from the Japanese monster flick ATRAGON (1963).  Esteemed and highly respected trick shot wiz, Eiji Tsuburaya was the effects director.

Paramount's WHITE WOMAN (1933) had mattes by resident artist Jan Domela and effects cameraman Irmin Roberts.

Old school MGM matte art from TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932) though I think it was previously seen in TRADER HORN the year before.
From TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932).  MGM would frequently recycle these mattes so many of them would turn up again and again in later TARZAN pictures.

Made before the Hay's Code cracked down on cinematic excesses, TARZAN AND HIS MATE (1932) had cinematic excesses and then some!  It's a real eye opener to view this one folks, and Maureen O'Sullivan's 'Jane' was never (I repeat, never) bettered.  Oh, brother!
A rare surviving matte painting from TARZAN AND HIS MATE.  Yeah I know there's no jungle in this image, but whatcha gonna do?
Before and after from TARZAN FINDS A SON (1939)


Producer Sol Lesser made a bunch of Tarzan features for RKO with this shot being from TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS (1947).  Matte artist Spencer Bagtatopolis painted this shot, and numerous others for further Tarzan pictures, with Spencer's family sharing old photographs of his work with me.
From TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY (1952) made by RKO.
More mattes from TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY 

One of several unidentified before and after mattes from one of the Sol Lesser TARZAN pictures.  Spencer Bagtatopolis was the matte painter in what appears to be an unfinished test.  The frame at left shows guys atop a ridge which will be matted into the upper painting.  I've looked at tons of TARZAN films but can't find this shot nor the next three.
Another unknown and possibly incomplete matte by Spencer Bagtatopolis from a mystery TARZAN film.


Spencer also painted this impressive matte for yet another mystery TARZAN picture made at RKO.

If anyone out there can identify these mystery mattes I'd be grateful, as would Spencer's family who are trying to piece it all together.  He did a lot of work for David O. Selznick on films like THE PARADINE CASE, SPELLBOUND DUEL IN THE SUN and PORTRAIT OF JENNIE among others.

More TARZAN mattes that in this case have originated from MGM.  Some may not have made the final cut?

A terrific before and after Newcombe shot from TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE (1941)

Also from TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE though I think it also turned up in other films too.  Love the sky.

First rate mattes and split screen tricks (crocodile infested river) from TARZAN AND THE SHE DEVIL (1953).  Made by RKO Pictures with Russell Culley as photographic effects chief.

A nicely rendered establishing shot from TARZAN AND THE SHE DEVIL (1953).
Subtle matte additions from TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN (1946) where upon close examination it appears the treehouse and upper tree have been matted in later, though very well.

Extensive painted scenery and tree house at left and a fully painted sky with trees at right from TARZAN TRIUMPHS (1943)
Full painted scene with doubled in river from TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN (1949) from RKO Pictures.

More matte art magic from TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN.

Great Britain this time with a couple of mattes from TARZAN'S FIGHT FOR LIFE (1958).  Made at MGM-Boreham Wood with Tom Howard supervising the effects and possibly Judy Jordan as matte artist.
MGM tried to re-awaken their side of the franchise with this 1959 effort TARZAN THE APE MAN.  Matthew Yuricich painted the elephant's graveyard matte.

20th Century Fox turned out this lesser known Robert Mitchum vehicle, WHITE WITCH DOCTOR (1953) which also featured matte work by Matthew Yuricich.
Now friends, scratch your heads if you will ... it's a rooftop jungle right smack bang in the middle of New York city as seen in the Madonna film WHO'S THAT GIRL (1987).  The flawless matte was painted by Mark Sullivan.

"So Dorothy  ....... care to monkey around?"



7 comments:

  1. NZPete - I always look forward to your posts, being a fan of mattes since I was a child. I got to see some of Matthew Yuricich's "Logan's Run" mattes at the 1976 Special effects class at USC run by the MPTE. I was amazed to see that so many were photos painted over with tiny vines.
    Thanks again for all your effort. I really appreciate your work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michael

      Thanks for the nod of approval. I've heard from several industry people about that '76 VFX class, including matte artist Ken Marschall who said it put the zap on him and made him determined to be a matte painter (and WHAT a matte painter!)

      The closest I've been was to see some of Whitlock's paintings on the Universal tour back in '79, and years later to view several of Al & Syd's showreels (!!!!!!!)

      Pete

      Delete
  2. NZPete - you would have loved the class. Among the guests who spoke, were Linwood Dunn, Albert Whitlock, Matt Yuricich, and Danny Lee(who brought special effects props from Disney, including the Miniature flying Model T from 'Absent Minded Professor', the Hyperion Blimp, from 'Island at the Top of the World', and the Miniature flying bed from 'Bedknobs and broom sticks'. Also Bill Taylor from Universal. What a wonderful experience! Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Michael

      Now this is getting beyond the joke mate. You can't go on taunting me with this like some form of Chinese Water Torture.... don't you have a shred of mercy in you man? :(

      Pete :(

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete