Tuesday, 15 May 2018

265 MATTES THAT YOU PROBABLY NEVER SAW.



Welcome fellow enthusiasts of the magical world of the traditional hand painted matte photographic effect.  Today I'm offering up something entirely fresh in the realisation that I have so many wonderful matte shot frames and associated imagery encompassing all manner of genres and a myriad of themes and specific subject matter that much of the collection could well be overlooked by yours truly as I try and offer up my monthly 'topics'.  So, as a change of pace I've pulled out a couple of hundred (and then some!) matte shots that cover a wide range of themes, genres and era's, with the twist being that probably 75% of these images haven't been seen until now.

 Some are from films that I have covered in the past but these particular shots haven't been published as they generally didn't meet the particular theme of a given blog post, so the mattes are in the large part 'new' to my readers. 
I couldn't resist throwing in a few familiar ones due to much improved image quality as a result of BluRay technology or HDTV broadcast.  Many here are very rare and some have originated from films that run the gamut from timeless right through to time-waste!


Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know NZPete is especially fond of the so-called 'Golden Era' of matte painted trick shots, with many of my favourite matte artists such as pioneers Norman Dawn, Jack Cosgrove, Percy Day, Ralph Hammeras, Jan Domela, Albert Maxwell Simpson, Chesley Bonestell, Emil Kosa jnr, and those fabled, though largely anonymous Newcombe artists at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, all the way through to the next generation of oil on glass maestro's such as Peter Ellenshaw, Albert Whitlock, Irving Block, Matthew Yuricich and Ray Caple.  Latter day exponents also receive wide coverage here such as Syd Dutton, Ken Marschall, Harry Walton and Robert Stromberg.  Of course, a great many fine matte has been rendered over the ninety-odd years that the practice had been a film maker's staple, by largely anonymous, uncredited and pretty much unknown, yet highly talented artists whose work is the main reason that this blog exists in the first place.  I am more than sure many of you will love this collection as much as I do.

As stated in the past, it's always my hope that readers of this blog actually view same on a decent sized PC or Mac, and not one of those damned little matchbox sized 'toys' that seem to have proliferated for reasons that escape me.  Many of these images, whenever possible, are high quality and need to be appreciated on 'real' computers with a tangible screen size. So come on, be a 'real bloke' with your 'V8' viewing equipment and not some 'kaftan wearer' who needs to pinch that little micro-screen to make it marginally more viewable.
*This message was not sanctioned by the folks who brought you the i-phone.

So folks, with that out of the way, prepare your popcorn, get comfy, dim the lights as the perfectly timed overture takes us up a notch and the glorious waterfall curtain starts it's slow ascent as the picture show commences (if you have to ask 'what the hell is a waterfall curtain?', then I'm afraid no amount of therapy will suffice...)


Enjoy the show and do send me your feedback.

NZPete

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Now I did say that not all of the films featured here today were classics ... which brings us to the silly beyond belief MANNEQUIN 2 - ON THE MOVE (1991), which at least had some fine visuals from the always reliable Illusion Arts.  Syd Dutton was matte artist and Bill Taylor chief fx cinematographer.  A dud film with some beautiful matte shots.

The rather taut little British thriller, ANOTHER MAN'S POISON (1951) featured a scenery chewing Bette Davis in the role she was born for.  An independent film made at a small studio at Walton-on-Thames with no effects credit so I'm assuming the several mattes were farmed out to somewhere like Pinewood or Shepperton.  This one is a full painting with what looks like animated gag for the water.

From the same film is another full painting representing the estate where all manner of chicanery takes hold.

MGM's deservedly famous Newcombe department supplied this invisible matte to the Fred Astaire film ROYAL WEDDING (1951).  The matte line bisects the frame right across the upper part of the gateway with practically the whole house being artwork.
The Alistair MacLean spy thriller WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971) had this undetectable matte shot by Pinewood's Cliff Culley where an actual Scottish location (a well known castle on a lake in truth) has been made to appear atop a steep ridge via clever matte painting which adds in the cliff and distant scenery.


I've covered Selznick's SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) previously but missed a couple of nice shots that slipped by.  This interior of the USO club is all painted (including the suspended foreground piece) except for the people.  Jack Shaw was a veteran painter with Selznick and Warners and, under Clarence Slifer had much to do with the many mattes in the film.  Other artists included Spencer Bagtatopolis, Hans Ledeboer and Jack Cosgrove.  The film was nominated for best visual effects for 1944 but lost out.

Also from SINCE YOU WENT AWAY is this remarkable shot that I'd never spotted before until seeing the BluRay disc.  Only the area with the foreground stars and various extras are actual with all else painted and composited in flawlessly by ace camera wiz Clarence Slifer.  I think the entire tree at left of frame has also been added in by the artist, such was the skill of the fabulous Cosgrove matte department at Selznick Studios.  This sort of trick shot just blows my mind folks.

I have an epic Al Whitlock blog coming up soon but I couldn't help throwing in a few tidbits before time such as this wonderful (and very rare) matte from the brilliant COLOSSUS - THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970).  I say rare because the shot was painted and composited with a small live action set up at lower left, initially as a full 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic shot showing the Soviet nuclear missile battery, though in the final film it's only ever seen as a heavily cropped down image on a little tv screen, and even then, ever so fleetingly.  Trivia note: years later Matthew Yuricich did a similar shot on a smaller scale for FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER that was so degraded in the final 'tv news' presentation that it's hard to even see.

John Huston's MOULIN ROUGE (1952) had a couple of trick shots courtesy of Shepperton's matte department, with this lovely shot being one of Judy Jordan's matte paintings.  Judy trained under Walter Percy Day and would carry on under Wally Veevers at that studio for a number of years before transitioning across town to Tom Howard's matte department at MGM-Elstree.

Anyone who regularly peruses my blogs will know that I'm an enormous fan of the legendary Fred Sersen and his remarkable effects department at 20th Century Fox.  The excellent Gregory Peck epic drama KEYS OF THE KINGDOM (1944) was a showcase for many superbly integrated mattes, complex multi-panel glass panorama's and miniature work.  

Also from KEYS OF THE KINGDOM is this extensive, though barely detectable matte painted shot where it's all paint except the patch of grass with the actors.  Even the tree is a Sersen painted element.

From the same film is this superbly executed and entirely convincing trick shot.  Painters working for Sersen included Ray Kellogg, Emil Kosa snr, Emil Kosa jnr, Fitch Fulton, Ralph Hammeras, Max De Vega, Irving Block, Jack Rabin, Cliff Silsby, Clyde Hill, Lee LeBlanc, Barbara Webster, Chris von Schneidau and Menrad von Muldorfer among others.

Columbia's Glenn Ford western THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948) was a good genre piece and what's more featured several excellent matte shots that seemed a par above the usual shots produced at that studio.  No FX credit but likely to be Larry Butler and Donald Glouner.  Matte artists employed at Columbia included Juan Larrinaga, Hans Bathowlowsky and Louis Litchtenfield for a time.

An outstanding matte from THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948) that is as convincing and beautifully composited as any I've seen.  Very nice work. 

Rocco Gioffre painted this Latin American port for the blood thirsty though oddly watchable WALKER (1987) starring the always excellent Ed Harris.  It's one of those films that you want to turn off after a while but just can't bring yourself to do so.


Universal cranked out dozens of Rock Hudson vehicles over the years, with BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY (1953) being the third cinematic incarnation of the very same story.  Russ Lawson was Universal's resident matte artist for decades.


Syd Dutton painted this sweeping establishing shot for BATMAN FOREVER (1995).
If ever there was a director with a sincere feeling for the human condition it must have been the great Frank Capra, who's career included so many all time classics.  THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1932) may not be his most well known picture but it ranks among his very best.  A beautifully told and acted piece that stays long with the viewer after the fact.  A Columbia film, as were most of Capra's pictures, the film is stunningly photographed (by Joseph Walker) and contains many visual effects shots from burning towns through to imposing Chinese palaces.  I don't know who painted that mattes other than Columbia apparently had a New Zealand matte painter, Ted Withers, among it's staff around that time, so maybe it was Ted?  Withers also painted for MGM for a while and became a famous calendar artist of pin ups etc.  I think Russell Lawson and Jack Cosgrove both worked for Columbia as well in those early days.

One of the vast, oppressive interiors from THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN (1932).

The epic scale 70mm Super-Technirama CUSTER OF THE WEST (1968) slipped in a few excellent matte shots courtesy of Spanish maestro, and one of my all time favourite trick men, Emilio Ruiz del Rio.  If you open this image and study it you will see much painted augmentation going on, with trees, hills, indian encampment and distant mountains all beautifully rendered with oils on glass by magician extraordinaire Ruiz.  Emilio had worked on around 300 films going back as far as the 1940's and was still busy post-retirement and well into his twilight years.

Another big 70mm epic was the extremely long EXODUS (1960) from Otto Preminger and a cast of thousands it seemed.  This shot was curious and struck me as possibly a full painting with doubled in pyro for the bombing of the hospital.  

The timeless story of LES MISERABLES has been filmed many times, with this set of frames being from the 1934 French version.  I don't know who did the fx shots but a fellow named Nicholas Wilcke was active on many French films requiring mattes, models and foreground gags,

One of the all time greats in the roster of matte painted showcases was Selznick's GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) where dozens of beautiful painted settings were elegantly combined with quite limited sets to produce grandeur of the likes not seen on movie house screens up to that time.   Jack Cosgrove was in charge of all of the trick shots and along with fellow artists Fitch Fulton, Jack Shaw and Albert Maxwell Simpson, with cinematographer Clarence Slifer making all of the work come together with stunning results.  Above is a full painting with just the carriage and horse added as a bi-pack element.  I'm not sure about the reflection whether it's genuine or a flopped optical doubled in?  It wouldn't surprise me if Slifer had done the latter, such was the skill level of the man.

HER HIGHNESS AND THE BELLBOY (1945) included this Newcombe shot.


One of my all time favourite pictures, and probably Cary Grant's best was FATHER GOOSE (1964).  An uncredited Albert Whitlock made this matte shot of the island and the moody sky.  Best line in the film:  "No, she's not dead...but the snake is".  (You'd laugh if you knew the context).

Pinewood's resident matte supervisor Cliff Culley supplied this and other invisible mattes of African villages, a British Army camp and subtle scenic alterations to make a plain-jane UK location appear to be Africa for the tense Richard Attenborough drama GUNS AT BATASI (1964).
Universal's film-noir set in Venice, THE LOST MOMENT (1947) relied quite heavily on Russ Lawson's matte talents to make mere soundstage sets expand considerably.

Another Lawson matte from THE LOST MOMENT.

Also from that same film is this dizzying downview for a key sequence at the film's conclusion with the actor clambering around the ledge.  I just love shots like this.  That extreme and exaggerated perspective always, I repeat, always gets me.  Can't get enough of shots like this.  It's all painted by the way, with water ripples being a matte stand gag by Ross Hoffman and just a small bit of set where Robert Cummings does his bit.  Not a bad film either.

Several mattes from Rank's PENNY PRINCESS (1952).  It's quite likely that Whitlock had a hand in these as he was still at Pinewood then, along with Cliff Cully, Bob Bell and maybe John Stears who also started off as a matte artist.  Les Bowie was probably gone by then to work as a freelancer.


The sugary yet undeniably entertaining A WALK IN THE CLOUDS (1995) had much effects work in it by Illusion Arts, including numerous views of the romantic vineyard in Napa Valley as well as a frightening climactic firestorm.  Syd Dutton and Robert Stromberg were matte artists with Bill Taylor as effects cameraman.  I'll bet this is a Dutton shot as those are trademark 'Whitlock-esque' clouds up there if ever I saw 'em.
The exquisite closing shot from A WALK IN THE CLOUDS is entirely fabricated.


The British made Rock Hudson costumer SEA DEVILS (1953) had this interesting shot where a very convincing matte painted wall and ceiling is only noticeable as the actor's hat merges through the matte line for a few frames. No idea about matte artist as this was made at Nettlefold Studios at Walton-on-Thames so I gather the matte was farmed out, maybe to Shepperton perhaps.

THE AMOROUS PRAWN (1962) with mattes supervised by Wally Veevers at Shepperton.  Artists may have been George Samuels, Bob Cuff, Alan Maley, Doug Ferris or David Hume.

The multi-talented Ken Marschall was asked to render this wonderful matte for an Anita Baker music video entitled SOUL INSPIRATION (1990).

Warner's period drama THE HELEN MORGAN STORY (1957) had matte art by Lou Litchtenfield.

More period mattes from Warner Bros, though obviously from a different period altogether.  These are from KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS (1954), a not very successful attempt at storytelling by any shake.  Again, it's probable that Lou Litchtenfield supplied the mattes as he headed the department at the time with other artists such as Jack Cosgrove and Jack Shaw on board.

The big musical SCROOGE (1970) was enlivened by Gerald Larn's evocative painted mattes of hell and Dickensian London (one and the same I hear you say?).

The low budget Columbia adventure, THE ROGUES OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1950) did have excellent matte art.

The very taut thriller THE HITCH HIKER (1953) was written and directed by Ida Lupino and a gripping affair it was too.  Harold Wellman was effects supervisor and, being an RKO show I'd hazard a guess that Albert Maxwell Simpson may have painted in this distant town.

A remarkably good trick shot by Ray Kellogg from the solid Spencer Tracy-Richard Widmark western BROKEN LANCE (1954).  A nicely accomplished matte shot which paints in the entire prison.

An absolute rubbish movie (and this from a self confessed fan of 70's chop-socky fests big time!), NINJA III-THE DOMINATION (1984) did at least have a couple of spectacular Jim Danforth matte shots such as this winner here.  Terrific work Jim.

Jim Danforth's wonderful original matte art as it is today.

The daffy INCREDIBLE MISTER LIMPET (1964) with Don Knotts revealed this unique piece of Americana courtesy of Warner's matte artist Lou Litchtenfield.  I'm reliably informed by insiders that the present orange skinned leader of the free world has already commissioned his very own likeness atop Mount Rushmore (!)  Watch that space...
The feeble British spoof THE SPY WITH THE COLD NOSE (1966) should on no account be confused with the outstanding SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965), though with similar sounding titles even the matte artist who rendered this got confused.  Shepperton's Gerald Larn told me it was the latter when in fact it was from the former.  Anyway, a grand painting of Moscow's Red Square with both Larn and associate Bryan Evans involved.



British trick shot pioneer and the grandfather of UK matte magic, Walter Percy 'Pop' Day was, for some years, gainfully employed in the French film industry when work in Britain was scarce.  JALMA LE DOUBLE (1928) was just such a film, with Day's specialty in ornate and elaborate architecture brought to the fore for this in camera glass shot.

The British family film A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) utilised the services of matte artist Charles Stoneham to create period London.  Stoneham trained under Cliff Culley at Pinewood in the 1960's and would go on to paint mattes for a number of films such as RETURN TO OZ and GANDHI among others.

Mark Sullivan is one of the finest matte painters of his generation with my extensive career interview and retrospective a few years ago being testament to that (click here to read it).  This painting of the sports arena was rendered for the Kim Basinger film NADINE (1987), though sadly I don't seem to have the final composite.  :(

Artists Richard Kilroy and Rick Rische frequently worked as a team on many projects, often at 4-Ward Productions or Introvision.  Years back they made a short film titled SCENE STEALER - maybe on 16mm - which had a ton of mattes and optical gags in it.  I'm not sure it ever got finished, but here is one of Rick Rische's paintings for that very enterprise.

The sort of evocative, moody and romantic matte shot that appeals muchly to your humble author.  The shot is from an old Warner Bros film titled GLORIOUS BETSY (1928) as far as I know.

The seriously misguided big budget kid-flick SANTA CLAUS-THE MOVIE (1985) was a bit of a disaster.  Some okay effects that included a variety of dazzling Doug Ferris matte paintings.  John Grant was matte cinematographer.

A revealing 'before' frame from an unknown British film, probably from the early 1930's, to which Percy Day will add an extensive painted matte.

Percy Day's final matte composite.  I wonder whether this could be a deleted scene from the 1937 film STORM IN A TEA CUP, as a very similar setting occurs?

The okay western PONY SOLDIER (1952) from Fox had a great many mattes supervised by Ray Kellogg.

Just two of the multitude of painted mattes to be found in the classic SHE (1935) - a film that surpasses the other myriad versions and remakes.  Byron Crabbe and Mario Larrinaga were matte artists.

Arguably Alfred Hitchcock's most boring film, UNDER CAPRICORN (1948) was a backlot affair enhanced with a significant number of mattes to bring the narrative to colonial era Australia.  Some mattes were lifted directly from other Warner Bros films while others seem to have been the work of various artists.  Mario Larrinaga definitely painted some of the shots as one turned up at auction a few years ago.  This matte shot would be my pick from the interminable film.

One of the best of the 'boys own' rip-snorting, all out, balls to the wall actioners from the sixties would have to be WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968).  The film has a lot of trick shots in it courtesy of Tom Howard, such as front projection action set pieces atop cable cars, miniatures and painted mattes.  Here are two mattes that many people may not have spotted.  The distant view of the German camp and armoury, and the snow clad village seen at the end of the film where our hero's drop off the cable and into the lock.  Douglas Adamson was mentioned in an article as having been Howard's matte artist on the picture, along with another unidentified female painter.

An utterly incomprehensible film if ever I saw one, CIRCLE OF IRON (1978) was a weird affair right from the get go, with a wacked out script penned years earlier by Bruce Lee and James Coburn apparently, no doubt while under some mind altering substances is my guess (!)  Anyway, the flick is saved (almost) by mostly good Ray Caple mattes that look the part.

Another of the numerous Ray Caple mattes in CIRCLE OF IRON (aka THE SILENT FLUTE)

Caple matte art from CIRCLE OF IRON.  Some people tell me they dig the film but for me the whole thing was beyond my comprehension.  Mind you, I never understood a single fucken moment of THE MATRIX nor FIGHT CLUB, so maybe it's me?

Sersen matte shot from Fox's THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951).  An enjoyable viewing this one.

I remember going to the cinema back in the day to see BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (1979) (*not to be confused with Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a Half Century - itself a bona-fide classic of quite another kind).  I was completely blown away by the marvellous BUCK ROGERS matte paintings by Syd Dutton, in what would be his earliest solo credit. This shot in particular looked like a million bucks projected onto the big screen at Auckland's magnificent old Civic theatre (which thankfully has been restored to it's original glory and still survives as a showcase venue, for those like me who care deeply about 'old' entertainment palaces, though as usual, I digress... 

Another Syd Dutton masterpiece from BUCK ROGERS complete with animated 'sky trains' and such.

Also from BUCK ROGERS is this breathtaking night vista of the city of the distant future, again complimented by intricate animation gags by Bill Taylor on the matte stand at Universal, presumably under Whitlock's watchful gaze.

Completely out of character, John Wayne stars in this frothy RKO comedy WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946) and does well even without his horse and six shooter.  The shot at right is impressive (though lousy screen grabs) as the artist has added in the entire right hand side of the frame, with the building, trees and mountain all painted.

An interesting frame here, one from a long and elaborate pull back fx shot.  The film is STAR TREK V - THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989) and the shot begins on Spock and Kirk roasting chestnuts (or something) over a campfire.  The camera then pulls out, and out revealing more and more of a vast expanse of forest and then tilts upward into the heavens.  Sadly, much of the well executed trick is ruined by the plastering of end credits all over the screen, thus obscuring all of the work that Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor put into it.


The great Jack Cosgrove contributed a lot of trick work to the very funny Selznick screwball comedy THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938).  Aside from the many painted mattes, Cosgrove created an amazing multi-car train wreck (not illustrated here) atop a narrow stone viaduct above a small town ... very impressive use of miniatures, matte art, process and split screen tricks.  Above is one of Jack's matte shots where the film's running joke 'The Flying Wombat' (easily the world's ugliest car by a country mile) makes it's first appearance. Much of the above frame is matte art, including the signage.

Another Cosgrove shot from YOUNG IN HEART (1938) where our not entirely truthful elder statesman, Roland Young, is determined to sell to the consumer at large the virtues of 'The Flying Wombat' motorcar.  All matte art here except that narrow strip of floor and the door beyond.

YOUNG IN HEART Cosgrove shot.

There's far more painted here than you might expect in this Jack Cosgrove matte from THE YOUNG IN HEART.  Most of the garden at left is painted as is the house just above the ground floor window and all the foliage.

One of Rocco Gioffre's mattes from the Joe Dante tv movie THE OSIRIS CHRONICLES (1998)


Before and after RKO matte from THE ROYAL BED (1931)

Before and after frames from the Alan Ladd swashbuckler THE BLACK KNIGHT (1954).  Cliff Culley was primary matte artist then at Pinewood and may have also still had Al Whitlock on staff just prior to his shifting across to Disney in the US.

THE BLACK KNIGHT 

Another before and after from the same film.  Whereas the other example demonstrated the majesty a matte shot can lend, this example shows how producers utilised the process for minor, almost insignificant augmentations as a cost saver.

Steven Seagal isn't everyone's idea of an action hero, but he did make a few okay flicks such as Out For Justice and Under Siege 2.  The above frame is from ON DEADLY GROUND (1995) and while it has a few great kickass set pieces it sure ain't no classic.  Rocco Gioffre furnished the matte shots.

The old 1930 version of CIMARRON employed Mario Larrinaga's matte painting talents.

CIMARRON (1930)

The true account of Captain R.F Scott's ill fated 1912 expedition to the South Pole was well dramatised in SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (1948).  Among the Geoffrey Dickinson effects shots was this glass shot which oddly would re-appear 30 years later with a different live action element in Ray Harryhausen's SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977).  I wonder whether Les Bowie might have painted it originally as he was also involved with additional effects shots for the SINBAD picture, including matte art according to his daughter, so maybe he literally had the painted glass in his own studio?

Albert Whitlock painted this, and many other mattes for the George Peppard cowboy oater ONE MORE TRAIN TO ROB (1971), with the resulting shot being easily perceived as an actual production shot.

Disney had a long and proud history in it's matte work, one more so than when the legendary Peter Ellenshaw was behind the paintbrush.  The 1967 movie THE GNOME MOBILE utilised Ellenshaw's skills to the full, none more so than in the chase sequence where every view of the building was painted.  The above frame shows what was a 'blink and you'd miss it' cut where the kid runs off from the bad guys.  Everything here was painted by Ellenshaw, including the furniture in the window, with just a patch of grass left untouched for the actor.

Another Ellenshaw painting from THE GNOME MOBILE.

I like fifties monster movies, and THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) worked a treat for this viewer.  Although low budget and made in a hurry the film has terrific stop motion work by Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson (mostly done in a garage I believe) as well as moody glass shots by Ralph Hammeras.  The above frame is a standard stop motion set up nicely augmented with a foreground glass where Hammeras has painted in desert features and a canyon.

Another shot from THE BLACK SCORPION with multiple elements.  A stop motion scorpion, glass matte art behind and projected live action characters.  The film was very bold in it's effects design, with some sequences being particularly well conceived and executed (ie the train wreck).

This shot normally appears very dark as it's timed to be night, so I've lightened it to highlight Ralph Hammeras' extensive glass painting with a distant train racing along, possibly done as a slot gag of some sort on the matte stand.

Jerry Lewis was always something of an acquired taste as far as I was concerned, and nowhere near the genius that many claim.  That said, I remember seeing many of his films as a kid on Saturday matinee double features and found 'em generally agreeable.  This shot is a Jan Domela matte from MONEY FROM HOME (1953) with the top of the stand, the distant people, scenery and out buildings all painted in by Domela.

Jack Cosgrove and team created many mattes for David O. Selznick's DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), some of them as full paintings such as this one.  Cosgrove's painting style was very loose and seemingly slap-dash, but he knew just what to paint and where to make it count with his innate feel for composition and mood.

Warren Newcombe's stable of matte artists at MGM were always busy, with so many Metro features requiring extensive matte work.  This glorious evening cityscape is entirely painted and is from BRIGADOON (1954)

For a British advertisement for BP, Brian Bishop painted this impressive matte.  Brian had a long career primarily as a scenic artist and was regarded by many as one of the very best in the UK film industry. Apparently Brian ventured occasionally into matte work and was often approached to venture further into mattes but his true calling was in huge scenic backings.  

Tom Howard oversaw the effects shots on the Gary Cooper film noir THE NAKED EDGE (1961), filmed in England.  As previously mentioned, I dig those extreme perspective mattes.

Wally Veevers supervised the mattes for the powerhouse film of D.H Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS (1960).  Artists likely Albert Julion or George Samuels.

Uncredited mattes from the Ingrid Bergman classic INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS (1958).  British film so the mattes were probably handled at Pinewood or Shepperton.

Two delightful pastoral mattes from FOREVER AND A DAY (1943).  Nicely told and performed.

One of my favourite Universal monster movie matte shots, this Russell Lawson matte is from THE WOLFMAN (1941).  Future top production designer John DeCuir worked in the Universal matte department around this time so it's possible John had a hand in it.  Practically the entire frame is painted, with a soft undulating join just visible through the top of the hedge, up over the car and curling through the hanging foliage.

I know I'll make enemies here but I detested HIGHLANDER (1986) with a vengeance.  Complete and utter bollocks that was only saved by Ray Caple's matte work, much of which slipped by unnoticed.


Many fine mattes are to be discovered in 20th Century Fox's classy psychological thriller MY COUSIN RACHEL (1952).

From the same film is this bold fully painted setting which owes a lot to John DeCuir's production design.

Also from MY COUSIN RACHEL.  Fred Sersen and Ray Kellogg oversaw the effects with artists on staff including Lee LeBlanc, Cliff Silsby, Emil Kosa jnr, Jim Fetherolf and a young Matthew Yuricich.

For the Chevy Chase comic romp, Illusion Arts were contracted to supply several shots to enhance the proceedings.  This scene with a runaway car careening off the road was a full Syd Dutton painting with car added by what looked like a cel overlay gag or something similar.

Also from FUNNY FARM was this sequence where the bridge collapses leaving the movers stranded.  Another Illusion Arts shot with Syd Dutton, Bill Taylor and Mark Sawicki all involved.  I believe Albert Whitlock acted as matte consultant on the show.

Gary Cooper starred in and won the Oscar for the excellent SERGEANT YORK (1941).  A few low key matte shots depicting either Kentucky or Tennessee (I forget which) were furnished by Warner's Stage 5 visual fx department such as this rural vista.

Also from SERGEANT YORK.  Artists at the studio then included chief matte painter Paul Detlefsen as well as Mario Larrinaga, Vern Taylor, Jack Cosgrove and Hans Barthowlowsky.

The film FAR AND AWAY (1992) had this effective shot by young artist Bill Mather of Matte World.

Ken Marschall and Bruce Block's little company Matte Effects, were engaged to supply five mattes for NOTHING BUT TROUBLE (1991), with this scene requiring a cityscape be added where none actually existed.

I like the films of Samuel Fuller - he was a real one of a kind sort of director and real life tough guy personality and war hero.  Fuller's HELL AND HIGH WATER (1954) was in essence a decent Cold War adventure but suffered from totally unnecessary and tedious love interest, no doubt demanded by the studio (Fox) for box office purposes.  Ray Kellogg supervised the many effects which involved miniatures, painted mattes, full scale pyrotechnics and blue screen combinations which brought all of the elements together for an Oscar nomination for said effects.
The insane 1986 horror flick HOUSE boasted this way out matte painted shot by Rocco Gioffre.

The multiple Academy Award winning CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) seemed devoid of trickery until the plot arrived at the Olympic games whereby British matte painter Ray Caple rendered two views of the crowd filled stands and stadium, complete with matte stand slot gags to simulate subtle movement in the stands.

One terrific western is how I'd rate YELLOW SKY (1948).  a strong script, cast and pace all add up to an A-Grade picture.  Fred Sersen's department at Fox made the mattes, of which there were a number. The above frame is live action and actual exterior set on the left side while everything from the edge of the horsemen on outward to the right is painted.  I wonder whether this could be a foreground glass set up as the painting is so vivid and sharp, displaying no generational loss of any sort?



Norman Dawn was the pioneer when it came to glass and matte shots.  Dawn carefully preserved his trick shots in detail for the purposes of future research, with some 800 plus effects shots accomplished over a long career.  This is one of Norman's original production cards detailing the process for a specific project, this one being WESTERN SKIES (1913).  Thankfully the majority of Dawn's treasured production cards have stood the ravages of time (with many of the original 35mm film clips still surprisingly in reasonable condition for nitrate based film well over 100 years old!).  The Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas has curated and cared for these vital documents, for which, historians such as myself are forever grateful.

A frame blow up from one of the surviving 35mm clips shows a typical Norman Dawn matte shot from WESTERN SKIES made in 1913 no less!

Matte artist and all round effects man Harry Walton is shown here painting an original matte for Berton Pierce's independent film ADVENTURADOS (2014).  The final shot, complete with helicopter, fire and smoke elements is shown as a television news flash.

The timeless Ealing comedy KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949) had this matte set extension made under Ealing's effects chief Geoffrey Dickinson's supervision.

If that sky isn't a direct hint then you don't recognise an Albert Whitlock matte shot when you see one.  This spectacular matte had two lives, firstly in the Howard Hawks-Rock Hudson comedy MAN'S FAVOURITE SPORT (1964) and then again more than ten years later on an episode of Universal's MACMILLAN AND WIFE, curiously, also starring Rock Hudson!

A glorious Jan Domela matte painted cathedral from THE WEDDING MARCH (1928), with matte composite work by longtime Paramount VFX cameraman Irmin Roberts.

For me, the films of Terry Gilliam leave me completely baffled, and TIME BANDITS (1981) was no exception.  Too many bloody midgets for my comfort.  A couple of nice Ray Caple mattes to be found though.

An interesting matte by freelance artist Bob Kayganich for the film THE CARRIER (1988).  Bob has done some really cool stuff over the years such as EVIL DEAD 2, FLESH GORDON MEETS THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS and MOONTRAP.

MICHEL STROGOFF (1926) was a French picture and used the skills of British matte pioneer Percy Day.

Artist Ken Marschall and camera ace Bruce Block were Hollywood's best kept secret for more than two decades, with their company Matte Effects constantly busy making astonishingly realistic matte shots.  This painting was rendered for the made for tv movie THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY (1991).

The final shot - a full painting supplemented with animated falling snow.

Close up detail beautifully demonstrates Ken's approach, with the finest of brushes being preferred when applying the acrylic to special high gloss artists' card as opposed to the usual glass method employed by others.

The Tom Hanks feature DRAGNET (1987) included this nice camera move to reveal the Hollywood sign as the car approaches.  Syd Dutton was matte artist and Bill Taylor was director of vfx photography.


Frank Capra's MEET JOHN DOE (1941), with matte effects by Jack Cosgrove.

Another Jack Cosgrove shot from MEET JOHN DOE.

Errol Flynn was Warner's solid box office magnet for years.  These exiting frames are from NORTHERN PURSUIT (1943), with Roy Davidson in charge at the time of the Stage 5 effects department.  Great matte art here.

Artists Mark Sullivan and Rocco Gioffre painted mattes for the dire HIGHWAY TO HELL (1992)

These pics show just how much modification can in fact be carried out by a talented matte painter to create something grand yet totally believable.  The film is LUCRECIA BORGIA, which I think was made in 1959 in Italy though the mattes seem to have been done in England as the pictures were found at Technicolor labs UK more than 50 years ago.  No idea who created the effects.
North Korea as depicted by an unknown artist for the excellent Samuel Fuller war film THE STEEL HELMET (1951).

Before and afters from the magnificent Powell & Pressburger ballet drama THE RED SHOES (1948) - a film I was reticent about watching at first, but when I finally did it took my breath away.  Joseph Natanson and Ivor Beddoes were matte painters, with George Gunn in charge of the many complex optical effects.


Any film starring the great Sterling Hayden will get my attention.  TERROR IN A  TEXAS TOWN (1958) was a very original, somewhat unusual western, but fully engaging from the get go.  No effects credit but everything here has been painted except for the railway line with Hayden.

The pseudo Bond film NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983) was never really going to work.  This expansive matte was one of five done by veteran Louis Litchtenfield, though only two ever made the final cut, with this impressive shot ending up on the cutting room floor unfortunately.  This shot comprises two separate actual locations blended as one with a great deal of matte art.

Jan Domela and Irmin Roberts were responsible for these shots for Paramount's LOVE LETTERS (1945).

Uncredited matte from the British classic SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS (1960)

The incredible true life WWII story of master deception by the British Secret Service upon the Nazi war machine, THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1955) had this full painting of a London pub and street corner (I can only assume that no actual London corner pubs were to be found by the producers for the shooting of this British film?)  Tom Howard was effects boss and it's likely that Judy Jordan was matte painter.

Probably my favourite matte genre would be those glorious, flickering neon billboards and theatre frontages as seen in a million MGM musicals.  This one's from TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946) with one of Warren Newcombe's accomplished artists being assigned.

Some nicely rendered gothic matte art from Fox's THE BARONESS AND THE BUTLER (1938).  Love it!

A mood setting matte that sets the scene rather well for THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959).  As a Hammer film I presume that Les Bowie did the shot.

A mystery here, though this before and after is spectacularly accomplished and has similarities to some of Ivor Beddoes mattes made for ATILLA THE HUN (1954) by way of the tents etc.  If so, it must have been a deleted shot as I never spotted it in that film.

One of the many Newcombe shots from THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952).

Alfred Hitchcock's SUSPICION (1941), as well as being a damned good thriller with a genuinely uneasy feeling of malice about it, was also a massive effects show with a ton of matte shots to be found (though not as many as his SABOTEUR made the year after which was a benchmark for the sheer volume of Hitchcock movie trick shots).  The shot above is a full painting without any live action elements.

More matte art from SUSPICION.  Vernon Walker was photographic effects chief and painters at RKO at the time would have included Albert Maxwell Simpson, Chesley Bonestell, Fitch Fulton and others.

The conclusion of SUSPICION has a multitude of effects, with miniatures, process and matte art all used effectively.

Matthew Yuricich started at 20th Century Fox around 1951 in the mailroom and soon found himself in Fred Sersen's effects department wherebye he learned the art of matte painting.  Matthew would assist on many films and do various chores such as make rotoscope inked cels and work on backlit light gags for some of those neon theatre sign mattes until Sersen eventually gave him his first solo painting (above) for the film CALL ME MADAM (1953).  In the extensive oral history I published in 2012, Yuricich mentioned how Sersen kept putting on the pressure in order for Matthew to be as accurate as possible, with the staircase being a major bug-bear for Sersen apparently.

I was going to do an entire article on DELUGE (1933), for the film has some good mattes by Russell Lawson and a fair chunk of miniature mayhem by Ned Mann.  The film was a bit of an eye opener for it's pre-code sadism and leering sexuality too, which I found surprising to say the least!

A rarely seen Albert Whitlock matte shot here of Moscow as seen in the tv series McCLOUD made in the early 1970's.  The episode was 'The Moscow Connection'.  I'll have plenty of great Whitlock material for a vast forthcoming retrospective where as many mattes as I could track down will be here in all their glory.

I've published this before but not as a high definition HDTV image.  It's one of the many mattes from Warner's THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949) and I've always loved this shot.  Amazing architecture - which is the whole point of the film - great drawing and perspective as NZPete enjoys so much.  Many effects people were involved in this film, with William McGann as effects director, John Holden as effects art director, Hans Koenekamp and Edwin DuPar as VFX cameramen and Chesley Bonestell, Lou Litchtenfield and Mario Larrinaga all painting the numerous mattes.  According to Matthew Yuricich, who was friends with Litchtenfield, Lou had painted an elaborate matte and sprayed it with a varnish or sealer of some description only to find that the paint had not sufficiently dried and the whole thing started to 'run' down the glass or board, thus necessitating much urgent repair and much anguish.

Original plate photography for a proposed matte shot for Disney's TREASURE ISLAND (1950)

That same plate now combined with a superbly realised Peter Ellenshaw matte painting that adds in not only the island and foreshore but also the palm trees in the foreground.  Sadly the shot never made the final cut and was dropped.

Another of my fave Albert Whitlock mattes is this breathtaking panorama from the James Stewart western THE RARE BREED (1966).  Director Andrew V. McLaglen frequently hired Whitlock and thought very highly of his craft.  This majestic shot is mostly Whitlock art, with just a few slots of live action such as the slice of road with the approaching wagon as well as a tiny slot of live action just inside the walls of the fort.  Magnificently composited on original negative by Universal's ace effects cameraman Roswell Hoffman.

For a brief shot in Selznick's PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948), star Joseph Cotton is seen boarding a schooner bound for the ill fated lighthouse.  This is the original live action plate photography by Clarence Slifer and below is the final shot.

Here is the final invisible PORTRAIT OF JENNIE composite which combines the very minimal Slifer live action with a sprawling matte painting rendered by artist Spencer Bagtatopolis.

The dramatic climax to PORTRAIT OF JENNIE takes place in an isolated lighthouse during a right bastard of a storm.  The sequence is wall to wall matte shots and miniatures, with these views of Cotton climbing the spiral staircase all being meticulously painted matte art by Spencer Bagtatopolis who really nailed the architectural and engineering aspects of such a tricky set up so well.  The film won the Academy Award in 1948 for outstanding special effects with a number of effects staffers awarded but, as per the norm, not the matte painter.

Robert Stromberg painted this stunner at Illusion Arts for the tv series DEEP SPACE NINE in the 1980's.
A very, very early glass shot by Norman Dawn from THE LAST WARNING made in, believe it or not, 1911.
MGM were masters at creating those swashbuckling period epics and SCARAMOUCHE (1952) was a classy affair thanks to that studio's cash reserves.  This is my fave shot from the film and is an extensive, virtually full painting with only a tiny 'hole' for the two duelists to fight it out.

A matte enthusiast friend of mine is the lucky owner of this and several other vintage Newcombe paintings and he sent me some great photos.  This painting is rather unique to my eyes as it doesn't at all look like an MGM Newcombe matte.  Historically, Newcombe's artists painted in pastels and gouache with incredible attention to fine detail, much as a technical illustrator might do (and some of Newcombe's artists came from that background I believe).  This painting appears to be just that - a 'painting' in the true sense of the word.  The brush strokes are spontaneous and apparent as I personally like to see, with broad lay ins being quite sufficient to 'sell' the matte as convincing.  It's a beautiful piece and totally works.

Close up detail.  Artists working under Newcombe around that time included Howard Fisher, Henry Hillinck and others.

David Selznick's wonderful interpretation of LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY (1936) featured some great effects shots by the equally great matte artist Jack Cosgrove.

For the teen comedy MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK (1993), the matte shot workload got a little heavy for the tiny two man company Matte Effects comprising Ken Marschall and Bruce Block, so as a result additional manpower was needed to meet deadlines.  Bruce brought in illustrator and matte artist Clark Schaffer to work on this shot.

The final original negative composite with Clark Schaffer's matte art combined with a small live action plate for MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK.

Stanley Kramer's masterpiece, JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) was and remains an unforgettable experience.  The film opens with this superb matte shot of post war Nuremberg in ruins.  No effects credit but has the look of a Whitlock matte and this was around the time where he left Ellenshaw's department at Disney and went freelance for a short while prior to joining Universal.  Albert did substantial work a few years later for the same director on SHIP OF FOOLS.

A fanciful painted vision of the old west as seen in Republic's SINGING GUNS (1950)

One of many glass shots by Percy Day made in the late 1920's while working for the French film industry.

Before and afters from the Errol Flynn costume epic THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (1953) with mattes produced in England by matte artist and all round effects wiz, Les Bowie.


I never tire of appreciating the seemingly limitless abilities of the artists working under Warren Newcombe at MGM.  These frames are from the film BALALAIKA (1939) which, when one is dealing with the Russian revolution, the canvas awaits.

Stop me in my tracks ... this is a great matte shot!  Robert Stromberg painted this and others for the Wolfgang Peterson film SHATTERED (1991)


One of Norman Dawn's personal production cards detailing his work on his trick work for THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE (1914).  This material is pure gold to me and offers far more insight and wonder than anything that the current Marvel Universe vogue might try to entice me with.

A remarkably crisp photo-enlargement from one of Norman's original 35mm film frames of THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE from more than a century ago.  Wonderful.

A full painting by Syd Dutton as seen in the Mel Gibson picture THE RIVER (1984).

Francis Ford Coppola's ONE FROM THE HEART (1982) with Rocco Gioffre supplying the deliberate and highly romanticised view of Las Vegas. 

Actually not as bad as it looks, KRONOS (1957) worked pretty well and reminded me of Universal's The Monolith Monsters to some extent. Effects by Jack Rabin and his longtime associates, matte artist Irving Block and title artist Louis DeWitt.  Former Fox matte veteran Menrad von Muldorfer was also on board. 

Doug Ferris matte shot from the little seen NEVER ENDING STORY III (1994).

A flawless matte by Syd Dutton and Albert Whitlock from the tv show TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY made in the mid 1980's.  The episode was Last Chance Louie.

Close up detail from the above matte painting.

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961) is a ripping yarn with a rapid, chaotic pace that's vital to the narrative.  Tons of great effects work from Les Bowie and associates Brian Johnson, Ian Scoones, Kit West and Ray Caple.  

An extremely rare photo of one of the original matte paintings, with several others partly visible in the background.  For many of the shots Bowie made large photo blow ups and painted directly upon these prints, adding a sort of post apocalyptic flavour with wrecked vehicles, empty plaza's and withered vegetation, all to excellent effect.

Another DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE Bowie matte shot, made in collaboration with trainee artists Ray Caple and Ian Scoones (see below for original matte).

The original matte seen here in an old snapshot taken during post production (I think it was at Merton Park studios?) back in 1960.
Also from the same film is this frightening view of the famed Taj Mahal in India as the world literally overheats and dies.

Some of the matte shots as seen in the British picture AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1947) with Percy Day sharing painting duties with Peter Ellenshaw.  Not long after this, Peter called it a day with Day and went off on his own.  The rest, as they say, is history.

A very rare before and after from the obscure British comedy YOU KNOW WHAT SAILORS ARE (1954) with Cliff Culley likely as the matte artist.  The film was in Technicolor BTW.

A guilty favourite of mine is KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988), and it's a showcase for many weird, wacky and downright outlandish mattes by Mark Sullivan and Ken Marschall.  Sadly, this matte, by Yusei Usugi never made the cut and was dropped during editing.  If you have to see one clown movie this year folks, be sure it's this one!  The Citizen Kane of psychotic, cream pie in the face clown flicks!
The making of a matte according to Ken Marschall - from the film IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES (1983)

Roger Corman made his fortune by shooting fast and cheap and by his own account 'never lost a dime'.  WAR OF THE SATELLITES (1958) was one such quickie though it isn't too bad.  Some good mattes and effects work by Jack Rabin, Irving Block and Louis DeWitt work fairly well, all things considered.

I've always enjoyed the comedy of Bob Newhart and his headlining in Buck Henry's FIRST FAMILY (1980) makes the film worthwhile.  Part of the scenario revolves around the super growth of garden vegetables, hence the enormous produce seen here gracing Washington DC.  Rocco Gioffre was matte painter here.

Two mattes by Albert Maxwell Simpson from the Val Lewton show CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944).  I think this was the film that sparked a controversial memo from artist Simpson to fellow matte man Chesley Bonestell "It's getting damned hard to please these B producers" when Lewton kept critiquing Simpson's matte progress.
One of Albert Whitlock's sensational trick shots from AIRPORT 77 (1977) where all you see before you is pure movie magic, created in Whitlock's workshop at Universal.  Now folks, did you ever see such a magnificent night sky in your entire life?

Some creative mattes from THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1945) where optical wizard Linwood Dunn has engineered complicated camera moves and dolly opticals to good effect.

Another of Norman Dawn's original production cards detailing his methodology, in this instance for an ornate ceiling for the MGM film SEE HERE PRIVATE HARGROVE (1946).  

The original soundstage set, masked for a take.

The finished composite with Dawn's painted ceiling.

Close up detail of Norman's matte with  particular note regarding the ornate classical figures, which was in itself a story worth telling.  According to Dawn, when approached by chief art director Cedric Gibbons during the painting of this matte, Gibbons asked how he would accurately draw the nude figures onto the decorative plasterwork.  Dawn replied that he'd just fake it.  Gibbons was flabbergasted with this and said "No you won't...Not here at MGM".  At which point the legendary Gibbons continued that they had a [quote] "stable filled with well stacked fillies right here on the payroll.  You'll draw them from life and I'll pick out the best ones".  Dawn recorded that indeed Gibbons did deliver a bunch of girls to Norman's studio where upon they all removed there clothes while Cedric [quote] "passed judgement on them".  According to Norman, Cedric "almost made a career out of it.  I can't say that I complained, and neither did the girls".  You heard it here first folks.  My, my, my... how times have changed!  *Oh, and by the way, this shot wasn't even in the finished film when I saw it on TCM.

Although I never watched any of those Star Trek spin-off shows (I was a sixties kid and there was only ever one STAR TREK for me!), the STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION series was packed, I'm informed, with matte shots courtesy of the very busy and prestigious Illusion Arts, run by Bill Taylor and Syd Dutton - both alumni of the famed Whitlock matte department at Universal.  This matte of Starfleet Command was a superb Syd Dutton shot.

20th Century Fox have constantly held the torch high when it came to special effects work, with hundreds of memorable effects laden films throughout the Golden Era.  These examples come from the first rate Humphrey Bogart picture THE LEFT HAND OF GOD (1955) set in post WWII China, though of course all filmed in California.  Fox's matte artists, under Ray Kellogg, furnished a large number of terrific mattes for this CinemaScope saga, with the work being of very high quality indeed.  You can keep your 5000 Marvel Universe CGI shots in exchange for just one classic matte shot like this friends.

Another elegant Fox matte from LEFT HAND OF GOD.

From that same film.  Matte artists on the payroll then would have included Emil Kosa jnr, Matthew Yuricich, Jim Fetherolf, Lee LeBlanc and Cliff Silsby.

The original THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) was, and is still a benchmark for optical printer manipulation, with the legendary John P. Fulton designing and executing remarkable trick shots that still stand the test of time.  Fulton's assistants Ross Hoffman, John Mescall and maybe David Horsley all contributed much to the art of photographic effects.  The shot above is one of the few matte painted shots in the film, and one that nobody ever spots.  Only the door and lower window of the house existed as a flat facade on the Universal lot, with everything else carefully painted in by resident matte artist Russ Lawson.  The live action comprises policemen at the door and a group approaching the rear of the (painted) house.  When toggling through successive frame grabs of this scene, one can see vibration of the matte painted element against the plate.

Bonnie Scotland as depicted in this extensive matte from LASSIE COME HOME (1943) which I think was MGM's first Eastmancolor matte shot shot on monopack as opposed to the 3-strip Technicolor, though I stand to be corrected.

A wonderfully entertaining little British comedy classic from Ealing Studios was WHISKEY GALORE (1949 -aka TIGHT LITTLE ISLAND).  Geoffrey Dickinson was in charge of Ealing's special effects unit, with Sydney Pearson assisting.  These shots are really good, with painted skies, a cargo ship loaded with whiskey stuck on the rocks, and most interestingly, the lower left frame which is a clever matte painting of the cargo hold chock full of a Scotsman's favourite beverage!

Percy Day painted a selection of period mattes and architectural extensions for the grand Technicolor spectacle on Queen Victoria, SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS (1938), assisted by a young Peter Ellenshaw and Day's own sons Arthur and Thomas.  The mattes in this film are very good, and so well integrated that nobody would be aware of many of them.

An atmospheric matte from MURDER MY SWEET (1944), with Vernon Walker in charge with probably Albert Maxwell Simpson or Chesley Bonestell painting.

Although nowhere near the stunning experience of THE RED SHOES, this other Powell & Pressburger ballet picture TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951) had much style and colourful, dreamlike matte art and optical combinations.

Paramount's big budget World War 1 epic, WINGS (1927) would have been much better had they dropped the silly and utterly unwarranted comic romance subplot.  The aerial action is however, breathtaking - and for the most part 100% real.  This glass shot graces the narrative, possibly painted by Jan Domela, who had started at Paramount the year before.

I'm a sucker for bad movies, especially bad sci-fi flicks like CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON (1954).  Effects by Jack Rabin's outfit, with Louis DeWitt and matte artist Irving Block.  Both Block and Rabin started way back in the late thirties and worked in matte departments at various studios such as MGM, Fox and Selznick. I seem to recall reading that some of the old sets from, maybe, QUO VADIS I think, got re-appropriated and used as CAT WOMEN sets, such at the matte top up at right.  Talk about a prestigious provenance. *BTW, the grand daddy of bad sci-fi flicks has got to be FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE (1955) which has got to be seen to be believed, and let's not forget THE TERRORNAUTS (1967) ... aaaaaarrrrrggggggh!   ;)

The old tv series (which sadly I've never ever seen, but always meant to!) THE TWILIGHT ZONE was re-invented by a quartet of hipster film makers in the early 1980's as a feature film.  Very much a hit and miss affair, with Vic Morrow and two kids horrifyingly being 'hit' (by an out of control helicopter rotor blade!).  Anyway, there were some bright spots and nice effects shots including this finale matte shot by Rocco Gioffre where, if memory serves, the car drives off into the sunset and the barron landscape starts to bloom back into life (it's been decades since I saw it).  I recall that two matte paintings were rendered, with a soft optical wipe from one to the other to present the flowers coming into full bloom.  Also, Rocco introduced a nice sun lens flare to carry off the trick convincingly.

I thought I'd just throw this old favourite in here as I at last have a beautiful HDTV grab.  This is from Universal's HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945) with matte art by Russell Lawson.

The gothic Vincent Price yarn, TWICE TOLD TALES (1963) was enlivened by this lovely matte painting.  No effects credit so it's anyone's guess, though in his memoir, Jim Danforth described an almost identical painting done by Albert Whitlock, with particular mention of the same colour pallette and time of the day, that just happened to be amid a stack of matte glasses at Les Bowie's studio.  A mystery?

Cliff Culley and David Hume painted mattes for Pinewood's I'LL MET BY MOONLIGHT (1957) - aka NIGHT AMBUSH).  Bill Warrington ran Pinewood's special effects department for years, with Bert Marshall as effects cameraman.

The dull Fox musical, HELLO FRISCO, HELLO (1943) at least had interesting Sersen matte shots to make it endurable.

I was going to do a blog on Shakespeareian matte shots, but never got around to it.  These dramatic painted shots come from the Orson Welles version of MACBETH (1948), which as far as these things go was pretty good.  Excellent production values, especially for a Republic picture.  The effects were credited, as per norm, to the Lydecker brothers, Howard and Theo, but the mattes are a mystery.  Possibly painted by Lewis W. Physioc, a true pioneer in the field, and one who did many mattes for this studio through the 1940's.

Also from Welles' MACBETH (1948).

The weaker of the Inspector Frank Drebbin spoofs, NAKED GUN 33 1/3 - THE FINAL INSULT (1994), it still had it's moments, with a few Illusion Arts mattes thrown in for good measure.  Robert Stromberg was matte artist here.

From the same film was this impressive tilt down inside the (painted) prison.  


An ancient though well preserved in-camera matte by Norman Dawn from Universal's SINDBAD THE SAILOR (1913).
Some effective gothic architecture here in this extensive Irving Block matte from THE BLACK SLEEP (1956) - a low budget horror with a roster of  'A list' chiller actors in the cast; Lugosi, Chaney jnr, Carradine, Rathbone and even Ed Wood's number one 'go-to' guy, the Jabba The Hut of B movies, Mister Tor Johnson himself.
John Wayne is surprisingly tender in Henry Hathaway's sensitive drama, SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941) was an engaging and moving film.  Beautifully shot and acted, and with some picturesque Jan Domela matte effects as well.

You'd never expect a shot such as this to be a photographic trick, but MGM's Warren Newcombe did just that with an entirely fabricated church interior for THE CROWD ROARS (1938) where just the choir is real and all else is delicate pastel artwork on a medium sized sheet of artist's card.

When it comes to bizarre mash ups of genres, why not pit rough house slapstick with operatic ballet I here you say?  Well, Fox did with the atrocious SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES (1961) which was just terrible in every conceivable way.  Emil Kosa jnr did paint some nice mattes though.

A matte effect from the old tv series MAVERICK made back in the early sixties.  The episode was Flood's Folly.

Long before he became a top flight visual effects supervisor on a number of Bond films and other big productions, British effects man Steve Begg worked as a matte artist for Pinewood's Cliff Culley.  This scene of a French chateau is one of Steve's mattes - a full painting with falling snow over layed - from the miniseries THE STRAUSS DYNASTY (1991).

Not too bad as far as spiders-on-the-rampage flicks go, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977) had this rather cool massive pullout which revealed the entire town wrapped in a bloody great spider web!  Cy Didjurgis, a former art director, painted the matte.

Now, this has got to be a first for this blog, a matte painting from a triple X rated hardcore epic by the name of THUNDERCRACK (1975).  An indescribable 2 and a half hour black and white mystery (I think?), set up in a haunted mansion (or is it?); lots of lightning; some of the most bizarre freaky characters you'd ever meet; lush cinematography; long, trippy monologues; weird sex scenes and more!  It's never boring... the viewer just has to stick around to see where else this crazy assed movie goes.  It's kind of like John Waters, Federico Fellini and Fritz Lang all somehow had a bastard child (!) and that kid concocted this movie.  I never said NZPete's site was your standard, run-of-the-mill outfit.

Matte painter Rick Rische is shown here putting on the finishing touches to one of his mattes for the tv movie THE GREAT LOS ANGELES EARTHQUAKE (1990).

Close up detail from the matte painting above.

Also from that same tv movie is this matte by Richard Kilroy which has a certain Whitlock sensibility about it in the layout and draftsmanship.

Detail from Kilroy's matte art.

A wonderful old school Sersen matte shot from DRAGONWYCK (1946).

Vivid, saturated Technicolor mattes by Jan Domela from Paramount's LADY IN THE DARK (1944).

Not a film one would associate with visual effects trickery, but David Lean's DR ZHIVAGO (1965) did in fact have several subtle painted set extensions and repair jobs.  Under Wally Veevers, Shepperton matte painters Gerald Larn and Bryan Evans were assigned various 'winter' scenes that had been in fact shot in a non-wintery Spain, where painted snow and ice had to be added to various shots such as this one where the practical physical fx guy's fake snow only went so far.  Larn painted further now and ice on, out and around the ice house to make it all more convincing.  A few of the long shots elsewhere also had subtle matte art as well as a sky with a 'watery winter sun' was requested by director Lean.
I find these vintage Norman Dawn production cards to be an absolute treasure trove of information, and I'm delighted that the University of Texas has put them online. This card goes into great detail in describing the matte effects Dawn produced for Universal's GIRL IN THE DARK (1917).

Original nitrate 35mm film clips from GIRL IN THE DARK.

A superbly preserved blow up taken directly off one of Dawn's original nitrate (highly combustible for those who aren't in the know) film clips,  Staggeringly, the matte clip is over 100 years old and looks sensational still.

One of those many great old Tarzan movie mattes, with this one being from TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS (1945) made by RKO.  Possibly painted by Al Simpson or Fitch Fulton, though I've learnt recently from the family of Spencer Bagtatopolis (you try typing that name!) that he worked on several RKO Tarzan shows, some of which I illustrated in my previous blog.

The George Pal production DOC SAVAGE - MAN OF BRONZE (1975) was nowhere near as good as it's wonderful one-sheet movie poster suggested (I had it on my bedroom wall back in the day along with other great posters such as all the disaster flicks and much other fantastic ad art, the likes and stylings of which we'll never see again).  Matthew Yuricich had bitter experiences with one of the co-producers on this which resulted in shouting matches and all manner of accusations.  Needless to say, Yuricich did his matte work and was happy to be rid of the project.  This is a neat matte shot and is the best in the show.

Although miniature rear projection was nothing new - Willis O'Brien used it extensively on his KONG pictures as did guys like Byron Haskin over at Warners.  Fred Sersen at 20th Century Fox designed a spectacular use of the process which cameraman L.B Abbott and process man Sol Halperin utilised here on the top rung psychiatric drama, THE SNAKE PIT (1948) in what Abbott called 'postage stamp projection' due to the comparatively tiny plate projected into a large matte painting.  The POV starts on star Olivia de Havilland as a patient in a psych ward, and gradually pulls upward and out revealing the hopelessness and desperation as the patients are indeed in a psychological 'snake pit'.  A brilliant concept and perfectly carried out, in a film that was very brave indeed for it's time.

THE SNAKE PIT matte art and process plate.

As mentioned earlier, Alfred Hitchcock just loved technical aspects and how his films could be enhanced through visual effects.  For the penultimate sequence set in London's Royal Albert Hall in the remake of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) effects director John P. Fulton devised a way to fill the theatre with people by using split screens and a lot of painted in people.  Most of this crowd is in fact pure Jan Domela artwork, composited by Irmin Roberts in a multi-piece jigsaw puzzle.  Other similar shots are seen from different angles.

Pinewood's Cliff Culley supplied this spectacular painted sky for the Dirk Bogarde film HOT ENOUGH FOR JUNE (1963)

Another matte by Cliff Culley, with this being from one of the many Norman Wisdom comic romps, THE BULLDOG BREED (1960).  I rather like Norman's old films and they still have so much energy about them.

Billy Wilder made many great films, but this one, ACE IN THE HOLE (1951) is perhaps his most memorable.  Kirk Douglas was never better than here as an absolutely ruthless reporter who also happens to be a complete and utter bastard who deliberately delays the rescue of a guy trapped in a cave in order that he can milk the story for all it's worth and squeeze every last drop of 'sensation' from this poor guy's plight for the sake of his own column and limelight.  This sort of 'story' is common place today, especially with scumbag UK tabloid types, though for 1950 it must have packed one hell of an emotional punch.   Anyway, this is a Jan Domela matte shot where (above the pop-up sideshow who are loving the crowds that have gathered for either the rescue or his demise!) a painting of the top of the mountain, the ridge and all of the rescue equipment has been matted in.

Another Jan Domela matte shot, this time from the western BRANDED (1950) starring Alan Ladd.  Everything just above Ladd's hat has been matted in.

The television series AIRWOLF, made in the mid eighties, proved to be a bonanza for effects company Illusion Arts who were commissioned to provide a large number of matte shots, miniatures and optical effects.  Syd Dutton was primary matte artist on the show and turned out an enormous amount of work, with associate Bill Taylor as director of effects photography.

Another of the many Syd Dutton mattes from AIRWOLF.  An entirely painted shot, fabricated on the matte stand.  Water ripples have been simulated to lend authenticity to the painted 'lake', and a stock smoke element has been doubled into the chimney of Jan Michael Vincent's cabin.  Interestingly, the matte itself was an unfinished painting that had been shot as a test but ended up being cut into the show by accident!

Close up detail from Syd's unfinished, though screen used matte painting. 
What a spectacular matte shot rollercoaster ride was the misguided MGM epic DRAGON SEED (1944).  Lots of American actors made up to be 'Chinese', including Katherine Hepburn in what must have been a career low.  The visuals however were jaw dropping.  Top level technical production all the way, with Warren Newcombe's stable of talented artists painting several dozen wonderful mattes for the film.  Glorious art direction and conceptual design led to terrific matte shots.
One of my all time number one actors has been Burt Lancaster.  THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962) was an absorbing true story, directed by one of my all time favourite directors, John Frankenheimer. (who made masterpieces like THE TRAIN, SECONDS and the electrifying SEVEN DAYS IN MAY).  This solitary matte painted set extension is all but invisible in BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ and is so precisely drawn and composited that it makes one's jaw hit the floor.  No effects credit and not a clue as to the painter responsible, but it wasn't any amateur that's for sure.
Matthew Yuricich painted this full matte of Moscow's Red Square for a key sequence in 2010 (1984), Peter Hyams' not entirely viable sequel to the Kubrick classic 2001-A SPACE ODYSSEY. 

I was very fortunate many years ago to view a few 35mm showreels with a number of Syd Dutton and Al Whitlock shots, and this was one of them, from the revived television series TWILIGHT ZONE (c.1985).  This episode was titled Night of the Meek.
This splendid Syd Dutton matte shot was also on that showreel as I vividly recall.  Another TWILIGHT ZONE matte, this time from The Misfortune Cookie.


The steps toward a successful matte shot is shown here with this Ken Marschall shot for a PONTIAC tv commercial from 1992.  As was their work ethic, Ken and Bruce composited an the original negative and wherever possible would avoid going to dupe composites in order to preserve the integrity of the overall shot.

Samuel Goldwyn Studios occasionally came out with large scale adventure movies such as THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO (1938).  British effects man James Basevi was a former MGM chief of special effects and moved over to Goldwyn to oversee their visual effects requirements.  Lots of matte shots in this one, though by whom, I do not know.
One more vintage matte from the earliest days of cinema - a Norman Dawn glass shot from THE DREAM (1912)


I could never buy Spencer Tracy as a Mexican, but he played it anyway in TORTILLA FLAT (1942).  The MGM matte department were kept busy with this one as there were quite a lot of mattes to paint.

The finished comp from the matte painting shown above.

'I never thought that I should see, a thing as lovely as a matte painted tree'.  Also from TORTILLA FLAT.

The opening establishing shot from TORTILLA FLAT as created in Warren Newcombe's department at MGM.

Two of my fave old time Technicolor mattes, these being from Warner's DODGE CITY (1939).  Paul Detlefsen was head matte painter, with Mario Larrinaga and Hans Bartholowsky also there
Charlie Chaplin's A KING IN NEW YORK (1957) was a sharp, witty satire with many memorable moments.  Shepperton Studio's key matte painter Bob Cuff painted these shots, both of which were near full paintings.  The matte at right is all paint except for the small area in the doorway when the journalists bust in (one guy's foot goes into the matte line on the floor).

I've shown the shot before, but never in high definition.  Gerald Larn's memorable matte shot from Ray Harryhausen's VALLEY OF GWANGI (1968).  The lower portion was a real Spanish location, the strange rock formations were painted and the sky is a separate real sky element burnt in.  Gerald told me how much he enjoyed this project but felt it could have benefitted from more mattes to flesh out the hidden valley segments, to which I agree completely.

Percy Day and Peter Ellenshaw shared painting duties on STORM IN A TEACUP (1937).

Another terrific Bob Cuff matte painting well worth re-visiting is this one from the worthless ERIK THE VIKING (1989).

Bob Hope was a comedy legend for me and many of his films still get the giggles going.  NEVER SAY DIE (1939) would see these Jan Domela painted mattes used to good effect.

Another Jan Domela matte from Paramount's NEVER SAY DIE.

An uncredited matte from Republic's MOONRISE (1948), possibly by artist Lewis Physioc.

This spectacular matte comes from Universal's LOVER COME BACK (1961) - a pretty funny Rock Hudson-Doris Day romp.  I presume Russell Lawson painted this as it may have been a little too early for Al Whitlock's tenure at Universal.

A pair of winter weather mattes from Orson Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), one of the few films ever to have an entirely spoken end credit roll out (unless you count the crazy Preminger flick SKIDOO which had it's entire cast and crew list 'sung' to the audience.)

I can't go through this giant line up without including at least one ILM matte.  The movie ENEMY MINE (1985) was a fizzer to put it lightly but at least the superb matte painted shots more than saved the day.  Christopher Evans was primary matte painter, assisted by Sean Joyce, Caroleen Green and maybe Frank Ordaz.

The tougher than tough prison drama BRUTE FORCE (1947) proved to be a solid workout for star Burt Lancaster and director Jules Dassin.  A gripping, harsh film for it's day that completely pulls in it's audience.  Lots of photographic effects by Universal's David Stanley Horsley, with miniatures, travelling mattes, opticals and matte paintings, often all used in the one shot.  Here are two representative mattes probably by Russell Lawson.  One terrific film folks!

Also from Universal was CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955) which features an interesting and very nicely done opener where two separate matte paintings showing the same stretch of the old American west at different time frames were lap dissolved from one period to the other... see below.
...the second of the two CHIEF CRAZY HORSE mattes shows a radical change in the settlement of the region.  Most of the teepee's are painted as is the river which has a 'ripple gag' introduced to breath life into the trick shot.  Russell Lawson would have been the artist with Ross Hoffman on camera and compositing duties, as he did so effectively for this studio for his entire career of some 40 years.
I mentioned one of my favourite directors in this blog, the late John Frankenheimer.  Here is an unusual matte from another of John's hard hitting and confronting films, THE YOUNG SAVAGES (1961) which again starred the great Burt Lancaster.  I don't have any info on the artist behind this shot nor the follow on shot shown below.
And with this fittingly proud full matte painting, also from THE YOUNG SAVAGES, we conclude our blog.  I do hope it proved educational, enlightening and enjoyable to all.


That's about it folks.  Catch you again ...

17 comments:

  1. As ever, yet another magnificent post. Many thanks for your hard work and giant storehouse of knowledge.

    Particularly amused by the pair of stills from "Sons and Lovers". Not only did I once meet the terrifying Jack Cardiff (he was over 80 and had far better things to do with his time than play host to a young fan), but I know the locations depicted very well - living not far from Nottingham. The upper picture is probably a pretty accurate version of a view to the (disappointing - it's a Georgian rebuild) castle; although I've no idea where the "Robin Hood" pub was(?). The view of Olde Eastwood (the village just north of the city where D H Lawrence was born and which became the setting for much of the novel) seems to be pure fantasy. Hard to tell, now, mind - it's dominated these days by a branch of Ikea that can be seen from space and whose layout has yet to be accurately mapped...

    Mr Cardiff showed me a photo he took there. To this day, it's the single picture I most wish I had a copy of... Inside Eastwood Miners Welfare Club (a spit n' sawdust working men's club, now gone - along with the mines, thanks to Mrs T) at a table surrounded by elderly, flat cap-wearing locals, sit Trevor Howard, Donald Pleasence, Wendy Hiller, Dean Stockwell... and, wearing full denims, a cowboy hat and sunglasses - Mr Stockwell's friend who'd just popped over for a holiday - Dennis Hopper!

    That was a bit off topic, wasn't it?

    I'll get me coat...

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    1. Hi Andy

      Many thanks for your wonderful letter/comment. Don't worry mate, NZPete is constantly going 'off topic', though perhaps I digress, yet again!

      Great movie, great writing and powerhouse cast. I never try to miss anything with the great Trevor Howard in it. For another bleak, Northern England masterpiece, albeit a very dark one, with Mr Howard is Sidney Lumet's staggering THE OFFENCE (1972).

      All the best

      Pete

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  2. Pete...i have no words...

    oke i have one...fantastic

    greets from Holland,Europe

    Willem

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    Replies
    1. Greetings my likeminded Dutch friend,
      Always good to get your feedback Willem. I'm so glad you found it worth an hour or two of your time.

      Regards from 'Middle Earth' as they say.

      Pete

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  3. Thank you really enjoyed looking through those mattes, and a overwhelming feeling of nostalgia.

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    1. Hi Richard

      I think we must be on the same wave-length. Many fond memories of so many of these films, and the old 'Picture Palaces' that used to show them. Screw multiplexes..... no class!

      Regards

      Pete

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  4. Although officially uncredited, the matte paintings on the original Star Trek series are generally credited to Albert Whitlock. Craig Barron tells me that Whitlock told him that he did the paintings on the show. Still, I've been curious because there appears to be more than one style of painting. Some are stunningly beautiful, others appear to have been rushed. I'm also intrigued by claims (including one in the VFX credits section of the original Star Trek's IMDB page) that an artist named Garson Citron worked on Trek's matte paintings. Are you familiar with this name?

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    1. Hi Michael

      Well that is most intriguing. That's a name I'd never heard of before until now, and it's always a thrill to find out about technicians I'd never knew existed. I'd agree that some of the old TREK mattes seem to have been created by quite different artists.

      Here is what his son wrote on imdb:


      "GARSON CITRON
      Born July, 1921 in Rochester, New York, USA
      Mini Bio (1)
      Best known for his work as a Main Title Designer for "Here's Lucy," "The FBI," and "Daniel Boone," 1960s television series. He was the head of the Art Department for Howard A. Anderson Company until his passing in 1968. Garson Citron began his career with RKO Studios, and moved over to the Hal Roach Studios Art Department in the 1950s, eventually landing at Howard A. Anderson and Company in the early 1960s.
      - IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Citron

      Trivia (1)
      Garson Citron also was a matte painter - while at Howard A. Anderson Company he painted the infamous lithium cracking plant for the Star Trek (television series) season one episode, "Where no men have gone before." This credit has in the past been mistakenly attributed to Universal Studios matte painter Albert Whitlock."

      Pete

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  5. Hi Pete, I love the history lessons you provide with your blog, thanks for all the effort and energy you put into this!
    May I point you to a dating-error in one of the above pictures? The Robert Stromberg painting of the Cardassian cityscape for Deep Space Nine was shown in the last four or five episodes of the show, which were aired in '99. My girlfriend and I finished a rewatch of the show in march, so memory on that one is still fresh.

    The painting has been shown many times during the shows 7 year run, each time with different footage elements in the monitor/screen. If I remember correctly, the very first time the painting appeared was in the 2nd season (maybe the episode 'Tribunal')

    Greetings from Germany :-)

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    1. Thanks Sebastian. I'm glad you like the blog.
      I've never seen that series, although I have tons of great mattes from that and the Next Generation shows, mainly obtained from other sources and websites.

      Pete

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  6. Another wonderful post! I did wish to point out that my film, "Scene Stealer" was completed and it screened at the Cinerama Dome Complex in Hollywood as part of a film festival highlighting films in other-worldly realms. There are a few clips of the film on Youtube. (thanks for including me in this blog!) Also, the matte I'm credited for on, "The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake" is a Rick Rische matte. I did do a matte for this movie, it's of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in ruins. (and that painting was stolen while on display at the Bonaventure Hotel on Earthquake preparedness day!)

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    1. Hi Richard

      I know you told me those facts a while ago about those films but memory seems to be slipping due to 'matte shot overload' or something. That's my 'story' and I'm sticking to it. ;)

      Pete

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  7. Hi! I've been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the bravery to
    go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the great job!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fabulous, thanks. And I hated Highlander too, so don't fret. It ruined a game called Battletech, and it ruined Klingons. lol

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's a pity you don't have a donate button! I'd most certainly donate to this brilliant blog!
    I guess for now i'll settle for bookmarking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

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  10. Ashley Inskeep19 June 2018 at 08:34

    I'm just finding this site (though I think I may have stumbled upon it once before- not sure) and I love seeing all the Warren Newcombe work. I've been trying for years to find and buy something of his- he's my great grandfather. But it's all wildly expensive or sold before I can get to it, sadly.

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  11. Pete, I love this venerable goldmine of cinema so much, I, I just had to post it to my special effects studio page. It deserves to be seen and enjoyed by all who are in love with cinema. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=924327784426717&id=433734676819366

    ReplyDelete