A salute to Shepperton studios
special photographic effects
|A mere handful of memorable productions requiring special visual effects from Shepperton's resident wizards.|
*The following article would not have been
possible without the many memories, anecdotes and pictorial contributions from
former Shepperton matte painter Gerald Larn, to whom I am most grateful.
Gerald’s reminiscences were not only filled with
technical detail but often quite amusing and highly entertaining and form the primary
backbone of this retrospective. Some of Gerald’s comments originally appeared
on the matte painting thread of stopmotionanimation.com and are reproduced here
along with more recent discussions we’ve shared….. thanks Gerry.
I’d also like to acknowledge visual effects historian
Domingo Lizcano for portions of his interviews with matte artist Bob Cuff and
cameraman John Grant, and also the always generous Dennis Lowe for sending me a
healthy truckload of images from the collection of Joy Cuff, John Grant and
|The Shepperton Studio and lot, circa 1965|
The British film industry is, rightfully a proud one, with
hundreds of classic, time tested pictures over the decades leaving a profound mark
upon the international film viewing community. Often overshadowed by the gloss
and glitter of their brash cigar chomping American ‘cousins’, the British film
maker was often working within unbelievably adverse conditions and budgets,
particularly during the war years, yet masterpieces were made, a great
many of which still stand the test of time.
So many wonderful actors, directors, cinematographers, designers and
technicians over the ninety years of UK
As my ‘reason for being’ is traditional era visual effects
I’ll concentrate on this fascinating aspect.
I have already covered in detail notable British effects artists such as
Walter Percy Day
, Albert Whitlock
, Leigh Took
and Ray Caple
in their own
extensive articles and have touched upon others as well, such as the great
, Peter Ellenshaw
, and Cliff Culley
. I have waiting in the wings a special
Rank-Pinewood retrospective soon as well as a Hammer Films retrospective. It’s
all go in NZPete’s matte world, though as I’ve often said, I’m never sure if
more than a couple of dozen people on the planet share my passion (and you know
who you are: ‘Stix’,’ McTodd’,’ Domingo’, ‘Thomas’ and about a dozen other die hards scattered about the world….)
|Percy Day mattes produced at the studio for ANNA KARENINA (1947)|
With this article I hope to finally shine a well overdue
spotlight upon what was arguably the biggest and busiest of the UK
studio special effects departments, Shepperton studios.
For a complete ‘run up’ to Shepperton’s effects department
achieving top rung status, the reader may care to check out my Percy Day blog at the link above.
whereby a considerable backstory of the origins of Britain’s
foremost visual effects pioneer and first ever internationally recognised
‘name’ in the medium of cinematic trickery.
|Walter Percy Day|
I’ve never been able to ascertain just who made up the Shepperton
effects department prior
to Day’s arrival in 1947. It all seems lost in history, as a number of
principle effects staffers came as part of the package deal with Pop Day when
he moved his set up from the enormous Denham Studios. It’s certain that Day brought with him his
key associate and collaborator, effects cinematographer Wally Veevers – an important
name which would become a mainstay in feature film credits for the next 35
The enormously talented, though notoriously curmudgeonly Pop
Day would actually reside on the Shepperton lot in a delightful Edwardian
cottage with his second wife, the mother of Day’s protégé Peter Ellenshaw - himself an iconic visual stylist in the Disney
stable. Among the many, many matte
painters who would work under Day at Shepperton at different periods were
Albert Julian, George Samuels, Ivor Beddoes, Judy Jordan, David Hume, Joseph
Natanson and Bob Cuff. According to Doug Ferris, Peter Ellenshaw also painted there, with both Gerald Larn and John Grant confirming this, though I’m curious as to when this might have
occurred as once Peter left the Day fold at Denham he moved to the British arm
of MGM under Tom Howard. Peter’s four UK
made Disney pictures made extensive use of mattes, though as far as I know
those were painted back at Denham in the same old matte room that he’d once
learned his craft from Percy Day.
mystery deepened as Gerald pointed out a glass painting of Westminster Abbey up
on the wall behind his own matte stand in 1964 which he informed me was an
Ellenshaw matte. Well just as this
article was going to ‘press’ as such, a kindly correspondent sent me a photo of
what indeed appears to be Ellenshaw (presumably at Shepperton) painting that very foreground glass,
for the 1962 Don Chaffey directed Disney telemovie THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER,
for which Wally Veevers was credited for photographic effects. Shown here is a rare photo (thanks Stephen) of that glass being painted by Ellenshaw, and below is the final in camera composite.
Odd that Ellenshaw would be sent all that way
when a stable of skilled matte artists were readily available?? I read an interview with matte legend Albert
Whitlock whereby he too worked for a brief time at Shepperton, maybe in scenic art
or title lettering – a Whitlock specialty prior to entering matte work, though
most of his UK work was carried out at Gainsborough and Rank-Pinewood prior to
venturing across the Atlantic.
|Percy Day matte composites from one of his last features, OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (1952).|
|Judy Jordan matte-THE FALLEN IDOL|
Not a lot had changed to the old Pop Day department by all
accounts when painter Gerald Larn started in 1964. Still present were the original dusty green filing
cabinets jam packed with seemingly tons of reference material, collected over
the years by Day and primary matte artist Albert Julion, and dating back to the early years of the 20th century in fact - mostly pages torn from copies of 'Illustrated London News' and later on from 'Picture Post' under the directive of art director Vincent Korda. A virtual encyclopaedia of fifty years reference material.
Of course, Wally Veevers was legendary in the United
Kingdom film industry – having been closely
involved since his early twenties with Korda at Denham Studios. In the outstanding book, Movie Magic, by John
Brosnan, Wally described his background:
“I spent two years at
Polytechnic learning all about cinematography.
That’s what started me off in the business. Luckily for me, just as I finished the course
the Korda’s came along requiring some students to be taught special
They were about to make THINGS
TO COME (1936) with American effects expert Ned Mann. They had brought over twelve Americans to
work on that picture and the Board of Trade would only allow them work permits
provided they agreed to train some of us while they were in this country. Out of the twelve students who went for the
interview, only four were chosen by Ned
Mann – and I happened to be one of them
|Bob Cuff - DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS|
|Percy Day and Judy Jordan - BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE|
Veevers also described how he became involved with the
legendary Walter Percy Day- “I was in the miniature department at Denham
for about three years then I left to go freelancing. After that I joined Mr Percy Day – known as
Poppa Day to many people in the film industry – who was a matte painter for
Korda at Denham Studios. I went to work
for him for two days, but we got on together so well that I stayed with him for
years. Eventually he retired when he was
about eighty four and I took over the department, which by that time had moved
|George Samuels matte painting of Paris with a stop motion animated car by Doug Ferris: DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS|
|Wally Veevers - circa 1967|
Wally, by all
accounts, was a larger than life
character, and was described by Gerald Larn as “a once encountered, never forgotten character”.
Gerald elaborated thus: “Wally
wasn’t tall, but he had large features and was in fact clearly overweight. Wally always appeared to be attempting to
perfect the art of ‘economy of speech’.
He would briefly address you in a gruff, monosyllabic manner, then he’d
depart. However, his struggle to
accomplish even the most simple communication would sometimes leave him the
colour of boiled beetroot! I’m sure
hypertension must have contributed to his demise sometime in the eighties. Nevertheless, I had a great deal of affection
as well as respect for Wally. I regard
his near iconic special effects status to be thoroughly merited”.
Visual effects cameraman John Grant would describe Wally to interviewer Dennis Lowe as: "When I first met him he was such a large character who reminded me sort of...'Taras Bulba'.! I could always see him as some sort of Mongolian bandit... though he was always very well dressed, but always very gruff".
According to matte painter Doug Ferris, Veevers favourite catchphrase while examining the various mattes in progress each morning was "Look at your reference!"
|An uncredited matte from THE COLDITZ STORY - probably painted by George Samuels or Bob Cuff. The castle painting would hang on the wall in front of matte painter Gerald Larn for some years and prove a source of inspiration: "I have nothing but admiration for that work. I became very familiar with it and never lost my admiration for it".|
|On the 1963 film DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS Doug Ferris would have his first assignment in the effects department, working on interactive light animation gags and rotoscope work to compliment the many Bob Cuff and George Samuels matte paintings. Interestingly, the top left 'daylight' frame can be seen in the film's trailer only, and not in the finished film.|
.What isn’t commonly reported was Wally’s skills as an
engineer. He had a complete engineering
workshop at his home and would often manufacture various camera apparatus and
devices such as the so called ‘sausage machine’ camera rig used on both 2001
and BATTLE OF BRITAIN. FX cameraman Martin Body spoke very highly of Veevers mechanical and camera savvy. Reportedly
Veevers was a country and western music afficienado as well and was supposedly
nicknamed ‘Picnic’ by painter Bob
Cuff, which left Gerald Larn speechless in stunned disbelief when I relayed
this information to him recently!!!
Among the cameramen employed in the department at various
times were John Mackie who was a guiding force in the development of matte
process photography. Peter Harman, John
Grant and Bryan Loftus would also play important roles in the camera side.
Pictured here, at left, is veteran effects cameraman Peter Harman standing at the doorway to the fx stage - while at right is a very young trainee matte camera assistant, John Grant - freshly arrived from Kodak, UK where he had been successfully accepted for a five year apprenticeship. John's father was noted production lighting cameraman Arthur Grant.
|Bob Cuff scenic mattes painted for Laurence Olivier's 1955 production of RICHARD III|
|Bob Cuff - matte painter|
Matte painter Bob Cuff told Domingo Lizcano of the
atmosphere in the effects unit when he started there in 1952: “I
joined Shepperton Studios in 1952 after four years at the Camberwell School of
Art, I, along with David Hume, was hired as trainee matte painter by (art
director) Vincent Korda. The Matte
Department was then called the Special Effects Department.
Wally Veevers was Head of Department and his
name appeared on most credits – which was usual practice at the time. George Samuels was principal painter and
constructor. Albert Julian was also a
brilliant painter, much loved by Vincent Korda.
Matte artist David Hume left Shepperton after a couple of years to
become a scenic painter at ABC Studios at Teddington".
Fellow effects staffers John Grant and Doug Ferris both concur in statements that "Bob was a quiet man who never blew his own trumpet".
In an interview with Dennis Lowe, Doug Ferris said that while he tried to paint as little as possible to get an effect, "Bob, like some of the others of his time, was the kind of artist who would paint absolutely everything"
with cameraman John Grant commenting: "Yes... Bob would dot every 'i' and cross every 't'"
. Having seen many Percy Day matte paintings over the years I can assume that the slow, meticulous Day method that Pop stood by was passed on down to Cuff, Julion and Samuels.
|One of the many Boulting brothers comedies which would utilise the services of the matte department - HEAVENS' ABOVE (1963) featured a number of great mattes and miniatures, including some with camera moves. Note the billboard!|
|Doug Ferris begins a painting, circa 1964.|
Bob Cuff: "Also working as
painters were Polish born Joseph Natanson (one of Pop Day’s team), who went to Rome eventually to work in the Italian film
industry. Judy Jordan (another original
Pop Day trainee) left the studio about 1954 to work under Tom Howard at
MGM-Elstree. Ivor Beddoes eventually
went freelance, while Alan Maley (after a brief Shepperton tenure) went to
Disney Studios, Hollywood.
There were others whose names I have forgotten. The team worked very closely together, with
paintings being frequently passed from one artist to another, and there were a
variety of other effects that we all worked on.
I left Shepperton in
1963 (to be replaced by Gerald Larn) to work for Les Bowie on Charlie Schneer’s
FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (and many others).
Ray Caple was already working as Les Bowie’s matte artist and had been
trained by him from an early age (fifteen).
Les Bowie was a brilliant painter, though had virtually stopped painting
by the time I went to work for him.
Effects cameraman John Mackie also left Shepperton about a year later
(1964) to join us and help with the camera and optical work. John and I worked together for many years”.
|The outstanding psychological military drama, TUNES OF GLORY (1960) with John Mills and Alec Guinness. According to director Ronald Neame, the top brass took exception to the use of the actual Scottish location, with the studio forced to resort to extensive matte painted views of the castle - to excellent effect. Painters probably George Samuels, Bob Cuff and maybe Albert Julion, if he was still alive?|
|SILENT ENEMY split screened model ships into real sea.|
Doug Ferris was someone who always wanted to be part of the film industry. Initially Doug started off by pursuing a career in art direction, mainly due to his love for architecture. After a stint at Rank Screen Services - a commercials company - Ferris found himself in the employ of the man many consider to be 'the father of the British effects industry' - Les Bowie.
Bowie and his team, which included Ray Caple, Brian Johnson, Ian Scoones and Kit West were working out of Prospect Studios on what would turn out to be an excellent little science fiction piece called THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961) whereby Ferris would watch and learn and pick up a variety of special effects skills that would come in useful later on.
In 1962 Wally Veevers was looking for talent to work on the big effects project, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, and Doug was taken on, in a visual effects assistant capacity at first. On that show Doug would carry out a number of duties, namely the stop motion sequence (which nobody ever picks up on) where the hero drives through a wrecked Paris (in fact a series of George Samuels and Bob Cuff matte paintings). Ferris would also work on the meteor sequence where multicoloured fireballs are bombarding London - a wonderful set piece in CinemaScope.
|A pair of George Samuels matte shots from THE BEGGAR'S OPERA (1953)|
Staff matte painter Gerald Larn told me of how he came to be
involved with the Veevers operation: "I spent 3
years studying at Farnham School of Art
where I specialised in painting. In my final year I won a competitive
scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London University. After leaving the Slade School, I exhibited
paintings in London at the Temple
Gallery, Redfern Gallery and Selfridges Art Gallery .
|Ted Samuels with the Korda logo.|
In 1964 (age 32) I met Bob Cuff. He was on the point of leaving
Shepperton to join forces and form a Special Effects company with John Mackie. He asked if I would be interested to
step into his shoes and fill in the gap he was leaving in the Effects
department at Shepperton. After discussing the matter with Head of Department
Wally Veevers, and showing him some of my work, it was agreed I should fill the
vacant Matte Artist position. Later, following the departure of Wally Veevers,
I remained working in the Special Effects Department under Ted Samuels until
the break up of the Studio in 1975."
|Mitchell NC matte process camera set up.|
The physical effects, or as the Americans term it,
mechanical effects side of things were under the control of Ted Samuels – the
brother of chief matte painter George Samuels, with Alan Bryce and Ernie
Sullivan as effects assistant and gaffer respectively. Peter Harman was chief effects cameraman with
John Mackie as second cameraman. John
Grant, Bryan Loftus and Geoff Stevenson were camera assistants. Loftus would go
on to work with Derek Meddings on THUNDERBIRDS and then became part of Veevers’
effects crew on Kubrick’s landmark 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY and later moved into
production lighting cameraman.
|Two Bob Cuff mattes from the excellent Charles Chaplin film A KING IN NEW YORK (1957)|
|Sprocket-movement of matte camera|
|Gerald Larn-BEST HOUSE IN LONDON|
to Gerald Larn, “At some point, around
1966, a young Geoff Stevenson was brought into the department by Wally. He was regarded as a trainee and he helped
out in the camera department, but he didn’t stay with us for long – only a few
The unit possessed two Mitchell NC matte cameras, in addition to a pair of high speed Mitchell cameras for assorted miniature shoots with the camera boys often pulled into 2nd unit work and insert shots
|Sprawling matte painting from the big Samuel Bronston Super-Technirama spectacle CIRCUS WORLD (1964)|
Doug Ferris would join the matte department
around 1962, providing stop motion animation and roto work for THE DAY OF THE
TRIFFIDS as well as assisting George Samuels and Bob Cuff with gags for many of the matte
shots the film required. Samuels would
pass away soon after, with Ferris advancing into matte painting alongside
Shortly thereafter other artists
would join the fold, with Gerald Larn in April 1964 as primary matte artist with Bryan Evans,
Peter Melrose and former movie extra Ron Dobson as companion painters at various times
shortly thereafter. In fact Melrose
was already engaged as a scenic painter at the studio and would often be called
upon to paint mattes as well alongside Larn and Evans in a semi formal arrangement.
|Four mattes from the 1956 CinemaScope epic ALEXANDER THE GREAT probably by Bob Cuff and George Samuels.|
|Bob Cuff's original glass painting and final composite.|
A great many productions would file through the doors of the
special effects department throughout the sixties, with Oscar winning effects
work in THE GUNS OF NAVARONE being a proud moment, even though none of the
Veevers unit were included in the nomination, despite a number of matte shots
being furnished by Bob Cuff. Physical
effects supervisor on that production, Bill Warrington (long time Rank fx
chief, now independent contractor) was sole award recipient – but don’t get me
started on Academy Award injustices over the years.
|The second of two mint condition Bob Cuff GUNS OF NAVARONE mattes in the care of one of his sons. This beautiful matte was a wasted shot as the finished scene (not the test frame shown here) was printed down so dark and muddy that all was lost on screen... though the whole film had a grainy, murky look to it in all formats I've seen.|
|Opening visual effects set piece supervised by Wally Veevers.|
In an interview with author Tony Earnshaw, visual effects
cameraman John Mackie told of his unique connection with the studio whereby
through his friendship with big time Hollywood writer-producer Carl Foreman,
Mackie was instrumental in bringing many of Foreman’s blockbusters such as GUNS
OF NAVARONE and THE VICTORS) to Shepperton for special visual effects
work. Mackie was described as having a
keen eye for special effects on a string of big budget pictures. He would later move on from the studio and work
on many high profile films such as Kubrick’s 2001 and the huge MACKENNA’S GOLD –
another Carl Foreman production - by which time he had set up an independent
effects house, Abacus Productions with Bob Cuff and Les Bowie.
|Carl Foreman's THE VICTORS post war Berlin matte painting.|
Bob Cuff described this arrangement to
Domingo Lizcano: “Les Bowie and myself formed a company, Abacus Productions, to make tv
commercials. Bowie did not want to be involved with
commercials and acted as ‘sleeping partner’, renting his premises and equipment
to the offshoot company”.
|A frame from the aerial pull out matte, and a pair more at lower right, from THE HORSE'S MOUTH (1958)|
Gerald Larn mentioned to me: “Bob Cuff and John Grant were widely acknowledged to be a great double act and it
was for that reason in 1964 they decided to leave Shepperton and join forces to
form their own FX company”.
He added: “But before leaving Shepperton Bob
suggested I should speak to Wally and apply to fill the vacant position of
resident matte artist”.
|I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE (1958)|
With regard to the practice of film assignments, according
to author Tony Earnshaw, “the effects
team at Shepperton were guns for hire
– lending their expertise to a range of films, both large scale and small
scale, over the years. It was standard
practice for most of them (the technicians) to go unrecognized, with only
Veevers (or later on Ted Samuels) as head of the department, receiving a credit
on the released film”.
|Totally fabricated dogfights, complete with smoke trails.|
cameraman John Mackie, in an interview in the book ‘Beating the Devil,’ would
reiterate this: “At Shepperton they would
never put us on the credits because they’d always put the HOD on, even if they
weren’t involved. That was Wally. It was the same with all the departments at
Shepperton. Elstree was the same at that
time. The reason they did it was so that
you didn’t get too well known and get too many offers”
|Judy Jordan and George Samuels mattes from John Huston's MOULIN ROUGE (1952)|
There were a mere handful of situations whereby the backroom
gain a screen credit, though these were rare. The 1952 WWII Naval picture THE GIFT HORSE
saw George Samuels receive a co-‘trick
screen credit with Wally, and even saw veteran travelling
matte exponent Bryan Langley’s name on screen too. A few years later Bob Cuff received one of
his rare on screen credits (albeit in a
smaller font under Wally’s name)
for the wonderful 1957 Peter Sellers
comedy THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH (as ‘R.Cuff’).
|A rarity indeed!|
Effects assistant and gaffer Ernie Sullivan surprisingly
even got his name up in lights with Veevers during the credits of DIE MONSTER
DIE (1965). To the best of my knowledge
none of the others named here have had the good fortune of being officially
credited – but as we’ve learnt this was pretty much a sign of the times, not
just in Britain
but in the US
industry as well.
Gerald Larn told
the eleven years I worked in the Shepperton matte studio, to my knowledge not
one of us was ever credited for the work produced. Special Effects credits
seemed to be recorded as either "Wally Veevers" (later, Ted Samuels)
or simply stated as "Shepperton Studios".
|HOBSON'S CHOICE - Bob Cuff matte|
The vaguaries of the credit decision making process is shown
in the 1975 masterpiece THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING where Veevers received ‘visual effects’ card
and Albert Whitlock got ‘matte artist’ card – even though Whitlock painted just
one shot while Doug Ferris, although uncredited, painted some half dozen mattes.
|The 1962 Lewis Gilbert maritime adventure DAMN THE DEFIANT (aka HMS DEFIANT) featured a number of matte shots, with these being a few. The middle frame of the street is very clever, with all the buildings (and even the barrels) on both sides of the street being added by the matte artist - possibly the right ship as well.|
|Gerald with BEST HOUSE IN LONDON paintings visible.|
So, let us look at the set up of the photographic effects
department at Shepperton. The best way
to appreciate it is through Gerald Larn’s detailed description: “Yes,
the Special Effects stage did have a number of models and such on display, but
the real visual feast could be experienced in our adjacent matte painting
studio. The room was long and fairly narrow with four well spaced easels positioned
side by side down its length. Each easel was permanently fixed to the floor and
the up and down motion of the painting (the framed matte glasses were heavy) was
counterbalanced by weights that ran up and down in a boxed-in channel - rather
like our old sash windows.
So the real attraction for our regular visitors
(apart from admiring any work in progress) was the array of a dozen or so glass
paintings which adorned two walls of the studio, and these photos may convey an
idea of the studio and our working environment during the sixties and
"In the later years up to 1975, of course, I
had the whole studio to myself as the only artist remaining on the payroll. Fellow
painter Bryan Evans had departed some while earlier. In 1975 when the Studio
finally closed down and all the permanent staff were made redundant items from
the Property Store, Drapes, Camera Department, Lighting Department, Special
Effects were all auctioned off. This included all the glass paintings remaining
in the studio of course. Regrettably, I have no idea of the fate of any of
|Larn completing a Peter Melrose MOLL FLANDERS matte.|
|An ambitious mid fifties 'space race' sci fi vehicle with many special effects - some good, some so-so and some plain awful. Many mattes are to be seen here, with reference material indicating Julian Kay was one of the matte artists.|
Effects cinematographer John Grant added: “My early days at Shepperton were a very
happy time with the large matte painting room’s walls displaying many matte
paintings and models from earlier films, sadly most lost today”.
Pictured at left is matte painter Alan Maley who would have a short tenure with the department, painting on such films as DR STRANGELOVE and BECKET, before being seduced by the Disney Corporation to set up with Peter Ellenshaw in California.
|I'm not sure who did these MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) shots as different sourses credit different people. Ray Harryhausen himself stated that Wally Veevers' matte department created them at Shepperton, while author Mike hankin, of the definitive Harryhausen tome, Master of the Majicks, claims that Les Bowie painted them?|
The master director David Lean would call upon the Veevers
unit for two films – LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) to supply ‘into the blazing sun’
pov opticals and again on DR ZHIVAGO (1965) where several subtle matte
paintings were added (which nobody ever noticed) to expand snowscapes and
atmospheric wintery skies, as Gerald Larn explains: “For
the moment I can only think of one occasion when I became involved in working
on original negative. That was on Dr. Zhivago. Both Bryan Evans and myself worked on
half a dozen shots.
There was a long shot of the sleigh travelling toward the house that I remember doing some work on. Some were simply adding more snow to barren
areas of distant landscape (I seem to recall the location had been Spain)!!
Others included creating 'interesting' cold winter skies in a couple of long
shots. I also became involved in increasing both the amount and intensity of
snow on and around the 'Ice House' - a prominent feature towards the climax of
I asked Gerald about the
technical aspects of these shots: “I certainly spent a long time working on the
additional snow for the ‘Ice House’. The
technique was to airbrush layers of white poster colour onto one of our 6ft x
3ft clear glasses. The scene was
projected behind the glass and the sprayed paint was either added or worked on
with hogs hair brushes to remove or create varying densities of white. Many tests were made to ensure the technique
was working successfully and the image was finally double exposed onto the
|Matte composite from THE SPY WITH THE COLD NOSE (1966)|
|Stages of a split screen: WHERE'S JACK?|
As we all know, it was common practice for studios
throughout the decades to dispose of such ‘expendable’ items as painted
glasses, as once they were utilized for the intended film and served their
purpose (all five seconds of it), they were generally considered worthless and
either scraped clean for re-use or simply thrown away willy-nilly. The many mattes visible up on the walls of
the effects studio indeed suggested a potential centralized studio repository
for such artifacts – though sadly this was not to be as I found out from
Gerald: “I have nothing but admiration for all that work. I must add that during my early years in the
studio, the major COLDITZ establishing shot occupied a place on the wall
immediately in front of my easel. I became very familiar with it and never lost
my admiration for it. At some point it
disappeared to be replaced by a painting produced for ALEXANDER THE GREAT. Over the years, and on a daily basis, I also
became very closely acquainted with that painting too".
The three frames at left from the 1970 film WHERE'S JACK?, beautifully illustrate the use of a three part split screen to increase the numbers in the crowd by a factor of three. Also, a painted skyline of London has been added to complete the effect.
|A Peter Melrose multi plane moving cloud glass painted effect which turned up on screen recycled in several Hammer films such as TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE to great effect.|
Gerald Larn: "While Wally was in charge there were occasional movements of paintings in and
out of the studio. For instance, when I first joined the studio I remember
there were two large glass paintings about 5 x 4ft leaning up against a
cupboard. They were foreground glasses that had been produced years earlier by
Poppa Day for one of the classic Shepperton Shakespeare epics - either Henry
5th or Richard 3rd. John Grant got me to
grab a brush and appear to be painting the glass. After a few weeks both
paintings disappeared never to be seen again. But there was no evidence of a
storeroom containing past pieces of work or anything of that sort. It may be
that Wally just had them all piled up under his bed” !!
|The original Spanish location for VALLEY OF GWANGI and the final shot with Gerald Larn's painting matted in plus real sky burnt in as well.|
Fans of Ray Harryhausen’s mythical adventures would recall
the prehistoric valley matte shot from VALLEY
OF GWANGI (1967) – a film that
would have benefited immensely by having more matte shots to broaden the
canvas. Gerald fondly recalled the
working relationship with Ray: “There is really not much to tell about the
GWANGI painting. It was of course great
to work with Ray, although apart from providing me with lots of reference
photos of Monument Valley in Utah, he left me to my own devices with regard to
the composition of the painting. I
remember he had his own small animation studio/workshop in a building tucked
away in a far corner of the studio complex and I paid him a couple of visits
while he was at work.
I found Ray to be
a remarkably modest man and thoroughly ‘sympatico’. Later on in my teaching career it gave me
great pleasure to meet up with him again in the 80’s. I enjoyed inviting Ray to come and give his
talk and film presentation. He enjoyed
|Doug Ferris split screen work|
”. In addition to the Larn
matte was some complicated split screen optical work by Doug Ferris for the
arena sequence to multiply the crowds and add a large hot air balloon above the
|For this shot in DALEKS INVASION EARTH (1966) Gerald was assigned to produce a matte shot of the crashed saucer: "At that point, the flying saucer model which was later to be filmed on our effects stage, had not yet been made. The only saucer reference I had to work from was a selection of scale drawings being prepared for construction of the model. I can remember it being a tricky operation trying to design the craft from those drawings, and at the same time ensure the saucer sat convincingly on the circular underbelly built on the set. It ended up being a series of compromises with which I was never entirely satisfied".|
|Alan Maley's matte work for BECKET (1964)|
Although Wally was involved in other Harryhausen pictures
such as MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1962) I’ve read conflicting accounts as to who did
the mattes for that show. Ray himself
credits the Veevers department for them, while author of the utterly incredible book 'Master of the Magicks
', Mike Hankin credits Les
Bowie for effects while Veevers and Ray Caple are jointly credited for matte shots - a most unlikely scenario in my opinion.
|A glorious classically painted view by Alan Maley for BECKET|
Certainly on later
Harryhausen pictures such as FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964) and ONE MILLION BC (1966) Bob Cuff was already
in the employ of Les Bowie and did
paint mattes with Ray Caple.
The curious and overblown big budgeted Bond spoof CASINO
ROYALE (1967) was another film with odd credits which lists Les Bowie under
‘special matte work’ yet features among the titles on Doug Ferris and John
Grant’s filmography. It was a Shepperton
production so the real story is anyones guess.
|A very rare test frame of the full sized aspect Alan Maley painting from BECKET prior to it being optically reduced with a pseudo camera move travelling down from the castle at top left to the smoke at lower right as it appears in the final film.|
|Larn at work, an early test lineup, and final version.|
The beautifully told Richard Burton-Genevieve Bujold period
piece ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS (1968) was a superb film with one memorable matte
shot of the Tower of London – which remains one of Gerald’s most satisfying
effects shots over the eleven years spent in the department. “As it
happens, two of my three most enjoyable matte paintings have already been
featured here. They are my Tower of London matte painting for ANNE and the painting
produced for the GWANGI valley
establishing shot. The other favourite painting would have to be The Great Wall of China establishing shot on GENGHIS KHAN. There was another element of satisfaction for
me in the case of The Tower of London Matte for ANNE. The location shoot was set up by
cameraman Peter Harman and myself and although assistant producer Dick
McWhorter was also present, he didn't interfere all that much. I established
the matte area by positioning a foreground glass to which black card was added.
So, from the outset I was able to be in control of all aspects of the matte
shot. I wonder who in their right mind wouldn't find that a very satisfactory
experience ?? While I was working on the
painting, Doug Ferris was busy putting together a miniature set of the interior
of that part of the tower which was to be split screened into the Traitor’s
Gate area I had reserved on my painting”.
|Top - an unbalanced test frame with John Grant's inscribed date and filter type used (20 green) where blend and exposure have still to be corrected, and below the final screen composite of Gerald Larn's painted ceiling for the 1972 film MR FORBUSH AND THE PENGUINS. |
|GENGHIS KHAN - Gerald Larn matte shot|
So, naturally, I asked Gerald ‘what constitutes a good matte
shot’, and his answer was pretty much what one would anticipate: “It's a
mixture of things that make these paintings favourites for me. There's nothing quite like seeing the work
looking really good on the screen at an early stage of testing at rushes. In
this regard, I have good memories in all three of these instances. 'Looking
good' means that all the decisions you have made concerning painted colour and
texture matching the live action are amply vindicated for example. Also, when
it's clear that there's little or no work needing to be done to disguise 'the
join'............again, a great feeling.
So, as you then move forward, making small
improvements to the painting, you have in mind that the matte shot is well on
the way to being 'all of a piece'. What then matters, is how close you finally
come to believing that most, if not all, will doubt any visual trickery has
taken place at all”.
The photo at right shows Larn in front of the miniature Eiffel Tower built for THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (see below for composite)
|Location plate photography transformed into Victorian London with Gerald's perfectly blended painted buildings from the film THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1968)|
|BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1968)|
Although the frames can’t be located, Gerald has very fond
memories of the zeppelin hangar mattes he and Bryan Evans executed for the film
THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1968) “I must confess to having a particular
fondness for the painting of the strangely shaped airship under construction. I
well remember the painting almost filled the frame and the live action was
confined to a small area at ground level. But the project is remembered most
vividly because, throughout all my time at Shepperton, it was the only occasion
when a piece of my work combined with the live footage absolutely perfectly at
the very first test. There was no need to colour correct the 'masters'. Neither
was there at any stage the need to apply filters to the work or to become
involved in any repainting. There was even no further work needed on the
'join'. This gave me a great deal of satisfaction at the time because it was
pretty well an unprecedented event in the department.
However, despite all my
searching I seem to have lost the only single frame of that painting that was
in my possession. I have to confess
never to have seen the BEST HOUSE film, so I have no idea if my 'triumph' may
finally have ended up on the cutting room floor”.
|THE FAMILY WAY (1966)|
|A dramatic tilt down effects shot from the Peter Sellers comedy HEAVENS ABOVE (1963 which may be a model shot.|
Another pair of Richard Burton literary films came along –
both in 1967 - which kept the matte department very busy – DOCTOR FAUSTUS and
TAMING OF THE SHREW – where the latter film was a standard matte painting
assignment, the former was an arduous, fiddly task which proved somewhat
exhausting for Larn and Evans. On SHREW
Gerald commented: “Yes, five of those shots
were indeed mattes we produced in the department. I did a couple and I remember
enjoying painting the castle in the snow establishing shot. Bryan Evans and
Doug Ferris were involved with the others".
"The TAMING OF THE SHREW and DOCTOR FAUSTUS were an interesting and unusual
couple of back to back projects filmed in Italy. They had been planned by Richard Burton
and Liz Taylor (they were of course the leading characters in both stories).
The occasion allowed Peter Harman to enjoy his one and only foreign film
location as SpEfx cameraman. I seem to remember Franco Zefferelli was either
Director or Product Designer on both films and finally we were amazed at the
mass of work Peter brought back for the department. I produced two matte paintings for
"FAUSTUS" and there were a number of opticals of different sorts.
There is one section of the film where Burton's head is large on the screen for at least
30 seconds as he delivers a 'captivating' night time open air soliloque. We
created a starlit night sky to fill the screen behind his head (via blue screen) while he
remained in extreme close up throughout the speech. When we came to put things
together we realized there were all manner of 'sparkling' things happening in and around his
hair (which was being blown by a breeze). There was nothing for it but to
produce animated mattes of Burton's
head (and mobile hair) for each and every frame of the action!!!
So for a number of days Bryan Evans and myself were incarcerated in the blacked
out optical room, taking it in turns, as frame by frame we accurately drew the
outline of Burton's head to of course include each strand of moving hair. Every
outline image, drawn on 2ft square acetate, was then painstakingly filled in
with black emulsion paint and put flat to dry. If the sequence
was in fact only 30 seconds long, at 24 frames a second we would have been
trying to find flat areas in the department for something like 700 to 800
separate cells to dry !!
|Gerald busy with non matte related film work.|
I certainly remember the whole department day after day festooned with drying
cells - and I retain a suspicion that the sequence was in fact more than 30
seconds long !!
After a number of tests, finally the black mattes did the trick. But it was a
never to be forgotten episode in the department”.
|A far better film than it's title might suggest, DIE MONSTER, DIE (1965) was a gripping little H.P Lovecraft tale (not nearly enough of his books were accorded screen adaptation). Nice matte shots, though the above shots were a bit of a mystery to staff matte artist Gerald Larn when I asked him as to who painted them as he couldn't recall the paintings, aside from two shots shown below. It's possible that maybe Peter Melrose or Doug Ferris may have worked on them. Oddly, the film's credits list both Veevers and departmental electrician Ernie Sullivan with a joint 'special effects' credit.|
|Two Gerald Larn shots from DIE MONSTER, DIE - with painted additions and precise fire elements doubled in.|
|LORD JIM miniatures|
During the decade, Peter Melrose would make semi-regular
guest appearances in the effects department, with large scale 70mm shows such
as Richard Brooks’ LORD JIM and occasionally as an independent fx contractor
who would lease the space and facilities to produce mattes for his own projects
such as DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) and others.
Peter would detail his background to interviewer Al Taylor in 1988 for the splendid Hammer Films fan journal ‘Little
Shoppe of Horrors’: "I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an artist, and, eventually, against strong opposition from my parents who were against the idea of art as a career, I took the entrance examination and went to Art College. At that time I had absolutely no idea of a career in films - in fact I was aiming very much towards a career in advertising. But as luck would have it, towards the end of my art course my work was noticed at an exhibition by a man who worked in films, and he offered me a job. He ran what was really a small SPFX department producing main titles for films, which was part of the J.Arthur Rank organisation. In those days, a main title was nearly always a special effect. The title appeared 'out of the sea', 'blew away in the desert sands' or 'spun out of the sky'
- or something like that. So in a way, I learned the rudiments of producing visual effects and about cine cameras because it was one of my jobs to load and unload the cameras".
|Melrose sky from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1972)|
Peter would spend around two years in the titles department before venturing forth into the scenic art and eventually the special photographic effects department alongside such up and coming luminaries as Albert Whitlock and Cliff
"I felt a need to broaden my artistic horizons and transferred to the scenic artists department. It was here that I met Albert Whitlock, the well known matte artist now working for Universal. It was quite common in those days for an artist to paint both scenic backgrounds foreground glasses and matte shots, and I remember on many occasions assisting Al to paint foreground glasses - sometimes three or four deep - one in behind the other, building up the various planes of the picture. It seems now that in those days every film had far more of that sort of work in it than in more recent years. However, after about eight years working at Pinewood under contract to Rank, I decided to go and work freelance"
|Peter Melrose's first matte for Shepperton: LORD JIM|
In that extensive interview Melrose also described how he came to be in Shepperton’s matte
unit: “I met with Wally Veevers while working on a film at Shepperton Studios
[…] George Samuels and Albert Julion, two superb painters, had recently
died. Wally asked me to come and paint
the mattes for a film called LORD JIM (1965), and I accepted with some trepidation
since the film, being shot in 65mm Ultra Panavision, called for some very
exacting work. The first matte I had to
paint for LORD JIM was, in fact, the
opening shot. It depicted a coast guard
tower in the Hong Kong harbour, but it wasn’t quite as
straightforward as that since a lot of
work on the background to eliminate modern looking buildings was required
also. When it was shown at rushes (or
dailies as you say), Freddie Young, the lighting cameraman on the film, was
heard to say ‘I don’t remember shooting that building’. Wally was delighted that even the DOP hadn’t recognized
the shot as a painting, and so, of course, I was in!”.
The studio only had the use of the one 65mm camera for the film, and as it was in use daily, the visual effects unit could only access it at night to shoot Melrose's mattes. The camera would often be soaking wet as a result of an extensive miniature tank storm sequence, with camera assistant John Grant having to spend significant time drying out the huge camera and freeing up the water stiffened lens movement. According to Grant, steadiness was always an issue when shooting on 65mm film stock, and on later assignments, just getting the rushes processed would prove to be a headache due to decommissioning of 65mm processing facilities at Technicolor, UK.
|FEARLESS VAMPIRE - matte|
Melrose truly made his mark in the unit with his jaw-droppingly complex opening pullback for Roman Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE
KILLERS (1967) which is also known as DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES. That gigantic pull out shot begins on an
extreme close up of the moon and pulls back to reveal snow capped mountains and
valleys, finally settling on a horse drawn sleigh hurtling through a snow
covered road. A magnificent visual effect
which is not only spectacular, but possesses a remarkably pristine, almost
first generation look – quite an achievement for the time this film was
made. Truly sensational, and possibly
the best single matte effect produced by the studio.
|Peter Melrose's magnificent opening matte jigsaw from FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS aka DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES - a high water mark for the department, for which a pat on the back is long overdue. The cell animated bat is used well to hide the transition from one painted glass to another. Doug Ferris would work on the blending issues - a special area of expertise he had - in bringing the shot together as a very successful whole. ILM, eat your heart out!|
|More Peter Melrose shots from FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1966) - with beautifully clean looking composites - so rare in Hollywood at the time but coming up first rate here. In the lower left frame the horses all vanish as they trot behind Melrose's painted tree and never come out the other side!!|
Peter Melrose detailed this amazing effect for interviewer
Al Taylor: “I suppose the matte paintings I have enjoyed doing most of all, and
would also include the most challenging, were for Roman Polanski’s DANCE OF THE
VAMPIRES. For the opening shot, Roman wanted the longest zoom ever
attempted. A fairly complicated shot to
achieve. I started by shooting close up
on a 6 foot diameter model of the moon, revolving slowly, and tracked back and
zoomed back, simultaneously stop framing for a smooth shot. I then repeated the process with a 1 foot
diameter model of the moon and combined the two shots so as to appear as one
very long zoom back from the moon.
To obtain the effect
of coming over the mountain tops, I painted a series of glasses – each depicting
a perspective plane, ie: distant mountains, near mountains, trees and snowy
landscape – with each glass behind the other.
Running the film through the camera in reverse, I tracked up to the
first glass, then removed it, in order to track up to the next one, and so on
with all the painted glasses. With the
film running normally, this gave the effect of coming back over the mountains
and through the tree tops. This, all
combined with a painted matte to marry in the original plate of the horse and
sleigh, produced what must be the longest zoom shot in the world”.
According to Doug Ferris, Polanski had originally shot some second unit material in the 'flat' 1.66:1 ratio but then decided to change to 'scope' 2.35:1, thus requiring mattes to expand some existing shots on either sides of the frame.
|Slim Pickens straddles 'The Bomb' at the conclusion of Kubrick's masterpiece DR STRANGELOVE: OR HOW I STOPPED WORRYING AND LEARNED TO LOVE THE BOMB. Alan Maley painted the enormous Soviet ground zero with Veevers camera team producing a fluid 'freefall' camera move into the painting. Pickens was suspended in front of a blue screen and the travelling matte was supervised by Vic Margutti, to great effect. Other shots in the film included the airfield with bomber on runway at night, as painted by Doug Ferris.|
I asked Gerald about this old photo I'd discovered: "Yes, you are correct
about the paint studio photo. The two individuals are Bryan Evans (foreground)
and Peter Melrose. I happen to remember the shot being set up. It was
completely phoney. I seem to recall it being arranged by Wally - I never knew
for sure - but I think for someone in the production team on DRACULA HAS RISEN
FROM THE DEAD “At the time, both of the paintings featured
in the photo were in fact in the process of being executed by Peter. My old
friend Bryan was drafted in to appear to be tackling the glass in front of him.
Bryan's easel and personal painting position in
the studio was established far to the left, and was the last in our row of four
easels side by side. I worked on his right at the easel next to him. Then there
was a gap of perhaps 6 feet or so before the position of the third easel (which
for the most part remained unoccupied throughout all my years at Shepperton.)
However, when Doug Ferris had some work to do on a glass, he would use that
third easel. Doug had made a speciality of working on split screen shots,
awkward matte joins and other subtle technical issues. In fact he only worked
intermittently in the painting studio. He was more usually found in the optical
room working with Peter Harman or John Grant. The fourth and final easel
(occupied by Bryan in the photo) was also hardly ever in use.
It seems well recorded that Peter Melrose was a freelance scenic artist.
Throughout Wally Veevers' regime (and even later under Ted Samuels) Peter
was only very occasionally engaged to produce matte paintings and he would be
found working at that fourth matte painting position on only a very few
occasions during my eleven years of studio occupancy”.
The particular Hammer film mentioned above was DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and featured a number of expansive matte shots by Peter Melrose, as he detailed in 1993: "At
the time I painted the mattes for Dracula, I was freelancing again, but
in the happy position of being able to take the work into the Special
Effects at Shepperton Studios and hire the facilities; this worked well
for both of us. The budget and time schedule was extremely tight,
maintained by the eagle-eyed surveillance of Mrs. Aida Young. Under the
circumstances, I found her criticisms less then helpful. She kept
describing the castles I painted as Gibbs castles - a Gibbs castle being
the well-known trade mark of the toothpaste manufacturer"!
|Expansive mattes by Peter Melrose which add considerably more scope to this Hammer production above most others.|
Peter Melrose: "Notwithstanding
this, the shots were rushed through without problems, the most
difficult shot being the one where a set of the castle was shot with a
9.8mm lens making all the lines of the architecture curved and difficult
to follow through into the painting. The matte castle paintings were
all done on glass; it’s the most rigid material you can use. When
photographing the painting what we did in order to get the matte or mask
was to light the painting in silhouette against a tight background and
with that we actually get a mask to put in our optical printer. When
it comes to research and reference material, which is very important, I
had to do my homework. The production designer, Bernard Robinson, was a
very talented designer for many of the Hammer Films, so to match the
high quality of his sets I needed to put in the same kind of research.
He loaned me his reference materials so I could get the architecture of
my matte paintings as correct as his sets, that nice Gothic style".
|AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS (1964)|
of the matte paintings for Dracula were extremely ambiguous because the
paintings in a number of them practically filled the screen. Several
shots of the castle, there's hardly any real building in the shot, it's
nearly all painting. There was also one or two full-frame paintings
where the frame is filled with a complete painting not a matte shot at
|Gerald Larn's moonscape from the first of the two DR WHO pictures.|
|THE GIFT HORSE - George Samuels|
Artist Peter Melrose described his preferred process for matte
production: “We always paint on glass, because not only is it the most rigid
material one can get, but also is used to create the mask for the matte. We photograph the painting in sillouette
against a light background. This
produces a light image in the clear parts of the matte image and a dark image
where the matte will eventually be seen on the final film.
I always do my matte paintings with artists’
oil colours. This is the only medium, in
my opinion, which gives you the depth of colour that is required for any type
of scene. I find that acrylic paint
tends to have a lack of ‘depth’. It can
be used sometimes, but it just depends on the subject”
|The fatally over indulgent Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE (1967) had five different directors - and it showed - amid a huge cast of 'A' listers. Confusing as to the provenance of the matte shots as film's credits list Les Bowie under 'Special Matte Work' - yet both Doug Ferris and John Grant - as well as Bob Cuff - list it on their filmographies. Who knows?|
|Gerald Larn completing Peter Melrose's MOLL FLANDERS|
Compared with some studio behind the scenes photos I’ve seen
from that period, (Elstree for example) the glasses used at Shepperton appeared to be unusually large
– no doubt a hangover from the Poppa Day era where he tended to paint double
the standard size needed for matte shots (according to Peter Ellenshaw). Gerald’s view was thus: “As for
the size of the painting, most CinemaScope mattes at Shepperton were produced
on glass that was 6 ft x 3 ft. It was a
size that had been established by Wally Veevers even before I had arrived in
the department. It was certainly ideal
for matte paintings that were to include both model shots and other opticals as
well as live action, and this was of course the situation confronting us with
the Tower of London shot from ANNE OF 1000 DAYS”.
|The utterly delightful Peter Sellers-Virginia McKenna comedy THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH (1957) featured not only some nice Bob Cuff matte paintings of the fictional 'Grand Cinema' in good times and bad times, but also saw Cuff actually receive name screen credit under Wally Veevers - a very rare situation for a mere matte painter!!|
Doug Ferris has been widely acknowledged by effects
cinematographers such as John Grant and Martin Body for the development of the
‘soft matting technique’, which longtime associate and friend John Grant
described to Domingo Lizcano as thus: “Doug must be credited with the introduction
of the ‘soft matting technique’, because in the early days, the painting was
used as it’s own matte, and this made it very hard for the camera crew
as they had to wait for the artist to finish painting before they could start the
photographic work. The introduction of
the independent soft mattes made it possible to carry out much of the
photographic work before the painting had to be photographed. It also made joining the original scene and
painting easier as one did not have to contend with hard join lines, and it
also helped with any camera unsteadiness.
This was a great step forward and I don’t think Doug was truly given the
credit for it”.
|Bob Cuff mattes from HEAVEN'S ABOVE (1962)|
Gerald Larn concurred:
“I have found a soft matte to be a
great advantage in some situations when dealing with architectural subjects.
When the matte line is able to follow clearly defined horizontal or vertical
architectural features that are evenly lit it's a different matter of course and it is certainly difficult to visualise
the nature and extent of the location, the painted backing, or the built set
that existed behind the live action. Working with a soft join requires a great
deal of sensitivity on the part of the painter. If the subtle painted
graduations in the region of the matte line are not carefully controlled there
is always the possibility of double exposure”..
The frames shown at right are from HEAVENS ABOVE, and are painted by Bob Cuff. Doug Ferris had one of his earlier assignments here creating a series of 'waves' breaking at the blend of painting and live action plate.
|A Doug Ferris matte from THE FOUR FEATHERS - which is most likely to be the 1978 version.|
Wally Veevers left Shepperton in 1967, principally to work
again for Stanley Kubrick, with whom he had formed a good relationship with on
DR STRANGELOVE some years earlier. This
time though the project was mammoth – arguably one of the biggest photographic
effects showcases to that time – Arthur C.Clarke’s near unfilmable 2001-A SPACE
ODYSSEY, upon which Veevers would be overall photographic effects supervisor,
though would eventually be in command of all model building and photography.
As the project grew in scale and technical
requirements other effects supervisors would be appointed to specific areas of
responsibility. Tom Howard from
MGM-Elstree would design and oversee the incredibly photo real reflex front
projection sequences. Douglas Trumbull,
a virtually unknown American fx artist would come on board to conceive and
build the now revolutionary slit scan flat art animation stand for the all
important star travel set piece, while Trumbull’s Canadian partner, Con
Pederson would assume various optical camera set ups.
With Veevers now gone, the old Shepperton unit pretty much
carried on as per usual, with physical effects man, Ted Samuels now in charge
of all effects assignments. Although I can't confirm KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA (1969) as being an actual Shepperton effects job, I can confirm that both Bob Cuff and John Mackie - former Veevers fx men - did work on the effects sequences.
Roman Polanski would return to Shepperton to film his rather good version of MACBETH (1971) - a film which would necessitate several low key mattes and opticals. Larn recalled the assignment: "My work on MACBETH was interesting. Roman asked me to design MacDuff's castle for an exterior shot that was only going to appear just once in the film - and even then the building was only going to be seen at some distance. I had to produce a number of drawings, but all were rejected as not having the characteristics Roman had in mind. He finally accepted an offering looking more like a fortified manor house than a castle".
"In the film, the castle occupies a very small area of the frame and is perched on a very distant hill. There were a further couple of gloomy night time close up paintings of MacBeth's castle that I carried out".
Doug Ferris also painted on this film, and he told Dennis Lowe of the novel technique he employed for one or two shots: "For the shots of the castle in the mist, I painted directly onto the 'printing glass', making it possible for just one run through the matte camera".
Matte cameraman John Grant concurred: "It makes it so much easier for me".
|Gerald Larn matte painted shots from MACBETH (1971)|
|Ferris animation: MACBETH|
Wally would continue on after the Kubrick film (even though
he and the other three fx supervisors were ‘robbed’ of what should have been a
thoroughly deserved Oscar by Kubrick himself!) with his own effects company, specializing
primarily in optical work. Eventually moving into the old Hammer Studio base,
Bray and setting up shop in the early seventies. Old Shepperton personalities would soon join
Veevers at Bray, including matte painter Doug Ferris and effects
cinematographer Peter Harman.
|THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)|
The old Shepperton department was still operating, though by
now, on a skeleton staff – basically consisting of John Grant, Peter Harman, Gerald
Larn and Ted Samuels as described by Gerald:
“During the last four or five
years when work was thin on the ground (around 1970) and Bryan's contribution
as a permanent member of staff was no longer required, I became virtually the
only person working in the studio. This of course was even more acutely the
case when Doug later departed to join Wally's new set up in the period prior to
the closing down of all film production at Shepperton”.
Before moving on, Ferris would work on a number of patch up opticals on films such as CROMWELL (1970) whereby it wasn't the matting 'in' of scenery this time, rather the painting out
of unwanted high tension power pylons which dotted the landscape in a couple of shots.
|Gerald Larn's epic matte from THE LAST VALLEY (1970) plus an early test frame from the original 'red record' negative.|
Unusually, a few
projects bounced back from Veevers to Larn and Grant to complete, such as the
fine Michael Caine-Omar Shariff picture THE LAST VALLEY (1970): "It must have been '70 or perhaps '71 when Wally left to us to work
as a freelance. From that point onward the department was headed
by Ted Samuels. Old stalwarts such as Bill Jarrat, Ernie Sullivan,
Les Giles (electrician) Tommy Gibbon and one or two others all
remained on the payroll until the bitter end. In the
painting/optical area of the department, Doug, John, Peter Harman
and myself all continued working under Ted Samuels - some more
reluctantly than others it must be admitted - but I'm sure less
said about that the better !!"
"We all saw very little of Wally throughout that final four or five
years and it was only in the dying last months of the Studio's
life that John, Peter and Doug finally jumped ship to join him in
his new set-up. As for THE LAST VALLEY, I do remember the painting very well. Wally Veevers had already left
the Studios and had been working in a freelance capacity for some while when he
unexpectedly turned up and presented me with some night time model footage,
produced elsewhere, which already had a lot of fire effects 'burnt on'. I had
to paint a large area of foreground and also extend areas of the city walls
both left and right".
"I remember adding bits and
pieces of castle wall to a couple of additional shots on THE LAST VALLEY. I have managed to find a frame of test footage of one of the
paintings and I include it here. Mention of the film reminds me of the fact
that a few days after the main painting had been completed and filmed in our
optical room, Wally asked me to bring the glass back into the studio and paint
a battle scene taking place on the bridge across the moat leading to the main
gate of the castle. He cannily refused to answer any of my questions as to why
he wanted such a thing to be done. Needless to say, l dutifully complied. Then
as now, I can only surmise he may have hoped to offer some of the images to the
publicity department as poster material for the production”.
|Gerald and ALEXANDER THE GREAT painting|
|The deceptively simple looking main titles..... read on!|
The excellent 1971 Franklin Schaffner historical epic
NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA presented an interesting set of circumstances to the
matte department – and all for the sake of one straight forward glass shot and
a troublesome main title sequence, with most amusing payoff, as Gerald
explains: “I'm delighted to rediscover the one matte shot that was painted for
that production. A civic building somewhere in Spain (I think in Madrid) was employed on location to double as the
Russian royal residence. The matte wasn't a large scale assignment. I simply
had to paint sections of the roof with snow in evidence and also light some of
the upper story windows of the building. Additional snow was also needed on
some other architectural features as I recall. It was a fairly straightforward
day for night location shot which needed to be balanced to suggest late
"However, in addition to the one matte
painting, I was kept pretty busy solely working with matte cameraman Peter
Harman on that production. The opening title sequence involved a lengthy
single frame tracking shot with the camera mounted on a dolly. Each movement of
the camera had to be carefully measured and recorded. It was a laborious
business. We had to make several attempts before we had sufficient acceptable
footage available to burn on my "hand done" typographic titles. The
opening title sequence was considered to be especially important in that film
because initially nothing more than tracking in on a flickering candle flame
was to be the introduction to some crucial live action (via our 24 frame slow
dissolve as I recall.)
Bryan Evans thankfully helped me out with all the
typography for the making of the end rolling credits. This film was particularly
memorable for me because it was always a pleasant experience to liaise with
Production Designer John Box. I had worked with him on two previous occasions (DR
ZHIVAGO and SCROOGE.) and I retain a great deal of respect for his work".
|Matte painter Bryan Evans|
"The final episode in my NICHOLAS and ALEXANDRA story had all the elements of an
event more likely taking place in '40's Hollywood.!! When all my work on
the title sequence had been finally put together (also with the dissolve into
the opening piece of action) the footage was sent off to Columbia Pictures. A few days later we (Ted Samuels,
Peter Harman and myself) unexpectedly found ourselves being transported by
chauffeur driven limo to some unknown destination in central London. We were finally deposited in front of the
Haymarket Theatre. When we entered the darkened and seemingly
empty huge space, to our surprise, we found ourselves being introduced to none
other than the legendary American Producer of the film Mr Sam Spiegel. With fat cigar firmly clamped between his teeth
we sat with him as our silent footage (no soundtrack at this stage) was
projected on to the gigantic CinemaScope screen. Following the one showing of the sequence, and
after a short silence. a grunt issued from behind the cigar - which I took to
mean all was satisfactory - so we were then ushered out into the waiting limo
to be transported back to the Studio!"
had been an unprecedented event because the long established normal procedure
was for Directors, Producers (or whoever) to join us to see completed work in
one of our small theatres at Shepperton where we habitually viewed our daily
|Very Hogarth-esque and effectively so...|
|ASYLUM mood drawings by Gerald Larn|
|An original 'yellow record' frame matte: DIE MONSTER, DIE|
With the quantity of matte work becoming
less and less in demand, the technicians in the effects department would find themselves
being assigned other, non matte related projects. The 1970 film ASYLUM was one of several of
the popular anthology pieces from Amicus, a successful rival of Hammer Films, which would come through the
studio. Gerald Larn was given the
assignment of producing some terrific mood setting original artwork, of a very Hogarth
styling, for the effective opening sequence with actor Robert Powell. Larn was also assigned a means of somehow producing 'murderous marionettes' for the show, and although various ideas were suggested, none of those were taken any further as Gerald remembers it.
|Classic Shepperton matte shots - from the unforgettable film THE COLDITZ STORY (1957)|
|Doug Ferris - CHARLEMAGNE|
Although Gerald can’t recall the particular
film on a separate occasion: “I also recall Doug Ferris
spending hours and hours in the camera room trying to animate the dissolving of
a polystyrene face by adding more and more (toxic) acetone to it…but I don’t
recall ever seeing the outcome at rushes”.
At one point Larn was even commissioned
to produce conceptual watercolour sketches of proposed matte shots for the Jim
Danforth film WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1970) from which Ted Samuels was
to use as speculative attempts to obtain work on that film. This didn’t come to pass, with the matte side
of things eventually going to Les Bowie and Ray Caple. (As a small but interesting aside - so happy was Danforth with Bowie’s mattes that
Les was asked to re-paint over some of Jim’s very own glass shots as he much
preferred what Les had done with the light in his renderings).
Another Amicus anthology show was TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which Doug Ferris painted this view to hell (!) and oversaw the compositing of the actor falling in.
|Two of the last matte shots painted by Gerald and assembled by Peter Harman at the now 'wound up' studio.|
the best of Gerald’s memory, the last effects project the special effects
department was to work on was the ironically titled Robert Fuest science
fiction thriller THE FINAL PROGRAM (1975). “In 1975, the very last
burst of optical effects activity at our studio involved work on THE
FINAL PROGRAM. Even at the time we were all well aware of the prophetic nature
of the film's title! Rumours concerning the break up of British Lion
Films and the Studio's immanent demise had been circulating for some while. The
film clip you have sent is a split screen that I set up and put together with
our cameraman Peter Harman (I think Doug had already left to rejoin Wally
Veevers by this time). Among other things, the project involved a location
shoot in Trafalgar Square
as I vividly recall. I also painted a couple of mattes for this low budget
film. One of which I remember was a near full frame night time establishing shot
of an 'futuristic' building exterior seen on the distant shore of a lake”.
Meanwhile, artist Doug Ferris and cameraman Peter Harman would continue on producing
mattes and a wide variety of other effects for many films with Wally
Veevers, with a new base at the former home of Hammer Films, Bray
Studios. Among the work they turned out while at Bray were a number of
superb mattes of castles and forts for the Richard Lester adventure THE
FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974).
What made this a particularly tough assignment
was the fact that the mattes had in fact already been done elsewhere, though
these failed to convince the director, so Ferris was enlisted,
literally at the eleventh hour, to paint and composite four new mattes
under a rushed three week deadline.... with excellent results that fool even the most observant viewer, as is evident in the frames shown here.
|An extremely rare test frame of an ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS matte extension|
Among the many other shows that Doug and Peter worked on together for Wally was the surprise hit musical THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) upon which Ferris would provide opticals and the exterior of the manor house which blasts off into space., shots that were made all the more difficult as Veevers wasn't there, as he was in Morocco and the French Pyrenees shooting plates for THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. According to Doug: "We just had to invent things on the spot".
The effect was made with a small painting of the house on glass, and animated frame by frame upward, while a mass of smoke was doubled in to conceal the cheapness of the trick. FX cameraman Peter Harman was less enthralled, describing the film as: " a load of bloody rubbish".
Little did they know of the cult following to come.
In 1973 Universal financed a rather good (as I recall it through the mists of time) rendition of the Percy Shelley fable, FRANKENSTEIN - THE TRUE STORY whereupon a number of matte paintings would be needed to flesh out the narrative. Peter Melrose was given the task of painting these shots and the results are impressive, with Melrose himself reportedly very pleased with the finished shots. As a freelancer, I'm assuming Melrose executed these mattes with lease of the Shepperton studio and camera equipment, as he had done on numerous occasions in the past.
|Stages of Doug's FOUR MUSKETEERS castle addition.|
1976, the Bray based Veevers operation would pack up their gear and move back
into a disused stage at Shepperton – just across from the historic ‘M’ special
effects stage of old. By this time however, the studio had suffered
through a bad recession (as did much of Britain)
and had gone what is termed ‘four wall’, where NO permanent staff are retained,
purely the facilities, stages, equipment and such – all for hire.
Prospective production units needing the studio’s facilities would rent space
‘as is’ and supply their own crews, technicians and such, as Gerald
explains: “In 1975, British Lion Films – the parent company of
Shepperton Studios Ltd, ceased to exist, and ALL members of staff were made
redundant. The studio became a ‘four waller’… that meant it offered to
filmmakers studio space only. All other facilities such as lighting,
camera, carpenters, sound, SpEfx etc had to be hired in by the production
company as required. My work in film production came to an end from
the moment of being made redundant. Nevertheless, since that time I
continued to be engaged in a wide range of creative activities. In 1993 a large and very successful retrospective
exhibition of my subsequent 'semi abstract' work was put together at the
Gagliardi Gallery in the Kings Road London. Since then I have again exhibited paintings in London on several occasions and this 'experimental' work
|An extremely rare original test frame of one of Doug Ferris's grandest matte shots - from the classic Michael Caine-Sean Connery adventure THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975). Note the edges of the raw camera footage still show part of Doug's easel - an area that will be cropped down somewhat in the final release print.|
the official Shepperton Special Effects Department had now ceased to operate,
the Veevers company (Vee Films) were leasing space and continuing on to a
great extent in a familiar tradition, and would do so for several years,
with a number of high profile projects coming their way, such as the John
Huston masterpiece THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975). It’s been
widely reported that the matte work in this show was problematic and failed to
live up to director Huston’s expectations, despite repeated attempts to render
one particular key narrative painting by several artists.
The story goes
that the frustrated director rejected every glass painted rendering of the Holy
City atop the mountain and eventually turned to US based British ex patriot Al
Whitlock to supply the said shot, which did meet his expectations. I read
that up to five UK artists supposedly painted versions of this shot – with all
being rejected – though I don’t know how true that is. What isn’t widely
known is that the film has several excellent matte shots, painted by Doug
Ferris and Peter Wood - a sometime scenic painter and noted maritime artist. Some of these shots come complete with snow falling and brilliant animation of huge ice 'bridges' collapsing and
so forth – really
impressive work, which is usually assumed (wrongly) to be
Whitlock’s work, as he received sole ‘matte artist’ credit (though it should be noted that Whitlock did do a few more shots which never made the final cut, so Bill Taylor tells me.... I'd love to see 'em!)
would oversee the visual effects on Richard Attenborough’s huge budgeted war
extravaganza A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977) with Doug Ferris and John Grant on matte
assignment to produce airstrips filled with planes and to add more in the skies
over Holland. Dennis Lowe
mentioned how impressed he was when he watched Doug work on some of these shots
in his studio: “It was a great moment when Doug showed me his glass
paintings he did on A BRIDGE TOO FAR - all those paintings stacked in line at
the other end of the workshop, he was a very impressive painter and very
|Airstrips filled with painted planes for A BRIDGE TOO FAR (1977) courtesy of Doug Ferris' paintbrush.|
number of projects would follow, loosely under the Shepperton banner until the
primary participants went their own way. Doug and John would achieve some outstanding results on the 1977 remake of THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER with astonishing split screen twinning effects shots whereby star Mark Lester not only meets his 'twin' but circles him flawlessly in some shots. In addition to the split screen gags, Ferris would supervise the problematic use of vast foreground hanging mattes for scenes set in Westminster Abbey.
Effects man Dennis Lowe worked on these shots too and recalled the problems - as mentioned earlier in this article. The foreground 'mattes 'were in fact huge photo cut outs of the present day interior, which Lowe and Ferris had to alter to remove all modern aspects and bring it back to the accurate historic time period, with the resulting effects being shot 'in camera' (in Hungary of all places) and retaining first generation quality, even with nodal head pans and tilts.
|One of a pair of original negative Ferris mattes from THE MESSAGE (aka MOHAMMED, MESSENGER OF GOD) |
Veevers, Harman and Ferris would
all work on the first SUPERMAN picture (1978) – with Wally in charge of flying
rigs, Doug concentrating on roto wire removal work and Peter as matte cameraman
for Les Bowie. Fellow Shepperton artist Gerald Larn caught up with Ferris
briefly during this period:
recall an occasion some time (likely to have been in the late 80's) when
I paid a visit to Roy Field at Pinewood. I was then functioning as Head of Leicester
Polytechnic's Audio Visual Graphics Department and was exploring Summer work
placement possibilities for those of my third year degree students eager for
any experience whatever of feature film production. I encountered both Doug
Ferris and Peter Harman who were working there at the time. On that occasion
Doug was busily employed in painting out frame after frame of suspension wires
that were a major feature on the current SUPERMAN epic”.
Oddly, Doug was screen credited as 'matte artist' on SUPERMAN, though, as he told Dennis Lowe, he didn't actually paint any, but moreover was seconded to do tedious wire removal roto work and some optical work.
Veevers would pass away suddenly in 1982, at the relatively young age of just
65. It was midway through the misguided jumble of a monster flick THE
KEEP that the world lost one the great effects men. Wally, being Wally,
apparently never wrote down his effects schedule nor plans on that shoot.
|Doug's magnificent SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET painting, still in storage.|
His sudden death was naturally a cause for panic as I’m told, nobody on the fx
crew had any idea what Wally had in mind to complete the shoot! Frantic
meetings eventually brought in Bond series optical effects cameraman Robin Browne
to try to bring the project back to life, although, having seen the show a
couple of times I can’t see what the problem was as the fx work was pretty
minimal – a few Doug Ferris mattes – one big matte pullout – and a few sundry
monster glowing eyes opticals….. none of which looked terribly impressive.... nor, for that matter was the film!
|Doug Ferris (left) and John Grant (right)|
Although, Doug and John would go on to amass an impressive
list of credits working elsewhere – and enough to warrant a review of later
Ferris/Grant effects work as a stand alone blog (and I have a lot of material),
I’ll end here with just a few mattes, most of which have no link to Shepperton, followed by an album of selected old time Shepperton matte shots.
|Ferris matte shot from John Boorman's masterful epic EXCALIBUR (1980)|
In a very recent September 2011 documentary interview by Dennis Lowe, both Doug and John were full of reminiscinces of not only their beginnings in the business, but also the substantial work undertaken independantly right up into the nineties.
|The stages of a matte shot - a Doug Ferris composited from SANTA CLAUS - THE MOVIE (1984)|
|One of several, mostly invisible mattes that Doug painted for the exquisite French film THE LOVER (1992)|
|Revealing before and after frames from Terry Gilliam's hopeless ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1990)|
|Ferris posing with one of his beautiful mattes from the abysmal ERIK THE VIKING (1989)|
A SCRAPBOOK OF SOME MEMORABLE MATTE EFFECTS FROM SHEPPERTON STUDIOS
|Kubrick's timeless masterpiece DR STRANGELOVE featured much effects work, with shots such as this being miniatures in front of a process screen, often with additional smoke trails burnt in.|
|Three very effective mattes from the science fiction drama SATELLITE IN THE SKY (1957)|
|Matte from the 1970 film of the Checkov play, THE THREE SISTERS|
|An interesting pair of matte shots - from different scenes in the same film - where evidentally the same plate of the roadway has been used in two different matte shots - one of Hong Kong and the other of Bombay.|
|The huge and seemingly 'out of control' crazy as hell CASINO ROYALE (1967)|
|CAPTAIN'S PARADISE (1953) which would again use the tried and tested Wally Veevers method of matting miniature ships into actual ocean footage, thus eliminating scale issues with 'miniaturised' water.|
|Three terrific Doug Ferris matte shots from THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975)|
|Two mattes from the 1968 film HOW TO STEAL THE WORLD|
|More HMS Naval effects shots from the Veevers unit, this time from THE VALIANT (1962)|
|Combination paintings and miniature shots from THEY WHO DARED (1954)|
|Quite possibly my all time favourite film - the utterly electrifying Cold War thriller THE BEDFORD INCIDENT (1964). A bona fide masterpiece of uneasy, perspiration inducing tension bar none. Along with a brilliant Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier and Martin Balsam we have lots of tank miniatures and eerily effective travelling matte use at the end!|
|A pair of early Percy Day technicolor mattes from BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE (1948)|
|Two matte painted shots from DAMN THE DEFIANT (1962)|
|Some of the many trick shots in DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) with paintings by George Samuels and Bob Cuff, and animation effects by Doug Ferris. Effects cameraman John Mackie, miniatures by Bill Jarrat.|
|More mattes and effects from DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.|
|A Gerald Larn matte from DR WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965)|
|One of the miniature factories from HEAVENS ABOVE (1962)... note the billboard!!|
|Miniature lift off from SATELLITE IN THE SKY |
|Although I'm not entirely sure, I seem to recall reading somewhere that the time travel effects sequence from the 1979 THE FINAL COUNTDOWN was filmed and composited at Shepperton as a miniature under the supervision of renowned 007 title maestro Maurice Binder.|
|MAN WHO WOULD BE KING matted set extension by Peter Wood.|
|Some of the Cuff and Samuels mattes from Oscar winning THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)|
|HEAVENS ABOVE atmospheric Bob Cuff skies and lightning animation.|
|Two Bob Cuff mattes as seen in the brilliant I'M ALRIGHT JACK (1959) with the right frame depicting all of British industry on strike and at a standstill. An absolute classic.|
|Harryhausen's MYSTERIOUS ISLAND - possibly not a Shepperton job as various accounts differ??|
|Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's ROAD TO HONG KONG (1962) recycled two original Percy Day paintings safely stored since BLACK NARCISSUS for newly composited scenes.|
|Excellent effects cinematography as seen in THE SILENT ENEMY where miniature battleships have been matted into actual sea footage, with explosion optically doubled in to terrific scale and final effect. What really sells this shot is Veevers has had the model ships rock dramatically as the blast goes off. All in all, outstanding effects work|
|More fx from THE SILENT ENEMY with beautifully split screened in explosion element over either a painted or model ship matted onto real ocean. The kicker is the wonderfully meticulous optical of the flash as reflected on the separate ocean plate.... great stuff.|
|Same film - good example of miniature pyrotechnics.|
|Same film again - miniature on wires, split screened into real sea, with explosion element added.|
|Carol Reed's moody film noir classic THE THIRD MAN had this Pop Day matte shot in the sewer chase.|
|The opening prison exterior from TWO WAY STRETCH (1960)|
|The 1955 feature A KID AND TWO FARTHINGS|
|Seemless composite shot from WAR OF THE SATELLITES (1957)|
|The big effects Oscar winner of 1961, THE LONGEST DAY, had a large multi-national effects team, with the Veevers team handling the matte paintings of the Allied Invasion. matte painter was Bob Cuff.|
Sir, Another overwhelming and informative post! Thank you for all your hard work: this is great!ReplyDelete
absolutely outstanding, I nearly cried when i saw the tibet matte painting, that was the one that got me into mattepainting, thank youReplyDelete
Simply wonderful! I am just in AWE.ReplyDelete
Michal G. Nashville TN
Would you know what part of the Hampton Court image from Anne of a Thosand Days is painted ?ReplyDelete
Thanks for the very positive response guys! I'm constantly 'told off' by my two "facebook generation" sons for these excessively long and "boring" blogs - with a blog according to them "best at 30 words and one picture"!!!! Could you imagine trying to tell these 'stories' in such a fashion??ReplyDelete
Mind you, I nearly gave up on this as the blogger system once again lost half my work in a failed save (which happens occasionally) and I had to type 40% of it up all over again from scratch!!!
Yep, That Tibet matte is an absolute stunner - and I was so thrilled to obtain an original camera take (in mega high rez) which shows up so much magnificent painting skill by Doug. A phenomenal painting from a great film.
When I received a batch of matteshot goodies and saw that title among them I secretly hoped it would contain the mystery mountaintop city painting which Huston rejected.... but sadly not.
On the ANNE matte - I've asked for more info on that one as I don't recall seeing it in the film. I'll add a post script here when or if I find out about that one.
hats off to you for all the work on this blog.ReplyDelete
meant to comment earlier, but this post just can't be ignored.
AS one who has been in the biz a bit, met a few of these names and agree that credit will never truly be given....and has fond memories of all these movies, often seen on matinee television !
Marvellous new entry, my friend. Your're getting better and better. I spend the whole last evening reading and dreaming. There are so many movies I had great memories about.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your work,
Hi Thomas and ScottReplyDelete
Thanks for that fella's - it's gratifying to know some folks still love this 'lost artform'.
I couldn't do this without the generous contributions of matte shots, photos, showreels and all sorts of gems which kind readers send to me.
Thomas.... I've not heard from you in a while, so this note is especially welcome my friend.
Peter, don't worry.ReplyDelete
Am alive and well, although I'm pretty busy writing steampunk novels and postapocalyptic love stories. No time for matte paintings, I'm afraid. But I'm constantly reading your blog ... and enjoying it. So please keep on!
Pete, can you find out if all the mountain scenes from Man Who Would be King with the actors matted in were paintings or were some live plates. Thanks.ReplyDelete
I asked Gerald Larn about that unseen ANNE shot and he recalls it as being a Doug Ferris fix up, which for some reason or other didn't work out and was dropped from the film.
As for the Kipling epic, to the best of my knowledge some material was shot in the French Pyranees, with plates overseen by Wally Veevers and probably Peter Harman. A number of mattes were painted, mostly by Doug Ferris (one of which I included which I don't recall seeing in the film) - I think around 6-8 or so mattes for the snow sequences - all of which look sensational, and for which, credit is long overdue. I'd be very keen to see the lost Whitlock shots which never made the final cut for editorial reasons.
Just a correction to a name mix up (in an effort to be as thorough as possible).. the following paragraph should read as 'John Mackie' and not John Grant:
Gerald Larn mentioned to me: “Bob Cuff and John Grant were widely acknowledged to be a great double act and it was for that reason in 1964 they decided to leave Shepperton and join forces to form their own FX company”....
What a great history and some amazing material. As a student of Gerald's at Leicester we never really got to know any of his previous work. His previous job as a matte painter was known but it's so great to finally see his work acknowledged. Thanks again for this great post.ReplyDelete
Yet another great post! So much fantastic work I haven't seen before.I have to make up a list of films to track down.
"Colditz Story" -Now there's a great film with superb matte work. A friend has a nice 16mm print of this one, and I've enjoyed seeing it a couple times, though a couple of the mattes went by undetected.
Thanks again for your contagious enthusiasm!
Hi there MarkReplyDelete
I'm always honoured by your 'chime ins' and positive feedback my friend. It's quite a thrill to have a 'real/reel' matte professional look at this fanboy stuff and enjoy it.
Hell to to Steven,
I passed your comments on to Gerald Larn, which I'm sure will delight the man no end. From my 'interglobal' contacts I've had with Gerry, I'm positive he'd have made one heck of a great teacher.
Best to both
Thank you for your extensive research into this work! Gerald Larn was my grandfather, who passed away very recently along with his wife Mary Larn. We are holding a joint funeral for them this coming Monday 1st March, and there will be a video link if anyone would like to watch it. Please do share this with anyone who might be interested.
I'm saddened to learn of Gerald's passing. I had many, many communications with him over the years and learned so much valuable info about his career and the work carried out at Shepperton. He was a very generous and helpful man, and never failed to answer all of my many questions, usually with a remarkable memory!
All the best
Hi my partner is the daughter of Doug Ferris who is featured in this article and is still (just!) alive, celebrating his 92nd birthday this weekend. There are many beautiful paintings in the house his wife lives in, needing a home that really appreciate them. Contact me on 07860645604 if interestedReplyDelete
Thanks for that update on Doug, It's great to learn he's still around and in his 92nd year no less!Delete
I'm so glad you found this article, though Doug get's mentioned often in many of my blog posts. Please pass on my best from the other end of the world (New Zealand)