Friday 6 September 2013

Was That A Matte Shot?

New mattes in NZPete's collection.  These will be much admired companion pieces to my old MGM Newcombe mattes.

 Pete’s editorial:

Well friends, it’s been a while since I put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard in fact – and explored the wonderful world of hand painted matte trickery with my numerous like minded pals around the world.  It’s been a pretty exciting month for a number of reasons since I last blogged here.  Firstly, who else besides me out there in television land is in a perpetual state of high anxiety over the final and most eagerly awaited 8 episodes of the excellent BREAKING BAD (now down to the last four episodes as of this writing) of what is arguably the best that American tv drama has to offer.  The tension has always been palpable with this show, right from day one, with barely a dull moment nor narrative blank (though the ‘fly’ episode and the commercial airliner crash plot point were pushing the "What the f*ck" boundaries somewhat!).  With the many wholly deserved Emmy’s under BREAKING BAD’s belt, I sure wish Dean Norris would collect one for his sterling work here which just gets better and better, as does Aaron Paul who is nothing less than phenomenal under Vince Gilligan's razor sharp creative oversight.   I know this has absolutely nothing to do with mattes or trick shots, but it’s damned near as exciting, if not moreso. 

Rocco Gioffre's stunning science fiction matte art for Joe Dante's 1996 miniseries THE OSIRIS CHRONICLES (aka The Warlord: Battle of the Galaxy)  The area of blank staircase nearest to foreground was where the live action plate would be dropped in, lending just enough movement to trick the eye into believing the whole thing was 'alive'... an old matte method.

Detail from above.
Now, It’s not just the aforementioned tele-drama which has made the month of August a damned exciting one, but a number of things in the world of matte painting have come to fruition.  You will recall some months ago that I ran an editorial on master matte painter Rocco Gioffre putting his personal collection of decades of matte art up for sale. Well folks, I’m delighted (some might say enthralled) to say that after much coercion of my good lady wife (who holds all the purse strings here, believe me) I am now the proud owner of not one but two Rocco Gioffre original matte paintings.

Real or painted???  It's all pure Gioffre brushwork.
It was a tough choice, and being familiar with so much of Rocco’s excellent work I really had to give it a lot of consideration.  I immediately felt drawn to a spectacular full painting Rocco did for the Joe Dante miniseries THE OSIRIS CHRONICLES in the late nineties – surely one of the last ever traditional mattes ever committed to Masonite.  The painting is a stunner, with a small unpainted section of stairway in the foreground where the live action people would be doubled in.  I’ve seen the clip of this scene and it’s amazing how convincing the numerous ‘fake’ painted people look once the live action plate is comped, giving us the viewer the illusion that through a little movement in the frame we easily accept the overall view as ‘real’.

Detail of Rocco's DR PEPPER Notre Dame matte painting which is so 1940's in flavour and sensibility, hence my reason for selecting this as my second in the pair of Gioffre original mattes.

In addition to the OSIRIS painting I also chose, after much consideration, a delightful and quite beautiful period matte painting of Paris’s famed Notre Dame Cathedral which Rocco painted for an award winning DR PEPPER commercial around 1983 while at Dream Quest.  I purposely selected this matte as it not only is a great demonstration of Gioffre’s talents, but is so heavily reminiscent of the fantastic old 1940’s style of ‘top up mattes’ that I write incessantly about here all the time and love so much.  

 It has a very strong old time MGM or Warner Bros. feel to it and could just have well been made for one of those glorious old 3-stripTechnicolor costume epics.  Both pieces will take pride and place on my living room wall once I figure out a means to either frame (maybe?) or attach via some sort of slide in bracket.
Very close detail from above.  As a fan of 'the blend' this is a great study piece.

As if that weren’t enough, as a bonus I acquired a pair of mattes painted on the reverse sides of each of those – one a dark, moody clouded sky which was painted as an element for the film ISHTAR and the other an incomplete street view with a mosque, painted by Mark Sullivan, also for that same film.  Both of these are also interesting in their own right.

 We are all familiar with Rocco’s work in shows like GREMLINS, ROBOCOP, BLADERUNNER, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION, CITY SLICKERS and so many more.   

Although those mattes are no longer available, a great many more still are, and Rocco tells me he’s keen to move them on to a good home(s).  These are among the last remnants of high quality matte art from a sadly bygone era. 
Normally this sort of thing, when they rarely crop up at auction at all, sell for sizable sums, whereas Rocco prefers to cut out the middle man and deal directly with the collector and for me, it was a smooth ride (aside from the damned Fedex airfreight all the way down here to Middle Earth...bloody hell!!!). 

Rocco may be contacted by email at:   Tell him NZPete sent you.
Upcoming NZPete blog subject - Mark Sullivan
I am very much hoping to publish an in depth Q&A with Rocco in the near future – a prospect that is indeed one to eagerly anticipate I’m sure.

Coincidentally, my next blog will be a fascinating, heavily illustrated and highly detailed conversation with Mark Sullivan who was quite surprised at my now owning his old unfinished matte art he himself hadn’t seen since 1986 on the reverse of my OSIRIS CHRONICLES matte!   We’ll be looking at Mark’s extensive career, all the way from his old student films through to Dream Quest, ILM and his many independent effects shows including the eccentric and utterly delightful MRS BURMA – surely one of the longest ‘in production’ projects in filmdom!  Mark has long been an avid supporter of this blog and loves the old time trick photography showcases - and he’s a heck of a nice guy too.  Don’t miss this one!!


The Paramount Studios miniatures stage in the 1930's with head of special effects, Gordon Jennings, at right.
Lastly, I am often in awe of the powers that this little blog has in connecting with descendants and family members of past Hollywood (and British) trick shot pioneers.  I’ve been quite privileged in having communications with a couple of family members of iconic special effects personalities just this past month.  Anyone who knows the Golden Era of trick work will be familiar with the names Gordon Jennings and Irmin Roberts.  Gordon was chief of special effects at Paramount from around 1930 until his untimely death around 1953. 

 Gordon’s grandson has been in touch with me and I am most keen to do a career profile on the man whose credits stretch back to include nearly all of the Cecil B.DeMille shows – excluding both TEN COMMANDMENTS the latter of which was to have been his assignment had it not been for his sudden death.  Gordon oversaw the effects on iconic shows such as the George Pal pictures, WAR OF THE WORLDS and others and himself was a multiple Academy Award winner. 
Following his death, Gordon's role at the studio would be assigned to Universal's versitile FX expert, John P. Fulton.

Paramount were pretty generous compared with other studios with screen crediting effects staffers, especially in the late 40's and early 50's.  Often as many as eight names would appear on films such as WAR OF THE WORLDS etc.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE really good composite.
Irmin Roberts was a key member of Jennings’ effects team at Paramount from the twenties through to the Fulton era of the early sixties and worked closely with matte painter Jan Domela as matte shot cinematographer.  I am delighted to be in contact with Irmin’s son and family and they have shared with me some wonderful images of the old Paramount effects department and matte camera set ups, for which I am truly grateful.  The photo below shows Irmin (second from right) at the effects camera on the location for what appears to be SPAWN OF THE NORTH with director Henry Hathaway - a film which was to win the fist ever Oscar for special effects and noteworthy for some eight effects members being cited, rather than the usual head of department.

Irmin was also an old timer in the business - with his brother Orin being chief of photographic effects at the studio for a time prior to Gordon Jennings' tenure.  Irmin, like many of his era, had a vast career spanning many decades from the old Lasky silent days with long time friend and collaborator Domela, right on through all the Paramount films onto other shows such as THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD and concluding with AIRPORT in 1970 with Linwood Dunn.  I hope to do a special Paramount retrospective by including both Jennings and Roberts stories as well as many more Domela shots I’ve not published here before as well as some anecdotes related to optical supervisor Paul Lerpae by way of his daughter who's still in touch with the Roberts' family!  Who ever said nothing ever happens on this blog....   So, watch this space!

Matte painter Jan Domela (left) and effects cinematographer Irmin Roberts (right) setting up what appears to be an original negative matte shot on the Paramount lot in the early 1930's.

Miniature shoot by Gordon Jennings for WAR OF THE WORLDS.
So, with my pre-amble out of the way, allow me to proceed with today’s blog, “Was That A Matte Shot?”  Today we’ll be looking at a great many examples of the invisible or less noticeable matte – the sort of shot which more often than not would slip by generally unnoticed as just another regular production shot.  I’ve got some great examples here – some of which even surprised me when I saw the shot breakdowns.  Many of these appeared in vintage films of the 1930’s and 40’s where matte alterations to sets were much more in demand both as a set extension and as a means of hiding the lights and studio equipment. So without further ado, let’s be transported once again to those magical days when photochemical processes and gut instinct of the skilled matte painter ruled.



Walter Percy 'Pop'  Day was a master draftsman and fine artist, as well as a true motion picture mannerist.  This clip from SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS (1938)  typifies the many (and I do mean many) unseen trick shots Day had mastered over his long career.  As the reader will note from this blog, the addition of a painted ceiling was perhaps the most common place matte effect used for decades - usually to conceal gantries, lights and electricians feet.

I always found Walter Pidgeon to be a 'dime store Indian' in the acting stakes, but this film wasn't at all bad.  MGM's 1939 picture 6000 ENEMIES had several out in the open mattes as well as these less noticeable, yet substantial Newcombe shots.
Peter Ellenshaw was indeed a master, and I never tire of finding new mattes courtesy of his brush.  This is interesting, from Disney's THE ADVENTURES OF BULLWHIP GRIFFIN (1967) where Peter has painted in a new foreground with snow and trees matted into the action.  I think the building is the real deal though I note the added shadow of the tree on the brickwork.

A broad establishing shot from the classic Lewis Milestone picture ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).  I'd bet my newly acquired Notre Dame matte that this is an in camera foreground gag with a miniature rooftop below and either a hanging miniature or glass painted block of buildings in the rear.  Universal's effects chief at the time was Frank J. Booth, who would also work on the glass shots for Lugosi DRACULA a year later and would eventually be replaced by John P.Fulton as the Universal Studios head of special effects.

Oscar Wilde's drawing room satire AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1948) utilised the services of both Percy Day and Peter Ellenshaw for it's many matte shots of Edwardian London.  As nice as some of the mattes were, I can barely recall a film where so many heads, riding crops and more would vanish through matte lines.  This shot here is a prime example where hansom cab driver's head disappears and reappears several times in a single shot as he rides across the set.

Matte World's Brian Flora painted this beautiful cathedral matte for Joe Dante's GREMLINS 2 - THE NEW BATCH (1990), the result of which is so smooth as to be invisible in the finished film.

Ken Marschall is a matte artist I'm very keen to interview at some stage.  I've had some email chats with Ken and he's a really interesting guy as well as a great matte painter.  This is one of his shots you'd never spot from the Diane Keaton comedy BABY BOOM (1987)  Ken told me that this entire scene is painted - buildings, trees, cars and interactive light -  except for the people by the door and a bit of the porch which were the only 'live' element.  Ken said he was particularly pleased with his painted translucent balloons.

A name unfamiliar to American audiences (and alot of British viewers too) would be the hugely talented Steve Mitchell.  Steve started as a backing painter, as did many, and moved into mattes in the nineties.  This flawless matte shot is one of Steve's from the big tv miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS. VFX cameraman Angus Bickerton sent me this and the following frame along with other amazing mattes by Steve and remarked:  "Only the hideout and the soldier are real.  We needed to widen the shot to show the edge of the woods so everything else is oil paint on hardboard by Steve.  Our in-house compositor Duncan Kinnaird added drifting snow and hand held motion".

Another invisible Steve Mitchell oil on hardboard matte shot from BAND OF BROTHERS.  Effects cameraman Angus Bickerton told me:  "In the case of the ambulance scene, I shot the actual ambulance on a sandbank with f/g snow with the entire background being a painting on hardboard (masonite to you Americans) by Steve.  Cinesite luma keyed the ambulance over the painting".

A subtle, yet grand in appearance matte painting by Doug Ferris for the bizarre Terry Gilliam film THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989).  Doug added quite a lot to this bare plate with painted elements all over.

Paramount's Jan Domela painted this top up for Mae West's BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934).  Long time effects cameraman Irmin Roberts shot and composited the matte.
Controversial in it's day, THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1969) featured some highly convincing mattes by Shepperton's Gerald Larn that even an expert would be hard pressed to pick out.

Leigh Took painted some astonishing mattes for Tim Burton's BATMAN (1988), with this shot being a blink and you'd miss it shot.

The entertaining Dolly Parton-Burt Reynolds musical THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (1982) had some matte shots by the great Albert Whitlock, including this opening shot where Whitlock extended the width of the location farmhouse by adding other buildings, foliage and sky to lend a more pleasing cinematic look to the scene.

Whitlock painted so many shots during his career, many of them the variety which just don't draw attention to themselves, which was Albert's forte.  This shot is from the 1966 Rock Hudson thriller BLINDFOLD.

20th Century Fox had a large and active matte department, with this Ray Kellogg supervised shot from the Spencer Tracy western BROKEN LANCE (1954) typical.  Emil Kosa was chief matte painter under Kellogg - himself a matte artist from the old Sersen days.
Burt Lancaster made one hell of an impact in the excellent prison drama BRUTE FORCE (1947) - a film laden with effects trick shots under the supervision of David S.Horsley.  This shot is a prime example of Universal at it's best where matte art, miniatures and process are all employed to great effect.  Really a sensational film in itself, with the terrific effects being an unexpected bonus.  See it!

Anthony Quinn's only film as director, THE BUCCANEER (1958) had surprisingly little by way of effects shots, with this Jan Domela matte among them.  The tree at right, the rooftops and the ships are all painted.

Matthew Yuricich's subtle add on to the landing pad set for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE 3rd KIND (1978).

Practically all of the planes and buildings are Albert Whitlock matte art from CAPTAIN NEWMAN M.D (1963).

Michael Curtiz' classic CASABLANCA (1942) had several mattes, with this one entirely undetectable.

Syd Dutton's entirely painted zoo enclosure for CAT PEOPLE (1982)

Matthew Yuricich painted so many great mattes over the years, though I feel his work on the superb THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979) to be his best work.  Lot's of mattes of a totally non-existent nuclear power station in California.

Another incredibly convincing Yuricich matte from THE CHINA SYNDROME.

Before and after from the same film gives us an idea as to just how much Matthew contributed.

Percy Day before and after that nobody ever realised was there from Powell-Pressburger's THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)

Another Percy Day process shot from COLONEL BLIMP where a ceiling has been added later.  Several scenes in the picture underwent similar 'topping up' of ceilings and are so hard to spot.

Albert Whitlock did some dynamite matte and effects work on COLOSSUS - THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969) though these scenic mattes tend to be neglected as most people are taken by the massive computer mattes which open the film.  Note just how little live action was filmed here compared to Albert's substantial painting.
Another Whitlock shot from COLOSSUS, whereby the term 'photo real' is entirely suited here!
An unidentified title from Paramount featuring a flawless Jan Domela-Irmin Roberts matte shot.

Albert Whitlock painted many mattes for television over the years, with this shot being from an episode of COLUMBO.

Jim Danforth is a major, multi-talented VFX artist who remained fiercly independent.  This is one of Jim's mattes from the rather dire COMMANDO (1985) starring the muscle bound Governor of California (no...not Ronald Reagan... that other non actor)

Stephen King's CREEPSHOW (1983) had several artists on board, with this beach house shot painted by Janet Kuzniak.

For Fox's D-DAY THE 6th OF JUNE (1956) Ray Kellogg's matte department painted many shots including several really ingenious mattes of big gun installations.

More painted pillbox and heavy calibre weaponry from the above film, all courtesy of the Fox matte department, and supplemented with excellent cel animated muzzle flash effects and interactive gags.  Really impressive.
Although it's noticeable here as a freeze frame, the shot as it appears in Disney's DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (1959) is great sleight of hand.  I love this ballsy almost radical 'slash' of a soft matte diagonal line across the shot as was so much Peter Ellenshaw in boldness.  Bravo Peter!

My favourite DARBY O'GILL matte shot - and one that tends to just slip by most people I think.  Sooooo much paint here and soooo little actual 'set' - just a bit of dirt road actually which is also used in a few other matte shots.  So bold.
I'm certain nobody ever spotted this one as a trick shot (me included until Harrison Ellenshaw kindly sent me the clips!).  The very talented Paul Lasaine is shown here painting one of the many extraordinary matte shots for DAVE (1993)

More Lasaine magic from DAVE.  Simply jaw dropping in it's ability to fool the audience!

It's worth a big image this one.  This is credible matte art at it's most arresting, though no one ever knew.
Nobody would believe it not to be 'true' had it not been for this splendid blogsite which reveals all and celebrates in the glorious aroma of linseed oil and Windsor & Newton hues.  Enough said.

One more Paul Lasaine stunner from DAVE.  It's better than the real thing!

Emil Kosa matte shot from Frank Sinatra's THE DETECTIVE (1968) which may have been Kosa's last film as he passed away right around then.

Columbia's big budget action adventure THE DEVIL AT 4 O'CLOCK (1961) featured excellent large scale volcano miniature work by Lawrence Butler, lot's of agonisingly bad blue screen marry ups and quite alot of matte art by an uncredited provider.  It's entirely possible that Whitlock could have painted on the show as he did several Butler-Glouner contract shows in the 60's.  Jan Domela also worked for Butler at some stage too according to his daughter.  This shot is pretty slick on screen actually.

Hell, I'd never have taken this as a matte shot at all until I learned of it from a Ken Adam interview.  This is a terrific Albert Whitlock shot from the excellent DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971).  Critic Richard Schichel once said that "Whitlock was the master of the special effect that didn't call attention to itself".  A fitting statement.

Part of a wide pan across an airforce base from the Italian film DIRTY HEROES made around 1968 or so
Emilio Ruiz del Rio remains one of my heroes inasmuch as motion picture trick exponents go.  Here is the late maestro with his stock in trade, the painted cutout, as applied to the shot above.  Almost all of Ruiz' effects shots were in camera shots with ingenious foreground glasses or cutouts on aluminium and hanging miniatures.  One of the true creative giants of the industry whom I must do a blog on as I have sooooo much material (but lack the English translations).

A Fred Sersen shot from the John Ford DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939)

The still thrilling and essential DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) had this ceiling added courtesy of artist Jan Domela.

David O.Selznick's DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) was loaded to the gills with beautiful Jack Cosgrove matte shots, though this matte was probably one which was less evident than the stunning skies and glorious mood art.  This, and several other rare Selznick-Cosgrove matte paintings still survive, though are somewhat worse for wear due to years of being used as insulation lining for an interior wall somewhere.  OMG.

EARTHQUAKE (1974) was an effects bonanza for Albert Whitlock, though it's his subtle story driven glass shots which remain the best.  This has to be the best on show and a major feather in Al's cap.

The final original negative composite would deceive even the most critical eye.

Another EARTHQUAKE winning matte shot that the viewer accepts unquestionably as the real deal, whereas just the dirt road with the kid on the bike is real.  A second painting is used later after the quake to show destruction.

I've already made mention earlier in this blog of the talented British matte painter Steve Mitchell.  Here is another fine example of Steve's work for the Neil Jordan wartime film END OF THE AFFAIR (1999)

Here's the final composite with live action train and smoke elements added.  Stunningly authentic.  Images courtesy of matte cinematographer Angus Bickerton.

One of several uncredited mattes made under Tom Howard's supervision at MGM-Elstree for the Agatha Christie thriller ENDLESS NIGHT (1972). 

Same film.  I don't know who painted for Tom at that time, though in the past he'd had Douglas Adamson in the 60's and Judy Jordan in the 50's.

A multi-element composite from the Paramount adventure ELEPHANT WALK (1954) -  a film with much in the way of spectacle and big John P.Fulton effects sequences.  This is a split screen shot by Irmin Roberts with elephants filmed separately to the actor, with the two plates tied together with some Jan Domela matte art - a not uncommon practice.
Now famous director and now a New Zealand resident, James Cameron, is seen here in his former career as matte artist working on the still terrific John Carpenter show ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981), which is not to be confused with the pitiful sequel, nor most of Carpenter's later films.... though as usual, I digress.

The very, very long and not terribly good EXODUS (1960) managed to sneak in a quick matte shot of the hospital being blown up by terrorists.  The entire shot is painted, with just the ka-boom as a live element.  No idea who did the shot.

Alfred Hitchcock's FAMILY PLOT (1976) is arguably the great director's least satisfying effort - almost lazy in fact.  This matte shot was, according to Bill Taylor, only included as an excuse for Hitch to have his old friend and collaborator Albert Whitlock onboard.  The second floor and other details were painted in fact by Al's apprentice, Syd Dutton on his first 'solo' outing as matte artist.

Close detail of Syd Dutton's FAMILY PLOT matte.

An unnamed artist completes an in camera glass shot for FLAME IN THE WIND
Although a dreadful pan & scan tv version frame, here is a nice top up matte of Notre Dame Cathedral from FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1962) - an overwrought exercise in futility if ever there was one.  Lee LeBlanc was matte supervisor and Matthew Yuricich painted some of the shots.

Doug Ferris painted this castle to realistic effect for THE FOUR MUSKETEERS  (1974).

The interior of the jail from Hitchcock's bitingly brilliant black comedy FRENZY (1972) was pure Albert Whitlock glass art

The astonishing result as seen on screen with not so much as a hint of movie magic.

Close up detail of Whitlock's breathtaking FRENZY painting.

I'd never have known about this one had it not been for an old interview with Pinewood's resident matte artist Cliff Culley.  The shots are from the Bond film FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE where Culley made mention of supplying the oversized Anita Ekberg billboard to the side of the building.  Of note, Cliff also painted mattes for that film too (CALL ME BWANA).

Sadly, the late Peter Sellers expired after making this dull film THE FIENDISH PLOT OF DR FU MAN CHU (1980) instead of after the masterpiece BEING THERE - not that I'd wish Peter ill feeling, but wouldn't you rather go out in a blaze of excellence such as Chauncy Gardiner rather than FuManChu?  Anyway, the artist is Cliff Culley's protoge, a young Leigh Took and the shot looks great to me.
Matthew Yuricich's endless walk up matte shot from GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

For the big James Dean oil drilling soaper, GIANT (1956) utilised the services of veteran matte artist Jack Cosgrove to tactfully supply more oil derricks by way of a glass shot.

If you can't shoot in Moscow's Red Square just ask Albert Whitlock to paint it on glass.  This frame is one of a handful of shots painted by Albert for the Goldie Hawn film THE GIRL FROM PETROVKA (1974)

A unique before and after matte shot from the old 50's Japanese film GODZILLA.

One of my all time favourites for many reasons, not the least being the sensational old school Cosgrove shots, GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) was a massive effects show, and in Technicolor 3-strip to boot.  This shot is a beauty, with everything painted except the thin wedge of space around the horses and wagon.  Such a gorgeous design, and so well executed.

Another less than noticeable GONE WITH THE WIND matte, with this being a full painting that works a treat.
The Renny Harlin actioner HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN had several invisible matte shots - this one included.  Rocco Gioffre was one of several painters on the show and this painting is one of those available should any collectors be interested.  Note the Die Hard in joke at left, poking fun at Renny Harlin, himself a veteran of that franchise.
I know you've seen this HARLEY DAVIDSON matte before in my blogs, but a great matte shot is always worth repeating.

And here's Jesse Silver's terrific glass painting, and still in pristine condition I can confirm.

I can't resist a detailed look at Jesse Silver's painting, especially with my thing for perspective matte art.

One of those little effects shots no one gives a second thought to.  This is a Dan Curry before and after matte shot from the television movie HARPER VALLEY PTA made in the 80's.

A tilt up matte shot by Albert Whitlock from John Wayne's THE HELLFIGHTERS (1968)
Syd Dutton and Bill Taylor made this matte for the 1992 Danny DeVito drama HOFFA.

I like this one.  Harry Walton painted and composited a really invisible painting to simulate Washington DC for budgetary reasons in the highly enjoyable Walter Matthau film HOPSCOTCH (1980).  Unless you found out somehow you'd never know you'd been fooled.

Detail of Harry Walton's Washington DC glass painting for HOPSCOTCH.  Works a treat.

Now, how's this for a glass shot?  Bob Scifo painted the aircraft carrier on glass for the final sequence in the Charlie Sheen spoof HOT SHOTS (1991).  I'd never have known until matte artist Richard Kilroy kindly sent me these revealing pics.
Some of Bob Scifo's detailed brushwork.

More before and after HOT SHOTS matte shot.

Another close up of the glass art detailing - and all for a briefest of push in shots.

I've no idea as to the title other than it's from 1934 and that Howard A.Anderson was photographic effects man.
Dario Argento's INFERNO (1980) was one of his best I thought, stunningly photographed and with some tremendous set pieces - certainly a far cry from all his recent crap that is excruitiatingly toe curling in their overall 100% awfulness.  Anyway, I'm trying to recall but I know this is a foreground matte shot, I think with photo cutouts of New York skyline.  I think it was the work of Italian giallo specialist Mario Bava - himself a talented visual effects man.

This is one of those shots you'd probably never even think about.  It's from an unknown Paramount film of the late 20's or early 30's, and the matte artist was Jan Domela.  Irmin Roberts was cameraman.

A close view of Domela's matte art.

For David Lean's DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) the film was largely shot in Spain, doubling for Russia of all places.  Shepperton matte artists Gerald Larn and Brian Evans were assigned the task of adding snow where there was none.  Although the sets were dressed with fake snow, the matte artists extended the winter far beyond what was physically possible on set.

More subtle snow additions for DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

Same again, though you'd never know.

Disney's THE LOVE BUG (1968) was a big effects show and shots such as this were entirely painted matte art with the actor doubled in via the sodium screen process.

Another LOVE BUG shot with mattes by Peter Ellenshaw, Alan Maley and Constantine Ganakes.
The made for television film THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY (1992) required numerous mattes which would be fulfilled by cameraman Bruce Block and painter Ken Marschall.  Here we have 1920's Paris with painted in second floors and giant billboard.

Another Ken Marschall shot from THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY with glittering neons.

Now this is a favourite of mine, a supreme example of Ken's brush skill coupled with Bruce's original negative camerawork.  I asked Ken about this JOSEPHINE BAKER shot as it's always been a matte I've liked.  Ken told me that everything is painted except the group of people outside the club and the cab driver.  The taxi and reflections as well as the rest of the scene is pure art.

Ray Caple painted the Roman graffiti as a glass shot for MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)

Another Golden Era painted ceiling, with this being an MGM Newcombe shot from LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938)
A three part composite from the film LUXURY LINER (1948).  The deck and surrounds are an MGM set, the lifeboats are a matte painting while the 'ocean' is a plate shot in the studio tank with water agitation and painted backing.  Thanks to Robert Welch for this still from the Buddy Gillespie archive.

A regular golf course in Pasadena is magically transformed into...............
......The White House of 1942 for the movie MACARTHUR (1977).  Albert Whitlock was matte painter here.
Jan Domela painted this church interior for an unidentified Paramount picture, probably of the late 20's or early 30's.  The 'before' live action frame at top really demonstrates just how much was painted in for the composite below.

Universal's tv movie on the Pope, PORTRAIT OF A MAN CALLED JOHN, made in the early 70's had several Albert Whitlock mattes that you'd never pick as effects shots.

From the same tv movie, Whitlock gave the film an international look courtesy of oils, brushes and glass.

One more Whitlock matte from the same telemovie that goes to show why Albert was known as Universal's secret weapon.

While the accolades for the matte work in John Huston's masterpiece THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975) tends to go to Albert Whitlock, it's not commonly known that all of the matte shots bar one, were the work of Doug Ferris and his assistant at Shepperton Studios in England.  This is one of Doug's utterly authentic looking Himalayan snowscapes that's entirely a special effect, with just the people being real.

Hitchcock's MARNIE (1964) was an interminable, dry affair by my book and not a patch on Hitchcock's 40's pictures such as SABOTEUR and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT among others.  This stable interior was largely an Albert Whitlock matte with more painted here than you'd imagine.
Often overlooked as being a matte shot, this scene from Disney's MARY POPPINS (1964) is entirely a special effect with the street being a Peter Ellenshaw matte painting while the children were doubled in via sodium vapour travelling matte.

Now, not all matte shots are dramatic moments of great narrative.  These frames from MARY POPPINS are examples of some of the fix up matte shots sometimes needed to conceal studio rigs, safety apparatus or crew members.

Same again, minor matte art added in post production to hide stunt padding and set rigging.  You'd never know it had you not tuned into this very blog!  ;)

One of the glorious, yet in no way evident, Peter Ellenshaw mattes from MARY POPPINS.

Same again.  Ellenshaw magic that integrates so well with the Sherman brothers score.  Music maketh the matte.
One more minor fix up matte from MARY POPPINS where the matte artist has painted out the safety platform under the dancers to give the illusion of balancing on a hand rail.
The popular Rock Hudson mystery show of the 1970's McMILLAN AND WIFE would occasionally use Albert Whitlock's matte department to cheat the budget.  This is a rare before and after from the episode DEATH OF A MONSTER which has a handful of atmospheric matte shots of country manor homes and thunderstorms.

Industrial Light and Magic were really something special through the 1980's and beyond.  This before and after is an amazing Christopher Evans matte shot from the John Carpenter film MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (1992).  Interestingly, some of the other mattes were farmed out to Jim Danforth, which you can see on my mammoth career tribute blog on Jim from last year.

I can rarely resist an old Warner Brothers Stage 5 matte shot from the 1940's, which was their peak, creatively speaking.  This one's from the excellent Joan Crawford drama MILDRED PIERCE (1945).  The matte painter was Paul Detlefsen.

The sombre drama MISSING (1982) was a solid, emotional rollercoater for Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek and even managed to slip in a couple of hidden Albert Whitlock matte shots such as this one.  The long shots of the stadium in Chile were augmented with painted in people and replicated split screen mattes of the small crowd of extras, and in some angles, distant buildings.  Not something you'd ever consider a trick shot, though that's why it's called a trick shot!
Frank Capra's timeless classic MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) required several painted in set extensions to add ceilings and fixtures to studio sets such as this one.  Love the perspective here.  I don't know who was painter, possibly Chesley Bonestell who was at the studio at the time, or maybe Kiwi born Ted Withers who also painted for Columbia.

Same film, with a really invisible bit of matte work you'd never notice in a million years.

Jan Domela painted this city top up for Paramount's MY FRIEND IRMA (1949), with it being recycled a year later for the sequel in true Paramount save a buck fashion.  Irmin Roberts was matte cinematographer as usual.

A close up of Domela's matte art from MY FRIEND IRMA.

Matte artist Ken Marschall and cameraman Bruce Block provided several very nice shots for the Zucker brothers spoof NAKED GUN 2 1/2: THE SMELL OF FEAR in the nineties.

Another of Ken's painted mattes that tends to fit right in, from the same film.  Ken and Bruce tended to do almost all of their work as original negative shots though this one may not be as Block has introduced at camera move.  Note the people at right by the barricade are in fact painted too.

Oh boy, do I love those old time Newcombe shots from MGM.  Here are two that aren't too obvious on screen from the Elizabeth Taylor picture NATIONAL VELVET (1944)
For the Charlie Sheen action picture NAVY SEALS (1990) the director required a missile wrecked street sequence and enlisted the great Spanish effects genius Emilio Ruiz to pull off a credible and high quality visual effect.  Above is the outside set where the live action would take place.....

....and here is Emilio's highly regarded specialty - the lost art of the hanging miniature - or to be more precise foreground matte art on aluminium, dressed with miniature props and set up to serve as in in camera trick shot....

... and here is the final completely believable effect, all shot on the original negative and on the spot with the live action.  Emilio really was the master at creating these amazing effects and the method would find favour with many European based film makers and art directors.

Marilyn Monroe never looked sexier than she did in NIAGARA (1953.  This unusual view looking down through the church bells at the scene of the crime is a significant matte painting by Emil Kosa, under Ray Kellogg's supervision.

Alfred Hitchcock was never one to shy away from technical trickery in his films, and almost all have mattes, models or process shots used to often quite unique advantage.  Case in point is the not entirely enthralling 1948 picture THE PARADINE CASE where an entire additional sequence was decided upon after the sets had been struck, whereby a lengthy tour through a house was concocted entirely out of back to back matte shots and split screens.  A staggering achievement for photographic effects man Clarence Slifer and matte painters Spencer Bagtatopoulis and Jack Cosgrove.  Here is a very, very rare look at one such shot.  The original plate, shot on an almost bare set;  the original painted matte art;  and the jaw dropping final Slifer composite that would - and in fact did - fool everybody! 
It's in rough condition and the photo isn't the best but here it is as sent to me by it's former owner.  Thanks Rick.

Another Slifer-Bagtatopoulis matte shot from THE PARADINE CASE which is as good as they get.  I'm at a loss to adequately praise the work in this sequence.  The high water mark in photographic effects sleight of hand!

Once again, same film and same sequence.  Above is part of the surviving Cosgrove matte art.  I have other images of matte art from the rest of the sequence though in really bad shape.

Jan Domela's painted in stables from the utterly wonderful Gary Cooper film PETER IBBETSEN (1935)

Hollywood did this so often, we'll never know the real count - painted in ceilings - even simple ones like this for indoor soundstage sets.  This one's another Jan Domela matte shot from PETER IBBETSEN (1935)

One more from the same film.  Domela's painting and Irmin Roberts compositing the matte.

An odd sort of shot, but one we'd not take as being a painted matte at first glance.  This is a Russell Lawsen matte from the 1943 Claude Rains version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Two areas of live action here on the gantries with all else painted in later.
One of my all time favourite mattes is this beautifully convincing establishing shot from the still sensational THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946).  All is painted - most probably using fine pastel crayons - with only the road and immediate grass siding being genuine.  Being an MGM film it's quite likely a Howard Fisher painting.  Fisher was one of the original Newcombe artists who had a long matte career and painted on hundreds of films.

Syd Dutton is the only matte painter I've ever had the pleasure of actually meeting, and this is one of his best invisible shots as seen in the film PSYCHO III (1986).  Practically all artwork except small area of dirt and part of a wall.

I never tire of examining the hand crafted skills of the old time matte painters, with this seemless Warren Newcombe shot from the George Cukor classic THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) being a prime example.

The classic British sci-fi picture THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (1956) had alot of mattes and effects, though this one I'll bet nobody picked out.  Les Bowie was matte artist, assisted by Ray Caple.

We are all familiar with Peter Ellenshaw's career defining work in QUO VADIS (1951) where Ancient Rome never looked so convincing.  Peter also supplied a number of smaller mattes to the film as well such as a ceiling and a crowded night square.  Above is a nice example of Ellenshaw's invisible work for what seems a genuine location shot, but we know better!  Note that Peter has added in a Roman aquaduct, a new sky and even extended the foreground set.  Thanks to Harrison Ellenshaw for letting me dig through his Dad's old's extremely appreciated.

James Dean's REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) even snuck in a few mattes such as this shot.  Mattes probably done by Louis Litchtenfield who was active at Warner Brothers at the time.

A gritty adventure thriller with the always terrific Burt Lancaster, ROPE OF SAND (1949) slipped in a few of Jan Domela's painted set extensions such as this view where not only is the bulk of the scene painted but all of those barrels are too.
A very subtle painted addition to Steve McQueen's THE SAND PEBBLES (1966) whereby some Chinese temples have been added across the river.  A few other shots included additional ships and minor adjustments too.

Another matte from THE SAND PEBBLES.  Emil Kosa jr would have been responsible for these.

James Stewart in SHENANDOAH (1965) - a film that kept artist Albert Whitlock pretty occupied with many vast matte shots, though I'd bet very few people ever spotted this one.  This shot split screen's in a new sky, hills and tops of trees, and I suspect perhaps the foreground tree may have been added as an additional element in bi-pack maybe?  The shot appears twice in the film.  Ross Hoffman was Al's long time cameraman and a true veteran of trick photography.

Now, I had no idea this was a trick shot until I learned of it from Craig Barron.  This is from David Selznick's SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) and involves three stages of hocus pocus.  Firstly, the house is entirely a painted matte with just the window area left un painted.  Claudette Colbert was filmed on another small set and matted into the window of the painted house.  Lastly, this composite was then used as a rear projected process plate whereby actress Shirley Temple acted in front of the already completed special effect.  Seems like an awful lot of trouble, but the Jack Cosgrove matte department easily managed it.

For Walt Disney's ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952) Peter Ellenshaw painted a number of castles and period villages and so forth, but nobody realises Peter also altered several locations through matte art, to give the director more dramatic 'space'.  Here is one such shot where Peter made major alterations to the location plate (left) to create a picturesque river and trees where none had previously existed.

Again, from ROBIN HOOD, Peter Ellenshaw has reshaped an existing, dull locale (left) into something more along the lines of what director Ken Annakin needed.  Shots like this will never win Academy Awards but are really what skilled matte painting and compositing are all about.  I was literally floored when Harrison sent me Peter's old showreel.

Lastly, the final shot of ROBIN HOOD where not only did Peter Ellenshaw provide a superb sunset, but he manufactured a photo real effect from scratch including the trees and clouds all on glass, as the naked live action plate at left will testify.  A true master.
Matthew Yuricich painted this office building for HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN.

For the Gregory Peck western OLD GRINGO (1989) Rocco Gioffre painted in the town, cliff face and all the scenery.

Michael Winner's extremely grisly 1977 horror show THE SENTINEL had some truly invisible work in it by Albert Whitlock and Bill Taylor.  I could never find Al's shots in the film so I asked Bill and here is what he had to say:  "In The Sentinel there are really only a few shots.  The major set up is a wide shot of the apartment house which brings together two separate locations in New York that are actually miles apart.  One live element is original negative photography, while the second live element is duped in from separations - all joined together with a painting on the original negative.  A very tricky shot requiring careful surveying at both locations to find a camera position that worked for both".

I like this Leigh Took glass shot from a British made Disney film called SPIES, made in the eighties.  Leigh's quite a painter and visual effects man as well as having successful gallery shows, and I heartily recommend you see the excellent documentary on his matte painting career made by my friend, film maker Dennis Lowe (see my links sidebar at top of the blog).  Very revealing and often quite funny, with a huge amount of info on Leigh's career with Cliff Culley at Pinewood. 
Now, on close examination one can detect the hand of a matte artist but when watching the movie, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) I'm sure nobody ever realised this scene in Cairo to be a manufactured shot.  Alan Maley was brought on board by art director Ken Adam to execute a number of matte shots, some of which were amazingly complex.

Alan Maley at work on the above shot.  Practically the entire scene is painted with just a strip of sand where Roger Moore (great in this excellent Bond film!) arrives.  Alan is shown here painting in the group of people at a night time tourist show at the Pyramids in Cairo.  Alan would introduce a device at back of the glass painting to suggest the illusion of movement among the fake audience - an ancient trick dating way back to the early days of matte trickery and used more often over the decades than you'd ever know.  MGM loved that gag for their shots.

Maley's SPY WHO LOVED ME matte painting on glass where we can see the extent of the magic compared to the real deal.  I still reckon this to be the best of the 007 series and so much more satisfying than the recent ones in all respects.

The 1976 pirate adventure SWASHBUCKLER (aka THE SCARLET BUCCANEER) had many Albert Whitlock shots and some of those were hard to detect such as this one where the island and fortress were added by Universal's matte department.

Another Whitlock shot from SWASHBUCKLER which, in this freeze frame reveals the rather obtuse matte join right up through the sky, but in the movie you'd never notice it as being a matte painted shot.
I was so impressed with this very broad pan across from the 1945 version of STATE FAIR I just had to include it - not necessarily for it being entirely invisible, as it isn't, but for the smoothly convincing pan move which lends quite an illusion of reality here.  I'm sure this would be a massive two panel in camera glass shot with the glass frame join hidden behind the decorative post in the centre.  Fred Sersen's department did this terrific shot and were well versed in huge foreground glass moving shots such as with ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946) and much later for CLEOPATRA (1962) among other Fox shows.
Peter Ellenshaw seen here on location in Jamaica as he paints a foreground glass shot of a pirate ship for Disney's SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960).  All of the mattes on the film were done in similar on location style and entirely in camera.

Another of my all time favourite painted mattes - with this one being a Newcombe shot from Frank Sinatra's TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1949).  I find this painting to be staggeringly convincing, especially for a Technicolor show where mattes and process shots weren't always well served by Natalie Kalmus' dictatorial oversight!

I simply must re-play these close up photos I have (though sadly only as black and white photographs taken from the original painting by it's former owner - thanks Doug).

Apologies to those old time readers who've seen these before but i have to think of the newcomers who've never experienced the sheer exhileration of studying such masterpieces up close and personal like!  Damn, this is good!
For the 1972 British film THE TALES OF BEATRIX POTTER, a tricky matte shot was required of special effects man Tom Howard at MGM-Elstree Studios.  I've no idea who painted the shot but it's really nice and has great perspective work.
Nobody ever spotted this one, a Jim Danforth shot from John Carpenter's THEY LIVE (1988) where Jim painted and matted in that big billboard.  Who'd have ever suspected??
Another fine Jim Danforth glass shot from the same film.  Everything here is pure Danforth with only the pyrotechnics added later as a live element. Superb work Jim.

Jim Fetherolf painted several full screen mattes for Disney's THAT DARN CAT (1965) including this extensive street and storefront shot.  Only the cat is real and has been matted into the painting, probably via the sodium vapour travelling matte process.

Now, I'm not entirely certain here but I do think this scene from THE BIG TRAIL (1930) is a matte painted shot with a soft split running across the shot mid frame through the trees and mountain etc.  Really spectacular shot.

Leslie Nielsen mugs it up for the camera in the still pretty funny THE NAKED GUN - FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD (1988).  Ken Marschall painted this as a full frame matte painting and associate Bruce Block matted in the big monitor action.  Incidentally, the film still has one of my favourite gags of all time:  "Hmmmm, Nice Beaver"....."Thank you, I've just had it stuffed".  Cracks me up every time.    ;)

Yeah, yeah... I know... I've flogged this one to death.  But it was and remains one of the best mattes of all time and it is my blog so, sue me!   The fantastic war picture THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944) remains one of the all time best effects shows across the board and this phenomenal matte shot says it all.  A multi-part shot with live action deck foreground with one plane, the rest all meticulously painted in pastel crayon along with the rest of the superstructure of the carrier.  The ocean is a separate plate split screened in.  This frame is a test composite as the finished shot is utilised as a rear process element with actors in front of action which kind of knocks down the resolution of this marvellous set up somewhat.  Warren Newcombe supervised (and won an Oscar) with painters such as Howard Fisher, Henry Hillinick and others involved.  Legendary pioneer Norman Dawn contributed at least one matte shot as well.
Matthew Yuricich painted this luxury villa on glass for cameraman David Stipes to composite beautifully for the arse-numbingly overlong THE THORN BIRDS (1983). 

David Stipes' finished composite of the superb Matthew Yuricich painting which I dare any reader or viewer to detect as a matte shot.  Hell, I'd never have known if it hadn't been for David dragging these old fragile glasses out of his garage and photographing same just for me - for which I am forever grateful.  Thanks David.

Another completely 100% perfect Yuricich matte painting marry up from the same tele-movie.

I've discussed Alfred Hitchcock's use of effects shots often and this arguably lesser Hitchcock film, TOPAZ (1969) is loaded with quite sophisticated matte shots by Albert Whitlock.  This is a shot nobody gives a second thought about where a soft split runs diagonally across screen from lower left to top right where Whitlock has painted in the tops of cocoanut palms and a mountain to simulate Cuba. 

So then, how about this one guys?  Also from TOPAZ and as flawless as they get.

This one also from TOPAZ is a masterpiece of delicate and quite subtle movie magic where Albert Whitlock has made quite extensive alterations and extensions to a location to make it into Havana, where shooting would be a big 'no no'.  Note that even the columns have been altered in texture and detail, not to mention the addition of an entire Cuban street at right.
While on Hitchcock, I can't let this one go without urgent inclusion.  One of around a half dozen back to back Albert Whitlock mattes from the East Berlin museum chase sequence.  Breathtaking sequence and a tribute to Al's ability and his cameraman Ross Hoffman's technical savvy in pulling it off all on original negative.  I'd love to see the original glass painting and study it closely.
Matthew Yuricich added in an entire train station as a painted glass matte for Steven Seagal's action packed UNDER SIEGE 2-DARK TERRITORY (1995).  Rocco Gioffre had the effects contract though he gave this particular shot to his old friend and mentor, which Matthew pulled off flawlessly.
The Paramount backlot in the thirties serves as plate as photographed by Irmin Roberts

Jan Domela's matte painting prepared to match the backlot plate shown above.

The final invisible shot as composited by Irmin Roberts for an unidentified Paramount picture of the early 1930's.

While on Matthew Yuricich, the 1983 television series 'V' required much in the way of visual effects and mattes, with Yuricich painting this barely detectable top up for FX cameraman David Stipes to composite.

Aside from the spaceship, it's hard to pick the shot as a painted matte.  Note the shadows on the roadway also painted in by Yuricich.

Lee LeBlanc painted the upper walls, ceiling and fixtures for VIVA ZAPATA (1952) and according to fellow Fox matte painter Matt Yuricich, Lee painted in dogs copulating into the overall decorative work for fun!  Apparently that's not an unknown oddity, as Jim Danforth told me that he remembers talking with veteran artist Howard Fisher while in the fx department for IT'S A MAD MAD WORLD where Howard mentioned painting "dogs humping" into one or more of his GREEN DOLPHIN STREET mattes!   Must be the turpentine!

Buena Vista Visual Effects supplied some great shots during their brief life, with this delightful Paul Lasaine matte shot from WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN (1991) being a particularly nice example.
Well, that's about it folks, so I'll sign off with another great Lasaine glass painting that was used for the Kevin Kline comedy DAVE.  Hope you enjoyed these wonderful shots as much as I do compiling them.

*See you again next time for a detailed retrospective with matte artist and visual effects man Mark Sullivan.