Monday 6 February 2017

THE PAINTED DESERT - Matte art and the shifting sands

Greetings friends and fellow enthusiasts of old time trick cinematography. It's time once again for another breathtaking retrospective on that most magical of creative motion picture wizardry, the traditional hand painted matte shot.  Today we will be looking at a particularly interesting topic, that of the so called 'painted desert', and all that it entails.  I've accumulated a large number (would you ever seriously expect anything less than that?) of wonderful mattes from films that either have desert settings, a few big Biblical shows as well as many great examples of the Tales of the Arabian Nights genre of picture, where mythical cities and romantic locales were, for the most part, the work of the Hollywood matte painter.  As a  passionate lover of fine art I've been a life long fan of the Orientalism school of painting, there are some splendid sights to behold here today that occasionally compliment that unique 19th Century fine art form.

Some of the shots I've illustrated here will be familiar to many of my readers, while a significant number of mattes I'm sure will prove fresh to all but the most pathologically dedicated film buffs who like myself  find themselves inexplicably drawn to the forgotten and obscure cinematic treasures from times long gone. The mattes here cover the gamut from the biggest, most polished epic projects right through to the least likely B grade quickies. Some of the films fall outside of the conventional framework and slot into Western, Comedy and even Sci-Fi, though I've included them all the same.

Certain Hollywood studios feature prominently in this retrospective, with Universal Studios probably being the foremost factory - under the creative leadership of John P. Fulton and matte artist Russell Lawson - of the many variants of the Arabian Nights stylised fable with a surprising number of entries in the popular genre. Most of these shows are hokey for sure, but not without a certain degree of charm all the same, what with their often garish, heavily saturated Technicolor palettes, lush art direction and costume design, with most of these notable for their eye catching femme casting.
 Columbia Pictures also figure quite strongly here with a number of medium budget Babylonian Sand-Fest's that relied heavily on matte effects to expand small soundstage and backlot sets, usually under the technical direction of effects man Lawrence Butler.  For both of these production houses it wasn't unusual to steal shots from other films and recut them into subsequent pictures, with some mattes (and even entire sequences) from other studios entirely being 'borrowed' shamelessly without hesitation. Ahhhh, Hollywood.... you've just gotta love it!

So, as per usual, let us take that journey down the familiar avenue of motion picture magic that enlightens and entertains the readers of Matte Shot... The Painted Desert: Matte Art and the Shifting Sands


Pete   :)


This wonderfully evocative matte shot came to me from the personal album of longtime Paramount special effects cinematographer Irmin Roberts who shot all of artist Jan Domela's mattes over a sixty plus year period.  This matte is from the late 1920's and is possibly from the Ronald Colman silent version of BEAU GESTE (1926) or maybe the 1928 Gary Cooper picture BEAU SABREUR.
The sun baked desert of the old west as augmented by Albert Whitlock for THE WAY WEST (1967)
One of the many Universal generic pictures of the time, ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1944).  Long time matte chief Russell Lawson was assisted by future A list Production Designer, John DeCuir in matte painting duties on this and many other films during that period.

More matte art from Universal's ALI BABA.
An odd choice perhaps, though it looks like a desert setting to me.  A gorgeous ILM matte from the kids film THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)
Syd Dutton rendered this beautiful desert-scape for the Mel Gibson film MAD MAX-BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985) with cameraman Bill Taylor mentioning to me that it was a tricky shot to composite the small live action figure into without matte lines showing.  The result is perfect of course.
The Biblical epic THE STORY OF RUTH (1960) with matte work supervised and probably painted by Emil Kosa jr.

A pair of uncredited mattes from the comedic Rat-Pack remake of Gunga Din, SERGENTS 3 (1962)
One of many fine effects shots to be found in the Fox adventure SUEZ (1938) with Ralph Hammeras and Fred Sersen running the visual side of things.  Some astounding trick work in this film including a mother of a sandstorm.
Britain's grandfather of matte artistry, Walter Percy Day, produced many great shots for the Tyrone Power adventure THE BLACK ROSE (1950).  I believe other artists in Pop Day's stable were also roped in to help out with the very large workload.  Wally Veevers was effects cameraman with the Samuels' brothers - practical fx man Ted and matte painter George on board and probably noted matte artist Albert Julion and perhaps Joseph Natanson and Judy Jordan as well - all of whom painted at Shepperton at the time.
Rare as hen's teeth matte shots by the great Norman Dawn from the original SINBAD THE SAILOR which was made, would you believe it, in 1919.... Now that's a fair ways back folks!

One of my favourite out of all of the James Bond films was THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1978).  This seemingly innocuous sequence set at the great Pyramids in Cairo heavily relied upon trick work to pull it of.  This shot is almost entirely an Alan Maley glass painting with just the tiny slice of sand with Roger Moore being actual.  All else is paint, including the crowd of spectators who appear to be clapping thanks to a cleverly devised 'slot gag'.

Alan Maley at work on the matte, plus miniature pyramids for other composite shots.  We can also see optical effects supervisor, Robin Browne's vfx crew prepping one of Maley's mattes for photography.

Same film with multi-element split screens in effect.  Exterior set, matted in model toppings plus a static photo cut out of Moore doubled in at bottom right.
Bruce Block's original negative camerawork combining a memorable Ken Marschall painting - plus additional painted cloud cel overlays -  to an actual landscape for the final shot in James Cameron's hit THE TERMINATOR (1985).

Ken with his wonderfully rendered desert-scape matte painting.
Final composite with moving cloud layer.
MGM's Warren Newcombe oversaw - though by all accounts wouldn't have painted - this shot for the Errol Flynn show KIM (1950).  Painters on the staff would have included Henry Hillinck, Howard Fisher and Otto Kheile.
Percy Day matte art extends a set for CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1946).  The same matte reappeared decades later in CARRY ON CLEO - a popular spoof of this very film.
A rare before and after Percy Day matte from the same film which I don't think appeared in the final cut.

Albert Whitlock supervised these shots which were painted by Syd Dutton and Robert Stromberg for the tv show AIRWOLF
One of esteemed matte artist Paul Detlefsen's first ever jobs was to paint these shots for the silent DANCER OF THE NILE around 1923.
Same film, with artist Paul Detlefsen shown at top left and a rare still showing the actual glass painting with some production staffers at top right.

Without question Audrey Hepburn's worst film, GREEN MANSIONS (1959) does however have at least some nice matte shots by Lee LeBlanc in it's favour.  The jungle mattes (not shown here) are especially good and it's nice to know that those particular original mattes still survive in mint condition.  You'll see those in another blog later.

Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn survey the town in the excellent Fox western WARLOCK (1959).  The matte painted town is a bit hokey but full marks to L.B Abbott for executing such a good blend with the irregular matte line pretty much just outside of the two actor's immediate space.  The actual desert (left) and painted desert (right) blend really well
Another western here... John Ford's CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964) where the location is real but the canyon and cliff face have been painted in by an uncredited Warner Bros matte artist - possibly Lou Litchtenfield.  In the full motion shot the dust trail from the horse vanishes behind the matte art as it leaps the chasm.

Terry Gilliam's films are, for me, very much an oddity, generally unfathomable and not at all my cup of tea.  THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989) is one such film.  Lots of matte shots by a team of British artists with this shot being one of Leigh Took's mattes (note painting top right).
Same film and another of Leigh's mattes.
Same film and this matte is by veteran UK artist Doug Ferris, with cameraman John Grant supplying the sun flare ands optical composite of horseman.
Doug Ferris' actual matte as it survives today.  Apparently, the ever paranoid director Gilliam was constantly on Doug's back with "make the sand look right...make it look right" and this seemingly simple matte took forever to 'finesse' so as to please the director!

Frames from a remarkable, technically brilliant visual effect shot from the Warner Bros film THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (1944).  Paul Detlefsen was head of the matte department and together with fellow artist Chesley Bonestell and matte cameraman John Crouse created an amazing motion shot (a real Warner specialty!) where the camera pans a full 180o around this Arabian city and settles in on Twain.  A ton of matte art, live action and motion - all seamlessly combined in one smooth and astonishing shot which would earn Detlefsen and Crouse an Oscar nomination for best SFX.
A revealing photo spread from Chesley Bonestell's own book demonstrates the scale of the shot.
Mattes credited to Darryl Anderson from the low budget actioner TRIPOLI (1950)

A quartet of beautiful mattes by Russian born though Spain based painter Pierre Schildnick for the film LA DUQUESA DE BENAMEJI (1949).  Pierre, who changed his name to 'Pedro Schild', would have a long career in making mattes for the Spanish film industry and other European producers.
Ray Kellogg's matte department at Fox made a significant quota of mattes for the big CinemaScope flick THE EGYPTIAN (1954), and these are just some of them.
Matte art from Paramount's CHUKA (1967).  Paul Lerpae was effects boss but longtime artist Jan Domela had already retired so who painted after Jan is anybody's guess.  A couple of the studio's major films were farmed out to Al Whitlock around that time so maybe Albert was involved?
Even The Duke made it across the desert from time to time as seen in these shots from LEGEND OF THE LOST (1957).  No idea as to who did the matte work.

Schlock-meister William 'one shot' Beaudine's JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER (1966) was one of those 'seeing is believing' experiences.  No idea who did the mattes.
Albert Whitlock was assisted by Syd Dutton in providing all of the mattes for the overlong and tedious tv mini-series MASADA (aka THE ANTAGONISTS) in the mid 1980's.
Mattes from Universal's DESERT LEGION (1953) with Russ Lawson being responsible.
Howard and Darryl Anderson oversaw the many mattes for THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK (1950)
THEY MET IN BOMBAY (1941) had some nice matte work as one had come to expect from MGM's Newcombe Dept.

Jim Danforth's matte painting for the quite disasterous Hal Needham post apocalyptic farce, MEGAFORCE (1982)

Not really a desert, more a savannah setting, but what the hey... Albert Whitlock's moody landscape with swarms of locusts on the rampage from John Boorman's ill-concieved EXORCIST II-THE HERETIC (1977)
Two Lee LeBlanc mattes from the large scale KING OF KINGS (1960)
Old time Columbia matte which I think was recycled from elsewhere, as seen in the Three Stooges flick RUMPUS IN THE HAREM 
Before and after Percy Day matte from the classic THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939)
...and here is Doug Ferris' matte from the seventies remake of THE FOUR FEATHERS (1978).
From the Laurel and Hardy comedy BONNIE SCOTLAND (1935) with MGM's Newcombe matte department on the job.
You can keep all of these modern day 're-boot's and Marvel-esque nonsense I'm afraid, Richard Donner's SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE (1978) is still a great movie all these years on and has more charm, humanity and fully loaded entertainment value than all of those so called re-boots lumped together.  This is a full painting by either Les Bowie or Ray Caple, with the nuclear mushroom cloud being the old standby water tank injection gag.

Before and after with the late, great Christopher Reeve - an actor born to play the title hero. Rest in Peace.

The riveting Kurt Russell kidnap thriller, BREAKDOWN (1998) featured this Syd Dutton matte shot, though it may have been a digital composite?
The tv miniseries A.D (1985) won the Emmy for best special visual effects for Al Whitlock and his crew at Universal.

Two Scope mattes by Jim Danforth for the Charles Band sci-fi pic THE DAY TIME ENDED (1980)
Russell Lawson's painted desert and cavalry fort from WAR ARROW (1953)

Four mattes from Warner Bros' SILVER RIVER (1948)
Nicholas Ray's cult defining classic JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) with matte possibly by Jack Cosgrove.

Those two bloody robots and a wonderful, exquisitely matched and blended ILM matte landscape as seen in RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

Same film, though in this case a deleted scene.  Mike Pangrazio and Chris Evans were principle painters at ILM.
Yul Brynner's fascinating cowpoke show INVITATION TO A GUNFIGHTER (1964) with a sprawling desert opener courtesy of Albert Whitlock.
Mark Sullivan painted several shots for INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) while at ILM.

A reveal of one of the INDIANA JONES desert views which was in fact a miniature set with painted backing.

Premier matte artist Mark Sullivan at work on an utterly undetectable shot for the same film.
Matthew Yuricich painted over the top of a large photo blow up of Las Vegas to create this post apocalyptic scene for DAMNATION ALLEY (1977)
For the hip sci-fi 'end of the world' saga CHERRY 2000 (1988) artist Ken Marschall and cameraman Bruce Block contributed several mattes that slip by unnoticed.  Among them was this matte of a sand dune submerged Las Vegas strip.  Ken painted the sand dunes and other destruction directly over a photographic print.  The plane was added in later as a separate element.  There were other similar shots in the same sequence that were impossible to detect.
I have a soft spot for comic Jack Benny.  The quite amusing BUCK BENNY RIDES AGAIN (1940) was a bit of a hoot.  Paramount's Jan Domela painted the mattes.
The very good tele-movie THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974) with Mike Farrell had several matte shots by Al Whitlock.
Mark Sullivan rendered this establishing shot for the Brooke Shields desert chase film SAHARA (1985).
Close up of Mark's painting.
It may be on another planet but it looks like a desert to me.  An ILM matte shot (one of many) from the not very good ENEMY MINE (1985).  John Boorman did the same story far better in Hell in the Pacific some two decades previous.

A matte from Universal's CATTLE DRIVE (1951)
Stirring matte work from THE GREEN GRASS OF WYOMING (1948) made by 20th Century Fox.
George Lucas made a couple of Ewok telemovies in the mid eighties and I forget which one this is - maybe EWOKS-CARAVAN OF COURAGE (1985).  Nice ILM matte art, probably by Michael Pangrazio.

Original negative matte from the same EWOKS tv movie.
Art Director John DeCuir began his Hollywood career as a matte painter in Universal's effects department with Russell Lawson under such leaders as John P.Fulton and David S. Horsley.  Here John can be seen with one of his mattes from the film SUDAN (1945)
More Lawson / DeCuir mattes from SUDAN
SUDAN - in all it's Technicolor wonder!

The highly entertaining monster mash, TREMORS (1990) had a ton of terrific effects work in it, largely by the Skotak brothers, Dennis and Robert.  Illusion Arts was also brought on board to supply three matte shots, with Robert Stromberg and Syd Dutton on painting duties.
More from TREMORS.

Pinewood's resident artist Cliff Culley was no doubt behind this shot from CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER made in the mid 1960's.

The eerie, ethereal opening set piece from Paul Schrader's CAT PEOPLE (1982) was given a power punch by David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder on the scoring side and Albert Whitlock and Bill Taylor on the visual side of things.
The tilt up matte composite from CAT PEOPLE 

For a cable tv film titled DRUG WARS - THE CAMARENA STORY, Ken Marschall was asked to create a vast dope plantation in the Mexican desert (that's why that big assed wall has to be built!) by way of flawless matte artistry.
Ken Marschall's acrylic matte painting.

Painted details, though not so you'd notice.
The completely convincing finished composite.

For another shot from the same tele-movie, Ken has created an full painting of this vast evil 'industry' as an aerial view.  Regrettably, the exquisite artwork was cropped off and compromised somewhat for tv broadcast.

Close up detail of Ken's skilled brushmanship.

Universal's SOUTH COLUMN (1951) - a shot that appeared in others of the same studio's westerns.
The grand opening shot from David O. Selznick's monumental DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) - a film packed with matte shots by Jack Cosgrove and his team, including painters Hans Ledeboer, Jack Shaw and Spencer Bagtatopolis in addition to the virtuoso fx camera skills of Clarence Slifer.

Also from DUEL IN THE SUN are these mattes which are among my all time favourites.

This shot I find very intriguing.  It's from the Bruce Willis movie SUNSET (1988) and a great deal of intricate work has been executed in order to make a believable shot.  It's a live action train with Bruce Willis on horseback riding alongside.  The desert, sky and mountains were painted by Mark Sullivan (you can just see the matte join running up next to the tumbleweeds).  Smoke was matted in because an actual steam locomotive wasn't available for the live action shoot. Matte cameraman Bob Bailey was working for the Howard A. Anderson company as they had the overall effects contract, Bob composited the shot while Mark did the time consuming rotoscoping of the train over the distant hills.
British artist Steve Mitchell excels in both scenic art and matte art, with his stamp upon many big productions.  This matte painting is from a project called EGYPT though I'm not sure if it's the 2005 UK series or something else.  Great art though.

Universal's colourful ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) - not to be confused with Pasolini's same titled 1974 picture which is a completely different kettle of fish altogether... just pop that one on for the kids and see what happens!!! Yowza!

More from ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) - Universal's first (I think) Technicolor production and then only after much wringing of hands and so forth.  Lot's of mattes by Russell Lawson and John DeCuir and possibly others too. It's fun, and those doe-eyed harem beauties, shameless hussies and sultry hand-maidens are worth the price of admission alone. Hand on heart.

Two Louis Litchtenfield mattes from Howard Hawks' LAND OF THE PHAROAHS (1955)

A rare vintage RKO matte painting that was prepared for the Cary Grant comedy MR BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948) though I only ever spotted this matte in the trailer and not in the main feature - at least the DVD version I have.
Another in a long line of fanciful Arabian styled adventures, THE FLAME OF ARABY (1951) with mattes by Russ Lawson

I just love extreme perspective matte painted shots no matter how much they defy the laws of physics and the rest of it.  This awesome shot from the not too shabby PSYCHO II (1982) was painted by Albert Whitlock.  It's entirely artwork except a small strip of dusty ground where the character runs from the house.  A private collector owns the original glass painting and I'll show images of it (and others he has) in an upcoming Whitlock retrospective where I'll have as many of Al's shots as I've been able to acquire.
Jim Danforth created this gas station in the middle of a desert matte shot as part of a commercial for British Petroleum in the 1970's.

A sensational matte from a 1986 Japanese tv commercial for TAKARA.  A while back I spoke with Mark about this shot and he told me a rather funny story:  "Effects cinematographer Glenn Campbell would do things that would just crack me up.  When he and I were shooting the plate for this Japanese television commercial, he would have to open the camera between takes to notch the edge of the film, so that we could identify the takes later as the shot was being done latent image.  The production crew seemed slightly curious about this procedure and would usually watch us.  While he was hunched over the camera, Glenn couldn't resist tooting a bicycle horn he had hidden within his camera gear, just to confound the crew".

ILM matte painter Frank Ordaz finishes up on the desert matte for John Carpenter's STARMAN (1984)
The final shot
Spanish maestro of cinematic sleight of hand, the great Emilio Ruiz del Rio, was a master at foreground mattes and miniatures that perfectly married in with the live action set ups in hundreds of films.  This set of stills from the film PRINCESS AMINA are a perfect demonstration of Emilio's talent for ingenious in camera believable scenes.

Another of Emilio Ruiz' foreground trick shots, this time for one of the eighties CONAN films, quite possibly the second one CONAN THE DESTROYER.

Matte World's Michael Pangrazio painted this amazing matte for the Kevin Costner film ROBIN HOOD (1991).  The artist also played the on camera role of the Muslim holy man atop the minaret, so one could say that Pangrazio really owns this great shot!

THE BARBARIAN aka A NIGHT IN CAIRO (1933) with mattes executed in MGM's Newcombe Department.
The true pioneer when it came to the matte shot artform was Norman Dawn.  Dawn would contribute nearly 1000 effects shots to many projects over his long career and for a time in the 1940's Norman would work under Warren Newcombe at MGM on a variety of films such as THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946) for whom he painted these mattes.

The 1959 version of BEN HUR was a massive effects showcase, and won the Oscar for it's efforts though inexplicably only in the miniature, process and practical fx sub-category and not in the matte painting nor opticals sub-category. Go figure!!  This is one of the many mattes painted by MGM's Lee LeBlanc and Matthew Yuricich (this one is a LeBlanc shot).
More BEN HUR matte work.
BEN HUR (1959)

Jan Domela mattes from the rousing Gary Cooper actioner THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935)
Selznick's THE GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936) had many mattes by resident effects wizard Jack Cosgrove, which I believe were the first everTechnicolor mattes, though I stand to be corrected if need be.

One of a large number of mattes seen in the old RKO version of CIMARRON (1931) with Mario Larrinaga chiefly involved.
For the hugely ambitious THE MESSAGE - aka MOHAMMED, MESSENGER OF GOD (1977) British matte exponent Doug Ferris was contracted to paint these two shots which were shot and composited by John Grant on original negative.
Even ole' Tarzan gets a look in today with this vintage piece.

For the multiple Oscar winning Kevin Costner film DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) Rocco Gioffre and old friend and mentor Matt Yuricich teamed up to paint the film's two matte shots with this one being a Yuricich shot.
Some perspective issues here in these mattes from the low budget ACTION IN ARABIA (1944)
For an Anita Baker music video in the late 1980's, artist Ken Marschall painted this sensational canyon.

Doug Ferris painted this matte for a project I'm not sure of.  My files just mention it as "ODDS".  Whether that's a movie, tv show or commercial I don't know.
The Gary Cooper classic BEAU GESTE (1939) with Gordon Jennings in charge, Irmin Roberts on fx camera and Jan Domela with painting duties.

The mega-misfire ISHTAR (1986) had a handful of mattes by Rocco Gioffre and associate Mark Sullivan, with this shot being one of Mark's.
Mark Sullivan's original matte art.  A few years ago I purchased a couple of mattes from Rocco and on the reverse side of one was a partially blocked in ISHTAR scene by Mark which wasn't completed as the sequence was jettisoned by the studio. I showed it to Mark who was surprised to see something he worked on yet was abandoned over 30 years ago.
Even the boundless worlds of the STAR TREK universe get the desert locale as evidenced in this Dan Curry full matte painting from one of the TREK spinoff shows which my file is labelled as 'Relva VII surface', though as I only ever watched the original 1960's series I don't know about the later shows.
Percy Day painted a number of mattes for Korda's THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940) though not all of them made it into the final cut.  This one did however and demonstrates superb blending with a soft matte, especially considering it's Technicolor.
Same film, an example of the hanging foreground miniature, supervised by Ross Jacklin.

The seventies saw a made for tv British remake of THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1978) with this one getting a theatrical release in several territories such as here in good ole' NZ.  Ray Caple supplied the matte shots.

Very early glass shots from Paramount's THE SHEIK (1921) possibly supervised by Roy Pomeroy?

Another timeless classic of the genre was KISMET, with this one being the third version made in 1944 by MGM.  The above shot is a Norman Dawn matte and apparently appears in other films as well.
More Newcombe mattes from KISMET (1944) 

Naturally, in 1955 they had to remake KISMET yet again (for the forth time) - this time in CinemaScope and Stereophonic sound. Again, the shots were achieved under Warren Newcombe's ever vigilant eye and this one is a beauty.
Another KISMET CinemaScope matte that suffered terribly when shown on tv in old 'flat' pan & scan 16mm prints back in the day.

One of Norman Dawn's amazingly detailed original production cards where he detailed all of his effects work throughout his very long career, with this one being from an old Universal serial called THE BROKEN COIN (1915).  This material is just solid gold.
A slightly water damaged but surprisingly crisp near on 100 year old artifact 35mm frame blow up of one of Norman Dawn's mattes from THE BROKEN COIN as detailed above.  Pure magic.

My effects friend in Madrid Spain sent me this though I forgot whether it's a foreground miniature set up or a foreground painting?  The film is an Italian show that's translated as FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL made in 1970.

Paramount's Jan Domela painted this (and several more) grand mattes for the VistaVision picture OMAR KHAYYAM (1957).  Irmin Roberts was matte cameraman and John P.Fulton ran the effects department (with an iron fist apparently).

Columbia Pictures knocked out alot of these shows throughout the 40's and 50's with this being A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (1945) with Lawrence Butler and Donald Glouner handling the effects that were nominated for an effects Oscar.  Top left and bottom right mattes have cropped up so often in other films it's not funny (and it's not!)

I've always liked the mattes and miniatures in the Yul Brynner epic SOLOMON AND SHEBA (1959) though I've no clue as to who did the work.  Really nice matte here, possibly done in Europe or the UK.
Another SOLOMON AND SHEBA matte.
20th Century Fox have always maintained a high standard in all areas of their special effects work, with mattes being no exception.  This neat shot from BROKEN LANCE (1954) - which I'd never noticed until I saw the BluRay - has the State Prison and it's shadow completely painted in.  Effects boss was veteran Ray Kellogg.
This one's interesting.  The Bond film MOONRAKER (1979) had this sequence where Bond visits bad guy Drax at his stately European chateau....right slap bang in the middle of the Mojave Desert!!  Turns out in the movie, that Drax had transported his entire estate across the pond from France, brick by brick, and rebuilt his diggs in a freakin' desert, no doubt because that's what Bond villains do!  I don't know who painted the shot but frequent 007 visual effects man Robin Browne oversaw the shot and even introduced a subtle 'sway' for the chopper POV.  I always liked that shot.
One of my favourite little low budget yarns was the brutal yet very solid post apocalyptic yarn PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962) where director/star Ray Milland does a great job indeed.  This nice matte shot occurs at the start, credited, I recall to Consolidated Film Industries or one of those companies.

For John Landis' not particularly funny spy spoof SPIES LIKE US (1985), British matte exponent Ray Caple supplied this desert and mountain range on the supposed Afghanistan border somewhere.
Sorry about the crap images but all I have is an old VHS copy.  Some beautiful matte art though.
Carl Foreman's huge all star cast western MACKENNA'S GOLD (1969) was a major effects show with many technicians involved.  The mattes were plentiful and all shot and composited on 65mm film by effects cameraman John Mackey in London.  Matte artists were Bob Cuff, Ray Caple, Joy Seddon and Lynette Lee.
One of the many spectacular mattes from MACKENNA'S GOLD.  I'm told that the producer originally tried to sign up Albert Whitlock for the mattes but Al refused to 'cheat' on certain key mattes where the sun rises in the morning and a certain narrative vital shadow increases in length the higher the sun rises, quite contrary to nature.

Same film
Chief matte painter at Shepperton, George Samuels, is shown here busy with one of the mattes for the popular THE BELLES OF ST.TRINIANS (1954)

From the same film.
The pivotal sequence in David Lean's wonderful  A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984) takes place at the Malabar Caves, where certain adjustments were required by Lean.  I believe the painted in outcropping of rock was rendered by budding effects man Peter Chiang (nowadays a key vfx supervisor) under the supervision of Robin Browne.

Some unique pictorial elegance can be seen in the mattes in Warner Bros' DODGE CITY (1939)

A blink and you'll miss it matte from the taut RKO thriller THE HITCH HIKER (1953)

One of Ken Marschall's shots from SUMMER KNIGHTS (1992) where a high quality photographic print has been substantially augmented to suit.
SUMMER KNIGHTS (1992) Ken Marschall matte effect.

An Emilio Ruiz foreground painting from CANNON FOR CORDOBA (1971)

One of Russ Lawson's mattes from Universal's THE GOLDEN HORDE (1951)
Michael Lloyd matte art from OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987)
Mattes from Universal's THE SON OF ALI BABA (1952)
Terence Young's rousing adventure ZARAK (1957) had many mattes, but by whom I wonder?  British production so either Pinewood or Shepperton effects departments I'd say.
Universal's SIGN OF THE PAGAN (1954) with mattes by Russell Lawson I presume.
Some terrific vintage mattes from UNDER TWO FLAGS (1936) made by Fox.

More great mattes from UNDER TWO FLAGS which were probably the work of Fred Sersen, Ralph Hammeras and others.
Pinewood's matte department, under Cliff Culley, created these desert scenes for THE PURPLE PLAIN (1954).  Other artists employed around that time were Bob Bell, John Stears and Albert Whitlock (who had probably departed for Hollywood that year).

Mark Sullivan painted this desert scene for the opening sequence of Oliver Stone's extremely impressive biopic THE DOORS (1991)

Another of Mark's shots from THE DOORS which he told me he was especially pleased with.

The Gary Cooper western GARDEN OF EVIL (1954) had more matte shots than you could shake a stick at.  Often sequences were wall to wall matte art.  Ray Kellogg - himself a veteran matte painter and all round effects guy - was in charge here.  Principal matte artist would have been Emil Kosa jr and others on board would have likely have been Cliff Silsby, Lee LeBlanc, Matt Yuricich  and probably Ralph Hammeras.

GARDEN OF EVIL (1954).  Note the painted dead horses.

I'm pretty sure this shot from MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) is a split screen.  When toggling back and forth through successive frame captures one can see movement where the two images join up, which is more or less a 'zig zag' line dead centre.  Pretty ambitious shot, but for Fred Sersen's boys at Fox it was probably a dime a dozen.
A beautiful and uncredited night shot from Bernardo Bertolucci's THE SHELTERING SKY (1990).
A most exquisite matte from the final scene in Fox's WESTERN UNION (1941).
Two of Cliff Culley's numerous mattes from KHARTOUM (1966) with all being completed in 65mm.
More great mattes from 20th Century Fox:  TWO FLAGS WEST (1950)
One of the only things I liked about SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) was this foreground miniature shot.  I don't know who did the shot for Ray? It's classic Emilio Ruiz in application and design but I'm not aware of his involvement.  Les Bowie did some shots but I don't think this was one of them.
Another Fox film with a desert - the Gobi desert this time - DESTINATION GOBI (1953)

Same film

The British film ALEXANDER THE GREAT (1956) featured a bunch of mattes and split screens.  This one is a full painting with Wally Veevers in charge of the Shepperton effects department.  Painters at the time included George Samuels, Albert Julion, Bob Cuff, David Hume and others.
An unidentified Jan Domela matte from a Paramount picture of the late 20's or early 30's.
These are from Columbia's SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953)
More mattes from SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953).  Larry Butler would have been effects chief and Donald Glouner as his visual effects cameraman.
I really enjoyed THE BIG TRAIL (1930) and found it quite an achievement, especially having been shot in an early form of 65mm widescreen.  Lots of mattes and glass shots with Fred Sersen credited for 'settings'.
Columbia's SIROCCO (1951)
More mattes from SIROCCO. Possible matte artists at the time included Juan Larrinaga and others.

I rather like this shot from Universal's THE GOLDEN BLADE (1953).  As usual this shot would show up again and again elsewhere in other, mainly Universal films.
same film
Out west in CONQUEST OF COCHISE (1953)
The second incarnation of KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950)

Speaking of remakes, SHE has been made at least five times with this 1966 effort being number four on the list.  Ray Caple and Bob Cuff shared painting duties.
SHE (1966)

Cliff Culley and maybe Charles Stoneham painted mattes on FOLLOW THAT CAMEL (1967)

Another of those mix and match shots that has cropped up in many films.  This grab is from Universal's BAGDAD (1949) though I also have seen it in things like VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS made by Columbia some 15 years later.

From the Universal picture THE WYOMING MAIL (1950).

From the television series BUCK ROGERS made in the early 1980's.  While the mattes for the feature length pilot were painted by Syd Dutton at Universal Studios in Whitlock's department, the shots for the ongoing weekly series were all handled at the off-site effects facility Universal Hartland with David Stipes being principally involved as matte cinematographer and compositor with paintings rendered by Jena Holman and Dan Curry.
More of the BUCK ROGERS television series mattes with most of these being from the episdode Planet of the Slave Girls.

Speaking of tv series, here are some of Ray Caple's mattes from the overlong miniseries THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES made in the late 1970's.

Shots from the original feature length BEN HUR (1925) with Ferdinand Pinney Earle's glass shots at play.

Now here's a really good western from Fox, YELLOW SKY (1948) - a gritty, tense psychological drama with a great cast.  Great mattes too by the reliable Sersen department.
Another YELLOW SKY matte where all is painted except a small strip where the horsemen ride down through the ghost town.  Excellent film!
Albert Whitlock received an Academy Award nomination for his mattes in TOBRUK (1967)

Another of Whitlock's matte shots from TOBRUK. Of interest to me as my grandfather fought in that area during WWII.

The big Warner Bros western VIRGINIA CITY (1940) was loaded with mattes as was often the case with that studio's films during that era.  Byron Haskin was effects chief and artists Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga and maybe Chesley Bonestell most likely kept very busy.
More glorious matte artistry from VIRGINIA CITY (1940).  Lots of matte art where you'd least expect it.

While on the western theme, here's another entry with a chunk of matte trickery.  THE TALL MEN (1955) had some good sprawling vista's such as this as well as some complicated split screens and travelling matte shots, all supervised by Ray Kellogg.
Two more of the trick shots from THE TALL MEN with the upper shot being a split screen where a river has been matted into a different location, with some matte art to tie the blend.  The lower shot is a most curious affair and something of an optical puzzle. An actual location has been augmented with painted columns of rock in the foreground. The cattle were a separate element altogether with what appears to be laborious rotoscoping job at the top end of the stampede where I'm guessing Kellogg would have shot the herd outdoors against a white or gray backing to aid in extracting mattes.  It's all up a very well assembled sequence and one that I replayed several times to take it all in. A brave bit of camera trickery in my book.  Kudos to Ray Kellogg and the effects cameramen L.B Abbott, Wally Castle and James B.Gordon.
Also from THE TALL MEN 
A pair of Jan Domela painted mattes from DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

I like the Universal monster and sci-fi films of the 50's.  TARANTULA (1955) was one of those and was pretty ambitious at that.  At left is a split screen where a (real?) desert has been matted into a small town; while at right a similar desert landscape has been split screened behind a stately home.  Clifford Stine was effects chief and Roswell Hoffman shot and composited all of the trick work.

The childish sci-fi flick SOLAR BABIES (1986) had nothing in it's favour aside from some nice Richard Edlund opticals and Matthew Yuricich painted mattes such as this.
Further frames from the same SOLAR BABIES chasm sequence.  Michele Moen assisted on the matte work.

For the Brad Pitt film 7 YEARS IN TIBET (1997) UK artist Doug Ferris painted in this mountain top monastary. 

The extremely popular Crosby-Hope 'Road' series was often season for the Gordon Jennings effects department at Paramount who worked out all sorts of gags, mattes and clever craziness. Jan Domela painted the mattes as usual on ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942) with associate Irmin Roberts photographing and comping same. 
Two more Domela shots from ROAD TO MOROCCO.
One of the best special effects showcases of the Golden Era was MGM's Clark Gable-Spencer Tracy oil well epic BOOMTOWN (1940).  Tons of outstanding practical effects work by Arnold Gillespie, terrifyingly realistic optical work by Irving G. Ries and some beautiful matte art (above) courtesy of Warren Newcombe's matte department.
From Blake Edwards' THE GREAT RACE (1965) with mattes by Cliff Silsby and Albert Maxwell Simpson.
George Stevens' massive religious saga THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) was actually one of the best of that genre - and that's a lot when coming from your humble atheist matte historian.  An Oscar nominee for its vast roster of mattes and effects that inexplicably lost out to the completely unworthy effects work in the Bond film THUNDERBALL that year,  Joseph McMillan Johnson designed and oversaw the visual effects, with matte painters Matthew Yuricich, Jan Domela and I think Albert Maxwell Simpson signed on by MGM to paint the many stunning mattes.  The above shot is a Jan Domela matte that was ultimately deleted from the film.
From the same film is this matte, possibly by Matt Yuricich.
Two Jan Domela mattes from THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD with the mountains painted in.
Same film is this wonderful vista that I've never really figured out whether it's a matte, an actual locale or a combination of the two. Love it though!

As a young fellow I loved BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) and would often go to double bills of this with the original Apes masterpiece at local movie houses such as the quite luxurious Mayfair theatre in suburban Sandringham, Auckland.  BENEATH has a great deal of effects work by L.B Abbott and Art Cruickshank, with an unbilled Matthew Yuricich on matte painting such as this shot where both the foreground drop and the rock wall behind Chuck Heston are all painted.  As an aside, the John Chambers mutant make ups were, and remain, some of the most ghastly visions ever committed to film.
Same film with our hero and most comely heroine nearly being swallowed by a giant chasm opening in the desert,  I loved this shot as a kid.

Albert Whitlock shots from the 1966 Telly Savalas version of BEAU GESTE. The original scope format is badly cropped here in this lousy TV print.

Same timeless character though this time done by Marty Feldman for the spoof THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE (1977) where Al Whitlock has painted various French Foreign Legion settings and Bill Taylor has cleverly integrated either Gary Cooper or Valentino into newly shot footage with Feldman.

The sequel to Romancing The Stone, JEWEL OF THE NILE (1985) included this matte painted shot by Ray Caple.
Some really nice mattes from Columbia's effects department under Larry Butler from PRISONERS OF THE CASBAH (1953)
Same film, with left matte frequently seen in other Columbia films.

The utterly bewildering zen-like CIRCLE OF IRON - aka THE SILENT FLUTE (1979) was a strange experience to say the least. Noteworthy for several nice Ray Caple mattes, some of which are illustrated here.

More from CIRCLE OF IRON - scenario incidentally dreamt up by Bruce Lee and James Coburn many years prior, though unmade till the late 1970's.
CIRCLE OF IRON with Christopher Lee in that very silly hat!

Another of Ray Caple's mattes and a lot more silly hats, from CIRCLE OF IRON (1979)

One of Jan Domela's mattes from Paramount's HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS (1960).  The same plate was used later with a totally different matted in background!
Either Charles Stoneham in the UK or Robert Scifo in the US painted this for RETURN TO OZ (1985)

Matte art was required in a number of scenes in ESCAPE TO ZAHRAIN (1962) to depict oil refineries, depots, pipelines and other bits of business in the scorching desert.  Being Paramount and with John P.Fulton credited it's a sure bet that Jan Domela painted the shots, and almost certainly with aggravation from the always antagonistic Fulton.
Quite nice Technicolor matte art from Columbia's SLAVES OF BABYLON (1953).  Apologies if this has already featured in this post but I tend to get a bit lost with all of this material.

A colourful and star studded Jules Verne romp, FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962) with matte art overseen by Emil Kosa jr and photographic effects by L.B Abbott.
Emil Kosa matte from FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON, directed by Irwin Allen in fact.

Rather flat and 'illustration' in render are these mattes from Columbia's SERPENT OF THE NILE (1953)
From a Soviet film titled SADKO - THE MAGIC VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1953)
Fred Sersen's matte department at Fox did these shots for a Charlie Chan mystery, CASTLE IN THE DESERT (1942)

From FORT ALGIERS (1953)
Not really desert but what the hell... THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR (1955) from Ray Kellogg's department at Fox.

Matthew Yuricich produced a full painting for this ominous opener for POLTERGEIST II (1986)

A frame from the vast pullback in POLTERGEIST II which is entirely painted except the man atop the rock.
The desert sequence from the still vital PLANET OF THE APES (1968).  Not matte art per-se, but artwork and cels would have been rendered for the sky as the lightning flash reveal unusual cloud effects.  Art Cruickshank was on opticals.

Yeah, I know there's grass there, but it still looks pretty much like a desert to me.  An utterly fantastic matte by Jim Danforth for THE NEVER ENDING STORY (1984)
Far better than it's name (and poster) might suggest, Universal's THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957).  Clifford Stine was photographic effects man and I presume Russ Lawson painted the mattes.

An impressive matte composite complete with burned in explosion element from THE MONOLITH MONSTERS.

Matthew Yuricich painted this shot for the excrutiating MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987)

That so familiar shot from Ray Harryhausen's 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1957) which actually was lifted from an old Universal costume cheapie VEILS OF BAGDAD (1953)

I think these mattes from TIMBUKTU (1959) are really quite good.  No idea as to who did the work.
Russell Lawson matte effects from THE DESERT HAWK (1950)