Tuesday 9 March 2021

MATTE PAINTING REVIEW: A Selection of Overlooked Films - Part Fifteen


Hi there fellow fans of traditional hand made special visual effects.  It's time for another retrospective journey deep into the cinematic vault of marvellous matte painted and miniature magic, exclusively of the variety most die-hard followers of NZPete's MatteShot blog will eagerly devour and appreciate.

But first........

Pete's Editorial:

I have several important announcements to make before we explore todays lineup.  It's been brought to my attention a few times of another online site, going by the label of 'matte96', who have been busy little beavers by way of lifting, not only images and bits of text, but hijacking ENTIRE NZPete MatteShot articles in toto, and republishing same in their complete (and massive tomes as is often the case) form on this other site!!  I've no problem with fans or any readers who want to lift frames and imagery, as I believe in sharing this wonderful, lost artform, but for ENTIRE, FULL and COMPLETE articles to be ripped off and reassigned to someone elses website, without so much as a line of communication or any form of permission seeking is outright theft.  This shadowy, backdoor burglary has been going on for some time now.

A massive amount of effort goes into archiving, collecting, prepping and publishing MY blog, NZPetes Matte Shot, often against the odds, with tech issues and Blogger platform implosions.... but I perservere all the same.  Must I get to the stage where I will need to watermark entire blog posts, thus destroying the usually high quality of the rare images?  The statement below now seems timely should anyone stumble across my work on another, unauthorised platform...

***This post, and all 168 previous blogs known as 'Matte Shot', were originally created by Peter Cook for nzpetesmatteshot with all content, layout and text originally published at http://nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.com/


The End Of An Era:

It is with great sadness that I've only just learned of the closing down of the essential, one-of-a-kind special effects journal, Cinefex. This vital magazine has been with us since 1980 (though extremely difficult to find here in NZ).  I have a sizeable collection of issues, though always wished I had some of the rare, very early ones, aside from the low quality photocopies I ordered decades ago, as those films from that era meant so much to me as an FX geek.  I think the oldest issue I have is number 4, and own most of the rest (with a few gaps) up into the CGI revolution, but I never 'clicked' with the computerised medium and I longed for the days of real matte painting and hands on trickery.  I still routinely pull out favourite issues (the Dream Quest article is a gem, as is the Willis O'Brien special issue and also the Dick Tracy one and the Rick Baker edition to name just four) and often re-read these wonderfully penned pieces. An amazing, comprehensive and utterly essential publication - that for so long went completely ad-free - the likes of which we never saw previously, nor will ever again.  I know it meant so much to so many, not just geeks like me, but REAL effects people and industry creative folks.  A full statement on the shut down can be read here.

My very best wishes go out to founder, the great Don Shay, as well as to Editor, Gregg Shay and my friend, Associate Editor Joe Fordham, who has been so supportive of NZ Pete's blog over the years - and for that I am in your debt.  There will never be another publication so dedicated, investigative and comprehensive so far as the art and science of special effects as Cinefex.  You've served us so well and you have my salute.  You will be missed by so many.


A Forgotten Photograph:

In my previous blog article on the special photographic effects work on the United Artists' epic comedy, IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, I overlooked this wonderful photo of Linwood Dunn, of Film Effects of Hollywood, posing with the marvellous Howard Fisher matte painting which featured so brilliantly in the climax of the madcap film.

Dunn was very big on further education within the film community and would occasionally embark on roadshow tours of college campuses with film studies programs, as well as events at professional venues such as the AMPAS, whereby he would run 16mm prints of his numerous showreels of classic before and after trick shots from many of his, mostly RKO movies such as CITIZEN KANE, THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE, THE GREAT RACE and GUNGA DIN to name a few.  Occasionally, matte paintings and miniatures would accompany Lin on these engagements.  I recall hearing great things about these seminars from a few FX people.


An Important Announcement For Matte Art Collectors:

Illusion Arts at it's peak with co-founders, effects cinematographer Bill Taylor and matte painter Syd Dutton shown here with then young, up and coming matte artist (and future feature director) Robert Stromberg observing a splendid glass painted matte for a Michael Jackson music video.

In a previous blogging late last year, I highlighted a splendid selection of rare matte paintings from Illusion Arts which had been put up for auction.  You can review that here. These included such pieces as the wonderful SPACEBALLS castle and BATMAN FOREVER Gotham City mattes by Syd Dutton and a number of STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION mattes rendered both by Dutton and fellow artist Robert Stromberg.  Under Bill Taylor's over sight, the entire and substantial collection of carefully stored and cared for matte paintings, dating as far back as the 1970's, have been meticulously documented, photographed and evaluated, in readiness for the complete dispersal of this most incredible, one of a kind 'treasure chest'.

Illusion Arts, as most readers will know, was formed by Syd and Bill - both key creative forces in the old Al Whitlock department at Universal since the mid 1970's - who purchased the old and reliable cameras, optical printers and matte stands when Universal decided to close down their matte department when Whitlock retired around 1984.

I have been privvy to a number of those paintings (yes, I'm VERY interested, to say the least!) and can state that some absolute gems are among this vast collection.  There are mattes by Syd Dutton, Robert Stromberg and of course, the legendary Albert Whitlock.  Many are on glass but a significant number are on hardboard (or Masonite, as the Americans call it), which makes a difference when considering foreign purchase arrangements.  The eventual destinations for the pieces will vary, with certain key, important mattes destined for the Motion Picture Academy.  Certain others will be placed with fine art auction houses at various times and some will appear on eBay.  Others may be available directly from Bill Taylor.  At present, all of the original 35mm showreels, as well as hundreds of slides and clips, are being gradually transferred to a digital medium, though I'm told it's going to be a slow process.

One of the many Universal and Illusion Arts matte paintings that will be available is this beautiful painting of 13th Century Paris from the Franklin J. Schaffner adventure, LIONHEART (1986).  For those curious among you, those gel taped 'holes' in the blacked out area were made for a completely separate matte which was painted on the reverse side, with the gels providing backlight 'gags'.

Close up detail of Syd Dutton's historic matte of Paris, which shows strong influence of Syd's mentor, Albert Whitlock in tones, backlight and a sense of 'life'.

The finished original negative composite from LIONHEART, with the standard Illusion Arts smoke plumes doubled into chimney stacks.  Resolution is superb as was the standard latent image technique, with a perfectly merged matte join.  Syd mentioned to me that the director was very happy with this shot.
I will have more detailed info and plenty of superb examples hopefully for the next blog, so any matte enthusiasts and potentially interested parties should 'watch this space', as they say. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. *Note: The post-apocalyptic film, DOUBLE DRAGON featured as the first film in todays retrospective, there are a multitude of painted mattes by Illusion Arts.  All of these are, or will be, available to collectors.



So, let's get this show on the road...

So folks, on with the show.  Today I have some terrific mattes from films that run the range from classic, to dreadful.  We have some beautifully elegant Technicolor mattes from Shepperton Studios, made under Wally Veevers' supervision; a ton of vintage RKO fantasy painted matte work that looks stunning even now, some 85 years on; a pair of Hammer melodramas with clever, low budget tricks by Les Bowie; and also an irritating 90's dumb-buddy slam-fest set in a flooded Los Angeles - and that one is 96 minutes of my life I'll never get back - but the matte art is sensational.

So, climb on board, sit back, and enjoy


DOUBLE DRAGON (1994) was apparently based on a video game, so with that in mind, you couldn't find anything less agreeable as far as this viewer is concerned.  To say I suffered for my matte fetish, is putting it lightly as far as this film was concerned, but a matte is a matte, and the work here is great!

It's a sort of a 'Bill & Ted' with roundhouse kicks and bad jokes, as this dim duo search for both halves of a gold magical medallion - or some bloody thing!  Notable for having memorable T2 cyborg villain, Robert Patrick, play an effete, bleach blond, spiky haired mastermind nemisis.  When it comes to 'Dragon' flicks, give me ENTER THE DRAGON any old day.  A 100% bona-fide classic....  It don't get no better than Bruce at his most unleashed....though, I digress!

A huge effects show, and curiously one utilising traditional hand painted Illusion Arts matte art amid much, now terribly dated, early CGI from Pacific Date Images. Lots of the now very passe morphing CG which looked cool in TV ads back in the day but quickly grew tiresome about a week later. 

Post Apocalyptic LA is now 'New Angeles', with almost all of it under water.  Global warming, my arse!

Robert Stromberg painted all of the mattes for this show.  Syd told me that he and Bill decided to give Robert supervision of the matte load for the picture.

The reverse side of the above with a series of specific holes drilled out, with coloured gels attached for backlight gags of flickering city lights.

A closer view.  The final on screen shot features a subtle parallax shift suggesting a fly over.  It's real subtle, but it's there and nicely sells the illusion.

The subsequent matte includes a miniature foreground element constructed by Illusion Arts resident jack-of-all-trades, Lynn Ledgerwood.  The shot has a push in on the city centre.

Robert Stromberg matte painted LA of 2007.

Stromberg's original artwork as it looks today, having been carefully stored, catalogued and photographed in the hope that this - and others - will find an appreciative owner.  Even if you are not a DOUBLE DRAGON fan -and I can't imagine who would be - this matte would be a sensational keepsake.

Hollywood Boulevard as it was in 2007 - or did you miss it?

Glorious original Rob Stromberg matte art.

Not entirely sure here, but this mammoth lift shaft looks painted to me?

How did that song go...Oh yeah:  "It never rains in California, but it pours, man it pours..."

It's all a matter of oil pigment upon masonite board.  A lost artform, which is what NZ Pete's blog is all about.  Thrills me no end to see the original art, no matter what the film.

A key action set piece features a prolonged chase along the so-called Hollywood River and it's off-shoots.  Much matte art by Rob Stromberg tied into stunt boating.

Original matte painting.

Top:  Probably matte painted shot.  Bottom:  Yeah, well, ummm.... words fail me!!

Terrific scene here with a brilliant perspective shift suggesting a multi-layered split matte for the wrecked street.  Again, very subtle, but very effective indeed.

The moving camera POV is 'on the water' following these two jerks, with the aforementioned deep, multi-layered effect as the shot proceeds.  Terrific bit that even Syd said to me had him trying to deconstruct and figure out all these years later.

The chase continues as they speed past the Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Holiday Inn.  I stayed at that hotel twice, just to be close to the Blvd and places like the amazing Larry Edmunds Book Store and Hollywood Book and Poster.  I wonder whether they are still around?  I watched the X-FILES movie at Graumans just so I could say I'd been in that glorious old picture palace.

Don't worry....it's just a painting!

High rises amid much disrepair.  Times were bad in 2007 by all accounts.  And we think we got it bad now in 2021.

Same view as a Robert Stromberg matte.  A small monorail was animated into that track in the background with a pan across camera move.

Stromberg came from a family invested in trick work.  His father William was a noted stop motion animator and introduced the young Robert to trick photography and visual effects techniques from a young age.  Robert worked for David Stipes Productions in the mid 1980's and then joined Illusion Arts a few years later as a matte painter.  Rob worked on scores of features, TV shows, music videos and commercials under Syd Dutton's mentorship.  Among these were AGE OF INNOCENCE with a fantastic museum interior, and CAPE FEAR with moody, atmospheric skies. Stromberg's ambitions grew and he would eventually leave visual effects and move into production design, resulting in back to back Oscar and BAFTA wins for the James Cameron epic AVATAR.  More recently Stromberg has ventured into big budget feature film direction.  The sky's the limit it seems.

Before and after showing the original extreme upview of the villain's lair in both matte painted form, and stitched together composite frames showing the extent of the tilt up.

Frame by frame matte shot.

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 3

Detail 4.  Note, the helicopter was added digitally.
"So, whatcha gonna do girl.... knock my block off?"

The City Of Angels...

The film concludes with some confrontation of some description, between good and evil - or something.  I dunno, as I'd gotten quite bored by that stage and couldn't wait for it to end.  The tortures I endure to make this sensational blog (and then, to top it all, to have someone else blatantly 'rip it off'!)

Botox ... The Inside Story!


I've never been the least bit fond of operetta's, nor cared much for Gilbert & Sullivan, though I must admit I really enjoyed this 1953 British film.  A well made, beautifully photographed (by Christopher Challis) and acted period bio-pic.

I always try to cover British effects films as so little has ever been documented, so when a prime example like THE STORY OF GILBERT AND SULLIVAN comes along, I'm in!  Here is a selection of pics, with Shepperton Studios shown top left. The department was established in the late 1940's by the legendary Walter Percy 'Poppa' Day, with many artists and cameramen on board.  Day retired in 1952.  Next pic is visual effects supervisor and head of department, the great Wally Veevers, who was Pop Day's right hand man for decades. Next pic is chief matte painter George Samuels. Top far right is VFX director of photography, Peter Harman outside the effects dept.  Bottom row from left is matte painter Doug Ferris.  Doug didn't join the studio till around 1962 but I include the photo as it nicely demonstrates the matte room.  Next is matte artist Joseph Natanson, who did paint some mattes on this film.  Lastly, matte painter Gerald Larn who as it happens just passed away last week, well into his 80's.  Gerald didn't start with Veevers until 1964, but again, the photo nicely sums up the arrangement.

A film that has been incredibly difficult to track down, I'm delighted to have finally found it. The star cast are great, as I've always rather liked Robert Morley (so good in MARIE ANTOINETTE and countless others), and Maurice Evans, who for those unaware, was Dr Zaius in the first two PLANET OF THE APES films, albeit buried under a ton of John Chambers prosthetics, he still stole the show.

The film is loaded with matte shots and set extensions, all made on 3 strip Technicolor under Wally Veevers' supervision.  This opening shot of The Crystal Palace, for the London Exhibition, was rendered by George Samuels.  George was chief matte artist and had been one of Poppa Day's artists, while his younger brother Ted was long time head of physical effects at Shepperton.  This shot is interesting as it has much going on within the matte.  There are flags fluttering up on The Crystal Palace, and tree branches gently rustling in the breeze over the painted view.  I think this was a first for Wally's department, to double in actual foliage movement over a painted matte - a trick that several Hollywood studios such as Fox and MGM had been doing for years.  Before production began on GILBERT AND SULLIVAN, both Wally and George went on an invited tour of several American effects departments, specifically to observe photographic effects methods across the Atlantic.  It's pretty certain that they brought back this particular bi-pack 'gag' and utilised it here, though I can't recall the gag being re-used subsequently on any other British productions that I've studied.

More mattes from the early stage of the picture, each with actual moving foliage doubled into painted composites, though to my mind, overly so, thus ruining the overall com;position.  The two upper frames were quite interesting upon close study as I noted the tree branches and leaves being partly authentic and part painted, I suspect to conceal the unwanted background from those set ups.

Another interesting find were these two shots that were actually Percy Day/Peter Ellenshaw mattes lifted from the Oscar Wilde comedy AN IDEAL HUSBAND (1948), made at Shepperton some five years earlier.  It's entirely possible that George Samuels painted these too as he worked for Day.

Wally was a strong advocate of matting either miniature or painted ships into actual ocean footage whenever possible, to maintain an authentic scale to the water.  This method was applied in many films by Veevers such as THE SILENT ENEMY, THE GIFT HORSE, ALEXANDER THE GREAT and S.O.S TITANIC.

A glorious full matte painting of the opera house.

I'm fairly confident that the upper section of this frame, just above the people, has been painted in.

Same with this shot, the upper third or so has been matted in.

There are a few dramatic and very bold camera moves that integrate matte art with various pieces of live action.  This shot starts on the opera stage and in a crane action moves up through the stage scenery, following plumes of smoke belching from a smoke stack, with a continued move off the theatre roof, across nearby street frontage and finally ending on the exterior of the same opera house.  Impressive, and reminded me of the various elaborate gags executed so brilliantly at Warner Bros throughout the 1940's.  I'm sure Wally saw work of this kind during his visit to the American studios and brought the ideas back with him.

A high rez frame from the end of the above camera move is quite revealing as it appears to show a sliver of unpainted area at the bottom of the glass matte that accidentally found it's way on screen.

I understand Joseph Natanson painted alongside George Samuels on this film, and shots involving the majestic organ above the choir were his (see below as well).  Practically everything above has been added in as matte art, with just a few rows of people being real.

The subsequent scene is extremely impressive, and a fine showcase of live action merged with a substantial painted matte, all combined with a most dramatic tilt upward onto the massive organ.

Close up of the first part of the camera move, with the soft matte line running directly above the heads of the female choir.  Presumably Wally achieved this move on the optical printer, though the image quality is very good indeed for a dupe shot.  Wally was, by training, a visual effects cameraman and relied upon Technicolor type 8 separations for all Shepperton matte composites.

More detail from the camera move.

I never thought for a minute I'd like this film, but found it really a good picture, much as THE RED SHOES did for me when I never really felt it would grab me, but it sure did, and what a magnificent picture that was.

Not sure, this may be actual production photography?

Other matte artists employed in Wally's department at the time included Albert Julion - a painter much favoured by the Korda's, especially by production designer Vincent Korda.  Judy Jordan was another painter there at the time.  Both Albert and Judy had been two of Percy Day's matte unit.  Judy left to work with Tom Howard at MGM-Boreham Wood, while Albert was a long time veteran of Shepperton until his untimely death in the early 1960's aged only in his fifties.  I'm reasonably convinced that Julion had been mentor to Albert Whitlock as their paths criss-crossed with scenic painting and matte art back in the 1940's at Gaumont.

The final matte from THE STORY OF GILBERT & SULLIVAN is this operatic show where the upper half of the frame has been added in by one of the matte artists.


The film SHE (1935) being celebrated here is but one of at least five versions I'm aware of, with a silent version prior to this RKO production (and possibly others), as well as a pair of Hammer variants made in the 1960's.  There was also a B grade incarnation, possibly made by the dubious Cannon outfit, in the eighties.

SHE was a huge visual effects show, and many of the crew and technical people had previously worked on Producer Merian C. Cooper's all time masterpiece, KING KONG (1933).  Shown above are three key creative forces behind both KONG and SHE.  At left is RKO's special photographic effects chief Vernon L. Walker.  Middle pic shows head matte and glass shot artist Mario Larrinaga.  Photo at right is of optical cinematographer Linwood Dunn.  All three were important players in this and subsequent films such as CITIZEN KANE.

One of RKO, and later on, Warner Bros, biggest assets was the great composer, Max Steiner.  One of the absolute maestros in motion picture music scoring.

A timeless and much immitated narrative of eternal youth and beauty in a mystical lost Queen-dom, from the popular H.Rider Haggard 1887 novel of the same name.

Upon discovery of some ancient documents, a Cambridge University Don and his associates proceed to the far reaches of the Arctic in search of a lost city (always a dead cert for an enjoyable melodrama for NZPete).

The film is loaded with fine matte art and miniature work, as well as some well utilised Dunning composite photography and some nice near invisible moments of stop motion.

The trek is long, and the matted scenery is excellent.

One of the hazards of matte shots of old were that they were invariably cut into the reel with an optical printed cross dissolve to bring in the subsequent scene.  The mattes usually were dupes to begin with, so another level of optical degredation made things suffer badly with grain and washed out hues.  Especially bad when colour came in.

Either matte art or a combination of miniature set with painted glass, with people doubled in.

In addition to rendering all - or most - of the films glass and matte shots, artist Mario Larrinaga provided many conceptual drawings and paintings such as this one.  Mario added immensley to the success of KING KONG and it's steamy, dangerous environs.  Masterful!

Extensive matte art with actors clambering over the cliff top on an RKO stage.

The intrepid adventurers stumble (literally) across a giant Sabre Toothed Tiger, entomed in the ice.  A Mario Larrinaga matte painting added with good rear projection by Sidney Saunders.

A sudden avalanche brings grief to the party.  Miniatures, Dunning process work and more.

The elder statesman falls to his death.  Actor doubled into miniature footage via the Dunning (or Williams?) travelling matte process.

Excellent miniature photography of what appears to be a large model set.  It's highly probable that legendary miniaturist, Donald Jahraus, built these miniatures as he was in charge of the RKO model workshop from around 1930 until he shifted across town in 1937 to A.Arnold Gillespie's department at MGM where he never looked back.  One of the industrys truly great miniaturists, and the roll call of sensational MGM work is proof of that. His work on things like GREEN DOLPHIN STREET and the jaw dropping THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO - both Oscar winners for the miniature work.

More angles of the avalanche.

Filmed in daylight I'd presume.  Always a big 'plus'.

Our square jawed hero, Randolph Scott and entourage.  There's no going back now!

Larrinaga's matte painted cavern.

A large miniature set I presume, judging by the depth of field and scale of the steam.

One of my fave matte shots from the film.  See below for comparison...

No, you eyes aren't lying to you... I retrieved all of these high def frames from a, gulp, 'colourised' print.  I strongly dislike the notion of 'colourisation' (damn you Ted Turner!) and avoid like the plague.  However, the high fidelity specs of that print, as compared to awful DVD transfers, made for a better choice as far as obtaining very crisp effects shots.  I went about desaturating almost all of the frames for this blog, back to their original monochrome, but have kept a few samples of colour shots for comparison. 

Not sure, but likely many of these shots were made as in camera glass shots, as was common at the time.  The image resolution for most of the mattes look remarkably crisp.

A sensational, classic matte from what was the golden era of the art form.  I suspect Larrinaga was not alone with the matte duties as fellow artist Byron Crabbe was also in the RKO effects department and almost certainly would have had a hand in things.  It's entirely possibly too that Mario's brother, Juan - also a matte painter at that studio - could have painted on SHE.

The adventurers are taken by the native locals to the lost city.  A nice scene, either made with a painted backing, or a rear projected matte painting.  I suspect the latter, as there are a few stop motion birds doubled into the vista flying across the valley.  Probably animated by Orville Goldner who did likewise on the two KONG pictures and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME as well.

The colourised frame.

Top left, the set is leftover Skull Island gates from KING KONG.  Some groovy costume and art direction to be had in SHE, though the cast were exceptionally listless, especially the female lead, Helen Gahagan, and the pacing was a tad slow, it's still a good slice of thirties fantasy cinema.

She owns all that she surveys.  Glass or matte shot.  Mexican born Mario Larrinaga began in films as a technical artist at Universal Studios in 1916, where he gained experience in painting scenic backings and miniatures.  Mario worked on many silent pictures and among those he rendered glass shots for was the Douglas Fairbanks epic, THE GAUCHO (1928).  In the early 1940's Mario went to Warner Bros where he joined the famed Stage 5 photographic effects unit under Byron Haskin, while his brother Juan worked largely for Columbia Pictures as matte painter for Lawrence Butler and Donald Glouner.

Whatever you do, don't fall in love with Randolph..... You'll regret it!!

A very impressive, sweeping fx shot which begins on slave with burning torch, tilts up onto huge stone idol, pans around a bunch of idols and finally tilts down again on the last idol!   Very well accomplished, no doubt with large miniature set and miniature process projected actor is my best guess.  Willis O'Brien pioneered this gag on the original KONG, with 'postage stamp' process screens.

Blow up from the colourised print.

FX cinematographer Clifford Stine, may also have been involved with the film as he was with Vernon Walker's department all throughout that decade and beyond.

Split screen with miniature idols matted in.

From the colourised print.  Note the tiny optically added figure swinging on a rope from idol to idol.

Subsequent set extensions with either painted or model additions.

In a show stopper of an action set piece, our hero, Randy Scott flips over a flaming brazier, with the burning oil spilling down onto one of the less likeable inhabitants.  An amazing combination of physical effects carried out on set, and brave stunt work.  A 'wow' of a sequence for 1935!!

And with a wave of NZPete's magic matte wand, we have the same in 'Pseudo-Colour' (!)

Yeah, the stunt man is well suited up and masked (with 100% 'good-for-what-ails-ya' Asbestos), but it's still one hell of an action scene in my book.

Our trio make a dash for safety and make the great leap of faith across this decidedly unsafe abyss.  Looks like mostly glass art, possibly with some miniature elements incorporated.

A pursuer misses the mark and tumbles to his death.  A neat bit actually as the stunt guy falls as far as the matte line and an animated figure takes over for the remainder of the fall.  I believe the animated figure suffered horrible, life threatening injuries and sued the animator(!)  True story... or is it?

From the non-monochrome print we can appreciate the dangerous, non-union existence of cel animated stock villains.

Just in the nick of time the precarious rocky outcrop snaps off and falls away.  Animated gag.

Glass painted cave and altar for the penultimate sequence.

SHE - who bathed in the so-called Flame of Life, some centuries ago, discovers all that glows is not neccessarily good.

Oh.... this can't be good!  :(

My, my... how the years have caught up with you.  You don't look a day over 723.

I think our very own local film genius, Peter Jackson now owns that wonderful Radio Pictures end title card in his, by all accounts, very impressive movie museum here in New Zealand.


...Just when you thought you were 'free of SHE', I have two remakes, just for the sake of semi-completeness....

Years later, SHE made another appearence, this time in 1965 by England's Hammer Films.  Not really very good, but it stuck closer to the H.Rider Haggard novel from what I hear.  The film was lavish, shot in Technicolor and Hammer-Scope no less, and Ursula Andress was perfect for the part.  The always reliable Peter Cushing provided his usual solid support.

Les Bowie (top left) was considered by many to be the Grandfather of British special effects.  The Canadian born Bowie was primarily a matte painter but due to the need to put bread on the table turned his hand to all manner of special effects throughout his career.  Miniatures, opticals, physical effects, mechanical devices, horror gore shots and much more.  Top right is matte artist Bob Cuff who, along with effects cinematographer John Mackey (bottom left & middle) departed from Shepperton and joined forces with Les in the mid 1960's and later on formed ABACUS Films with Bowie and worked on a myriad of features and commercials.  Bottom right we can see effects man Nick Allder manning the camera for a Bowie project in 1968.

While Les Bowie supervised the effects work on SHE, he left the matte work to Bob Cuff and longtime Bowie associate, Ray Caple.  In the two upper pics we can see Ray in a white shirt, setting up a glass shot on location in Malta for the Michael caine war film PLAY DIRTY.  The bottom left pic shows effects man Kit West (shirtless), while Caple adjusts the camera in the background.  Bottom middle shows then effects cameraman Nick Allder with a miniature set up, while the last pic of course is of Les.

Ursula Andress was pretty good and well cast here, and looked a million dollars.

The film was no great shakes by any stretch, but gets an inclusion here as a companion piece to the old RKO version, and if that ain't enough, the Hammer sequel to this one gets a look-see also!  Talk about value for money.... three SHE's for the price of one!  NZPete... what a guy!

All I have are DVD grabs, but this matte shot is a beauty.  The late Bob Cuff stated in an interview that both he and Ray would share all painting duties while working for Les, and that Ray was also a very gifted cameraman and modeller in his own right.

I've written much about both Ray and Bob in other blog pieces, with Bob starting off in the business in 1952 at Shepperton, while Ray came under Les Bowie's wing at the young age of 15 as an apprentice matte artist alongside Derek Meddings in a disused cinema which Bowie used as his base of operations, labelled Anglo-Scottish Pictures in the mid 1950's.

A later view of the valley of ancient ruins.  Among Ray Caple's notable films was Richard Donner's still wonderful SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE (1978).

These scenes where Ursula makes a fatal decision, as did other SHE's before her, look sensational with optical enhancement.

Poor Ursula... she was so hot in DR NO.

Night time matte shot of the valley.

But wait...... there's more


The inevitable sequel, THE VENGEANCE OF SHE came out in 1968.  This time around, the spirit of the long dead Queen Ayesha invades the body of a sweet, innocent, giggly beach blonde and as you would anticipate, much mayhem ensues.

It was kind of pushing it to make a sequel (now they call them 're-boots' - and I hate them), but it has it's good points, with lead starlet Olinka Berova being one of them.  Thee only cast member to return from the 1965 one was John Richardson.

Great main title card!!  You never see great title cards any more, nor, for that matter actual 'titles', with movies plonking the viewer straight into the narrative without any form of credit or title whatsoever.  You only find out what the hell you're watching when the movie ENDS! God-almighty!  And while we're on it, don't get me started on 'executive producer' credits!!  How many executive fucking producers does it take to make even a simple film now!  I've counted as many as 21 separate exec prod credits in a row!  Aaaaaaargh! ... Though, as usual, I digress.

Opening shot with what I deduce to be a partial miniature set augmented with much painted scenery.  Many of the FX shots in this film are similar combination set ups.  Once again, it was a Bowie Films deal, as were almost all Hammer films.

A multi-part shot with horseman matted into either a miniature/matte combined shot, or a photographic enlargement mock up using different scenic elements.  It was quite effective in motion.

As the main characters trek, their path takes them up perilous canyon paths and such - all of which were miniature sets with the actors matted (or projected?) in by Les Bowie.

Square jawed hero John Richardson and delightful, lithe, exotic companion come across a hidden valley with a remarkable lookalike gold statue beckoning.  Joy Cuff - the daughter in law of matte artist Bob Cuff - built the miniature statue and worked on various other effects shots.  Formally known as Joy Seddon, she was also a talented matte artist and assisted Bob and Ray Caple on the mega-western MACKENNA'S GOLD the same year, did much modelling work with Bob of the forced perspective moon miniature for Kubrick's 2001, and later worked with Bob on THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN painting mattes.

Large miniature set by Joy Cuff, with the actors seamlessly matted in.

A dramatic tilt upward from the group of actors onto the massive stone entrance way and gold statue, all well accomplished.  Kit West was Les Bowie's cameraman for a number of years. Joy Cuff was miniaturist here.

The valley of the lost.  Miniature set.

Now, this is a great shot.  A large matte painting with some foreground miniature rock wall and foliage.

Here's an ingenious little shot, and one that Les had previously used to good effect on Ray Harryhausen's FIRST MEN IN THE MOON a few years previous.  All done in camera, with our comely heroine surveying the enormous pit of slaves at work.  The entire setting is a forced perspective miniature just beyond the actress, with much animated movement of slaves by way of what I suspect would be tiny figures attached to motorised conveyor belt rigs hidden within the fake setting.  Done well on a low budget.  Derek Meddings did the same thing on SUPERMAN 2 for the scenes with the battle of Metropolis where all those cars are being literally 'blown' down the street.  Classic!

I can't recall what happened, but suffice to say, she brought the house down....literally!

That was a time when Warners-Seven Arts had all of the Hammer films in the late 1960's.


***This post, and all 168 others posted continually since June 2010 as 'Matte Shot' were originally created exclusively by Peter Cook for nzpetesmatteshot with all content, layout and text originally published at http://nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.com/

Parting shot...

Take this beautiful matte painting by British artist Doug Ferris as a symbol of hope in regards to the ongoing pandemic.  (From Terry Gilliams' THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN)

Take care wherever you happen to be.  See you all next 'issue'.
NZ Pete