Tuesday, 6 December 2022

KEEP 'EM LAUGHING: Mattes & Trick Shots in Comedy Films - Part One


'Tis the season to be jolly, or so they say, so here we are back again with yet another blog that's absolutely jam packed with cinematic wonderment.  My previous blog on low cost film effects proved most popular, with much feedback and comment (and a couple of corrections).  I still plan to do a follow up Low Budget blog at some point, as I missed a bunch of great little films with really nifty trick work such as the sci-fi cult item FIEND WITHOUT A FACE among others.  Stay tuned, as they say.

Today we will be embarking on the first of a large two-parter on mattes and trick effects seen in movie comedies.  Naturally the potential here is vast, so I've hand picked literally hundreds of wonderful special effect shots and sequences (would you expect anything less?) from a huge cross section of titles.  My own personal preferences tend to be old time comedies rather than the recent stuff, though I do span the decades fairly equally I feel.

I'm a massive fan of The Marx Brothers for example, so they just have to be included.  Likewise, the old Abbott & Costello comedies, which while sometimes being quite hit-or-miss, often contain eye poppingly ingenious visual effects work from the likes of John Fulton and David Horsley.  For old timers out there, you should enjoy some classic Laurel and Hardy, W.C Fields flicks and even the amazingly under-valued Olson & Johnson material, which really deserves rediscovery, remastering and reissue!

I've got a ton of wonderful British comedies in here as well, with some classics from The Boulting Brothers, Ealing and Norman Wisdom, and even have an all time BBC tv gem The Goodies, though these Brit entries might be completely fresh to most American readers.

There are the more 'modern' shows here too, such as The Naked Gun and Hot Shots series and such-like, and a mixed bag of latter day comedy flicks that have traditional matte, model and optical mastery.  If it ain't 'photo-chemical' then it really doesn't fit here.

I love movies, so forgive me when I more than occasionally drift off track with obscure facts, critique, raves about fave actors or directors, off-tangent film references, in jokes and so forth.  I can't help it.

As with my usual 'sales pitch', I'm certain you'll discover shows you've absolutely never heard of; shots you've never noticed; and technical wizardry that will dazzle even the most jaded viewer who only normally watches the latest DC/Marvel/Star Wars reboot dross (when will that tiresome trend ever be dead and buried, I ask you?).  Well, with a whole stable of fresh enemies now guaranteed, it is high time to venture down that boulevard of movie magic, and rediscover the movie comedy.  All feedback greatly appreciated.

Enjoy

Pete from New Zealand  :)


***This post, and all 177 previous blog posts 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/


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Probably the most successful and widely praised of their many A&C features, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) was a winner all the way.  Hilarious, scary and a wonderful tribute to all the old Universal monster flicks.  David S. Horsley was effects supervisor here, and did some incredible work on other A&C films, documented later.  Pretty sure this is a Russell Lawson matte painted castle, possibly blended with miniature foreground dock and later row boat.  Cel animated bat flies into shot.  *I recall my mother telling me they retitled it ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE GHOSTS here in New Zealand back in the day.

Follow up matte painting by Lawson.  Film also has some groovy transformation sequences, done via inked cel animation.

From the other side of the Atlantic came THE AMOROUS MR. PRAWN (1962).  No idea who did the various matte shots of the Scottish stately home.

A telling before and after executed by Illusion Arts for THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)

The inevitable sequel, ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1992) used much matte (left) and miniature (right) work to great effect.  Again, Illusion Arts, under Syd Dutton and the late Bill Taylor handled all of the mattes, while I recall fx cameraman Jim Aupperle once telling me he looked after the miniature shots such as that at right.  Love that exaggerated perspective on the extreme downview matte painting!

More matte art from ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES.  The films were quite good in fact, largely due to the perfect casting of the late Raul Julia as Gomez.  Best line, uttered by Morticia:  "Oh he's quite a lady killer", with Gomez's delighted response: "Yes...acquitted!"

A full frame painted matte vista, with circling buzzard added.

Back to another old Universal Abbott & Costello frolic, IN THE NAVY (1941).  Lots of fx shots by John P. Fulton, with mattes painted by John DeCuir and Russ Lawson.

Same film, with brilliantly done near collision between warships.  Long time Universal model exponent was Charlie Baker, who worked closely with Fulton for decades on hundreds of films.  Jim Danforth told me he had fond memories of working as a fresh young trainee under Charlie in the early 60's on films like FATHER GOOSE. 

Another IN THE NAVY matte shot.  John DeCuir's son told me he still has a bunch of ancient before and after 35mm trims of this and many other Uni matte shows his father painted on.  I'm still vaguely hopeful to see these some day....please!

The most unlikely pairing of Doris Day with Richard Harris(!) in the silly swinging sixties spy spoof CAPRICE (1967) included this very nice CinemaScope matte by Emil Kosa jnr.

England's beloved Ealing Studios turned out scores of much loved classics.  This one was BARNACLE BILL (1957) - which was renamed ALL AT SEA for the Yanks.  Highly amusing tale of crusty seaman - Alec Guinness - who is afraid of the ocean and gets seasick, so sets up a sort of non-ocean going 'vessel' on an English pier.  Some great miniature work, possibly by an uncredited Syd Pearson or Cliff Richardson who worked a lot at Ealing.

Destructive comedy from BARNACLE BILL.
I'm not sure whether this photo is from the fx stage of BARNACLE BILL, though it does look very similar?

More maritime hi-jinks, this time in Technicolor and VistaVision.  THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON (1957) was a Shepperton production, with Wally Veevers overseeing a number of matte and model combination shots of the ship, it's demise and the island setting.  Bob Cuff was matte artist, and Veevers usilised his preference of split screening miniature ships into actual ocean with painted skies.

Rocco Gioffre supplied this toxic dump matte for the forgettable John Candy vehicle ARMED AND DANGEROUS (1986)

Definitely one of A&C's lesser efforts, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE COPS (1954) is however noteworthy for some incredibly well executed photographic effects gags.  I had to stop and rewind this bit several times to analyse it.  Lou in path of oncoming express train, with foot jammed in track, just manages to leap to safety with a second to spare!  I figured the stunt guy nearly got nailed at first until I reviewed it very carefully.  David Horsley and fx cinematographer Roswell Hoffman actually perpetrated a flawless travelling matte here, with the character photographed on location minus locomotive, presumably in front of a large neutral grey toned (or black?) canvas, whereby a travelling matte could be isolated as the actor/double went through the action. The train speeding toward would have been safely filmed either before or right after the 'gag' fall, based upon the identical sunlight in both elements.  Absolutely superb, with barely a matte line detectable!  In an interview Horsley described such a staple trick as a standard in the John Fulton department, dating way back to the early 1930's in things like THE INVISIBLE MAN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - in which David was a key collaborator.  You can keep all your CG stuff guys... this stuff was boss!

Another Horsley gag from the same A&C film.  Plane narrowly misses car in a carefully composited travelling matte, with what I'm sure was a miniature plane.  Love it!

Same film, with crazy slapstick.  Russell Lawson matte art with doubled in horse & buggy.

Ahhh, yes... one of my fave films.  The phenomenal BLUES BROTHERS (1980) - a film which, pardon the pun, hit all the right notes for me!  Fantastic music, dry deadpan humour, car wrecks-a-plenty, weird cameos and a couple of show stopping Albert Whitlock shots such as this beauty!  Best line in film, as uttered by the great Charles Napier:  "You're gonna look mighty funny tryin' to eat corn on the cob... with no fucken' teeth!"  Classic!

BLUES BROTHERS wizardry, described in detail in previous Bill Taylor tribute article here.


Back to the UK here... a wonderful matte from the popular comedy BLUE MURDER AT ST. TRINIANS (1957), with matte art by a rarely credited (but was here) Albert Julion - one of Vincent Korda's favourite matte painters and a long timer in the Shepperton photo effects department with Pop Day and Wally Veevers.  I have reason to believe that Julion may very well have been mentor to Albert Whitlock, based on research I've done.

British film maker Lindsay Anderson turned out some seminal pictures from the late 60's onward, such as IF and the wonderful O' LUCKY MAN.  The shots here are from Anderson's last(?) film BRITANNIA HOSPITAL (1982).  Matte by Charles Stoneham who started under Cliff Culley in the Pinewood matte dept in the mid 1960's.  Great work here as I'd hate to think how difficult it must have been to render that vast mirrored structure.

The film is impossible to categorize, and is as free-wheeling as they come.  Unforgettable set piece in operating theatre sees a rebuilt, patched together Malcolm McDowell who accidentally gets his head torn off (don't even begin to ask!!).  Phenomenal special make up effects by Nick Maley, who also did remarkable work on Tobe Hooper's ridiculous LIFEFORCE - the likes of which were totally fresh to audiences of the day!  And to think all the 'gore' was dusted off in the previous blog.... You fools!!!

Another Charles Stoneham matte, with Roy Field on fx camera duties.

A pair of uncredited mattes from Chaplin's classic CITY LIGHTS (1931).

Rocco Gioffre painted a number of mattes for Billy Crystal's CITY SLICKERS (1991).  I'm not 100% sure about the top left but suspect it to be Gioffre.

I'm a devotee of old Bob Hope comedies.  This one, CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT (1941) being a winner.

Two more of Jan Domela's matte shots from CAUGHT IN THE DRAFT.

ABBOTT & COSTELLO GO TO MARS (1953) sounds like it couldn't go wrong, but never really worked.  Tons of effects shots though, from extensive Russ Lawson matte art, many optical gags and model shots abound.  Also has a bevvy of Martian 'hotties' of some note!

Same film:  David Horsley was photographic effects chief.

The climax involves a multitude of fx shots as rocket roars through New York skies and down avenues and tunnels - all solid work with much, much rotoscope artistry by Universal veteran Millie Minebrenner (who was with the studio for many decades from Fulton through to Whitlock).  Neat gag here with Liberty Lady ducking out of the way of out-of-control spaceship.

Same A&C film:  classic Lou Costello set up, with delectable young lass planting kiss, then transforming into old grandma - mid smooch!

Bing Crosby starred in the popular musical/comedy version of Mark Twain's A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT (1949).  Lots of effects supervised by Gordon Jennings, with matte art such as this rendered by studio veteran Jan Domela.

Another Domela matte.  Film also used the newly designed motion repeater for a couple of bold shots where vast camera pan crosses expanse of live action and up onto painted castle (not this frame).

The most unimpressive DRAGNET (1987) feature from the old tv series at least had this excellent matte shot, worked on by both Al Whitlock and Syd Dutton - with Bill Taylor providing a camera move.

Haven't seen this in years, but recall THE DUCHESS AND THE DIRTWATER FOX (1976) as being a real hoot, largely due to comic chemistry of George Segal and Goldie Hawn.  A few mattes, possibly done by Matthew Yuricich?

Very controversial back in the day, and got an MPAA 'X' Rating (mainly due to scenario being a brothel), THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1968) was pretty funny (especially bit with John Cleese in a cameo).  Many matte and model shots, with Shepperton's resident painters Gerald Larn and Bryan Evans on matte shots, and Ted Samuels on model work.  Above is a masterful before and after by Gerald Larn of Victorian London.

BEST HOUSE IN LONDON (1968) matte shot.

Gerald Larn described the matte workload to me a while back, with this being one more of his.

Not one of Bob's better shows, though CALL ME BWANA (1963) does have the luscious Anita Ekberg in it, so what's not to like!

CALL ME BWANA mattes by Cliff Culley.

The enormously popular UK comedy THE BELLES OF ST. TRINIANS (1954) with Alastair Sim and George Cole.  Nice mattes start things off, painted by George Samuels (above middle).

The Carry On series was extremely popular here in New Zealand, and also other former British colonies, with the sense of humour being most agreeable.  CARRY ON CLEO (1964) was a riff on Fox's mega budget bust CLEOPATRA and cost just pocket change.

CARRY ON CLEO mattes by Pinewood veteran artist Cliff Culley.

Another CLEO matte by Culley.  Cliff started off at J.Arthur Rank back in the 1940's and worked alongside a young Al Whitlock in the matte department.

And my choice for the perfect 'desert island' DVD would be the all time classic DUCK SOUP (1933) starring the four Marx Brothers.  Outright masterpiece, bar none!

The brothers only made less than a dozen features, and the later ones were highly variable, but the ones that hit bullseye, were, and still remain, all time classics of American cinema.  One such was DUCK SOUP (1933) - a biting, sarcastic anti-war satire (that actually flopped back in '33 as audiences just didn't get it).  I've probably seen this film around 30 times and never fail to laugh out loud.  DUCK SOUP packs more laughs into it's compact 68 minutes than you'd think possible.  Above are two matte shots by Jan Domela.

Although The Marx Bros were never heavy on special effects shots, their preference being brilliant and endlessly quotable verbal sparring, the mute Harpo would often pull some hilarious trick out of his bag, sleeve, harp, horn, or in this case, tattoos!  After showcasing his various tat's to Groucho (a very funny scene in itself), Harpo proudly shows off his tummy tat - complete with barking dog!

War breaks out in DUCK SOUP - a ludicrous war declared just for the hell of it.  Audiences of the day were lost to the notion of 'anti-war' themes, or satire on such a shattering event that had a much more patriotic meaning back then.  Much later audiences, especially during the anti-Vietnam era just lapped it up and rediscovered the masterpiece.  Incidentally, the best scene, and one not even involving any camera tricks was the famous mirror sequence - likely THE funniest set piece ever filmed.  Find it on YouTube or one of those cyber net things.

From the sublime mastery of the Marx's, to the loud silliness of Rodney Dangerfield.  CADDYSHACK (1980) made Bill Murray a star.  Here are two mattes by Rocco Gioffre, one with the prestige country club and grounds, and the other with mass destruction (painted in) after gopher hunt.

The hit Danny Kaye comedy THE COURT JESTER (1956) had a number of memorable scenes and much charisma from it's leading man.  Several mattes too, such as this beautiful Jan Domela shot.

Another Marx Bros movie, A DAY AT THE RACES (1937) is also an all time favourite of NZ Pete.  I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this, either on the big screen as a kid on Marx double bills; on tv; on 16mm; VHS and DVD.  So repeatable, and with so many side splitting sequences and interactions.  Their biggest budget film, as they'd been woo'ed by MGM by now, and their biggest hit.  Warren Newcombe's department provided this matte.

Oh, man... the classics just keep on a comin'.  Another bona-fide masterpiece, the great DR STRANGELOVE-OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964).  Wally Veevers handled the model effects with Shepperton's Doug Ferris and Alan Maley rendering mattes, and Vic Margutti on travelling mattes.  Best line in film, from Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffly(!): "Gentlemen...you can't fight in here...this is the war room!"
Veteran vfx cameraman Wally Veevers standing bottom right, with the miniature bomber set up fro Stanley Kubrick's timeless masterpiece, DR STRANGELOVE.


These big cast roadshow/race films were very much the 'in thing', with THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES (1969) being a typical example from the period.  No idea who painted these mattes, but much of the production crew were Europe based.  The film was retitled MONTE CARLO OR BUST for America, and did star 'Peter Cook', though not this Peter Cook who scribes before you.

A Cliff Culley shot from CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER (1968).


Jan Domela matte art from the Jack Benny version of ARTISTS AND MODELS (1937)

I like political thrillers, and though this film, DAVE (1993) is political, it's really a sly sort of comedy of errors, though a good film.  An astounding array of vfx scenes feature in it, with Harrison Ellenshaw supervising the extraordinary work at Buena Vista Visual Effects.  Lots of remarkable, yet invisible matte painted shots abound, with highly skilled painter Paul Lasaine largely responsible.  Many shots of The White House had to be rendered on glass from various angles and composited with partial sets, back lots and such, to excellent effect.  Here we see Paul at work on one of his incredible glass paintings.

The final shot is utterly convincing.


Another of Paul Lasaine's mattes in progress and final comp.  Staggeringly well done.


Also from DAVE, with this extensive painting with minimal live action plate.  Paul was one of the truly under appreciated artists who came into the industry in it's final couple of years of traditional 'paint on glass' methodology.  Harrison Ellenshaw told me he holds Paul in very high praise.  Paul was highly instrumental in the VFX design and 'look' of Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, with his conceptual paintings being so close to the final scenes.


The British heist comedy CROOKS IN CLOISTERS (1964).  No effects credited.

Hammer not only produced horror pictures but also knocked out just about every genre you can think of.  DON'T PANIC CHAPS (1959) was a low budget b&w comedy, with a reliable cast of well known Brit character actors.  Interestingly, the original glass matte art still survives to this day.  It was painted by Albert Julion, presumably done in colour so as to serve as a stock painting for future films if needed.  New assistant matte artist Doug Ferris told the story of being interviewed by Wally Veevers around 1962 and shown through the matte storage room.  Wally told Doug he could choose any one of the matte glasses if he wanted.  Ferris picked this one and took it home.  At the time, there was quite a collection of vintage Shepperton mattes and models, though in time they all seemed to vanish, and nobody knows where.

Detail of Albert Julion's glass painting.

A Newcombe department pastel matte made for Woody Van Dyke's ANOTHER THIN MAN (1939), though it doesn't appear in the version I have on DVD, sadly.

Ronald Reagan and a chimp... yeah, BEDTIME FOR BONZO (1951) was the film.  Matte art by Russell Lawson at Universal.  I recall when Reagan was elected as US President, they re-released this film here in NZ at Auckland's old Hollywood Cinema in Avondale for a laugh.

ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951) really should have been at least nominated in the best visual fx category, as the work was terrific!

Among the myriad invisibility gags and pratfalls was this extraordinary sequence that stands out in a class of it's own where Bud and Lou have a poker game with the invisible dude.  So much finely tuned and superbly composited optical work here with cards being shuffled, dealt, flipped over, chips counted, etc... It really is a great scene.  David Horsley deserves kudos for orchestrating this elaborate multi-cut sequence, along with optical cameraman Ross Hoffman and roto artist Millie Winebrenner.  A winner!

Same film, with a terrific sequence showing the guy becoming visible.  Horsley worked on similar scenes with John Fulton for a couple of the old INVISIBLE MAN pictures.  Interestingly, I recall that just one of that series was ever nominated for it's vfx.

Much superimposition, cross dissolving layered anatomical artwork with Roswell Hoffman's optical printer.

Syd Dutton painted this atmospheric view of New York for Richard Pryor's frantic CRITICAL CONDITION (1986), complete with customary drifting clouds, rising smoke elements and animated lightning cel overlays.

Another Dutton matte from CRITICAL CONDITION where much set extension has been painted in along with other elements. 

A surprisingly late traditional matte for ALMOST HEROES (1998), made well into the digital era.  Rocco Gioffre was matte artist here.

Very entertaining and enjoyable yarn that couldn't miss with that cast, BROTHERS IN LAW (1957) made by the very successful Boulting brothers.  Tom Howard oversaw the effects work.

A Robert Stromberg full matte from DENNIS THE MENACE (1993), with Illusion Arts as effects contractor.

Another Illusion Arts matte from same film.

The prehistoric comic extravaganza, CAVEMAN (1981) with a grunting Ringo Starr and wife to be Barbara Bach.  Lots of David Allen stop motion, with other effects input from Jim Danforth.  I think Rocco Gioffre may have painted the backing and blend in here.

While not a patch on the first film, AIRPLANE II (1982) had it's funny moments, especially William Shatner totally taking the piss out of his Capt James T. Kirk persona.  Production designer and conceptual artist Mike Minor painted this matte shot.  *These films were titled FLYING HIGH (1 & 2) here and in several other countries.

A later entry by iconic Laurel and Hardy was this one, AIR RAID WARDENS (1943) made by MGM.  Warren Newcombe would have supervised the matte, which is well up to the high calibre we have come to expect from his department.

The very enjoyable fast talking Howard Hawks comedy BALL OF FIRE (1941) starring the great Gary Cooper, and penned by Billy Wilder no less.  A Goldwyn Picture so matte artist a mystery.  May be someone like Jack Cosgrove or Jack Shaw?

The 1970's saw a whole slew of spoof fairy tale flicks, most of them sexploitation, and CINDERELLA 2000 (1977) fits the bill precisely.  An odd mish-mash, shot in Scope and reasonably ambitious, for a 'C' grade movie, but what else would you expect from an auteur as 'out there' as the late and highly productive Al Adamson, who made tons of biker flicks, shoestring 'B' horror and miscellaneous Grindhouse 42nd street fare!

One of a series of 'Maisie' comedy adventures from MGM, CONGO MAISIE (1940).  A nice before and after Newcombe pastel matte shown here.

Laurel and Hardy's BONNIE SCOTLAND (1935) featured many mattes and optical gags to good effect.  A Hal Roach film, Roy Seawright was vfx supervisor and most likely Jack Shaw or Luis McManus would have painted the mattes, as the studio's in house matte artists.

More shots from BONNIE SCOTLAND, where thousands of stinging bees have been released and go crazy.  Many excellent shots here with cel animated bees added in by optical cinematographers Frank W. Young and William Draper.  Terrific sequence.

A high rez pic of an original Newcombe pastel painting made for the film CAIRO (1942).  The black area will have water doubled in for the final shot (see below). Beautiful artwork.

Matte work from the adventure/comedy CAIRO (1942) with the completed shot with water shown at left.

The biting and cynical (some might even say savage) satire, THE APARTMENT (1960) really just had a single matte painting - that of the actual apartment exterior which appears at the start.  Interiors of the massive insurance offices were, if I recall from the disc commentary, built in an extreme forced perspective, I think with kids in the background at tiny desks.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

ABBOTT & COSTELLO IN THE FOREIGN LEGION (1950) had a few mattes and shots by David Horsley, such as this mirage gag - a gag used a dozen times over the years.

Cliff Culley painted set extensions from Norman Wisdom's amusing  A STITCH IN TIME (1963).


Harrison Ellenshaw painted this splendid matte for the film CABIN BOY (1992) - a film that Harrison said was "an unwatchable piece of garbage".  I never saw the film myself.  He also shared a number of personal recollections on the ill-fated production which shall remain 'unpublished'(!)

Jan Domela mattes and composites from Mae West's BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934).

Another Laurel & Hardy flick,  A CHUMP AT OXFORD (1940), which interestingly also featured a young Peter Cushing as a bully(!)  Roy Seawright looked after the Hal Roach effects unit, with either Jack Shaw or Luis McManus likely as matte painters.

Jack Benny was a one of a kind comic personality, both on screen and on the radio.  Always self-effacing, Benny made some great comedies.  This one's BUCK BENNY RIDES AGAIN (1940) with Gordon Jennings on effects, and long time artist Jan Domela painting mattes.

Several Newcombe mattes from another Marx Bros picture, AT THE CIRCUS (1939).  Not the best of their output, sadly, but has it's moments.  Their early Paramount pictures were quite economic affairs - and all the better for it - with no studio interference, so the boys could literally cut loose and go wild.  The later MGM shows were very structured as Louis B. Mayer simply didn't 'get' the Marx sense of humour... it was beyond of his pay grade.

Ken Marschall was the greatest matte artist you never heard of (unless you frequent this blog of course). Together with cameraman and collaborator Bruce Block, Ken created hundreds of utterly invisible hand painted matte shots over a 20 year career before it all went digital.  This terrific matte is from CRAZY PEOPLE (1990) starring Dudley Moore.  The film needed fake billboard ads around the city - some quite funny - but Ken didn't want to simply plonk in a 'new' billboard advert' as it might be obvious as if a paste in.  He found over years of experience that to black out far more of the plate and paint in a considerable deal made for a more credible final result.  Man, can Ken paint!

Bob Hope was one of Paramount's 'cash cows', with dozens of hit movies and a legion of fans (me included). CASANOVA'S BIG NIGHT (1954) was a giggle, and had a few Jan Domela mattes.

I never went for these stupid BILL & TED films - they reminded me too much of those god-awful Cheech & Chong dope head flicks of yesteryear.  This one, B&T's BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) had at least a couple of my fave actors in it, the fine British character actor Joss Ackland, and the Foxiest of all Coffy coloured Sheba's, the wonderful Pam Grier!  Mattes by Matthew Yuricich, with these rare original paintings discovered, I believe, in a dumpster in LA.

Another 'junked' BILL & TED Yuricich matte, and the final shot.

Two great MGM Warren Newcombe shots from THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE (1933)

The versatile and highly experienced Ralph Hammeras was a pioneering visual effects exponent in all facets of the artform.  Ralph was a skilled matte artist, effects cameraman, miniatures technician and stop motion man on films such as the original silent LOST WORLD and many, many others.  These shots are Hammeras glass shots from 20th Century Fox's CHARLEY'S AUNT (1941).  According to Matt Yuricich, Ralph was supposed to head the Fox effects dept but fell out over bad blood with Fred Sersen or some higher up exec at some stage.

As already mentioned, the British CARRY ON series were enormously popular, with a great financial return on the low budget series.  These mattes by Pinewood's Cliff Culley are from CARRY ON HENRY (top row) and CARRY ON JACK (bottom row) from the early 70's.  I particularly like that harbour with sailing ship full painting.  Very nice indeed!

The tangled stories surrounding the production of the mega-budgeted spy spoof CASINO ROYALE (1967) are legend.  Some six (yes 6) directors helmed this, and by all accounts it was an out of control, freewheeling rollercoaster of excess.  That said, I quite enjoyed it.  Phenomenal cast, cool music, groovy art direction, some great gags scattered here and there, scores of mini-skirted swinging sixties dolls and more! How many films have Woody Allen, Jean Paul-Belmondo, George Raft and Orson Welles in the same cast??? I reckon Mike Myers must surely have watched this 100 times before doing Austin Powers

A number of effects guys were involved with CASINO ROYALE, with Cliff Richardson of mechanical gags and several matte painters, Gerald Larn, Peter Melrose and Les Bowie on board.  Star Peter Sellers was so intimidated by having to work with Orson Welles that he demanded all of his shots in lengthy scenes with Welles be filmed on his own, minus Orson, with the editors having to figure out pulling it all together in some coherent fashion in post (amazingly, they did!).  Sellers finally stormed off the set and never came back, with his character just 'absent' for the remaining story line.

A marvellous matte, which I'm certain was painted by Albert Whitlock, from the very enjoyable COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963).  This shot has all the hallmarks of Whitlock.

Speaking of Al Whitlock, here's another of his shots, from Mike Nichols CATCH 22 (1970) with Al painting in an Italian town where none actually existed on the Mexican location.

CATCH 22 was a sensational, though massively expensive black comedy, deserving of repeat viewings to take it all in, not to mention the dream cast of pro's and newbies, all at the top of their game.  This frame is a from the show stopping scene where a low flying plane cuts a guy in half.  In fact, the sequence was a most ingenious mix of mechanical effect (a dummy of the actor stuffed with animal entrails) and some superbly subtle optical work by Albert Whitlock.  See below...


Director Mike Nichols really wanted more than just the usual 'splat' death scene and tasked Whitlock to come up with something different.  Nichols wanted the lower half of the sliced actor to gradually wobble on unsteady legs before toppling very realistically into the sea.  The stuntman held a special mirror across his upper body, reflecting the sky and obliterating his form.  As he teetered and finally toppled backward with legs akimbo, Whitlock's in house rotoscope artist Millie Winebrenner carefully roto'd out the now visible torso and upper body with consumate skill.  Whitlock's cameraman Ross Hoffman and assistant Mike Moramarco also deserve a pat on the back.  Masterpiece!


England's much beloved Norman Wisdom was the UK answer to Jerry Lewis - and far funnier and far less bloody irritating!  In this show, THE BULLDOG BREED (1960), Cliff Culley and Roy Field provided several neat mattes and a funny cel animated set piece.

William Powell was always superb, and Fox's THE BARONESS AND THE BUTLER (1938) was an agreeable ride.  Fred Sersen in charge of fx, with one of his many matte painters doing these nice shots.  Artists at Fox included Emil Kosa snr and his son Emil jnr; Hector Serbaroli;  Menrad von Muldorfer; Ray Kellogg; Ralph Hammeras;  Gilbert Riswold and Fitch Fulton among others.


Feature length film based upon the popular board game, CLUE (1985), with Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton providing several mattes.

Another atmospheric CLUE matte with drifting clouds and lightning overlay.

I can't really take the American comedy actor/writer Albert Brooks, with this vehicle, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE (1991) being a tedious affair indeed.  It did have some excellent mattes though, from the always reliable Dream Quest.  Ken Allen and Bob Scifo were artists.

Close ups of the magnificent matte art.

Two more of the numerous DEFENDING YOUR LIFE mattes.

Arguably Eddie Murphy's best picture was John Landis' tremendous COMING TO AMERICA (1988). Illusion Arts provided several mattes including the jaw dropping opening flyover which integrated extensive Syd Dutton-Al Whitlock matte art with miniature terrain by Apogee (with jungle canopy assembled using broccoli I recall).

The whole opening shot is shown as a complete, apparently uninterrupted fly over, closing in on the courtyard of the African palace.  The late Bill Taylor explained to me in detail how he managed to pull this off, with the short version being a number of different (and very large) matte paintings being photographed motion control, with very clever 'cheats' where separate takes were merged together.

Syd Dutton's actual and substantial matte painting with area that would serve as a rear projected live action element.  Albert Whitlock was matte consultant on this film.

A rare unused Illusion Arts matte painting intended for a dream sequence in COMING TO AMERICA where the John Amos character imagines opening one of his 'MacDowells' fast food joints in Africa.

The MGM Clark Gable war comedy COMRADE X (1940) was a remarkable special effects showcase.  The great Buddy Gillespie devised a whole array of fantastic miniature tank sequences, with long time associate, the equally great miniaturist Donald Jahraus.  Gillespie's grandson still owns at least one of the original model tanks!  The extensive model work worked so well as Gillespie shot it all outside in sunlight, with cleverly hidden control mechanisms, all expertly photographed by Maximillian Fabian - MGM's specialist cinematographer.  Warren Newcombe's department supplied several painted mattes to extend the settings to Russia.


Veteran Shepperton matte and optical artist Doug Ferris with one of his evocative glass paintings from ERIK THE VIKING (1989).  Doug would as often as possible paint in his name amid architecture and such, and has done so here at lower right.


Visual Effects supervisor Kent Houston of London's Peerless Optical, told me that artist Bob Cuff was his absolute favourite and he'd employ Bob whenever possible on his assignments.  The matte shots in ERIK THE VIKING are the only memorable asset, sadly.

Before and after by matte cameraman John Grant.


ERIK THE VIKING employed three matte artists; Bob Cuff, Doug Ferris and Bob's daughter in law, Joy Cuff.  This shot is a winner.


Before and after from the late John Grant's show reel.



A Russ Lawson matte from Abbott & Costello's LOST IN ALASKA (1952)

A beautiful matte that was spliced into LOST IN ALASKA that was actually a stolen Jan Domela painting from Paramount's THE GREAT MAN'S LADY made back in 1941

More from LOST IN ALASKA, though one at right may be a cyclorama?

David Horsley engineered composite with matte art and blue screened actor from LOST IN ALASKA (1952).  VFX cameraman was Universal's Ross Hoffman who was employed by that one studio for around fifty years.

Roman Polanski's films always come to my attention, with many being outstanding works.  That said, I never much cared for THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), which was also known as DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES in some lands.  For me, the film never worked, though the vfx work was outstanding.  The memorable opening shot remains a staggering event even now.  From an extreme close up on the moon, the camera does this massive pullback and finishes on a snowy Transylvania.  Brilliantly designed and orchestrated, with an unusually crisp finished effect that doesn't at all cry out 'dupe' or 'manipulation'.

Peter Melrose painted elements making up the scene on 3 or 4 separate glasses, with careful camerawork (likely by Peter Harman and John Grant) and optical composite and blending by Doug Ferris.  An animated bat flying through the shot helps hide the division between two of the paintings during the very bold camera move.  Astonishingly accomplished shot in a mediocre movie.

Behind the scenes photo showing Peter Melrose at work (far left) on the above glass painting.  Fellow matte artist Bryan Evans is also shown here appearing to work on a glass, though I was told by Gerald Larn that the photo was an in house studio publicity pic, with Bryan pretending to paint on what was in fact another of Peter Melrose's mattes this production (see below).


Same film.  According to Doug Ferris, Polanski initially shot the film 'flat' - ie not widescreen.  A decision was made into principal photography that Roman wanted it to be anamorphic 2.35 ratio, meaning matte artist Ferris and co had to extend certain shots sideways by painting in extra scenery to make for scope presentation.
Same film, with matte additions by artist Peter Melrose of castle and also the left and right sides of the scope frame.  The horse and buggy passes behind the tree and never comes out the other side!  Am I the only nerd who spots things like that?


An uncredited piece of matte mastery by Albert Whitlock as seen in the very average Dick Van Dyke film FITZWILLY (1967), with almost the entire frame being painted in.

Paramount's delightful haunted house spoof THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940) with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.  Photographic effects by Gordon Jennings, Paul Lerpae and Farciot Edouart.  Jan Domela was matte painter.

Jan Domela mattes from THE GHOST BREAKERS

More ghosts, with this one being Ivan Reitman's GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).  Matthew Yuricich at work on the central venue for all sorts of spooky shit, and fx cameraman Neil Krepela taking a light reading for composite photography.

Final giant pullback shot with small patch of live action on skyscraper terrace.

One of the terrific apparitions courtesy of Richard Edlund's EEG effects house before it became BOSS Films.

I loved the wacky cel animated neutrona effects shots in GHOSTBUSTERS.  Looked and sounded so damned cool on the giant cinema screen in Dolby Stereo back in the day.

A carefully drawn out matte that will be one of those 'blink and you'll miss it' fx shots (see below).

Final comp using above painted city, with matted in miniature ghost building and much pyro.

Same show, with multi part composite.  Live action, marshmellow puppet, cel animated rays, painted buildings and miniature street.  Matt Yuricich was chief matte artist, with friend Michele Moen assisting on painting along with former Disney artist Deno Ganakes.


The follow up, GHOSTBUSTERS II (1988) was filled with effects shots, this time supplied by ILM. The top frame is a miniature Titanic and surrounds, with ghostly passengers superimposed in.


I've never seen HEXED (1993) and only know of it by way of matte painter Ken Marschall. Now here is an amazing shot which I, as one who's really keen on extreme perspective painting, can appreciate.  Frames at left show the action as character leaps from one rooftop to another.  When I conducted my marathon 3-part career interview with Ken and fx partner Bruce Block back in 2015, there was confusion as to who actually painted this shot.  Ken and Bruce's little two man company Matte Effects were overloaded with matte work at the time and brought in one or two artists to help out.  I know that painter Rick Rische worked on a couple of shows with Ken, and it's possible Rick painted this?  I know we all discussed the matter and I don't recall anyone being certain.  If I'd painted this beautiful matte I know I'd sure remember it!

Also from the film HEXED is this before and after which was painted by Rick Rische.

A bizarre shot from the wacky Don Knotts comedy THE INCREDIBLE MR LIMPET (1964).  No fx credit but could be the work of someone such as Lou Litchtenfield?

An odd little screwball comedy EARTHWORM TRACTORS (1936) that was fairly amusing and featured a number of miniature sequences amid the antics.

Splendid before and after frames from Norman Jewison's GAILY, GAILY (1969), which was titled CHICAGO, CHICAGO here and in non-US territories.  Albert Whitlock was matte artist, with this flawless shot being one of many non-Universal assignments Albert contributed to over his career.  Noteworthy shot as Whitlock would repeat the same basic trick effect in at least three movies, with THE STING being the most famous.

Another before and after from GAILY, GAILY (1969).

Mae West made many films for Paramount, and most of them had a few mattes or model shots.  KLONDIKE ANNIE (1936) with miniature cargo ship and Jan Domela painted locale.

Steve Martin made many really funny films in his early career, with THE LONELY GUY (1984) being particularly noteworthy.  Albert Whitlock matte shot here opens the film, with that unmistakable Whitlock moonlit sky.

The film that put the 'little tramp' firmly onto Hitler's shit-list... THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940), was a wonderfully witty satire and a true classic.  Effects work by Ralph Hammeras and Jack Cosgrove.

The 70's produced so many memorable and timeless comedies from Great Britain. I lived for shows like THE TWO RONNIES, MORECOMBE & WISE, MONTY PYTHON, SOME MOTHERS DO HAVE 'EM,  DAD'S ARMY and most of all the utterly insane THE GOODIES which ran from 1970 to 1982.  The BBC series was always a treat, with it's wonderful homage to old time silent era under cranked slapstick madness.  Creators/stars Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie went all out with utterly off the wall plots and situations, many of which nearly exhausted the BBC visual effects unit when it came to requirements ranging from 'Kitten Kong' ravaging London; The Loch Ness Monster; Jack and the Beanstalk and all manner of absurd free wheeling narratives.  I don't know if THE GOODIES ever made it across to the US, but feel it may not have found an audience there.  Enormously popular here and in the 'former British Colonies'.  I still remember sitting down with my grandmother watching these and splitting our sides with laughter.

THE GOODIES was packed with simple, yet highly effective gags, the most common being the brilliantly executed jump cut substitute of a life-like dummy so precisely for the actor for some nonsensical moment of family friendly violent slapstick, just as the silent comedians did so well.  Main vfx guys were Peter Day, Ron Oates, Len Hutton and John Horton.  Occasionally, the shows used glass shots and split screens.  Here is a great behind the scenes look at the creation of a Gladiatorial arena for one episode.  Done as a very straight forward and quickly rendered glass painted shot.  Roger Turner did some glass shots on THE GOODIES so that might be him laying in the artwork as the cameraman lines up the shot. Those were indeed the days!


Peter Sellers starred in the satirical HEAVENS ABOVE (1963), made by the talented and successful Boulting brothers.  Here is one of Bob Cuff's matte shots, made under Wally Veevers' supervision.


More high quality HEAVENS ABOVE matte work.  Doug Ferris said he assisted with some of these shots, having just been with Shepperton for a short duration.  *Note the signage shown in the left tilt down matte shot!

Paramount's almost indescribable farce, INTERNATIONAL HOUSE (1933) with matte art by Jan Domela.  This film folks, is probably the only chance you'd ever have to see W.C Fields, Bela Lugosi, George Burns and Cab Calloway - and early television being seen in the same film!!

The saddest thing about the rather feeble FIENDISH PLOT OF DR FU MANCHU (1980) was that it was Peter Sellers' final film, rather than the previous Sellers picture, the utterly brilliant Hal Ashby film BEING THERE (1979), which if an actor ever wished to be remembered for a 'great' final curtain call, then the Ashby film must be it, hands down.  Anyway, I digress...  That's a young and eager Leigh Took on the brushes there painting Fu's mountain fortress which in the final shot is beautifully matted into an actual alpine setting by Cliff Cully.


Jan Domela painted shots for Paramount's GOIN' TO TOWN (1935) with Mae West starring.

GOIN' TO TOWN Domela matte.


Jena Holman painted this alpine setting for the misguided movie reboot of the famed 60's GET SMART series, THE NUDE BOMB (1980), also known as THE RETURN OF MAXWELL SMART.  David Stipes was effects cameraman.

English comic Will Hay both directed and starred (in a dual role no less) in Ealing's THE GOOSE STEPS OUT (1942) - a very amusing and frantic paced parody on Nazi's and that prick Hitler. The film is packed with trick work, from split screens, opticals and a huge amount of miniature action involving planes, a train and an aerial mishap in London.  

Some of the miniature action in THE GOOSE STEPS OUT which I covered in detail in an older blog.  Roy Kellino was special effects chief, and did fine work on many Ealing films.  I'll bet though he'd have wished he'd never introduced his wife to actor James Mason.... She ran off with Mason and ended up marrying him!  Ya' heard it here first...

Superb miniature work in THE GOOSE STEPS OUT.  Cliff Richardson may have also been on board as he worked at Ealing and specialised then in model work.

Warner Bros made the fun but fatally overlong and overwrought THE GREAT RACE (1965).  Tons of special effects abound, ranging from ingenious mechanical rigs and gimmicks, through to miniatures and many matte paintings such as this shot made on the back lot.

An exceptional matte from THE GREAT RACE, painted either by Cliff Silsby or Albert Maxwell Simpson - both of whom worked on the film.

For the closing scene of THE GREAT RACE, effects supervisors Linwood Dunn and James B. Gordon chose a very simple and cost effective means to destroy Paris' Eiffel Tower.  Dunn purchased a toy model kit off the shelf and shot a frame by frame demolition which was then matted into an actual plate of Paris.  Simple, yet totally effective, and one that Dunn would often regale at lectures I'm told.

An ancient matte from the second Marx Bros feature ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930), probably the work of Jan Domela or maybe Hans Ledeboer who was also painting at Paramount in the early days.

The crazy, camp sci-fi/comedy/musical/love story EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1988) was actually quite a smirkfest, though hampered by too much discotec sub plot.  The film certainly pushed the 'PG' rating to it's limit, and 'politically correct' film makers today would never get away with what Julian Temple did with this film.  The MPAA must have nodded off when this was screened.  Anyway, Dream Quest provided the visuals and Bob Scifo did the interplanetary matte art. Oh, and for any 'aliens' reading this article, yes... Earth Girls apparently are easy, if this flick is anything to go by! 

I've not seen HERE COMES COOKIE (1935) with George Burns and Gracie Allen , so don't have a 'final' shot, but do have this matted plate and the subsequent Jan Domela matte painting, courtesy of Jan's daughter.

Mel Brooks' films were often hit or miss, with BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN being classics.  I never felt HIGH ANXIETY (1978) as shown above, was as good as it could have been, given the opportunities of spoofing Hitchcock.  Never one for subtlety, Mel provided some laughs but mostly just too broad, heavy handed and obvious.  The mattes were done by longtime Hitchcock collaborator Albert Whitlock, who in a great turn, also featured in an acting role in the film!

HIGH ANXIETY tilt up effect.  Possibly a model foreground with painted sky?

Closing shot from HIGH ANXIETY was this extensive pullback from the window and outward.

Charlie Chaplin's  A KING IN NEW YORK (1957) was a clever little satire on consumerism and social standings, and was mostly notorious for being 'banned' from American screens until the early 1970's as supposed 'anti-American sentiment' or some such codswallop, no doubt brought about by that wanker Senator McCarthy, who got far too much airtime.  Anyway, film is good, with the best sequence being an hilarious spoof on the CinemaScope wide screen movie 'fad'!  Bob Cuff painted these superb, and highly detailed matte paintings which occupy practically the full screen.  Wally Veevers oversaw the effects including several 'joke' billboards in Times Square.

Rare to find Abbott and Costello in full colour, but JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (1952) did just that!  Not a very good film and missing the edge of their Universal pictures of old, the film had numerous photographic effects courtesy of matte painter Jack Glass who did a great deal of work on smaller independent films through the 1950's that would usually sit on the bottom half of the proverbial double bill at the Drive In.

Nicely rendered matte shots by Jack Glass from JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (1952)

Oh now, here's a favourite 70's flashback for NZ Pete, and one that has bugged me for over 40 years!  FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (1974) with Alan Arkin and the late James Caan is a hoot.  The flick - a darker than dark black comedy -  predates all those awful 90's 'buddy cop' movies, such as the Lethal Weapon's, Tango & Cash and all that stuff by far, with the sheer number of violent action set pieces, stunts, busted noses and wanton damage to public property!  What's not to like?  Now, for decades this sequence had me baffled... the Arkin-Caan car crashes off a freeway overpass and down through the bedroom in a shitty tenement building, disturbing some elderly breakfast session in bed.  Classic, iconic 70's moment. I'd figured some optical trickery had been perpetrated, though how and by whom was unknown..... until now!

To achieve this show stopping stunt, Warner Bros turned to Albert Whitlock and his vfx crew over at Universal, much as they had on numerous occasions in the past when facing special photographic requirements.   The actual freeway overpass and the apartment building were filmed in completely different areas of San Francisco, with meticulous calculations made by Whitlock and his cameraman Ross Hoffman.  The driverless car was jettisoned off the freeway ramp into wasteland beneath the actual freeway. The two locations were flawlessly matted as one via a seamless split screen.  To complete the trick, Whitlock's in house rotoscope artist, Millie Winebrenner carefully traced the vehicle outline for the final 15 or so frames of the stunt to allow the car to pass across the corner of the separately filmed building and even pass partway through the wall.  A brilliantly executed, uncredited trick shot.  *Footnote:  I know this film so well that I once had the misfortune of seeing it on TV in America, with all the violence cut out (and there's a shitload of mayhem), and so much dialogue looped to change the 'God Damns' into 'Gosh Darns'!  American tv censorship... oh boy!

Russ Lawson or Jack Cosgrove matted set extension from Universal's THE GOOD FAIRY (1935)


Ken Marschall painted this hospital for Steve Martin's FATHER OF THE BRIDE II (1995)


Another largely forgotten Hollywood classic deserving of rediscovery is HELLZAPOPPIN (1941) - a film I've discussed often in other blogs.  Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson were a sort of cut-price Abbott & Costello or Martin & Lewis, though not without their own one-of-a-kind totally bonkers stylings.  Complete insanity prevails in their films (which are near impossible to find, sadly).  Non stop sight gags, in jokes, sly Hollywood references, cameos and material seemingly just made up as the cameras were rolling.  John P. Fulton looked after the vast and often ingenious photographic effects and optical gags.  Russell Lawson painted the mattes.

One of my fave gags is this one where they literally stop the film and review the plot via a matte painting that just happens to be lying around!  Who writes this stuff?  Hilarious.

Among the substantial roster of visual effects in HELLZAPOPPIN is a terrific sequence where our duo dispense with half of their bodies - one upper the other lower - and cause havoc.  Brilliantly filmed and played by the boys who carefully oversaw all of their gags.

The crazy sequence continues...  Naturally, this sort of thing was absolute gold when it came to the legendary (though notoriously difficult) Fulton, who just loved making shots like these work.  I assume John used his old Invisible Man technique where the set is filmed without actors, then separate takes made on set with actors but all key props and set draped in black velvet, as well as parts of the performers deemed 'invisible'.  High contrast mattes would be pulled from the second take, with final composites made on the optical printer by David Horsley and Ross Hoffman.

I assume the actor pulled a black velvet blanket down over his head and upper torso for that wonderful 'organic' disintegration, which was far more spectacular than some duped mechanical looking wipe made on a printer which would look naff.

What astounds me are the incredibly clean final composites that don't for a moment spoil the fun with thick matte lines or other tell tale flaws one might expect.  So damned good.

But wait.... there's more!  The two comics run about as separate transversely sectioned bodies (google it!) - jumping on chairs and trying to kick the other guy's ass.  Must have brought the house down back in '41.

To conclude, our idiotic duo 'join' hemispheres and attempt to 'be as one', though naturally the legs are on backward, making walking a great punchline.  David Horsley returned to this gag for the final scene in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN about a decade later.

Another A&C picture, HOLD THAT GHOST (1941) with a great haunted house... or is it?


It's not too often The Duke, the one and only John Wayne, appeared in a comedy, albeit a light one.  LADY TAKES A CHANCE (1943) was an RKO picture.  Effects by Vernon L.Walker, with mattes possibly by Albert Maxwell Simpson or Chesley Bonestell.  These mattes are interesting as practically everything in each frame is pure brushwork, with just a tiny slice of 'real' action.


Alec Guinness both wrote and starred in THE HORSE'S MOUTH (1958), though it starts off well, the momentum runs out way before the end credits.  A Shepperton production, with Wally Veevers effects unit comprising painters such as George Samuels, Albert Julion and Bob Cuff on the brushes.


Another matte from THE HORSE'S MOUTH, this full painting was part of a big zoom out.

Comedy from the nineties here, HOT SHOTS (1991) was, when I last saw it, pretty darned funny.  Lots of great gags and some cool effects shots such as this bit of miniature catastrophe, I think, done by Dream Quest Images(?)

Here we have an amazingly invisible piece of wizardry from HOT SHOTS.  The aircraft carrier was a beautifully detailed glass painting by Bob Scifo (right), with unpainted patch where live action would be rear projected in for the ultimate big camera move pull back.

The sequel, HOT SHOTS, PART DEUX (1993), was, I thought, hilarious.  Charlie Sheen acquitted himself well and the gags come thick and fast.  Has one of the all time great movie in jokes:  Sheen on Navy patrol boat going down river in 'Nam.  A second Navy PBR approaches from the other direction, and as they draw close we see it piloted by Charley's father Martin - in full APOCALYPSE NOW regalia - with both Sheen's shouting to each other "I loved you in WALL STREET!"   They both played in that same film for those not in the know.  Well, I found it hilarious!!!

One of Mike Pangrazio's mattes from HOT SHOTS, PART DEUX.

Detail from Pangrazio's matte.

Another Matte World shot from that same film.

One of the real British comedy classics was the pitch-perfect satire on trade unionism I'M ALRIGHT JACK (1959).  Probably Roy & John Boulting's best picture, and they made many great films.  Peter Sellers was just wonderful, as were the accomplished cast of familiar UK thespians such as Richard Attenborough, Ian Carmichael, John Le Mesurier, Liz Frazer, Terry Thomas, Dennis Price and the always great Irene Handl.  Matte shots were done by Bob Cuff at Shepperton Studios.

Another I'M ALRIGHT JACK matte by Bob Cuff.  One of the great Brit comedies!


The Chevy Chase movie FUNNY FARM (1988) wasn't bad, as far as Chevy movies go.  It did have a few very clever matte shots in it that Albert worked on with Syd Dutton.  This seemingly unassuming sequence where a truck approaches a bridge was in fact a rather complicated visual effect.  The late Bill Taylor told me how complex it was, so in brief, it was a VistaVision set up panning with the truck, and stopping the pan at the point where the non existent bridge was to be inserted.  The matte painted bridge and forest was photographed separately, with the 'pan' shot completed on the optical printer to appear as though one uninterrupted camera move had taken place.  The sort of illusion that nobody ever suspects.  Bill said he used that trick often. 

A later shot where the bridge has collapsed involved a large miniature by Grant McCune in front of a traditionally painted backing, rendered by Al Whitlock.  Bill told me that Al really seemed to enjoy painting that backing, which brought him back to his early years as a scenic artist back at Gaumont Studios in England.  That's fx cameraman Mark Sawicki setting up the shot.

Another Abbott & Costello film here, IT AIN'T HAY (1943) with a Russ Lawson painting, accentuated with bi-packed live foreground foliage by fx cameraman Ross Hoffman.

A film jammed with monumental matte art, but the film itself was anything but monumental.  Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART ONE (1981) was a bit of a shoddy affair, comedy wise, though establishing shots such as this mighty matte by Syd Dutton made for essential viewing alone. I'd love to have this one hanging on my wall, but didn't want to risk shipping glass mattes right across the world! 

Same film, with this epic matte by either Albert Whitlock or Syd Dutton.  Masterful work!

Two mattes from IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947), a lower budget Allied Artists film that has Frank Capra intent.  No fx credit.

One of Ealing Studio's most beloved pictures, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949), with this extensive glass shot by Geoffrey Dickinson.

MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) was moderately controversial back in the day in certain countries.  Not as good as M.P & HOLY GRAIL (their best feature, as 'pure' Python) but their most successful and oft quoted.  Several matte shots were painted by artists contracted by Kent Houston's Peerless Optical in London.  This was a Bob Cuff matte.  A second Cuff matte was rendered but was ultimately cut.

Ray Caple was also brought on board, and painted this and other mattes.

LIFE OF BRIAN tagging in ancient times.  I'm informed by one of the Peerless fx staffers that Ray Caple painted these two shots live on location as in camera glass shots.

The LIFE OF BRIAN audience lapped this up when I saw it back in '79 at the not very glamourous Odeon theatre here in downtown Auckland.  Miniature spaceship (and early prototype) shown at right.  The big crash vista wasn't a matte painting as many think, but was a cut & paste up photo collage, hand retouched, with animation stand spaceship added.

Another Chaplin feature, this being LIMELIGHT (1952), though not really what you'd call 'a comedy' as such, still a rewarding experience.  No credit for matte work, but shot on the Paramount lot I think, so perhaps Jan Domela did this shot??

The highly uneven spoof on Church and greed, IN GOD WE TRUST (1980) with Marty Feldman had some nicely placed mattes by Albert Whitlock and his department.  This one was a Syd Dutton shot.

A sharp tongued British political satire with a great cast, LEFT RIGHT AND CENTRE (1959) included a few uncredited high quality matte effects shots, including the big tilt up at right with actors on street, others matted into balcony and fireworks added in the night sky.  Very impressive.


A pretty amusing made-for-tv western, EVIL ROY SLADE (1972) had these shots by Al Whitlock.


From the 'Carry On' stable came FOLLOW THAT CAMEL (1967).  Cliff Culley was matte supervisor, possibly with Charles Stoneham assisting.

More classic British black comedy here.  Such a great cast all playing at peak, THE GREEN MAN (1956), with Shepperton's lead matte artist George Samuels painting this shot.

By no means a classic, but Eric & Ernie were always great together, with such chemistry that the material didn't always matter.  THE INTELLIGENCE MEN (1965) was one in a whole slew of spy spoofs, riffing on Bond, made throughout the sixties.  Not without merit, with some solid laughs.  Mattes by Cliff Culley at Pinewood Studios.


Although I'm sure this multi-part matte must have been painted for a different film initially, it did show up as a RP background in the Bob Hope comedy GIVE ME A SAILOR (1938).  Career Paramount matte painter Jan Domela did this one, with long time associate Irmin Roberts on fx camera.

As written earlier, Ken Marschall was possibly the finest matte painter you never heard of.  Ken painted hundreds of mattes over a 22 year period, a great many without screen credit, on so many films, tv shows and commercials, his total output is amazing.  I did a massive 3 part blog on Ken and his matte work with associate Bruce Block back in 2015.  These frames are from THE GEORGE BURNS COMEDY WEEK (1985) - a television special.  Ken is very well known however for his work on Titanic research and under sea exploration and has illustrated coffee table books on the subject.  For the first of my three part interview with Ken & Bruce, click here.

An all-star cast with Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman and Liza Minnelli, LUCKY LADY (1975) was a stylish, beautifully shot and action packed period comedy, mostly shot on the high seas.  No effects credit but may have been Matthew Yuricich or Louis Litchtenfield on matte painting?

George Hamilton made for a very funny Count Dracula in the parody LOVE AT FIRST BITE (1979), with perfect feel for the storied vampire and great comic timing.  This painted shot comes at the end.


The Marty Feldman take off on the classic Foreign Legion story, THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE (1978) was a real laugh-fest when I saw it in the cinema (The Plaza, in Queen street, Auckland), though it doesn't hold up as well today.  Visual effects supervised by Albert Whitlock, though most curiously, this clever sequence involving silent footage matted into modern colour footage was apparently done outside of the Universal matte department by persons unknown.  I quizzed Bill Taylor on this and he said they didn't do the sequence and had no idea where it was done.  Bill did say though that working with Marty, as director/actor and writer was a dream! 

Same film, with the two characters from the previous scene riding off to 'Hollywoodland' as the sun sets.

Gene Wilder was a wonderful comic actor (never call the guy a 'comedian' as it really pissed him off!!).  Gene did some solid work through the seventies and beyond.  This film, HANKY PANKY (1982) was directed by Sidney Poitier and as an action innocent-man-on-the-run type thriller it worked, but the comedy side never did.  A couple of nice matte shots by Ken Marschall and Bruce Block, such as this one where a vast underground secret plant is revealed by villain, the always excellent Richard Widmark.  Superb matte work.

Bob Newhart; I've always liked his very dry humour.  His old comedy albums are hilarious, and his 70's tv series was great too.  He had some hysterical roles in things like Catch 22 as well.  This film is FIRST FAMILY (1980), and while not especially good, did have it's moments.  Dream Quest did the visuals, with Rocco Gioffre painting several mattes.

Also from FIRST FAMILY where giant vegetables spring up all over Washington.

More Rocco Gioffre matte art from same film.

Although I've not seen this one, here are some Syd Dutton mattes from EIGHT HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG (1997) that a reader sent to me.

These things were so popular through the 50's.  FRANCIS (THE TALKING MULE) IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1956) with effects supervised by Clifford Stine who worked way back on the original 1933 KONG and later did sensational work on EARTHQUAKE (1974)

One of the hall of fame special visual effects films, the wild Jack Benny comedy THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT (1945) was a fiesta of dazzling photographic effects.  Not at all surprising as Warner's were absolutely top of the game throughout the 1940's when it came to astonishingly creative trick effects that would leave other studios flailing in the dust.  Along with the usual matte art, models and opticals, HORN boasts some incredible motion shots with extreme flyover camera moves across vast expanses of, in this case, Heaven filled with harp strumming angels.  Warner's were never afraid of pulling phenomenal sequences out of the bag with films like MARK TWAIN, RHAPSODY IN BLUE, THE FOUNTAINHEAD, YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN and best of all the staggering YANKEE DOODLE DANDY - all of which I've discussed and praised here before.

Another Warner Bros picture, though a much lower key one after the previous title.  LARCENY INC (1942) is a genuinely hilarious little gem of a heist movie with the great Edward G. Robinson.  Very funny film, with a few great mattes transforming the WB back lot into Attica Prison and New York city skylines.  A couple of quick cuts of actors in medium shot reveal back lot without any painting.  Artists then at Warners were chief painter Paul Detlefsen and others like Mario Larrinaga, Vern Taylor and others.

Also from Warner Bros was the lightweight Doris Day romp LUCKY ME (1954) - an early CinemaScope entry for the studio.  Effects by Hans Koenekamp, and matte art probably by Lou Litchtenfield.


The financial and critical disaster that was ISHTAR (1986) was easy to understand if you ever saw the film.  Off target almost all the way.  Several mattes were designed and painted for the troubled production, with artists Mark Sullivan and Rocco Gioffre busy with these only to have some dropped mid-way through painting and other completed mattes jettisoned in an attempt to re-edit the film into something coherent.  I happen to have a half finished ISHTAR painting here at home that Mark was told would no longer be required as "that sequence has now been dropped".  The above Sullivan matte though did make it into the final film.

Another of my favourite old time comedies was the Cary Grant-Leslie Caron WWII desert island show FATHER GOOSE (1964).  An uncredited Albert Whitlock would have painted this wonderful sky and distant island.  A young Jim Danforth also worked on the film as assistant to Charlie Baker in Universal's miniature department building Japanese warships for a night sequence.  Great little film and I reckon one of Cary's best (along with OPERATION PETTICOAT).




***This post, and all 177 previous blog posts 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/

No, sadly... 'tis not I, but some imposter by the same name.  I'll have my lawyer look into this matter pronto and clear my name.

Well folks, that's about it for this entry, and this year as a matter of fact.  I still have as many films again to cover in the second part, come New Year 2023.  I hope you found this enjoyable, enlightening and irreverent.
All the best for the Xmas holiday season wherever you happen to be, with a special 'Best Wishes' directed to the people of Ukraine, whose sheer strength and courage in the face of brutal genocidal aggression has the entire free world's support.

Pete








13 comments:

  1. another winner,Pete...highly enjoyable as always.Am looking forward to many more of your updates. All the best for the holiday season,

    William

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    1. Thanks William... My most dedicated fan of special matte effects and movie trickery.
      All the best,

      Pete

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  2. Another great blog post, as usual and great to see the Goodies here! The first time I went to London without my parents in the 80s (as a teen, with friends), we sought out the Telecom tower simply because of Kitten Kong!

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    1. Thanks Mark
      I'm glad you enjoyed this first part. Much more to follow on...
      THE GOODIES ... yep, certainly a one of a kind in lunacy, and inspired lunacy at that. I'm going through a big re-watch of all of the series at the moment and still find myself smiling and giggling like a schoolboy.

      I believe the UK Govt went to great lengths to 'remove' the claw marks left by Kitten Kong on your Telecom Tower. Say it ain't true? ;)

      Pete

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    2. I had heard that same thing - apparently you can still see the scratches if you're in the restaurant part at the top, but I've never been up there! :)

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  3. nice info!! can't wait to your next post!

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  4. Another great post NZ Pete. I love the beach shot in 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court'. The shot starts off with Bing and his comrades walking down to a beach. the canera is high above and pans and tolte to follwo them then drifts across and up onto a castle (matte painting I think, or it could be a model) with people standing on the walls. Astonishing! In 1948 or so?

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  5. An execllent post NZ Pete - as we have cne to expect.
    I remember watching 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arther's Court' on TV and being startled by a shot that is a high angle looking down at Bing and his comrades walking toward a beach. The camera pans and tilts to follow them and then pans off them and up onto the castle, a matte painting I think, although it could be a model, that is matted in. And there are people standing on the battlements. Amazing. I had read about the 'motion repeater' used on 'Samson & Delilah' around this time, and knew this was also a Paramount movie so Gordon Jennings would have been involved in both movies. This preceded the massive DeMille production so was maybe something of a test? The shot in Sansom & Delielah is flawless!
    Thanks for posting reminders of so many forgotten (and in many cases invisible) gems. Happy New Year.

    Matthew

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    1. Hi Matthew

      You are absolutely correct. That shot was very bold indeed, as not a straight-forward 'pan' or 'tilt', rather a combination of both (possibly with a zoom as well?). Almost certainly made on the Paramount motion repeater under Gordon Jennings' technical supervision.

      If you watch the shot carefully in HD, you can see jiggle where the Jan Domela painted castle blends with the live action seashore plate, but the shot is still really impressive.

      To my surprise, Paramount didn't appear to utilise the system too often, and I've only noted it in a handful of films.

      Pete

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    2. Yes, I spotted the jiggle upon repeated viewings, over and over again I believe the shot in Samson & Delilah has motion in only one axis at a time. A pan and then a tilt up possibly a limitation of the device discovered on the Bing Crosby film?

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  6. I am truly pleased with your publication through your independent website.
    I am happy to know such a wonderful blog.

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  7. Excellent post as always - thank you. The scene from "City Lights" is actually done with a hanging miniature, rather than a painting - on the Charlie Chaplin Archive site, under the heading "Statue set", there are a number of very good photos of the setup. Chaplin must have been very pleased with this effect to allow a behind the scenes photo to be taken - such photos seem very rare with Chaplin.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, and a big THANKS for that Chaplin info and site. Much appreciated.

      Pete

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