Thursday 18 January 2024


 Greetings to all and sundry,  it's now 2024 believe it or not.  It sounds so odd when saying it, and even more so when typing in "2024".  Shouldn't we all be living like 'The Jetsons' (a cool futuristic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series of the sixties for those too young to get the reference).  Where are the flying cars, transporter beams and such like?

Anyway, here we are again with a veritable bounty of all great things matte, model and old time trick shot wizardry, in what I'm confidant will be enjoyed by many (hey there my Dutch matte shot friend William, I'm talking to you!).  I've collected some amazing material here, with so much never before seen, and the usual (and unusual) assortment of motion pictures that I'd bet the majority of readers will not have seen nor heard of, but are well worth the time and energy to discover, or re-discover I really should 'clip the bus ticket' as they say and get a percentage from studios or something for bringing lost gems of filmdom to fresh new audiences!

Now folks, among the line up today are some really breathtaking pieces that have fallen into my lap from afar.  Among them, a selection of never before seen original matte paintings by esteemed maestro of the artform, Matthew Yuricich.  More about that in a minute.  Also in this vast and most comprehensive article/post are some amazingly ingenious trick shots a-plenty from a wonderful British war film; some magnificent Technicolor Newcombe shots from not just one but a pair of classic Elizabeth Taylor films;  a mystery Albert Whitlock painting of unknown title;  a ludicrously miscast WarnerColor period epic;  a sinister B&W Sidney Greenstreet drama;  an absolutely unique Polish-Soviet fantasy adventure;  a couple of quality westerns;  a massive bio-pic of a certain General Custer and if that weren't enough, a longtime horror flick anonymous matte shot puzzle now finally solved!  Also, to round it all off, I'm drawing readers attention to a fantastic and long running magazine (yes, the real kind, printed on paper and bound between heavy covers!) that fans of genre pictures would do well to seek out.  More about that shortly.  God damn  folks... who could ask for more?? Seriously!! 

So, as I sit here dripping from the 98% summer humidity, trying not to fry the laptop keyboard with sweat, I will divert my thoughts away from the horrific ethnic cleansing being perpetrated upon the People of Palestine by the war criminal Netanyahu, and focus entirely on the wonders, illusions, ingenuity and fascination with all things motion picture magic.  

Enjoy the ride....


***This vast and utterly exhaustive post, and all 182 previous blog posts known as 'Matte Shot', were originally created by Peter Cook for nzpetesmatteshot, with all content, layout and text originally published at 


Matthew Yuricich's Matte Collection.

I have had considerable good fortune of late.  In my previous blogpost I detailed the wonderful package of vintage mattes sent to me in the post by the daughter of old time matte painter Jan Domela.  Well, whoever said lightning doesn't strike twice?  I've been having a number of communications with Matthew Yuricich's son Dana, contributing some essays and such for Dana as part of an upcoming auction of a small selection of Matt's original effects art.  Well, to cut a long story short, it turns out that the wider Yuricich family still own almost 80 original matte paintings - many of them being Matthew's work.  Naturally my curiosity went 'through the freakin' roof' with this new found knowledge.  

Two photos of Matthew, with the one at left from an exhibition of paintings some years ago (note the NORTH BY NORTHWEST matte there - one of many in the collection).  The pic at right was probably taken at Boss Films or EEG, at which Yuricich would work often.

Well, as something of a Christmas gift for NZ Pete, Dana very kindly sent me a vast set of images - mostly high rez - of the entire collection.  You can well imagine my sheer delight/thrill not no mention heart palpitations when receiving these wonderful artifacts.  As something of a 'teaser', I'm including a few here today, as well as a couple of others scattered amongst this article where appropriate.  I will add other fantastic images in subsequent blog posts as I don't want to 'shoot my load'(!) too soon, especially as there seems to be a declining readership in matters 'matte', sadly.  :(

So, shown below are just a sample of incredible paintings from the wonderful, talented, amusing Mr Matthew Yuricich, whom I had the pleasure of publishing a substantial career oral history with back in 2012, with the very much appreciated help of Craig Barron in making the interview happen.  

Now, the oddly effective American International horror flick THE DUNWICH HORROR (1969) had forever had me baffled as far as the couple of matte shots went.  I wondered if this one was a Whitlock shot as that sky really had me going Albert's way?  But, no..... after all these years of head scratching it turns out to be an uncredited Matt Yuricich shot all along!!!!  The effects for the film were contracted to Butler-Glouner, as were some others in Matt's incomplete filmography. 

Not only is the true provenance known, but here is Matthew's glorious original painting which the Yuricich family still hold in safe keeping, and in fine condition!  God, almighty... when I saw this piece among the collection I admit uttering a very loud profanity - possibly too loud as the neighbours complained!

Close up detail from this terrific piece.  Matthew's sky is jaw dropping.  The one factor that had me quizzing whether Whitlock may have done it was that the clouds were static, and Albert wouldn't have stood for that for a minute. Still, a classic matte that would look very nice hanging on my wall, if I had any space left.

NZ Pete gives matte fans their money's worth... another detailed close up!  How many 'matte and fx' web sites would do that?  ;)

Here is an odd one.  This Yuricich matte was prepared for the Yul Brynner Aztec era actioner KINGS OF THE SUN (1963) and it looks wonderful.  Oddly, for reasons unknown, the director J. Lee Thompson eventually settled for the exact same shot, though used the initially unpainted 'plate' photography for this scene.  Instead of utilising Matt's beautifully rendered sky, tree line and additional painted Aztec warriors, they just chose the shot minus Matt's evocative sky brushwork.  Note:  Although a United Artists picture, the two mattes were obviously farmed out to MGM as the telltale method of painting onto large photographic blow ups was a standard practice under Clarence Slifer and J.MacMillan Johnson.

KINGS OF THE SUN closer look at Matt's excellent sky.

Here is another film that has been a mystery to me as to the ownership of the brushwork.  The terrific James Stewart-George Kennedy-Kurt Russell 1920's set comedy action flick FOOL'S PARADE (1971) was a fun treat all the way.  This matte has had me mystified for years....... until now!

And here it appears, as a long stored away artifact among the family of Matthew Yuricich.  Another wonderful piece that slipped by almost undetected in the movie.  This was another Butler-Glouner effects show, so Matt was doing a lot of freelancing through those years.

Closer look at the brushwork of Matthew.  Great little flick by the way, well worth rediscovery.

I will cover more from this amazing collection in upcoming blogs, but there is a special bonus below...


A Mystery Albert Whitlock Matte.

Among Matthew's collection were several paintings by other artists;  a Jim Danforth one, some Howard Fisher pieces and a couple of Henry Hillinick's from the old MGM days.  Also stashed away is this extremely rare Albert Whitlock matte painting which Matthew said he picked up when doing an assignment at Howard Anderson's effects company.  Any clues on this one?

This rare Albert Whitlock matte is a real baffling one.  It won't be from a Universal film as it was one of Al's freelance jobs done at Howard Anderson, probably late 1960's or early 70's.  Probably not for a tv show due to the 'Scope' dimensions.  I wondered whether it might be from MAROONED (it wasn't) or something like that, but no - plus that was a Butler-Glouner fx show, though Al did a fair bit for them as well.

Closer view of what Matthew said was "the Gemini rocket on the launchpad".  He said that the painting was "just kicking around when I was at Howard Anderson", so he did the decent thing and rescued it - as well he should as such things were routinely thrown in the skip and lost forever.  Any identification on this would be welcomed.  You know who to call.  ;)


The Bookshelf:  Recommended Reading.

The era of the 'monster mag' is long gone - or so we thought!  Many of us grew up on things like Forry Ackerman's utterly essential Famous Monsters of Filmland as well as the numerous spin offs, rip offs and later on some pretty damned impressive fanzines that filled many a gap in highly impressionable teenaged minds for those among us (or, 'who walked among us'! ... egads!!) who thrived on genre movies.  Old time horror, sci-fi, animation, monsters, aliens, creature features and all of it. Film maker and author Ted Bohus has been putting together quality journals along these lines for a number of years now, with the earlier SPFX mag being a solid read back in the day.

Ted's CANDID MONSTERS comes with my highest recommendation for those with their feet firmly rooted in films of old along the lines of those described above.  Ted has covered, in the 21 or so issues thus far, so many of the films we love:  THE INVISIBLE MAN; THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD; WAR OF THE WORLADS; THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL; THE TIME MACHINE; KING KONG (naturally); everything Ray Harryhausen ever did, and even an all time fave of mine, I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (much better and scarier than it sounds!)  All the movies we know and love.
The latest issue sent to me even has a vast and worthy 40 page piece on the VFX work on MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, by some fellow called 'Peter Cook'(!)

The 21 or so journals to date are jam packed with rare photos - all high quality reproductions, the interviews with cast, directors and many key participants are all fascinating and very revealing to say the least.  Each issue of 150 odd pages is a solid 'cover to cover read' as far as I'm concerned.  I hope Ted sends me more issues, these are great.  Highly recommended.
Contact Ted here for further info etc.  

The cover art is all commissioned expressly for Candid Monsters, and it's great.


An Odd Find in my Archives.

In going through my quite extensive archive I dug out an old photo I have from years ago that is of some significance.  Famed matte artist Al Whitlock was a close personal friend of the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, with very early interactions as far back as the 1930's, and much later reunited for all of the Universal films Hitch made.  Hitch was a devotee of fine art and would often ask Albert to 'copy' a genuine masterpiece so that he could hang it in his West Coast home.
Hitchcock was also a first class practical joker, so whether he requested Whitlock to paint this 'revised' view of Mt Rushmore, or Al took it upon himself is not known.

Now, I read the other day that a high percentage of American youth have not a clue who those chaps are on Mount Rushmore....  But only one murdered Janet Leigh in the shower... but which one?

So, now on with the matte shot retrospectives...


ANGELS ONE FIVE - recreating the Battle of Britain with extensive trickery.

I'm a sucker for old war films, and this one is quite a remarkable feat of impressive cinematic knowhow and extensive trick photography.

ANGELS ONE FIVE (1952) was a massive success in Britain and in her colonies such as here in New Zealand, though probably remains unknown in the US and such.  A moderately budgeted affair, the film is packed with an extensive array of trick shots, and some very complex ones at times.  Miniature expert George Blackwell and optical cinematographer Bryan Langley deservedly got screen credit for their huge contribution.-

One of the UK's most respected effects men, George Blackwell, had experience in all manner of physical effects but was most often drawn toward miniature work on scores of films.  Oscar nominated for the still essential classic DAMBUSTERS, George did superlative work on shows like CAPT. HORATIO HORNBLOWER, NIGHT OF THE DEMON and the Ray Harryhausen film ONE MILLION YEARS BC among many others.

The film is absolutely loaded with vfx shots, so many in fact that it takes a keen eye to spot them all, such is the quality.  This seemingly 'actual' stunt, where two Hurricanes barely miss each other on a runway due to miscommunication was a superbly done composite with the one real plane taxiing, while the second plane was a miniature combined flawlessly by travelling matte.

This film was one of the most extensive to utilise the travelling matte process to combine miniatures and occasionally painted aircraft into action sequences.

The now out of control plane comes down hard and plows straight off the runway and into a building.  Excellent miniature photography combined, presumably, through very good process projection.  See below...

The filming of that plane as it skids into camera on a miniature set at Elstree.

I wonder whether this was a blue backing shot, as the article mentions it.  It's far too crisp and evenly 'projected' to be a back projection shot?

As for actual aircraft, by the time they shot the picture there were only two flyable Hurricanes in Britain, and absolutely no German bombers at all, unsurprisingly.  Models were needed extensively.

Shots like this were most effective, as they introduced a subtle aerial 'drift' so that they weren't all in a sort of 'glued in' formation.

A formation of German bombers - painted on glass - coming in to create havoc.  Note the animated flak explosions in the air.  One of the few other war pictures I can recall that relied almost entirely on matted in fighter planes and such was the 40's picture THE NORTH STAR - a film absolutely bursting at the seams with trickery, and one that saw Clarence Slifer nominated for his marvellous effects work.  I covered that film in great detail here a few years back.

The full scale mechanical fx on the ground were impressive too.  This sequence is typical of the ingenuity of Blackwell and Langley, with the Heinkel added in later on Bryan Langley's optical printer.

The producers stated that a considerable amount of consultation with "the boffins" - as they termed it - in the photographic effects industry had to be carried out way before the green light was given due to the difficulties in recreating such scenes on a medium (by UK standards) budget.

Example of excellent optical work, with German Heinkel miniatures 'marionetted' in front of a blue screen, with the guide wires purposely painted blue to permit optical elimination when added to footage of Jack Hawkins and explosions etc.  Very impressive.

Optical cinematographer Bryan Langley was an old hand in the UK film industry, having started off as a camera assistant on silent pictures before graduating to full 'lighting cameraman' (or D.o.P as the Yanks call it).  Bryan got involved early on with the Schufftan Process' - of using partially silvered mirrors to combine live action with miniatures or artwork.  Later on Bryan became an expert in all facets of the travelling matte process at J.Arthur Rank's Pinewood Studio, under the Independent Frame ethic.  

Bryan Langley specialised in the yellow backing sodium process, devised at Rank by George Ashworth with his specially built beam splitter camera, and used very extensively on their films in preference over rear projection. The sodium method was later exported by Disney to the States and used on practically every Disney picture.

Another very effective bit where miniature planes were matted over the rooftops, with the roar nearly giving the lady a coronary.

Excellent full scale physical effects, which I first thought to be a miniature truck, but on repeat rewinds reckon it was real.

There was a detailed article about the making of this film in a British industry journal whereby they state some seventy travelling matte shots were made - the most for any picture up until 1951 - with many of those having multiple elements combined into a single shot.  The producer said that "this film would have been impossible to make without the TMP" - the travelling matte process.  The stated that the actors were going goggle eyed performing constantly in front of blue screens for all of the cockpit sequences, as it wasn't common at the time as it is now.

Probably the most impressive shot in the film was this seemingly straightforward shot.  Aerial cameraman Stanley Grant's live plate of the English Kent countryside has had a formation of German bombers added flawlessly.  All the planes were painted on glass and shot against a blue backing, though what sold the scene was the cloud bank that partially obscured the planes as they flew through.  A superb optical assembly by Langley and his assistant Reg Johnson.  Producer John Gossage loved the shots and wrote:  "The actual location background used included a certain amount of cloud, and the 'boffins' were able to matte the studio effects shot so that the planes actually appear to fly in and out of clouds".

The big disadvantage the film makers found was the extreme time delay from shooting to finally seeing completed effects shots.

The article stated:  "The use of models was extensive.  The larger ones had practical propellors, guns and bomb releases - all electrically controlled with the current passed down the wires they were suspended from, hung from a mobile cross tree very similar to that which puppeteers use".

Another extremely impressive sequence has a British fighter dive down and blow the shit out of some German formation.  An incredibly well photographed and composited sequence which combined live aerial footage - very smoothly shot - along with several German Heinkels and ME109's flying at differing altitudes and directions, with all of this combined as an eagle eyed POV from the Hurricane pilot.  

Apparently they did a great deal of experimentation with different background plates and alternate model action before settling on the perfect, multi-layered result.  Outstanding!  Some shots were made up of several layers: the 2nd unit landscape below; multiple German aircraft flying around; a separate constructed cockpit window and panel for squibs and bullet hits; and lastly the actor playing the pilot filmed simply sitting on a stool in front of a blue screen.  Langley and Johnson married all of those elements together beautifully.

Bryan Langley worked on a number of films with extensive optical requirements such as the original 1984 starring Michael Redgrave; the Royal Navy story THE GIFT HORSE, THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and was co-screen credited alongside Albert Whitlock on the sci-fi show THE NET (aka PROJECT M7).

Daring do over the Kent landscape.  It was indeed 'their finest hour'.

As Freddie Mercury once famously sang: 'Another Kraut bites the dust'.

An evocative matte painted sky with added squadron in flight.

The closing sequence is a massive pullback starting on an interior set at Elstree and extending way out. The set merges into a detailed painted matte - artist unknown - and subsequently moves back over a multiplane glass shot.

Matte painted ruins...

The massive pullback using either multi-plane glasses or painted cut-outs.

detailed view

Not sure what they were trying to achieve here.  Maybe the aerodrome runway beyond, although the perspective is way, way off, or a more representational stylised interpretation, I dunno?

All up, a great movie, little known today.  And you can never go wrong with anything starring Jack Hawkins, now can you?

Truer words were never spoken... The great Winston Churchill, whose 1100 page life story I'm currently reading.  Amazing fellow, sadly 'dumped' by the Brit's after the war despite all he did.

From the action packed trailer.


RAINTREE COUNTY - The Civil War is lost by battling, buxom Southern Belles.

MGM's epic scaled, but tragically overlong RAINTREE COUNTY (1957)

MGM's answer to David Selznick's vastly superior GONE WITH THE WIND, at least had a strong cast, and Monty Clift was always a bloody fine actor who passed away far too early (see him in JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG).  RAINTREE was shot in the celebrated Camera 65 format that MGM was starting to use - that is 65mm negative for maximum fidelity of image.

The film is surprisingly scarce in the matte art department, which for a Civil War epic isn't really on!  Very little 'broad scale' in the film, though the couple of mattes worked nicely.  Old time MGM veteran Henry Hillinick painted on this film, assisted by Matthew Yuricich, to whom Henry was mentor.  This establishing shot is nice, combining a rural locale with some MGM backlot and a good deal of matte art to tie it all together.

I've zoomed this in for a closer look.  

The second, and only other confirmed matte in RAINTREE COUNTY was this undetectable view at the end of the very long 3 hour shmooze-fest, with the train pulling out of the town.  Half the frame here is painted (see below), and blended beautifully by MGM's vfx cameraman Mark Davis.  *See below for a real treat, courtesy of Pete...

From the Matthew Yuricich collection comes this wonderful original Henry Hillinick matte, still in pristine condition.  Matthew said that when that Kerkorian megalomaniac started to bulldoze all the old MGM backlots and departments in the early 70's to flog off as real estate - the old matte department included - Matthew grabbed a bunch of old mattes and saved them, this being one.  He said it broke his heart to see all those decades of artistic talent basically dumped and carted away, though somewhere along the ways a great deal of those fell into the hands of others and have subsequently shown up at various auctions etc.  I have a couple.

Some of the detail that I just know you want to examine... Henry was an all round ace painter, and Matt held him in the highest regard.  Henry had worked as far back as the original KING KONG doing backings and things.  Like most matte guys, he never had an on-screen credit.

More sublime detail.  Henry definitely wasn't one of the 'big brush' school of matte exponents.  His work was fine, detailed and exacting - probably because head of department Warren Newcombe demanded such.  This detailed piece is important as this was where Henry taught Matthew how to use a razor blade to create a nice textured effect, by gently scraping the blade over the surface of the painted stone and brickwork for the desired texture - something Matt used often and passed on to others like Michele Moen and likely Rocco Gioffre too.

I can't confirm what this is from.  The scene doesn't appear in RAINTREE COUNTY but the painting has the same 'feel' to it to my eyes and may have been an unused shot.  Whatever, here it is in all its glory, and a magnificent piece it is too!  Feel free to thank Pete any time now for including this beauty,  regardless of its certainty!  ;)

Detail of the brush work.

More detail.  If anyone can clarify, or put me straight on the possible film, then let me know.


CATTLE DRIVE:  Down on the Ranch with Joel McCrea.

I enjoy old westerns, and with the great Joel McCrea one really can't go wrong.  *If any twat asks "who is Joel McCrea", I swear I will hunt you down and horsewhip you!  See SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS for his finest film, though he stated he always preferred acting in movies with horses, tumbleweed and cactus!  True story!

Actually a really good little 1951 western, with top notch performance by the young Dean Stockwell (didn't he die quite recently??)

The film has a handful of good matte shots in it by Russell Lawson, with one shot in particular being a real standout (I show that one in a bit...)  This one is intriguing.. a well rendered full frame painting that does not include a railway track, even though a second cut shortly afterward appears to use the same painting, this time modified somewhat, and now with a railroad track!  It's like the damned Twilight Zone in that valley - another dimension!

Before and after Lawson shot, with train.

Larger view of the matte with the train rolling on and some modified bits of scenery.

Now friends, this is one terrific matte shot, and one that is so bold.  Some folks dismiss Russ as just a brush for hire, but the guy did some inventive things over his very extensive career, mostly at Universal.  He, and fx cameraman Roswell Hoffman, weren't afraid of running matte lines through the sky - that is painted sky to actual sky - as I've seen in many examples.  Here is a prime one.  See below...

The same shot broken down (as best I can do it, sadly).  Real train, real people, real water spout, half sky real while other half painted.  Large water tank, ladder, mountains, roof of train carriages all painted in!  Russ has run his matte line around the edge of a cloud, which unless you were really paying attention, you'd never spot.  Lawson and Hoffman did this on many shows to excellent effect. 

Two more CATTLE DRIVE mattes with mountain range and skies added in.


ROBIN HOOD - Starring the Biggest Box Office Name of the Silent Era.

Silent classic ROBIN HOOD (1922).  Yep, Douglas Fairbanks was the biggest star of his day.  The Tom Cruise of the twenties, except that Fairbanks could act.  Like Tom, Douglas was a little fella, and as the great 'Hedley Lamarr' said in Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles, "How did he do such incredible stunts, with such little feet".

Fairbanks on the set leaning against the biggest godammned megaphone ever constructed!

ROBIN HOOD (1922) was a beautifully shot adventure and includes a number of stunning matte and glass shots.  Matte artist was the uncredited Ferdinand Pinney Earle - a pioneer in the technique, though a pioneer who seemed to always be in lawsuit battles with his competitor Norman Dawn, over just who invented it (my money's on Dawn).  These shots show Earle and his assistants busy at work on glass shots in his specialist studio.

Before and afters of the most recognisable ROBIN HOOD shot by F.P Earle.

Ferdinand Earle at work, plus an old article on his trick work from one of his lost films.

Of note to film buffs - Alan Hale co-starred both here in the 1922 film and again alongside Errol Flynn in the 1938 Technicolor remake - each time as the exact same character!  Not to be confused with his son, Alan Hale jnr, who starred in tv's 'Gilligan's Island'.  Now remember that fact in case the question comes up when you are facing The Governess on 'The Chase'.

The film opens with this gorgeous glass shot.  Must have been on glass as the painted clouds are moving across the sky.  Several mattes have the same cloud movement.

A beautifully done soft dissolve from one painted castle to another.

The intertitles are very poetic.

From one matte painted castle to another...

Further soft dissolve brings us this ruin.  I do wonder if this is a model or at least a partial miniature set up.  The sky is moving too.

The production design was most impressive and the sets were the most talked about and documented of the day.

The master shot of the castle and battlements remains an F.P Earle masterpiece.  The actual standing set was immense even before the matte art was added.  The clouds here also drift across the sky.

A breathtaking interior set extension.  Apparently Earle was one tough customer and not an easy fellow to live with, or so I once read.  His son became a background artist on 1940's Disney animated features.

Ferdinand Pinney Earle was classically trained in the fine art academies of Paris under first rate painters such as Bougereau - as some other matte exponents did at the time such as Jan Domela, Hans Ledeboer and I think Spencer Bagtatopolis, Emil Kosa and maybe Walter Percy Day too.

Other notable matte artists got their start under F.P Earle such as Paul Detlefsen who went on to head the Warner Bros matte department and later over at RKO in it's final days.

Earle found fame with his illusions by creating motion pictures with exotic locales almost entirely within the silent era studio through carefully planned use of his matte art techniques whereby seemingly impossible scenes could be brought to the screen by merging glass paintings with separately filmed actors shot against black velvet, though sadly many of those films are lost today.


SAMPO:  Finland's Fanciful Fairytale

I've seen a number of Nordic-noir thrillers from Finland but never before have I come across an effects filled fairytale like this.  SAMPO (1959) was a visual feast with competent and often astounding trick work.  I bet you've never heard of this one.

No, your eyes aren't fooling you... Apparently some jerk US distributor bought the rights and recut and retitled the Finnish flick as, get this, THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE (yeah... really!) and released it some years later!  Sadly, the Americans had a habit of doing this sort of thing to foreign films!

I'm thinking that might be an effects credit, 'Trikki..." something or other.  It has to be a vfx credit.

The film was a grand extravaganza, filled with colour, imaginative vista's and amazing art direction such as shown in this matte shot which was made with a pan across to left making me think it was a glass shot mounted in front of a studio tank.

I understand SAMPO was a Finnish-Soviet co-production.  Actually, the Soviet film industry were highly adept at produced some amazing photographic effects work on a great many films - at least from the few examples I've managed to see.  The matte artist was Zoya Morakova, who would paint on scores of Soviet films over a long career.  *Some other examples are shown at the end of this SAMPO piece.  

This one appears to be a simple perspective gag, with the actor positioned some distance behind the foreground miniature set, a-la DARBY O'GILL.

Much matte painted set extension here, and beautifully designed too.  The story was kind of hard to follow, but had much to do with magical rainbows and a delightful character attempting to stop some devilish witch from stealing the sun - or something.  Very popular in its homeland of Finland I believe.

More matte art here, used to add in much of the set above the heads of the cast.

Filmed in 2.35 CinemaScope, or 'SinemaSkop', or 'Dyaliscope' or even 'VistaScope', depending on which advertising material you come across and who you believe!

Excellent model work for this snow storm, which presumably formed the basis of the severely re-cut, dubbed and disemboweled American release version THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE!

Part of an exquisite fx sequence where the Northern Lights appear in the night sky.

Wonderful matte painted composite with gentle light in the sky added.

Film critic and author Tim Lucas, who used to put out the excellent review mag Video Watchdog back in the 90's called SAMPO "an impossibly beautiful film".

I'd be most intrigued at how many MatteShot blog readers have heard of, or even seen this mysterious, yet fascinating film.

I'm particularly fond of this matte shot.  Photographic effects cameraman was Lev Dovgvillo who did fine work with combining Zoya Morakova's wonderful matte art.

Miniature boats with both the ice flows and the sky being matte art.  The film was directed by renowned Russian film maker Aleksandr Ptushko.

Another great shot from the film has our character braving the ferocious snow storm in this very nicely done partial set augmented with matte painted rooftop and trees.

Although these three images are not from SAMPO, I decided to include them as examples of Zoya Morakova's matte art from other films.  This is from WALKING OVER THREE SEAS.

Detail from a Zoya matte for the same film.

A before and after Morakova matte from LOVE FOR LOVE, made in 1983.  I think I got these images from my friend in Madrid, Domingo.  If so, he knows far more about Euro-Russian fx than I do.

Mexican poster for SAMPO.


THE MAN FROM COLORADO:  Great Cast and Fine Matte Art

What could be better than a good, solid old school western starring both Glenn Ford and William Holden - THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948) fits the bill nicely.

Columbia were often under rated for their product, no doubt as a result of the tight fisted rule of studio boss Harry Cohn, whom nobody liked and many regarded as a total thug.

Although they rarely put up a screen credit for effects, let alone matte work, Columbia by this time had the legendary Lawrence W. Butler running the effects department, with long time vfx cameraman Donald Glouner and, shown above, experienced matte artist Juan Larrinaga - the brother of Mario Larrinaga who was over at Warner Bros.  Both Juan and Mario worked together on KING KONG (1933) and its sad sequel, SON OF KONG over at RKO.

The flick is a compact and exciting little western, and for cowboy buffs like Pete, it was a good nights viewing.  Several matte shots were used to expand the settings, with this painted venue being an important part of the plot.

Now this shot is an outstanding matte.  One of the best of its era in fact.  Everything above the people has been added in superbly.  Beautifully rendered, presumably by Juan Larrinaga, the feeling of light, depth and hue - not to mention the outstanding soft blend marrying the art to the set, one could almost be forgiven in accepting it as a 1970's Albert Whitlock o/neg shot as it's that good.

While not as effective as the previous sensational matte, this still works.

A closer matte view of the canyon where things are about to 'kick off'.

Lawrence and Donald ran the Columbia effects dept for many years before finally branching out and establishing their own specialist effects house, Butler-Glouner.  Larry's father William Butler had been a key optical effects man for Warners back in the late silent days, with Larry joining him when aged only 15.  Larry had a massive career, gaining an Oscar for THE THIEF OF BAGDAD in 1940, and would run Warner's famed 'Stage 5' trick department for many years, whereby that studio's best and most adventurous visual effects work was created with jaw dropping shots on things like RHAPSODY IN BLUE, ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN, HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT and my all time fave fx show, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY.  Even in his old age Butler was being sought after for effects consultation.  Spielberg hired him as advisor for CE3K long before Trumbull and co came on board, and as a small tribute, Steven even named a character 'Larry Butler' in the final film!  True story.


RUTHLESS:  Sinister goings-ons and treachery afoot

A rip roaring and moody noir-esque melodrama that few today would have heard of, RUTHLESS (1948) was a winner for NZ Pete.  An outstanding cast, with Zachary Scott better than ever.  Plus, any film with Sidney Greenstreet is a must see for me.   

No effects credit but being an Eagle-Lion show I'd offer an educated guess that Jack Rabin and Irving Block were likely involved as their visual effects shop, Studio Film Service just happened to be right there on the Eagle-Lion lot.

A dark and at times malevolent drama, especially when Greenstreet is around.  The femme lead, Diana Lynn, was an absolute honey, and thus gets her lovely picturesque self immortalised forever in this blog!  Sexist?  So, sue me!

There are just a half dozen mattes in the film, but it's always been my brief to bring 'unknown' or forgotten flicks to life through my blog.  This is a great shot actually.  Practically all painted, with the addition of an animated lighthouse beam high atop the frame that is constantly revolving.

Putting a roof on a set was forever the most common requirement for a matte shot, be they a vast cathedral, a ballroom or just a plain flat ceiling to hide the studio lights and rigging, the matte guys did a million 'top ups' over the years, and most you'd never notice.

Reverse angle with all painted in from midway up the frame, including the 'candle' illumination.

Nicely rendered sky in what is pretty much a 50/50 matte to actual exterior.

Jack Rabin and Irving Block had very long careers in effects.  Rabin started with Jack Cosgrove at Selznick, with Rabin and Block meeting up at Fox in the 1940's.  Block went on to MGM as one of Newcombe's staff of matte painters and eventually both got back as business partners - with title artist Louis DeWitt - and set up their own optical facility, specialising in low (and extremely low) budget assignments for guys like cheapskate Roger Corman.  They did do the occasional prestige job though, such as Charles Laughton's classic NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.


NATIONAL VELVET:  Liz takes the micky out of Mickey(!)

Star chemistry, and then some!  The very young Elizabeth Taylor and the massively talented Mickey Rooney..... what could go wrong?

The massively popular family film NATIONAL VELVET (1944) still stands the test of time.

Interestingly, the actor Jack Nicholson was once interviewed and asked who he thought was the best actor ever.  He quickly responded, "Mickey Rooney".  He said that Rooney could do anything - and he did.  Right from a small kid, through to song and dance, comedy, drama, thrillers, the number one box office draw for several name it, the little fella was mega talented, but must have lost a fortune with so many divorces among his 8 (count 'em eight) wives! Jesus!!  Oddly, I think Liz Taylor went through as many husbands as Mickey went through wives.... that's like 16 divorces between them! Though, I digress.........

The family film is loaded to the gills with so many matte shots.  I almost lost count.

Warren Newcombe took screen credit but as was common knowledge never so much as picked up a paint brush.  That's what 'heads of departments' get... all the credit where credit's not entirely due.  Newcombe was however, a superb manager of his large staff, and knew exactly what the director required.  As such, MGM turned out many of the best mattes in Hollywood, especially in the 1940's.

A magnificent matte painted London, complete with moving traffic on the bridge.  This matte would crop up again in several other films over the years.

What always impressed me with Newcombe shots were the brilliant blends between the art and the live action.  Rarely were there ever any obvious matte lines on show, and almost always senior matte cameraman Mark Davis seemed to use soft matte blends - and often in the least obvious of places.  

A typical example of a superb blend to marry the fact to the fiction, as I like to phrase it. This is one first class bit of matte work.

The colour matching when exposing the elements was always very good at MGM, though things tended to slip a little once CinemaScope came in.

MGM had the dough to spend and would commission mattes by the score, even if they weren't sure they were needed.  I've seen so many paintings made for specific films that never appeared in the final cut, almost as if they were rendered purely as a 'standby' just in case.

A very impressive tilt down shot where the entire thing is a large painting, with just the fluttering flag 'burnt in' later.  A number of 'drilled away' slot gags are evident in the painted crowd, where 'movement' is simulated through backlit devices behind the artwork - an old trick that the Newcombe department were masters at.

Closer look at the painting.

In a number of shots the matte art is so convincingly assembled that a few rewinds are in order to figure things out.

Key matte artists working then were Howard Fisher, Henry Hillinick, Otto Kiechle, Hernando Villa, Henry Peter McDermott and others.

As incredible as it may sound, I heard from Matthew Yuricich that the artists under Warren at MGM were never allowed to view their own tests or finals in the projection room!  Strictly heads of department to watch, and out of bounds to minions such as the poor son-of-a-bitch who actually painted the damned thing!  From those 'test' viewings the head of dept would relay to the matte artist what was wrong and where corrections needed to be made, without the artist ever having the benefit of seeing the thing on film himself!  Unbelievable!

Although NATIONAL VELVET was way before Yuricich's time, he said that according to guys like Howard and Henry, the average matte would take about 2 to 3 weeks to complete, once any problematic areas had been sorted out.  They had a draftsman named Bill Meyer who would meticulously draw in everything that was required, and the matte painter would by and large, just follow that outline and fill it in.  Apparently Meyer was very skilled with this.

A superbly invisible matte that would also appear years later in the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy MONEY FROM HOME.

The big Derby with little Liz in the front.  Lots of paint here, with just the foreground, the horses and some of the mid-ground crowd being actual.

At MGM, while most artists would paint standing up with the traditional easel, both Howard Fisher and Henry Hillinick preferred to paint while seated with their mattes on drawing-drafting tables tilted down.  Howard was what you could call a 'photo realist' with his approach, while Henry tended to be more experimental at times and use a thick impasto style for certain things, possibly due to his early training as a scenic backing painter, though looking at his finely detailed matte at the end of RAINTREE COUNTY (see earlier in this post), his work could be very meticulous.

For the extended racetrack sequence at the climax, scores of mattes were employed for shot after shot, with many being invisible to the casual viewer.  All of the shots with the grandstand visible were painted, and all of the distant crowd were mere artwork (see below).

I've deliberately cropped a couple of frames here to illustrate just how much of what you saw on screen was in fact trick work.  Practically all of the onlookers were painted in, and augmented by interference gags behind the painting at specific points to simulate 'movement' where in fact there was none.
These are not from NATIONAL VELVET, rather an example of a painted crowd from another MGM picture TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME which came out a few years later.  Note the apparent attention to detail, though the people are pretty much rendered as blotches of paint, though applied in a manner that would read as the real thing on film, especially with specific 'slot gags' in play.
All painted as shown in this close up, though I only have B&W high rez photos of this, sadly.

And NATIONAL VELVET concludes with this majestic sunset.  Virtually a full painting here with just a tiny strip of gravel road with Mickey Rooney on.  Wonderful stuff.


CUSTER OF THE WEST:  Big screen bio-pic of a larger than life legend.

Sensational ad art as was the style in the late sixties, CUSTER OF THE WEST (1968) was an epic mounting of great scale and ambition.

Among the sprawling adventure were several excellent matte painted shots, rendered by the legendary Spanish artisan, Emilio Ruiz del Rio.  Although uncredited, Emilio contributed some top notch glass shots for the big screen Super Technirama 70mm production.

Two master craftsmen in front of a large miniature set - matte artist Emilio Ruiz at left, and model specialist Francisco Prosper at right, both men enormously skilled and backed up with hundreds of screen credits between them.

Although a Cinerama film 'presentation', it wasn't filmed or projected in true 'Cinerama' as that process had been put out to pasture for some years.  True Cinerama involved complicated triple head photography and the resulting triple unit projection, spreading 3 individual strips of film projected separately in left, centre and right panels across an extremely wide screen to breathtaking effect.  MGM's HOW THE WEST WAS WON was one of the most famous.

A superb glass shot by Emilio Ruiz, filmed with a tilt up.  There is far more here painted than you might think.  See below...

A close view of substantial artwork where Emilio has added in an entire community of Indian tents as well as all of the background mountain range.

The left side has vegetation added in as well as all of the background hills and mountains.

Another of Ruiz's mattes that fool the viewer's eye as being a regular (Spanish) location.

Closer look at it demonstrates excellent brush work and quite a loose style.  Most likely done on a piece of sheet metal, mounted in front of the camera and shot in situ as a foreground matte shot directly onto the original negative, which was Emilio's tried and true method since the 1940's.

Another in camera matte by Ruiz.  Emilio worked on so many films - numbering around 400 I believe - with notable work on things like the excellent and sorely under rated GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, where CUSTER's miniatures expert, Francisco Prosper also provided wonderful model sets.

A major action set piece sees a heavily laden locomotive come to grief.

Miniatures supervised by Francisco Prosper who did remarkable work on shows like the huge KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA and BATTLE OF THE BULGE - both with substantial miniature effects requirements.

Trouble is afoot, at the foot of the trestle bridge railway.

Runaway carriage...

Fabulous work here, especially when compared to the dismal work featuring a similar train disaster in the 1977 flick THE CASSANDRA CROSSING.

Good scale model construction plus shooting in actual daylight makes for top quality sequence.

The final vfx shot is another of Emilio's painted mattes, though they decided to superimpose Robert Shaw over the shot.


KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS:  An extremely miscast wide screen adventure.

KING RICHARD AND THE CRUSADERS (1954) - an early venture into CinemaScope for Warner Bros. that was a tedious and at times ludicrous affair.

I love old school hand painted title cards like these - a highly skilled profession in itself.  Usually hand lettered on glass, they really were an artform in a class of their own.

No effects credit but most likely it was Louis Litchtenfield running the special photographic effects unit at Warners.  Lou was a veteran matte artist with his work appearing in films like MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, THE FOUNTAINHEAD and LAND OF THE PHAROAHS among others.

The first few mattes are all desert shots with oasis groves and distant fortifications painted in.

Painted in oasis as the 'collecting his pay-cheque' Rex Harrison looks on.  Rex was a good actor in many films, with the certified classic UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948) being an absolute high point whereby I split my sides laughing.  Later on he starred in the 100% dreadful DOCTOR DOOLITTLE (1968) and reportedly hated every minute of it with a pathological passion, bursting into a tirade whenever the director yelled 'cut' then resuming character for the next take, then cursing the producer again when cut was called.  Must have been a fun set.  As an aside, that dire DOOLITTLE film stole the Oscar for it's effects from the vastly superior war picture TOBRUK that year... but don't get me started on Oscar injustices.

Late in the film we shift to greener pastures and Litchtenfield provided some rather nice mattes.  Love the sky here.

Another wider view later on.  Also in the Warners matte department at the time was old time vfx artist Jack Cosgrove, so perhaps he had input as well.

Same as early castle shot but colour hue and time of day etc are different.

Excellent matte of King Richard's place of residence.  Again, I like the sky.

Well, that's about it for another post/article.  I hope that journey down the movie magic rabbit hole was fruitful, interesting and entertaining.  Your feedback is welcome.



My thoughts go out to the people of the State of Palestine as they face the relentless holocaust that the rest of the world (with one or two exceptions) see plainly as Israeli state orchestrated ethnic cleansing.
The Zionist sanctioned wholesale destruction of the Palestinian population's homes, hospitals, schools, businesses, farms, places of worship and what the fascist Israeli invaders jokingly call 'safe zones' where every Palestinian, regardless of age, gender or profession is targeted with complete and unabated prejudice. 
The International Criminal Court investigating war crimes will try it's best to prosecute the ultra extremist Netanyahu regime (that is rapidly looking more and more 'Neo-Nazi' as the days pass by) though we all know full well the US would crawl over broken glass to block any and all such justice from having any likelihood of ever being carried out in any international court of law.

Oh, and just to set the record straight, yes, the Jews were persecuted and murdered on a mass scale by the seriously fucked up National Socialist Germany, without question, and yes, Hitler and his entire evil band were complete and utter cunts, without exception, the likes of which the world had never seen. But none of that gives the Zionists a 'free pass' to completely obliterate the people of the State of Palestine as they have been slowly and steadily doing by decree for over seven painful decades.

FREE GAZA NOW ... Surely all that potential prime coastal real estate isn't worth the tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian lives.  It's all looking more and more like another sorry 'Final Solution', this time on the part of the ultra right wing government of Israel.


***This vast and utterly exhaustive post, and all 182 previous blog posts known as 'Matte Shot', were originally created by Peter Cook for nzpetesmatteshot, with all content, layout and text originally published at