Tuesday 2 April 2024

MATTE & EFFECTS FILMS CELEBRATED: Part Five

 



Hi friends... it's autumn here now and the season is turning a different colour 'down under' (sounds like something a medic should promptly look into?)  As such, it appears that it is that time again for another vast and fulfilling exploration of all things traditional matte, miniature and optical - done the 'old fashioned way' by eye, hand, instinct, and sometimes sheer seat of the pants ingenuity to sell a shot.
As always, I have a treasure trove of material to share - much of which I'm certain will be fresh to many, if not all of my readers.  We have an astonishingly broad range of motion pictures here in need of celebration - of various vintages - as well as some hidden away gems that came my way a while back from the family of esteemed matte artist Matthew Yuricich.

So what's on the roll call today?  Well, I have a newly discovered Albert Whitlock matte from one of his non-Universal assignments that nobody was aware of;  Some rarely seen clips from an early nineties tv doco on the craft of matte painting;  The huge effects laden apirition filled 80's Ivan Reitman hit which spawned a score of reboots;  A truly spectacular MGM water-ballet musical;  A fun 70's dino-adventure flick that's true to my heart;  A Mel Brooks monochromatic spoof;  A cheezy Canadian made Lee Majors end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it show;  A Christmas comedy, albeit four months too late;  A made-for-tv disaster movie... and more!


A candid picture of two Brit born masters of the effects medium:  Al Whitlock and Derek Meddings shown here on the German set of the early nineties kiddie film NEVER ENDING STORY PART 2.  Al was there to supervise all the plate photography to later be combined with Syd Dutton's wonderful mattes back at Universal.  Derek was overall VFX supervisor, with an accent on miniatures.  I include this candid pic as both gentlemen feature in todays big blog post.  *Many thanks to Derek's assistant, Steve Begg for the photo.

There's something for everyone in this posting, though in a rare admission I have to confess that a couple of the films covered here I've not actually seen(!!)  One was just too hard to track down - and as I don't routinely dabble with YouTube and such due to abysmal 10th generation uploads which I simply cannot watch - I've just had to settle with material I already had on hand.
So, let us begin our rollercoaster ride through that magical land of mattes, models and much more.
Money back if you aren't at least 101% satisfied...........

Enjoy, and I appreciate your feedback.

Pete


***This vast and utterly exhaustive post, and all 183 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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A BLAST FROM THE PAST


The grandfather of British special photographic effects, Walter Percy Day - known throughout the business as Pop Day - on location in France way back in 1922 for LES OPPRIMES. Pop was one of the greats of the artform, with many up and coming matte exponents trained under his steely gaze, such as a young Peter Ellenshaw, Les Bowie, George Samuels, Albert Julion, Judy Jordan and Joseph Natanson to name but a few.

Revealing historic photographs show just how enormous Day's glass shots were, which was something his future stepson, Peter Ellenshaw commented on in his memoir at how gigantic Pop preferred to make his glass paintings, whereas a third of the size would have worked just as well says Peter.  Just imagine the difficulty in handling these bloody great big framed glasses!!!  The mind boggles.

The final in-camera composite frame blow up for the Brussel's main square shot for LES OPPRIMES.  Incidentally, Pop Day disliked the label 'special effects man' and always preferred 'Process Shots' when receiving a screen credit.  Pop's now famous utterances to his apprentices "Big brush... use a big brush"  and "Don't get tickly with it" are legend among numerous matte artists with the '60 degrees of separation' from Percy Day.  Even Al Whitlock - who contrary to popular belief never worked with nor trained under Poppa, but had met him - used those same phrases, passed to him at Disney in the UK days by Peter Ellenshaw.


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CUSTER RIDES AGAIN - Redux on more trickery.


I did an elaborate piece on CUSTER OF THE WEST (1968) in the previous issue, though missed out some key behind the scenes pics, which my good VFX friend in Madrid, Domingo Lizcano had previously sent me but I misplaced (as one does).  Domingo kindly reminded me, so here they are.  As mentioned, the maestro himself, the great Emilio Ruiz was matte artist on the film (in addition to painting scenic backings), and this interesting establishing shot never made the final edit.  Here we see the Spanish Sevilla Studios built fort set, which, as shown at right, Emilio executed his favourite in-camera foreground matte painted extension (usually on aluminium sheet or wood carefully mounted and aligned with the actual physical set).  As well as painting in a desert, hills and other details to conceal the unwanted neighbourhood, Ruiz included his ingenious method of 'marching soldiers' by means of tiny figurines attached to a continous motorized rubber belt, hidden within a space in the matte art.  Ruiz used this gag often in such films as David Lynch's huge (but utterly incomprehensible) DUNE (1985)

The final, though ultimately unused shot, complete with marching 'cavalry' coming over the hillside.  all done in-camera, though this image appears to be a test as the production company have their vehicles and gear in shot!  Maybe that's why they cut it....Some 2nd A.D never removed the cars?

Another great behind the scenes look at a key CUSTER miniature set up under the supervision of Eugene Lourie - himself a master trickster when it came to model shots.

Say cheese.  Two for one!  Art Director Fernando Gonzalez smiles for the camera, while a second stills man photographs Francisco Prosper next to the miniature bridge.

Boys with their toys.  CUSTER OF THE WEST director Robert Siodmak on top with cap and a pipe, while Eugene Lourie lines up the shot with the viewfinder.


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UNCREDITED MATTE WORK FROM ALBERT WHITLOCK



A most curious discovery came about when Matt Yuricich's son, Dana, sent me a matte painting purporting to be one of his dad's pieces, he thought was from the Kevin Costner epic DANCES WITH WOLVES, though it wasn't.  The beautiful painting, still in pristine condition, was marked 'Albert Whitlock' on the reverse side, which got my 'matte-mind' ticking over.  I just knew I'd seen this somewhere before.....  And then it came to me:  CHUKA a fairly obscure 1967 western from Paramount, starring the always reliable Aussie, Rod Taylor (a terrific actor from such bona-fide NZ Pete faves as THE TIME MACHINE, 36 HOURS and DARK OF THE SUN and of course Hitchcock's THE BIRDS).


Here's how Albert's painting shaped up in the scene with rising smoke optically added. The matte opens the film in fact.


Closer detail of the burned out ranch.  This is all so intriguing to me as it's another example of Whitlock painting shots for Paramount in the late 1960's.  Jan Domela had long since semi-retired (though he did various jobs for Film Effects of Hollywood and MGM) and the matte department had been closed down in the early sixties, with a few hangers-on's still on board, such as Paul Lerpae who'd been with the studio since the 1930's, heading up the special photographic effects side of things.  

More detail, and it's classic Whitlock - dabs and dashes, with flicks of pigment - entirely impressionistic yet a completely realistic view all the same.  The full painting measures 38x46 inches and is painted on Masonite (hardboard).


Another matte from CHUKA which I feel is also likely one of Albert's uncredited shots.  Interestingly, Lerpae must have had a good relationship with Whitlock, as Al painted on several Paramount pictures around that time such as the wonderfully black James Coburn satire THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST and one of John Wayne's best, the Howard Hawks classic EL DORADO.  I'm thinking these must have been done at Howard Andersons effects company, as I think they were based on the Paramount lot then.  As an aside, CHUKA has other mattes in it, all Jan Domela shots, recycled from old Paramount shows like OMAR KHAYYAM and NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE.


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TV MATTE PAINTING DEMO FROM THE MASTER, CIRCA 1992


A fascinating television documentary came my way courtesy of one of my readers - ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD which I'm told aired in 1992 - where Albert Whitlock explains and demonstrates the art of the matte painting.

In what I suspect might be his private studio in his Santa Barbara home, Al shows us how he creates his wonderful cloudscapes, using in this example a painting he did nearly two decades previous for Gene Roddenberry's GENESIS II, and most tellingly, appears to actually apply fresh pigment onto the long since completed matte art.  He demonstrates the sense of texture he so easily renders for things such as rocks etc.  Note the ever present mirror that Albert - and some other exponents - always relied upon (me too in my strictly amateur-hour capacity!) to evaluate the overall progress by a quick backward glance where the inverted viewpoint can reveal errors, seen as a 'fresh eye'.  Some other mattes are seen around the room such as THE STING.

GENESIS II (1973) detail.  *Check out one of Tom Higginson's fantastic YouTube vid doco's on the wonders of Whitlock where the shots in this tv movie are examined in detailClick here for that.

Apparently, it wasn't unusual for Whitlock to 'correct' or alter some of his mattes, often long after they had been filmed and finished with.  Jim Danforth told me how he did just that with a particular matte for the Civil War film SHENNENDOAH around 1965, even though the film had long since been seen at the cinema!  It just bugged him, and he just had to fix something.

More detail.  The master!  Enough said.

Final composite from original tv movie.


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THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CRACKED CASTLE



Mel Brooks was always a hit or miss kind of director for me.  More duds than bullseyes, though this one, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) was his masterpiece (closely followed by BLAZING SADDLES).  A masterfully crafted love letter to the old James Whale pictures of the thirties.

As mentioned, I have a number of never before seen matte artifacts from the family of Matthew Yuricich, including this conceptual painting as well as the original now famous full matte painted opening shot of Castle Frankenstein.  Though as Gene Wilder so succinctly put it:"it's pronounced Fronk-en-steen!"

Detail from Matthew's oil sketch.


The original glass matte painting as it looks today, hanging on the wall of one of Matt's sons. Man, I love that sky! There is an interesting backstory to this... and it took some Sherlock Holmes level interogation to reveal the truth(!!)

A nice close up clearly shows a massive crack running up through the delicate glass!  Hark - what happened there I hear you ask?  In my extensive 2012 Oral History with Matthew career blog post (a must read), he mentioned a few glass breakages he'd experienced over his career, with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN being a bit of a sore point - apparently. That special blog post can be found here.

Matthew originally claimed Dana had 'stepped on it' while the glass was still being finished, though there was quite a lot more to the story as explained by Dana below.....


Re: Young Frankenstein. Yes I have it, it is very dear to my heart; I was the one who stepped on it and ran a crack through it.

Matt didn't tell you quite right how it all went down. It was a full width matte glass shot, completely painted out but for a tiny window in the middle.


The shot was done, the movie wrapped, Matthew decided to save the matte as a framed painting,

I think because it works so well as a painting, and a castle is such an iconic and difficult matte to successfully pull off as it is the focus. Matt brought it home, pulled it out of its frame, laying the glass panel on the living room rug, cutting it down to a framed painting size with a glass cutter. I was hopping about, way over excited at this operation, a big toe touched the edge of the glass , and crack went like a lightning bolt right through the glass! 


My dad was not a soft tempered character and I was promptly sent to my room scheduled for extermination. Matt then finished cutting down the glass matte painting, and in doing so, managed to send a another lightning bolt split right through the painting!! I've always wondered if he did that second crack unconsciously, so he wouldn't have to beat the tar out of me.


He put a second sheet of glass on the back and mounted the whole thing in a frame. Luckily there was a competent artist at hand to touch up the finished work.

Moral of the story: don't cut glass on a rug floor, get a bench.


When my siblings and I came to divide the paintings, it of course was my first choice, as this was quite the Father-Son bonding experience.


Dana Yuricich


As it looks in the movie, with added lightning effects and a slow zoom in.


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AN AWE-INSPIRING AQUATIC TECHNICOLOR SENSATION

MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952), was far better than the silly tagline on it's trailer might suggest:  "Inspired by the true story of the original one piece bathing suit girl".  Oh, brother!

No other studio had the resourses that Metro Goldwyn Mayer had when it came to enormous musical extravaganzas.  A surprisingly good bio-pic of sorts of the early 20th Century Australian syncronised swimming sensation Annette Kellerman, played by real life medal winning US swim star Esther Williams, who did a number of 'aqua-musicals' for MGM.

The famous New York Hippodrome featured prominently in the proceedings...


Opening birds eye view of Sydney, Australia at the turn of the 20th Century.  The film has many excellent mattes from Warren Newcombe's stable of artists at MGM.

An excellent yet subtle set extension where a backlot set has had a beach, the Tasman sea, cottages, sky and upper levels of the house painted in invisibly.  As usual, Newcombe's guys concealed any semblance of a matte line, usually soft blends and in the least likely of places one might expect.

More MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID re-creation of 1903 Sydney.

On her way to America.  A clever trick, and one used often by MGM.  A three part composite with a tiny piece of set (just the lower deck and ladder); a partially painted steamer; some miniature components (probably the lifeboats), with simulated wave and wake action in the backlot lake or tank, all expertly combined as one.  Newcombe and collaborator Buddy Gillespie pulled off such gags routinely on various films.

A breathtaking matte painting of The Hippodrome and surrounds.  Virtually all painted with just a small patch at left with two actual motorcars (rest painted) and a few real people (rest painted in).  The fluttering flags up top were doubled in later, all up to outstanding results.

A later night matte of the same, this time with those magical animated neons that the Newcombe dept. were so damned good at.

Matte painted neon signage.

A giant tilt down over the vast neon theatre frontage, all glittering and a glow.

The sensational visual effects are easily matched by the jaw droppingly well choregraphed water ballet set pieces.  This shot is almost entirely painted, with the spectacular 'water showcase' added into the Hippodrome stage.  Just a handful of actual people are in the foreground, with all the others being flat artwork, animated via interfearence devices positioned behind the strategically drilled out holes in the painting - an old and trusted Newcombe trick.

Esther Williams was a genuine swim champ, and was all set to participate in the Berlin Olympics in 1940, but was called off because of some complete and utter prick by the name of Adolf Hitler!

More Newcombe illuminated signage - a specialised artform all of itself with which MGM's Newcombe department were undisputed geniuses with.


Now, the massive Technicolor aquatic ballet sequences were utter show-stoppers in their day, and are still amazing to view.   MGM were champions with this stuff, and it's probably never been better showcased than in MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID.  Mel Brooks did a neat spoof of this stuff in the not particularly funny HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART ONE (1981) with his Spanish Inquisition set piece.  'What a show'.

It really is something to see folks.  Any older readers of this blog will know exactly what I mean.

The final matte in the film was this nice 1920's airfield in which half the view was painted in.  All of the crowd upper right were painted, with the usual simulated 'movement' introduced in select spots.

An untrained actress, Esther never-the-less acquited herself well on screen, and did a good job in this film.... plus she looked a million bucks in her swimsuit, which was the whole point for Louis B. Mayer.


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SO, WHO 'YA GONNA CALL? ... ENTERTAINMENT EFFECTS GROUP, THAT'S WHO.

I've been meaning to cover this flick for ages, but glad I delayed as I have a whole boot-load of matte paintings by Matthew Yuricich now.

The super-hit of 1984, GHOSTBUSTERS was - and remains - a fan favourite.  It's one of those flicks that you can watch almost every year, like DIE HARD, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES and of course The Marx Bros. DUCK SOUP (Google it... it's brilliant!)

The producers weren't quite sure where to go for this huge vfx extravaganza, so when multi Oscar winner Richard Edlund decided to go it alone and moved out of all too corporate ILM and took over the former highly prized Doug Trumbull effects house Entertainment Effects Group (EEG), arrangements were made and deals signed.

GHOSTBUSTERS was a mammoth trick shot undertaking for all concerned.  EEG had been set up by Douglas Trumbull in the mid 70's under the brand Future General - primarily for Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1978) and subsequently STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE (1979), and a well oiled machine it was at that.  Matte painter Matthew Yuricich (left) was already on board, though assistance would be needed for the 40 odd painted mattes required.  Matt's former apprentice Michele Moen (centre) was enlisted early on, and was well versed in the techniques, having trained on BLADERUNNER (1982) and would go on to films like CLIFFHANGER and the huge matte assignment DICK TRACY (1989).  Also recruited to help out was veteran Disney matte painter, Constantine 'Deno' Ganakes (right) whose career as assistant to Peter Ellenshaw stretched back to classics such as MARY POPPINS (1964) and THE LOVE BUG (1968) as well as later films such as THE BLACK HOLE (1980).  Deno used to be the President of the Matte Artists Union.

Two key members of Yuricich's unit at work:  the immensely talented Michele Moen, shown here painstakingly drafting out one of the many matte masonite panels with 'Spook Central'.  Also shown at right is matte cinematographer Neil Krepela with the EEG 65mm process projector, which was used to composite some of the forty-odd mattes.

An early matte shot that many never spotted was the malevolent looking gargoyles (are there any other kind?) overhanging the New York Public Library.  See below...

Matthew's painting for the scene, which recently sold at auction.

A very busy looking Matthew works his brush and pigment.

Close up detail.  Note the wonderful texture that Matt has worked into the surface of the stone.  I'm assuming he used his razor blade method to lightly scrape and 'texturize' the dried paint - a method taught to him by his protoge at MGM, Henry Hillinck, in the mid fifties.

The librarian ghost kicks off the preceedings with a whallop!  A perfectly designed and executed vfx gag integrating a live action performer in heavy make up, and a terrific animatronic puppet.  Great sound editing here too, as I am a massive fan of cinematic sound fx editing - an arena sadly overlooked by most film fans.  **Some all time greats of 'sound effects editing' on NZ Pete's list would be Sidney Furie's horror flick THE ENTITY (1982);  Ridley Scott's ALIEN (1979);  the Bruce Lee classic ENTER THE DRAGON (1973); Mark Robson's EARTHQUAKE (1974); Joseph Sargent's COLOSSUS-THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969); Coppola's monumental APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) - and as odd as it may read, most of the Chuck Jones LOONEY TUNES cartoons of the 50's, courtesy of the incredible resident WB 'sound-smith' genius, Treg Brown...... though, I digress!  Phew!


This puppet aint' no mere muppet!



A key establishing matte shot across Central Park of the soon to be infamous though fictional Spook Central - not to be confused with the all too real 'Trump Tower' which has an altogether far more ghastly and demonic presence that not even a 100 piece exorcism could cure!  

A closer look...



A close encounter of the greedy kind.  

One of the key attributes that I feel sold GHOSTBUSTERS was the terrific cel animated fx work - and there was a lot of it.  Garry Waller and Terry Windell were heavily involved in the cel work.

The great notion by director Ivan Reitman of having these Nutrona Wands as they were called, be almost impossible to handle safely, without blowing shit up by mistake was a gem.  Kind of like a fire truck hose in the hands of a 5 year old!  Hilarious!  And remember folks:  "Never cross the streams"  "Why not?"   "Because it would be bad!"   "Okay, that's great safety advice"

The 'Onionhead' creature crew with levers at the ready.

Essentially Onionhead was a performer in the suit, dressed in black, and shot against black velvet.  Additional manipulation was provided by the team with cable actuated devices.  The Onionhead plates were later rephotographed with the Compsy system - Computerised Multiplane System - which I think Doug Trumbull had developed a few years earlier for his vfx opus BRAINSTORM (1982) and the incredibly complex layers of optical elements therein.  Compsy was designed for accurate repeatability of programmed camera moves, likely along the lines of the Dykstraflex and a similar set up A.C.E.S over at Disney, all of which came about in the mid 70's.

Richard Edlund had been a major creative force while at Industrial Light & Magic when it was formed in 1975 under John Dykstra's management.  Richard had been an insert cameraman back in the 1960's and was taught photographic effects techniques while at Westheimer's optical company.  Edlund would prove to be a vital member of Dykstra's inner circle on the first - and best - STAR WARS picture in 1977, as 'First Cameraman' for the miniatures unit.  His creative input for the next two Star Wars pictures proved invaluable, with multiple Academy Award wins.  Personally, I feel some of Edlund's best work was in POLTERGEIST (1982), which when I saw it on the big screen on a Sunday double bill with John Carpenter's THE THING positively blew my mind to fucken' smithereens back in the day!

Mostly matte painted here, with just the lower half being actual.  Some strange things are going 'bump' in the night in Spook Central (of course, if you name a building 'Spook Central', you really are asking for trouble, are you not?)

One major drawback in the flick was the excruitiating Rick Moranis - an actor on a par with Eddie Deezen in the 'I want to throw a chair through my big screen tv' in sheer annoyance!  Moranis - as so damned irritating, he was, at least upstaged by some cool dimensional animation of the so-called Terror Dog, though I hoped like hell the hound would bite Moranis' stupid head off and spit it out then and there, and save us from any more 'Rick-schtick' for the next 5 reels.  Sadly, 'twas not the case  :(

Terror Dog - a nasty little bugger that needs a muzzle. Even the stop-mo puppet looks dangerous!

Seasoned veterans of the stop motion field, animator and fabricator Randall William Cook, and effects cameraman Jim Aupperle, work through a key sequence.  Randy Cook has provided animation on many shows such as the low budget THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979), THE THING (1982) and a fave of mine which I joke about when I chat with Randy, the sclockmeister Larry Cohen flick Q, THE WINGED SERPENT (1982).  Randy lived here in New Zealand for several years as a major creative collaborator with Peter Jackson on the LORD OF THE RINGS films and KING KONG. Jim Aupperle also has a storied background in stop motion and vfx camera work, with work on cult classic FLESH GORDON (1971), CAVEMAN (1981) and also THE THING and THE GATE, both of these films with Randy.

Terror Dog stop motion action blue screened into set.

An important establishing shot that many assumed was an actual location, but was a cleverly manufactured trick shot.  See below...


From the Yuricich family collection we can now examine the matte as it exists today.


A closer look of what was initially a large format photograph taken with high optics Hasselblad still camera from a helicopter, supervised by Richard Edlund.  From this, a large high quality enlargement was developed and mounted onto Masonite - a method Yuricich was very acquainted with from all of his years with Fox and MGM - onto which the print was hand coloured and substantial set extensions and alterations made by brush.  The 'square' format was deliberate as the eventual shot included a slow push in.



Closer detail of Matthew's addition, as well as evidence of other background buildings being altered or reconfigured.


GHOSTBUSTERS relied upon a great deal of manufactured dramatic cloud effects.  An acknowleged master of 'cloud manipulation' was Gary Platek who specialised in water tank gags using special injected dyes and 500w photoflood light bulbs, all orchestrated as required for the numerous different shots with a great deal of technical finesse, often creating different layers of 'cloud'.  Platek did wonders on earlier films such as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) and POLTERGEIST (1982).  A genuine artform if ever there were one.  *note:  It's not a new gag.  Arnold Gillespie developed the same thing quite brilliantly back at MGM in the 1940's for films like THE BEGINNING OR THE END (1947) to create the H-bomb blasts on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with frighteningly convincing results.

Matte cinematography was supervised by Neil Krepela, assisted by Alan Harding.  Neil was another ILM veteran who started off there on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).  Neil would join Edlund for GHOSTBUSTERS and remain with EEG - which would soon become BOSS Films - for the forseeable future.

Composite shot with stage set, matte art, cloud tank gags and cel animated energy bolts.  See below...


Matthew's original painting, in this instance rendered on glass to permit the stage plate live action to be added as a rear projected element in 65mm for maximum image resolution.

This is what can happen if you don't follow the instructions when ridding the real world of ghouls from the after-life!  Live action locale augmented possibly with either a miniature or painted rooftop.  Pyro element doubled in, followed with vibrant cel animated 'zap' which causes mayhem!

Much of this is painted.  Note the advert for the 'Stay Puft' on the billboard.  An omen of evil?

Before and after shows just how much Yuricich has added in, and not where you'd expect it.  Matt mentioned the rush job on this and that he never bothered to paint the windows onto the two left foreground buildings, but nobody ever notices.  Just paint enough to draw the viewer to the main point of the matte shot, that should be enough.  Famous words from several famous artists.

More exquisite cel animated backlit fx.

I just don't like the look of those storm clouds!  Something's brewing.  A shit-storm would be an accurate description.


One of the best mattes in GB was this remarkably adept view that not even I recognised as a trick in the many times I saw the film until this painting popped up for auction several years ago.


Final shot - perfection!

Production Designer on GB was the famous John DeCuir, and this is one of John's remarkable concept paintings for an important scene with Spook Central.  As I've written in earlier blogs, John started off in the business as a trainee matte artist at Universal under Russell Lawson.  DeCuir painted mattes on many films from the late 1930's through to the mid 1940's such as ALI BABA AND THE 40 THIEVES (1942); ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) and Hitchcocks brilliant SABOTEUR (1941).


From John DeCuir's concept art, Michele Moen would then draft in an accurate outline onto a large sheet of Masonite (hardboard to us non-Yanks) with keen attention to perspective, from which Matthew would paint over and expand.

At left, the actors on a limited set at Columbia.  Right shows a portion of the now completed painting on glass, with an unpainted piece to allow the live action plate to be rear projected by Neil Krepela and a massive pullback employed to great effect.

Matt's incredible and expansive panorama of Manhatten, focused on the dubious Spook Central.  I love extreme perspectives in matte art, and this baby's as extreme as it gets.  A classic piece!  Richard Edlund had possession (no pun intended) of it and sold it at auction many years ago.

According to Michele, Matt was an early riser, hated LA traffic and commotion, and used to come into the fx studio very early - around 4.30am or 5am - and light up his cigarette, play his very loud 'polka' music, and merrily paint away when nobody else was around!  A character and then some!  As previously mentioned, my career length oral history I conducted with Matt prior to his passing may be found here.


Close look at the middle part of the painting where the rear projection portion has been left unpainted.

Frame from the final giant pullback shot with the live action projected in.



Traditional era matte artistry.... 'ya just gotta' love it! 


Supervising matte cameraman Neil Krepela takes a light reading.




Great fx animation matched by great casting.  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson all perfect.  I saw the immediate sequel (not bad) but never bothered with the more recent re-boots (hate the term) nor remakes.  I believe the all-girl femme version was universally vilified and boycotted etc!! I haven't heard of such out and out 'dislike' for a movie since billionaire magnate William Randolph Hearst tried to have RKO burn the negative and all existing prints of CITIZEN KANE in 1941 all for making fun of his mistress and her little 'Rosebud' (!!).

Another before and after of considerable peril.


Just don't look down.... it's at least 4 feet to the soundstage floor!



Interestingly, Edlund had never worked in the large 65mm film format before.  All of the vfx photography he did at ILM was with the VistaVision (35mm) horizontal frame format.  While VV provided an excellent 8 perf frame size, the bigger 65mm frame provided an even more superior image.  At first, 65mm stock was hard to come by, but Kodak set up a production line expressly to meet Edlund's requirements.  Doug Trumbull developed an even bigger, higher resolution format, ShowScan, which I think was 70mm running horizontal(?).  I recall some rides at Universal Studios back in the day such as the incredible Back To The Future interactive ride - either ShowScan or OmniMax, I forget which, but fucking incredible experience it sure was that I came out and got straight back into the line for a repeat run, though, again, I digress!


Another wonderful matte from the Yuricich collection, painted on Masonite, thus not an RP composite intended.

The finished shot with artwork combined.


Close up of Matthew's architecture.



A miniature combined with very elaborate cloud tank effects by Gary Platek and team.  Nice interactive shadow forming onto facade as cloud swirls around.  


Another painted extension for one of the Spook Central shots, though I couldn't spot the scene.  Sky area all left blank for later addition of cloud tank elements.



Multi part composite that possibly utilises the above painting.



Actually, when Columbia were early on seeking an effects provider they looked at various possibles.  Dream Quest - an essential though smaller scaled vfx house - were very interested in getting the gig, having proved themselves on several impressive features and commercials, but they admitted the GB script featured some visuals that they didn't have enough experience with.

Partial Spook Central top up, as painted to add to an existing NYC building.

Magnificent detail work.

Real building topped up with painted upper portion, with added Platek tank clouds.

And here he comes... evil incarnate himself.. a most terrifying vision if ever there were one... The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man!!  Run for the hills. A very well accomplished shot with a performer in a rubber suit, in front of a blue screen, flawlessly matted into a New York live action plate.  I know they built and filmed several large miniature buildings for the initial Stay Puft sequence, though whether those are included in this excellent shot, I'm unsure.  Rotoscoping around the heads of the fleeing extras completed the scene.  Mark Vargo was chief optical cinematographer.

Multi-element composites here, with live action, matte art, miniatures, Marshmellow Man and clouds.

The guy in the suit with some dodgy looking cables coming out his marshmellow bum!  For the street action miniatures supervisor Mark Stetson used a few remote control model cars, with the rest being pulled quite fast (filmed at high speed) on concealed cables.

Forced perspective miniature street and park, with toy cars propelled along at speed, which when projected at regular 24fps look natural.  Some little gags like a ruptured fire hydrant were achieved with a stream of salt jetting upward, lending a very credible 'water' spray.

It's showdown at the Spook Central corral.  See below for breakdown...

GB actors in front of a bluescreen; miniature set with guy in Stay Puft suit;  Yuricich matte painting;  Final composite.

Mathew's painting that was auctioned a few weeks ago as of this writing.

Close view of the 'connecting' matte art which tied the live action and miniature components together as one.

More...



A subsequent shot of our sailor suited denizen from the very depths of hades as the boys zap him with nutrona wands - this time the streams do get crossed.  See below...


Matte painted tenement buildings by Michele Moen, which also was auctioned recently.


Before and after of complex shot.

Mark Stetson's 15 foot miniature of Spook Central and intruder.

As Bill says:  "Now there's something you don't see every day!"

GB was nominated for an Oscar for the visual effects that year, as was the long awaited Arthur C. Clarke follow up, 2010 - both of which saw Richard Edlund and team up for the gold statuette for each film, though they missed out to ILM's INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, which admittedly was a worthy win for Edlund's friend and longterm ILM associate, Dennis Muren.

I often make mention of my admiration for character actors, and there are some great ones in GB.  The wonderful William Atherton appears as 'Walter Peck' (referred to as 'Pecker' by Bill Murray).  Atherton was so darned good in countless films such as DAY OF THE LOCUST and as the anti-Nazi bomber in THE HINDENBERG - one of the best.  Also, the little known Michael Ensign, as the hotel manager.  Michael had a memorable role as the US Consul in Alan Parker's utterly masterful MIDNIGHT EXPRESS - one of the best movies of the 70's.

The climax has Spook Central's upper floors explode in spectacular fashion.  A fascinating shot as the entire city view is an elaborate matte painting, with the central portion being a large scale miniature matted in, complete with an almost Apocalypse Now scaled explosion.  Beautiful work.

The city matte painting, sans central bit where the model building will ultimately be composited.

It goes up like the Fourth of July.

It's all over quickly, so most never suspect a matte painting was used here.  The matte was sold off years ago at yet another Hollywood auction.

Matte painted city horizon, pyro elements and Platek tank sky.

Miniatures cameraman Bill Neil (left) with matte cinematographer Neil Krepela (right) shoot recreated NYC model sequences.

A full painted central Manhatten and park, with added cloud tank manipulation.

The storm clears, the ghosts and ghouls severely dealt with, and the city of NY left with a massive clean up bill.




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AN OLD FASHIONED ACTION ADVENTURE ON A BUDGET

Fabulous ad art, and I still have the original one sheet for THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975).  It may seem a yawn to the JURASSIC generation, but it remains a guilty favourite of NZ Pete since I first saw it back in '75 on the very, very big screen at Auckland's mighty Cinerama Theatre (sadly long bulldozed for a damned multiplex piece of crap.  So depressing that was!) 

Effects supervisor Derek Meddings with star Doug McClure at a drinks session after the shoot.  I grew up with both guys:  Doug was a solid and very popular tv star in THE VIRGINIAN cowboy series back in the 60's, and of course Derek was my absolute hero in as far as 'movie magic' went, what with every single Gerry Anderson tv series that for a 1960's kid was as close to nirvana as one could hope to get, with THUNDERBIRDS - both the series and the subsequent big screen scope feature - being unmissable staples of my diet, with any repeats essential.

The flick was a very popular film here, though a low budget (400'00 pounds Sterling) affair, but was a great time capsule back to the popular old sci-fi adventures that came out in the 1950's like THE LAND UNKNOWN, JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (still fantastic), MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (very under rated) and even the tragic Irwin Allen laugh-fest THE LOST WORLD.

The master, on one of his many miniature sets he created over his career - this one being the tv series UFO from around 1971 - a show I found quite frightening back in the day, but don't tell anyone!  Sadly, almost all of the vast inventory of Century 21 miniatures, props, spaceships, vehicles and sets, were brutally junked and thrown into giant trash skips on the instructions of someone higher up.  Very few original models escaped that insane episode of utter fury.  Makes one want to cry!!  In fact some of the modelmakers did, I believe. Though, I digress...

Being a low budget affair, stop motion wasn't ever really a serious consideration, probably as much to do with the incredible time factor expected of frame by frame work, which for a short production schedule was out of the question.  Roger Dicken was a highly experienced special effects man, having worked with Les Bowie and later with Derek at Century 21 on the Gerry Anderson shows.  Roger was a major collaborator to Jim Danforth on Hammer's WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1969) - sculpting and building the various prehistoric creatures from which Jim would animate beautifully.  Roger worked on a number of films, with probably his most famous being Ridley Scott's still brilliant ALIEN (1979) whereby he designed, built and operated the face hugger and the chest burster stages of that mean bastard of an intergalactic killer.  Fantastic stuff.

For LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, the monster sequences had to be done as economically and as time friendly as possible, so the only option was to create animals that could be pupeteered and mechanically manipulated with rods concealed below the miniature sets.  The final shots were a bit of a mixed bag - some looked excellent while a few were never really going to pass muster.

Some of the surviving dinosaurs Roger built for the film.  A really good career interview with Roger can be found on the blog Monster Zone, which is linked here.

The quadrupeds faired somewhat better in the finished film, with quite realistic movement of limbs and body, as opposed to the beasts with only 2 legs, which were extremely limited in any form of movement.  Hell.... I still like the flick and always have had a soft spot for it over the decades.

A truly old fashioned scenario - and I think a clever one at that.  Of course Edgar Rice Burroughs was the creator of Tarzan and other adventurer laden novels, so that's a good start.  Amicus were a sort of competitor to Hammer Films, and pretty good too, with a number of memorable films throughout the 1960's and 70's.

Derek's miniature German U-boat is up to no good...  

The scenario was neat.  German U-boat sinks British Merchant ship with the token square jawed American hero; Survivors manage to clamber on board U-boat and subdue Kraut crew and take over the vessell.  Oh, but it doesn't end there!  Things go in a most fascinating direction...

The sinking of the Merchant ship...

Filming the miniatures in the tank, with the Merchant ship visible top of image.  Note the icebergs at lower left.  These will serve the plot after a bit of a journey and a lot of double crossing and confrontation.

Top, is the leading lady, the talented and oh so lovely Susan Penhaligan who graced the screen in many a British movie (and a very good Paul Verhoeven Dutch film as well) throughout the 70's.  Lower frame is a process shot.  Interestingly the process work was carried out by Charles Staffell, and was a mix of rear screen - such as here - and some excellent front projection for the more epic scaled backgrounds.

And here are those icebergs we spoke of...

The sub has lost its way and discovers an unmapped ice continent.  Derek hired his old pal from the early Anglo-Scottish Pictures days, Ray Caple as matte painter for the film.  Both Derek and Ray got their start in the effects business through the legendary Les Bowie who operated a small vfx studio in a disused cinema with partner Vic Margutti.

A second Ray Caple view of the land of ice.  Interestingly, the film was shot at Shepperton Studios where Amicus Productions were based.  Shepperton's resident matte artist Gerald Larn told me how he was anticipating getting the gig to render the numerous matte shots, but was surprised when all of the effects work went elsewhere! 

Derek had started off as a title artist under Bob Archer - a job he hated - and being a natural artist was delighted to be introduced to matte painting.  Both Derek and Ray trained in glass shots in the late 1950's under Les Bowie, who himself trained under the great Walter Percy Day.

Confronted with a seeming solid ice wall, the submariners spot a hidden cave and submerge to navigate through to whatever awaits them on the other side.

Most of the miniature shots look good, though a little too much reliance on indoor tank artificial lighting and a few too many 'long lens' shots neither of which are particularly 'model shot' friendly.

Although not credited, I'm assuming Derek's usual cameramen Harry Oakes, Les Dear or Paul Wilson likely to be on board.

The sub surfaces on the other side to discover a lush tropical paradise of Caprona.  Just the sort of stuff a rip-snorting adventure demands.
Doug McClure starred in a whole series of these adventures and was ideally suited for the role.  He died far too young at just 59.  The director and producer really liked Doug and found him 'old school', as in turned up on time, knew all his lines, could throw convincing punches and never stormed off the set like some of the entitled pricks nowadays do!  This is a Charles Staffell rear process shot.  Charles was usually based over at Pinewood, so I'm not sure where the process shots were done, especially the huge screen front projection shots which happen later on. Maybe Shepperton had a front projection stage?

Long time veteran Charles Staffell shown here with his reflex front projection set up with the semi-reflective mirror.  Among the hundred or so pictures he worked on were all of the Bond films, THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN and practically every film made at Pinewood.  He devised special Triple Head RP units for high resolution plate projection for J.Arthur Rank as it was then.


Large miniature set (I'd like to see some behind the scenes pix), complete with pterodactyls in flight in the distance.

To the day he died - also at a very young age sadly - Derek cringed and shook his head at the very mention of the pterodactyls in this film.  More about them later.... (sorry Derek)

An elaborate Ray Caple matte painted vista with a number of additional elements matted in such as the brontosaurus in action, the waterfall and the swiftly flowing river.  I think the dinosaur was most likely some sort of in-camera gag, animated right there on the matte art itself.  Oscar winning vfx man Brian Johnson was a long time friend of Ray and told me some stories.  "Ray was a very talented but so highly strung he constantly worried endlessly about every little thing.  Ray usually rendered his mattes at his home in Maidenhead and would carry out all of his own camera duties himself".  His wife was also a matte artist, and they met on the huge matte project MACKENNA'S GOLD (1969) where he trained her.  Like Derek and Doug, Ray also passed away far too young! Man, this retrospective is fast becoming a downer :(

Derek's crew weren't involved with the 'live action' mechanised dinosaurs as far as I know, with a separate effects crew handling those sequences.  This was a mixture of hand puppet work - probably by Roger Dicken - cut in with large mechanical prop heads.  

Rear screen process set up.


Don't worry Captain... his bite is far worse than his bark.

Nice atmospherics here with miniature foregrouns and painted backings.


Another of Ray's mattes, and a very nice one in my book.  Unfortunate cropping to fit the 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition ratio loses too much 'space' in the final shot.  Note the actor swinging his coat over his shoulder as it passes through the matte line.

Here are Ray's mattes as taken from my old full screen DVD, where his composition isn't as ruthlessly compromised.

I spoke of the high quality process work, and these shots are terrific.  The very large process backgrounds were shot on VistaVision and composited in camera as front projection shots on a huge 3M reflective screen.  When done well, front projection gave the best results, with extremely crisp plates, evenly illuminated across the entire screen, with no tell tale 'hot spots' or 'fall off' so evident in bad rear screen work with image brightness too intense in the centre and 'dulling off' toward the fringes, which shows up when large screen RP is used.  Charles Staffell did well here and the producer was very pleased with the results..

Some of Dickens' prehistoric beasts manipulated from below, though the savage creatures never manage to 'charge' at the tasty looking humans.

Whereas the former shots were very disappointing, the Triceratops stuff worked very nicely, with quite realistic movements and fluid actions.  Good sound editing and front projection add to it all.

According to Roger all his scenes required a number of helpers alongside himself to manipulate the legs and so forth.


The makers found great success with LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, and turned out a whole series of likeminded family oriented adventures subsequently such as AT THE EARTH'S CORE (interesting), PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (not so good) and WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS (pretty good)

A complex multi-plane glass shot by Ray Caple, with a slow push in.  The view was painted on 2 or 3 separate planes to permit a perspective shift.  Some small live action by firelight may have been projected in.  Also, a flock of pterodactyls are seen swooping around in the sky, so this was surely another projected in element as well.

The camera pushes in further.  Brian Johnson told me about Ray's unusual home:  "Ray had his own studio at his house in Maidenhead.  On SPACE 1999 with me he used a room in L&M Block at Pinewood to do stuff that was too complex for us to do in-camera on set, but I'm sure most of his work was done from his house.  His house inside was amazing.  All of the rooms were painted black - floor to ceiling.  There were pictures that he and Lyn had painted hanging on the walls and lit with spotlights.  A very striking way of lighting a room!  The paintings with very bright colours 'floated'.  Ray was very Welsh and had a great sense of humour and enjoyed driving his V12 E-type Jag".

Many years later, rod activated puppet creatures would really come to the fore with shows like David Fincher's ALIEN 3 in the 1990's.


Dicken stated that one of the benefits of using live puppeteering techniques was that the animals could easily interact directly with physical 'atmosphere' such as actual mist, fog, smoke and fire right there on the miniature set, whereas stop motion would require far more complex special photographic set ups to double in such, with the unwelcomed generational loss through duping etc.

More Caple matte art.  The action was shot in a disused claypit in Reading, UK, with Ray completing his painting at his home, then personally filming and compositing the footage.  Ray had vast experience in all facets of making mattes, having learned from Les Bowie and later working in partnership on many films with master matte painter Bob Cuff on things like THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH in the mid 1960's and went solo when Al Whitlock recommended him to Jim Danforth to help out with the mattes on WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (1969).

Poor Derek will be rolling in his grave now!  The infamous pterodactyl sequence using a large life size fibreglass model wired beneath a huge crane and 'flown' through the exterior set.  The bird seems quite well sculpted but was extremely limited by not having any mechanism to move the vast wings nor neck.  The poor stuntman literally forces himself into the gaping mouth of this beast.  I was chatting to one of Derek's friends and former effects technicians, Steve Begg, just a few days ago about the film:  "As far as the Pterodactyl scene , Derek was hoping to direct any shots of that and obscure it with loads of smoke but he ended up being so busy doing the onset smoke in a very windy location, that the main unit director Kevin Connor ended up shooting it. And as they say, most directors like their own shit.  Derek got lumbered with it, but hey... he went on to bigger and better stuff like THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and SUPERMAN".    

These scenes looked great, with the beasts howling and moving their heads around as the volcanic eruption and fire sweeps through the jungle.  

Sure, in this modern era the film is very much a piece from the past, though that's no criticism, as I have an inate fondness for it and for older films of this ilk in general.  It certainly has a fifties flavour running all the way through it... and that's not a bad thing.

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THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN ... IN A SIX DOLLAR MOVIE!

Now folks, I have to confess that I've never actually seen THE LAST CHASE (1981), which for me and this blog is a rarity, as I try to see everything I can, but as I have a wonderful Matthew Yuricich matte painting image (below), I feel I should make use of it.

By all accounts this was a cheaply made Canadian actioner that nobody ever saw. The film starred former Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors as some sort of post-apocalyptic race car driver, or so I read.  It's on YouTube in a barely watchable sub-vhs transfer, but I very rarely ever go there and couldn't possibly sit through blurry, low rez copies.

Here's the wonderful original matte art that Matthew rendered for the flick.  Matt's family never knew the title so I was glad to identify it for them, along with a few dozen others that had drawn a blank.

Detail from the left side.  The photographic effects supervisor on this was James Liles, whom Matthew had very little time for.  Matt felt Jim's overall control of plate photography on a number of films they had to work side by side on was detrimental to the final quality of Matthew's shots, in fact ruined some of what Matt strived to achieve on several films and he reckoned Liles had no concept of how a matte shot should look.  There is much to be said for a symbiotic creative partnership between a matte painter and his fx cameraman.  I believe that's why Al Whitlock's work was always so damned good - the partnership between Al and his two key cinematographers, Ross Hoffman and later Bill Taylor prove the point.  

Close up of Matt's brush work.


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THE BIG ONE - ON THE SMALL SCREEN



A television film of many identities - THE GREAT LOS ANGELES EARTHQUAKE (1990) was also known as THE BIG ONE and as COUNTDOWN during production!


That was the era of the big 'Movie of the Week', with such things often spread over 2 nights or more, and if the particular film was a popular theatrical picture they'd go hell for leather cutting unused footage back into the show to extend and pad the things out to bladder-bursting excessive length, usually destroying the original movie in the process, though once again, I digress.

Matte painter Richard Kilroy shown here at work on a major shot.  Richard very kindly provided me with his memories of the effects side of the production:  "Most of my work on The Big One (known as, 'Count Down' while we were making it) was painting miniatures but I did have that one Universal City hotel matte painting which I was eager to do.  Albert Whitlock's work on 'Earthquake' was very influential to me - as I'm sure it was to a number of matte painters, so getting a chance to do a matte of Los Angeles quaked-out was a fun challenge."
 

The final matte painting by Richard Kilroy:  "I recall there being six matte paintings planned for the film but only three survived budget cuts.  The visual effects kept getting trimmed by first unit art department overages.  I will say this for the film, the first unit art department sets and set-dressings were terrific, all of the money is on the screen." 



Close up detail from the wonderful matte that did a curious disappearing act:  "My hotel matte painting was stolen from a display commemorating 'Earthquake Preparedness Day' in downtown Los Angeles.  The festivities were held at the Boneventure Hotel (which was a hotel featured in 'Buck Rogers') and the Mayor at the time, Tom Bradley, was in attendance.  I wasn't there but was later told that a thief grabbed my painting and made off with it in a nearby elevator.  It's never been seen since!  I was strangely flattered that my work was worthy of stealing in such a risky, public way." 
 


The final composite


Excellent additional matte art, this time by Richard's friend and longtime colleague on a number of films such as DARKMAN, Rick Rische.  This is a superb before and after.  "Rick Rische did the other two matte paintings including this one, and Tony Doublin supervised our department on the show.  I recall Stephen Lebed assisted with the fire and smoke elements that were later burned into our mattes."

Detail from one of Rick Rische's aftermath paintings.


Wrecked freeway and boulevard, all shot on the same bit of Universal backlot that Al Whitlock matched his Oscar winning aftermath mattes to back in 1974.



Matte painter Rick Rische at work on his superb aftermath painting.  Note the 'before' reference photo taped to the bottom of the glass of the Universal lot.


A closer photo of Rick's terrific view of a busted up Los Angeles.  Richard said:  "Rick and I were given the mandate to make the damage in our matte paintings contrast-y and obvious so it would read better on a television screen.  This made for some areas of the paintings to be, to put it kindly, less than subtle but it's what the client wanted."


The big Hollywood sign suffers:  "I did some scenic work on the Hollywood Sign miniature as well - which was a late in the show shot for us.  There was some talk of the sequence being cut but it was a fairly simple model and a small crew to get the shots needed." 

Miniatures in progress:  "As I recall, Gene Rizzardi (Titanic) was in charge of the ABC tower models along with the pedestrian bridge model which had to break apart in the shot.  (and I would redress the damage and repaint the model between takes)  Those models were shot out in Playa Del Rey and were built by a cracker-jack model crew."   


Interestingly, Richard and Rick have both proved highly adaptable in their assignments, with not just matte painting but also miniature rigging and scenic painting, with many and varied chores on films as varied as TERMINATOR 2, TREMORS, DARKMAN, THE TITANIC and DRIVING MISS DAISY.  The duo have worked for companies such as Introvision and 4-Ward Productions, working with legends such as Robert and Dennis Skotak.



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A WINTER WONDERLAND AND GIFTS FOR ALL.


Now, THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) might be a bit of a compromise.  I'm including it because there is some great traditional matte art from the extremely talented Paul Lasaine, but I suspect quite strongly that some shots might have been created with the sort of technology that doesn't dare speak it's name...CG

I've long admired the skills of Paul Lasaine.  He came relatively late to the effects business and really just caught the final dying years of traditional hand painted matte work.  Buena Vista Visual Effects took on Paul in the late 1980's and they never looked back.  Paul was hired by matte supervisor Michael Lloyd as one of the six matte artists on the massive Disney fx show DICK TRACY (1990) - a favourite matte show for me in fact.  

Here's Paul with two icons of the effects business - Harrison and Peter Ellenshaw.  Harrison told me that his admiration for Paul's painting ability was endless.  "Nobody could paint like Paul".  Among the BVVE shows he worked on were HOCUS POCUS, THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN, WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN (amazing work there!) and best of all the Kevin Kline comedy DAVE (absolutely phenomenal matte work!).  I did a huge 3 part expose on Disney some years back, with many rare examples of Paul's remarkable work in progress.  Go here to read it.

Ever since that abysmal sit-com Home Improvement years ago, I've never been able to stomach Tim Allen, so sitting through THE SANTA CLAUSE was a real stretch, believe me!  Tim here is on a minimal set in front of a blue screen, with the rest all Lasaine.  See below...

Paul's magnificent full matte painting of Santa's groovy abode at the North Pole.  Awesome!  Interestingly, as with the previously discussed Randall Wiliam Cook (GHOSTBUSTERS), Paul also lived here in New Zealand for a while as Peter Jackson's visual effects conceptual artist for the three LORD OF THE RINGS epics.  His wonderful hand painted concept panels are a thing to behold, and his vision was right in step with Jackson's unquestionably, with the resulting success and critical aclaim to show for it all.  The beautifully illustrated hardcover books with his (and Jeremy Bennett's) LOTR paintings are still wonderful to look at, though again I digress...

Arresting downview of urban setting.  Not sure, but possibly might be a computer-thingy type manufactured shot?


Likewise here... possibly hand painted sky?  Reindeer composited digitally I believe.

A more fantabulous cloudscape one is ever likely to see.... but was it Paul Lasaine's work, I can't say.  If Paul catches this post (as he has in the past), do let me know.

Definitely one of Paul's hand painted mattes.  He stated he loved the painting but wasn't happy with how the final shot turned out for some reason (see below...)

Composite with Paul's painting.

Follow up shot with much painted ice and sky.

A gloriously atmospheric shot.


Another of Paul's original, highly evocative traditional mattes.  Painted in a large vertical format to facilitate a camera move up over the houses.

Close up of Paul's matte.  If anything sums up the Xmas spirit, then this must be it (at least in the Northern Hemisphere..... It's mid summer down yonder for Xmas in the Southern half, so this is all a bit unknown to us!)

Part of the scene as it appears in the film.


Elaborate camera move up and over the houses.... beautiful.

The sleigh and reindeer sweep off into the moonlit night...

And they all lived happily ever after until the sequels were churned out.

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***This vast and utterly exhaustive post, and all 183 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/ 


FINAL WORD:

With the now close to 32'000 citizens of Gaza of The State of Palestine murdered to date in the relentless and extremely well funded and enabled genocide that fascist Israel persists in, despite massive global protest at the very highest of levels, even the very few international friends that country purports to have - or have ever had for that matter - are calling for an end.... and NOW!

Any degree of sympathy the Israeli State may have garnered, has long since evapourated into worldwide expressions of anger and fury from people and governments the world over.  The tens of thousands of Palestinian people - men, women, children and babies lie rotting beneath millions of tons of rubble on land that belongs to The State of Palestine.

The smell of the decomposing flesh of the innocents is only eclipsed by the stench of rampant, ultra-right wing Zionism in its most extremist and ugly form.

Strength to the people of Gaza and the entire STATE OF PALESTINE.





**And lest we forget, the similarly suffering people of UKRAINE.

7 comments:

  1. Pete,good sir...i shall be diving into this epicness soon as i'm home.
    Looking forward to it as usual.
    greets,William

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  2. And another wonderful blog entry from NZPete. Thank you so much for your work, which is much appreciated. I would be very interested to know where to see the documentary with Al Whitlock. Is there a link to it? Best regards from Germany, Thomas

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  3. And here's another wonderful blog entry from NZPete. Thank you so much for your work, which is much appreciated. I would be very interested to know where to see the documentary with Al Whitlock. Is there a link to it? Best regards from Germany, Thomas

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  4. One quick note about COMPSY as mentioned in the GHOSTBUSTERS section ... it was developed first for STAR TREK TMP (vger cloud mainly, though also other stuff) and then saw a lot of action in BRAINSTORM.

    Nice to see more about Meddings too. I was looking through Peter Lamont's THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN EYE last week and there were plenty of flattering mentions of his Bond work, including the fact that some MOONRAKER shots (the underground silos with the shuttle and boosters pre-launch) that I thought were split-screens were actually foreground miniatures with live-action below and behind. There are a few non-fx recollections that differ from other accounts (specifically, Scaramanga's Golden Gun prop and its manufacture and re-creation is described in a way totally at odds with Albert J. Luxford's memoir THE GIMMICK MAN), but plenty of nice pics throughout, along with mentions of Alan Maley, Cliff Culley and all the usual UK-based suspects.

    I love how whenever you make an enormous new post, it just fires me up to go digging into my own library of books and films, to either uncover or rediscover some nugget of trickery!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kevin

      Thank you so much for that excellent 'letter'. Yes, you are correct about the TREK use of Compsy... my error. Blame it on brain fade as composing these mammoth posts can result in ommissions and such, as I tend to 'bang them out' in one massive sitting - with just sleep periods between and complete "don't bother me now, I'm busy" non-communication with loved ones! Pretty bloody sad isn't it? :(

      I must try and find that Lamont book. I've never heard of it.
      An earlier biography by John Glen was a fab read, as was John Barry's bio.
      Sadly, the Meddings book (penned by others) was not very good at all, and was littered with mistakes and very thin on the ground 'factual' material.
      Roger Moore's 1973 paperback on his experiences making the still great LIVE AND LET DIE remains a fave - informative and utterly hilarious, as Roger was so self deprecating at.

      I'm delighted you find the posts to your liking as I'm of the sad opinion that any interest in this 'old stuff' is definitely fading away, and anything more than mere 'puff-piece' write ups aimed at the social media generation a thing of the past.

      Kind regards

      Pete

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    2. Thanks for your most generous response. Regarding the proliferation of puff-pieces ... as a part-time film journalist who has tried to actually live up to the 'journalist' part of that title, I quake in mortal fear of the day when film journalism becomes just publicist-approved AI (I mean, the puff-pieces are most of the way there already, minus the CyberDyneSystems aspect.)

      I really derive a great joy when coming across some new bit of info about an old film project, as sometimes it will turn out to be the missing piece of a decades-long puzzle. This is my justification - or perhaps just rationalization? - for going out of my way to interview folks about current projects who also worked on that first Trek film (probably close to 30 of them by now), just to sneak in a few questions about their experiences on that fascinating and often gorgeous train wreck.

      Around the turn of the century I used to correspond with a SUPERMAN devotee who seemed to know more about Meddings than anyone (I think he had a website devoted to making-of aspects), but for the life of me I can't recall his name, just that he posted as AHEM. If he happens to peruse this site, it'd be great to see him weigh in on occasion -- he probably remembers me posting under the monikers KMART or TREVANIAN.

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    3. Hi Kevin

      Yes, i well recall that excellent SUPERMAN site. I too used to correspond with 'ahem' - aka Tim Partridge (I think?).
      VERY knowlegable and had contact with many old UK fx veterans and matte people. We used to communicate a lot on the old Matte painting thread on 'Stop Motion Animation' - that is until they junked all of the thousands of old matte posts and pics and went 'all socialist media'(!)
      That was about 10 to 15 years ago.

      Pete

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