Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To find other rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "labels" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers,click here.
• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• If you know of a way I can set up this blog so readers can subscribe to receive future posts via email, please let me know. In the meantime there's a link all the way at the bottom of this page that says "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)," and if you're inclined to try it, it seems to take you into a world of customizable home pages or something, and you can have blog updates as a part of that page ... whether this is useful to you, who knows, but I thought I'd let you know it's there.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave a comment on any post, or email me at iversonfilmranch@aol.com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Star Trek" icon Leonard Nimoy goes on the warpath

 "Mackenzie's Raiders" (1959) — Leonard Nimoy as Yellow Wolf, right

I believe it's generally known among fans of "Star Trek: The Original Series" that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the landmark TV show's iconic Mr. Spock, worked quite a bit in television before he got that role, often appearing as Native American characters in early TV Westerns.

Leonard Nimoy, second from left, and other Native American characters on "Mackenzie's Raiders"

I recently ran across a nice example of Nimoy's pre-"Star Trek" work that brought him in full Native American regalia to the Iverson Movie Ranch, where he went on the warpath as the renegade Yellow Wolf in an episode of the TV Western "Mackenzie's Raiders." The episode, titled "Joe Ironhat," first aired in 1959, seven years before Nimoy clocked in as Spock on "Star Trek." In the above shot he appears alongside actor Dehl Berti, at right, playing the title character, Joe Topanga, or "Joe Ironhat."

Dehl Berti, left, and Leonard Nimoy in "Mackenzie's Raiders" 
— with Iverson's Cactus Hill in the background

In "Joe Ironhat," Nimoy's character represents the Native Americans' militant, Cavalry-hating wing while Berti's Joe Topanga is friendly with the white man and is working to make peace. The above shot is taken on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., with Cactus Hill visible behind the actors.

Tensions build until the episode culminates in the inevitable shootout between the Cavalry and the Native Americans. Here Yellow Wolf leads a small band of warriors as they get in position to do battle. You may notice Berti as Joe Topanga hovering reluctantly in the background. The scene takes place in Iverson's North Cluster, adjacent to Garden of the Gods, with this shot featuring a familiar movie landmark, Cleft Rock.

Here's that same shot with Cleft Rock and Nimoy pointed out. You can read more about Cleft Rock by clicking here.

Nimoy's Yellow Wolf, taking cover behind one of the rocks of the North Cluster, sets his sight on the blue-clad Cavalrymen.

Meanwhile, Yellow Wolf also has a beef with his rival Joe Topanga. In the above shot Yellow Wolf is coming after Joe with a knife. Nimoy's Yellow Wolf is a real sourpuss, with one of his most frequent lines in the episode being, "You will die!"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wonders of the Upper Iverson: Screen shot from the old Whip Wilson movie "Montana Incident" is filled with hidden gems

"Montana Incident" (1952)

At the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., where more movies were filmed than in any other outdoor location, there's almost always more to the picture than meets the eye. The above shot from the Whip Wilson movie "Montana Incident," in which not much appears to be going on, is a case in point.

Here's the same screen shot with some of the main movie rocks and one manmade set noted. Whip Wilson, in the lower left corner, is doing some surveying for the railroad, with the help of a number of armed riders. (It seems the local cattle ranchers don't cotton to railroad folk.) Around the edges of the shot lurk a number of widely filmed Upper Iverson features, which I'll talk about in more detail below.


"Tennessee's Partner" (1955) — Miner's Cabin and mine entrance

The Miner's Cabin, sometimes called the Lone Ranger Cabin, was often featured with a fake mine entrance affixed to the rocks to its left, as seen in the above screen shot from the Ronald Reagan-John Payne Western "Tennessee's Partner." Part of the lore of the cabin is that it's here the Lone Ranger mined silver and forged his trademark silver bullets.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1952)

At times the Miner's Cabin set included two mines, as seen above in the "Roy Rogers" TV show episode "Ride in the Death Wagon," which first aired April 6, 1952, during the show's first season.

The foundation of Miner's Cabin survives today, on the former Upper Iverson. You can click here to see a previous blog entry about the cabin, with additional photos of the cabin and foundation.

Also still in place near the old Miner's Cabin is a rebar fastener that was used to hold a fake mine entrance in position. One of only a few remaining manmade artifacts from the filming era at Iverson, it's located directly below the rock I call Gorilla. See below for more about Gorilla.

A closer look at the fastener that remains from the old fake mine entrance reveals that it's a two-piece metal device, and you can also see indentations and other markings on the rock that were left over from decades of attaching and removing the fake mines.


"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947) — Smiling Lion

Smiling Lion, usually seen in the background, is still around today, overlooking Fern Ann Creek. It had a fair amount of screen time back in the old B-Western days, and it can reflect a number of different "moods" depending on the camera angle.

"Wild Horse Ambush" (1952)

Still smiling in the Republic B-Western "Wild Horse Ambush," above.

"The Blocked Trail" (1943)

Smiling Lion is a little dark in this shot from Republic's Three Mesquiteers movie "The Blocked Trail," but the rock is right behind the cowboy in the center of the shot. The rock's "smile" gets wider as the camera position shifts — here the head appears slightly more elongate than in the previous photo.

The mood appears darker, even sinister, in this recent photo of Smiling Lion — looking more like "Scowling Lion" here. Notch Hill can be seen at top right in this shot, with the color tones and long shadows indicating the picture was taken late in the day, looking east.


"Boots Malone" (1952) — Whale Rock

Whale Rock is most often associated with its appearance in the horse racing movie "Boots Malone," with the above shot being one of only a scant few times the rock is seen clearly from this angle — its most "whale-like" — in any movie or TV show.

Whale Rock also appears in a less obvious but I think still interesting shot in another scene from the movie "Boots Malone."

Same shot with a couple of notations, as it's possible to miss the partially blocked Whale Rock from this distance. The photo also points out Fern Ann Creek, with its rocky creekbed. Notice the smooth dirt road below Whale Rock, seen here supporting a vehicle towing a horse trailer.

"Man From Cheyenne" (1942)

Whale Rock's "mouth" did make it into other productions on occasion, one being the above appearance in the Roy Rogers movie "Man From Cheyenne." Here again, the dirt road below Whale Rock is getting some use.

Here's a recent shot of Whale Rock. Overgrown and all but gone is the smooth road that once curved just below Whale, although traces of it can still be seen in front of the rock, in the lower right corner of the shot.


"Rawhide Rangers" (1941) — the Slates

I've blogged previously about the Slates, and did a "Classic Rock" segment on the rock that you can find by clicking here. Even so, it's always worth another look at the rock that has been described as the best thing since sliced bread.

Here's the same shot from the Universal B-Western "Rawhide Rangers," with a number of features highlighted — and showing the proximity of the Slates to Whale Rock. All of the highlighted rocks are also seen in the "Montana Incident" shot at the top of this post.

"California Firebrand" (1948)

Practically the same shot, in color this time, from a different movie. This one appears in the Monte Hale movie "California Firebrand," from Republic.

A contemporary shot of the Slates from a slightly different angle includes another familiar Upper Iverson landmark, Turtle Rock, in the background at top left.


"Five Guns West" (1955) — Gorilla

The rock known as Gorilla really looks like a gorilla when it's shot from the right angle, but it was apparently a hard angle for film crews to get because only a few productions have captured it. One of the best Gorilla shots is in the above scene from Roger Corman's Western "Five Guns West," where the rock gets in touch with its inner gorilla.

In case you're having trouble seeing it, I've highlighted Gorilla in the "Five Guns West" shot, above. Corman's first movie as a director, "Five Guns West" is an Iverson spectacle — check out this blog entry for more about the master cult film director's terrific Iverson shoot for "Five Guns West," and you can click here for another example of Corman's showcasing of Iverson, in the 1957 release "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent."

Gorilla's contemporary setting

These days, Gorilla can still be elusive when hunted in the wild.

This may be the rock at its most "gorilla-like," in a recent shot that also features a few of the estates now occupying the former Upper Iverson. The major rock feature to the left of Gorilla is Turtle Rock.

All of the rocks spotlighted above appeared in that single shot at the top of this post, from the Whip Wilson movie "Montana Incident." The movie has terrific Iverson content virtually nonstop from beginning to end, and is on my list of the Great Iverson Movies. The movie is included in a nicely put-together DVD set, "Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 2," which you can find on Amazon by using one of the links below. I'll add links to some of the other volumes as well — the whole series contains a lot of Iverson material, in great picture quality.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Two Towers of the old Iverson Church and Schoolhouse: A case for the Crime Doctor

I reported a few years back on the 1947 movie "The Millerson Case," part of a series of "Crime Doctor" movies from Poverty Row studio Larry Darmour Productions that starred Warner Baxter and were distributed to theaters by Columbia. Around that time, film historian Bill Sasser tipped me off that the movie had some interesting Iverson content, and wow, was he right.

"Crime Doctor" was originally a CBS radio program, airing from 1940-1947. The franchise expanded into feature films during that run, with 10 "Crime Doctor" movies released from 1943-1949.

Iverson Village as the town of Brook Falls in "The Millerson Case" (1947)

The "Crime Doctor" film series is set in the big city, and so it rarely ventures into rustic Iverson territory. But in "The Millerson Case" the lead character goes on a hunting trip and finds himself in a small country town called Brook Falls — with Iverson's Western street serving as the set for the town. The Iverson town set, often called El Paso Street or Iverson Village, was in place from 1945 until about 1957, appearing in hundreds of movies and early TV productions.

Here's another shot of Iverson Village from "The Millerson Case," which spends a lot of time in Brook Falls and offers a number of good shots of Iverson's Western street. This scene happens to feature a catfight in the middle of the street involving two of the ladies of Brook Falls. The stone building in the background is the Livery Stable.

Iverson Church, part of Iverson Village, as seen in "Check Your Guns" (1948)

This is the typical shot of Iverson Church, with this particular shot coming from the PRC B-Western "Check Your Guns." That's singing cowboy Eddie Dean riding into town on White Cloud. Iverson Church, at the south end of the street, had a much shorter lifespan than the town as a whole, standing only from about 1947-1949.

"The Millerson Case" (1947): Iverson Church in its original configuration, as a schoolhouse

"The Millerson Case" probably marks the earliest film appearance — by about a month — of the building that would become the Iverson Church, with the structure first surfacing here as a schoolhouse. Based on release dates and other details, it appears likely that the church — make that the schoolhouse — was built initially for "The Millerson Case," which came out in May 1947.

"The Marauders" (1947): The schoolhouse resurfaces as a church

One month after the release of "The Millerson Case" the structure appeared again in the Hopalong Cassidy feature "The Marauders," where it was reborn as a church. Both of these film appearances predate by a few months the first of what are probably the structure's most widely seen film roles, in a string of PRC-produced B-Westerns starring Eddie Dean and Lash LaRue.

The schoolhouse in "The Millerson Case"

Here's another shot of the schoolhouse in "The Millerson Case," showing the school building's original turret. The schoolhouse plays a central role in the plot of the movie — as headquarters for treating an outbreak of typhoid fever. The building is featured far more in "The Millerson Case" and "The Marauders" than in any other movie I've seen.

The church bell tower, in "The Marauders"

While the building ended up spending most of its brief movie career as a church, it appears it remained "convertible" — that is, it could be converted from church to schoolhouse, and back again, with only minor modifications.

You may or may not have noticed Hoppy sneaking up onto the roof in that last shot.

"The Marauders" (1947)

The building's conversion from schoolhouse to church involved mainly two cosmetic changes: adding or removing the arches above the two front windows — a procedure that included creating the illusion of stained glass — and reconfiguring the schoolhouse turret into the church steeple

Notice how the windows on the schoolhouse, left, become church windows with simple add-ons.

Here's a closer look at the conversion of the windows, as the process was handled in 1947 for "The Millerson Case," with the schoolhouse setup, and "The Marauders," with the fake arched church windows added. Also, the schoolhouse doors, which contain windows, have been replaced with what appears to be windowless doors for the church configuration.

It's hard to get a good look at the schoolhouse turret, which may have been used just once, in "The Millerson Case." It would have been a lot more trouble to change over the building's tower than it was to slap fake arches over the windows. For this reason I think the tower element of the conversion was done only once: when the building was finished being used as a schoolhouse for "The Millerson Case" and was converted into a church for "The Marauders," with the much taller church bell tower put in place.

"Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" (1949): back to the schoolhouse configuration — but not all the way back

When the building appears again as a schoolhouse two years later in "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," the old window configuration has been revived but the building is still outfitted with the church's bell tower. It appears to me that this color B-Western from Universal, starring Howard Duff and Yvonne De Carlo, found a way around the costly conversion of the steeple back to a schoolhouse turret: Simply don't include much of the tower in the shot. (Even so, this shot includes enough of the turret that we can see it still includes the bell cutout from the church configuration.)

"The Westward Trail" (1948)

You may have already spotted Church Rock hovering over the building in some of the above shots. The above shot isn't the greatest picture quality, but the church and Church Rock are pointed out as they appear in PRC's Eddie Dean movie "The Westward Trail."

Here's another look at that schoolhouse shot from "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," with Church Rock identified.

"Stage to Blue River" (1951)

By 1951 the church/schoolhouse was long gone — but of course Church Rock remained in place, as highlighted in the above promo still for the Whip Wilson B-Western "Stage to Blue River." Notice that the buildings of Iverson Village are mostly in pretty good shape here, although the roof of the Livery Stable, just above the shoulder of the stage driver, is showing some signs of wear.

This shot pinpoints the Livery Stable. 1951 and 1952 were peak years for Iverson Village, which began to deteriorate around this time. During the next five years it was seen increasingly as a ghost town.

"The Lone Ranger" TV show, "Ghost Town Fury" (first aired March 28, 1957) 

This image of a rundown Iverson Village was taken a few years later, in late 1956 or early 1957, when the town was soon to be dismantled. The shot comes from an episode of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" aired during the show's fifth and final season — the only season that was filmed in color. This view offers another look at Church Rock at the southwest end of town, along with its smaller neighbor, the important marker rock Gumdrop.

Here's the same shot from "The Lone Ranger," with some of the major features highlighted.

Church Rock in recent times

Church Rock continues to mark the spot today, although the spot now is filled largely with mobile homes. Nothing remains of the church itself, or of Iverson Village. In their place is the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.

Gumdrop and Church Rock in recent times

Gumdrop can still be seen today too — at least the tip of it can. From this angle Gumdrop is to the left of Church Rock.


This blog entry is a new, hopefully improved version of a post I did back in 2010. If you're interested, you can click here to see my original post on "The Millerson Case" and the discovery that Iverson Church first appeared as a schoolhouse. You'll find that a little bit of the material I've covered here is duplicated in the 2010 post, and that original entry also includes some content that didn't make it into this update.

Below you will find links pointing you to Amazon pages where you can buy DVDs of some of the productions featured in this post.