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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Charles Bronson in "Bonanza" ... and the "Charles Bronson Hanging Tree"

Charles Bronson in the "Bonanza" episode "The Underdog" (1964)

Charles Bronson was already a pretty big movie star when he worked the Iverson Movie Ranch in 1964 as the featured guest star in the "Bonanza" episode "The Underdog," which premiered Dec. 13, 1964.

Outdoor action for the "Bonanza" episode was taped primarily on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson, where all of the shots in this blog post were taken. In the photo above, that's Bronson at the right as half-breed horse thief Harry Starr, enjoying a little campfire conversation with his gang.

Bronson wasn't quite "Death Wish" big yet — the first installment in his career-defining film franchise was still 10 years away. But he already had a solid movie resume under his belt by the time he rode up on the Ponderosa, having put his stamp on "The Magnificent Seven," "Machine-Gun Kelly" and "The Great Escape," among others. In the next few years Bronson would also chalk up "The Dirty Dozen" and the movie often cited as the quintessential spaghetti Western, "Once Upon a Time in the West."

Bronson's second-in-command in the gang, Lee Burton, was played by Tom Reese, a formidable actor in his own right.

Bronson got a chance to prove he could handle a horse during the "Bonanza" shoot, and acquitted himself admirably. Already a veteran of a number of Westerns at the time, the actor had no problem negotiating the rugged terrain of the South Rim.

A primitive horse corral was set up on the South Rim for the shoot, along with some other minor construction. The above shot includes familiar rock features in the background, which help pinpoint where the action was set.

One of the features in the screen shot is a rock known as Moschops, which you can read more about by clicking here. Moschops is also featured in this entry about the shoot for the 1986 movie "The Tomb."

Here's a look at Moschops in recent times, near the top center of the frame.

This screen shot includes some of the other minor construction that turns up in the episode — possibly a mine entrance, visible at the right of the frame. The photo also features the South Rim rocks known as the Pixies.

In this version of the photo the two main rock formations that make up the Pixies are highlighted. You can learn more about the Pixies by clicking here.

This shot answers the question, "Did Iverson have a hanging tree?" And the answer is: Oh, did it ever — and it still does! Thanks to the "Bonanza" episode, in which Bronson's character is found swinging from the tree — apparently having been betrayed by his own gang — I've taken to calling it the "Charles Bronson Hanging Tree." But I'd be willing to bet Bronson wasn't the first unfortunate soul to dangle from the tree.

The Charles Bronson Hanging Tree, as it appears today

Best of all, the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree is still around, and can be found pretty easily on the South Rim of the former Upper Iverson. I'm not able to get the same angle seen in the "Bonanza" episode, as the tree is on private property. But this is the same tree.

If you're an Iverson aficionado you may have already spotted the widely filmed movie rock the Molar, which was featured in countless B-Western chase scenes going back to the 1930s. If you happen to know where the Molar is located, then the Hanging Tree is easy to find — it's a part of the same circular driveway. You can click here to read an earlier blog post about the discovery of the Molar.

It was the Molar that made it possible to find the tree. In this shot from the "Bonanza" episode, the Molar can be seen toward the left. Another marker, Rock in the Field, appears to be visible in the distance, although it is barely discernible.

Here's another version of the "Bonanza" shot with the Molar identified, along with what I believe to be Rock in the Field. The shot provides an unusual angle on the Molar, but through close examination I was able to make a positive ID on the rock.

Bear Tree, as seen in "The Adventures of Spin and Marty"  (1955)
— a close neighbor to the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree

Regular readers of this blog may recognize the area where the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree was found as being in close proximity to the location of another famous tree — Bear Tree, named after its appearance in the Disney TV serial "The Adventures of Spin and Marty." Please click here to read my earlier blog entry about Bear Tree.


Here's a fun video clip of the "Bonanza" episode's climactic sequence, featuring a fight to the death among the rocks of Iverson's South Rim. It may seem overly cautious to give a spoiler warning about a TV show from 50 years ago, but even so: If you don't want to know the episode's surprise twist, don't watch the clip. Also, I should mention that this particular clip does not include the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back in 2008 the NBC series "Heroes" filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch

This photo of Heroes Tower from 2008, painted up for a shoot for the NBC series "Heroes," ran in a recent post about Wyatt Earp with a Gatling gun, because "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" shot in the same location many years earlier. But I wanted to show readers more of the 2008 shoot for "Heroes."

"Heroes" episode "One of Us, One of Them" (premiered Sept. 29, 2008)

This shot from the third episode of season three of "Heroes" gives some idea of what was going on in the area during the shoot for the offbeat NBC superheroes drama series. Heroes Tower appears again here, at top right. In this shot actor Greg Grunberg, who played Matt Parkman on the show, examines a series of unexplained paintings on the rocks. With these wide-format shots, I recommend clicking on the photo to view a larger version.

Another shot from season three, episode three of "Heroes," titled "One of Us, One of Them," offers a better look at Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman, his face showing the effects of overexposure to the African sun. Behind him at top right is the familiar overhanging portion of Hangover Rock.

This version of the "Heroes" shot identifies Hangover Rock. The Iverson footage ran intermittently throughout season three, with much of the shooting done just below Hangover Rock.

Here's what the "Heroes" set looked like on a site visit in 2008. The African hut in the foreground was built for the TV show.

This version of the 2008 photo pinpoints the portion of Hangover Rock that creates the silhouette behind Greg Grunberg in the "Heroes" shot.

Another version of the 2008 site visit photo identifies a few key features. Built in about 1928, the building known as the Old Folks' House is where Iverson Movie Ranch founders Karl and Augusta Iverson lived out their retirement years. The structure, which was not used as a movie set, stood for some 80 years before being leveled by the Sesnon Fire, also known as the Porter Ranch Fire, in fall 2008.

"Heroes" episode "Eris Quod Sum" (premiered Oct. 27, 2008)

This shot from the seventh episode of season three shifts the angle a bit from the previous shot. Here we can again see the African hut, and above it much of the span of Hangover Rock.

Back to the episode titled "One of Us, One of Them," this shot provides a look at the entrance to the hut. The character in the doorway is the mysterious Usutu, played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine.

In this shot from a visit to the site in mid-2008, we get a glimpse of the Old Folks' House a couple of months before it burned down. That's it near the top right corner, partially hidden behind a large boulder.

Here's what the Old Folks' House looked like in the aftermath of the Sesnon Fire. In the background is a portion of the western San Fernando Valley.

Another view of the debris of the Old Folks' House includes Heroes Tower in the background, toward the right. Also visible here is an example of the graffiti that has been a problem in some areas of the former Iverson Movie Ranch.

This version of the previous shot points out Heroes Tower in the background, along with the graffiti.

"Heroes" episode "It's Coming" (premiered Nov. 17, 2008)

Other characters arrive in the "Heroes" area at Iverson during the course of the third season, but for the most part everyone eventually just wants to get out of there. Usutu, meanwhile, meets an unpleasant fate. (His body is seen near the center of the frame.)

"Heroes," which was canceled in 2010 after four seasons, is expected to be revived by NBC in 2015 as a 13-episode miniseries, "Heroes: Reborn." You can click here to read more about the 2008 "Heroes" shoot in a previous post about one of Ray Harryhausen's "dynamation" monsters.

Below are a couple of Amazon links for "Heroes" on DVD and Blu-ray ...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mystery village on the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch: Have you seen this town set in the movies or on TV?

Upper Iverson Village — seen in a 1959 aerial photo

Sometime between 1952 and 1959 a small cluster of buildings, presumably a movie set, sprang up in an out-of-the-way corner of the Iverson Movie Ranch. I have never seen this set in any movie or TV show. The timeline comes from the two aerial photographs of Chatsworth, Calif., that have surfaced from the 1950s — the town set did not exist at the time of the 1952 aerial, but was in place by the time the 1959 aerial photo was taken, as seen above.

Here's the aerial photo from 1959 again with the Upper Iverson Village outlined. Little is known about this set, which appears to have consisted of as many as 12 buildings. The only known photos that have surfaced of it are aerial shots like this one.

1952 aerial photo of the same area

Here's the 1952 aerial showing the area of the Upper Iverson town set — with no town set in place at that time.

This version of the 1952 aerial pinpoints the location where the Upper Village would later be built. With the main Western street at Iverson being torn down in 1957, it's possible that the Upper Village was put up around that time — the idea being to replace the town set that had stood for about 12 years.

Upper Iverson Movie Ranch — 1959

A wider view of the 1959 aerial photo reveals a number of the sets that were in place on the Upper Iverson at the time. In addition to Upper Iverson Village, we can see the Fury Set and Midway House in this shot.

The three main sets that stood on this part of the Upper Iverson in 1959 are identified here. Another major set, known as the Middle Iverson Ranch Set, was also in place, a short distance to the east. It was a part of the Upper Iverson, but falls outside the frame in this shot. Please click here to read an earlier post all about the Middle Iverson Ranch Set.


Newhall-Malibu Fire, 1970 (Jack Gaunt/Los Angeles Times)

The Upper Village appears to have stood intact at least until the destructive Newhall-Malibu fire cut a swath through the Chatsworth hills in September 1970. That means it was in place throughout the 1960s — a period when "grown-up" Westerns flourished on television: "Bonanza," "The Virginian," "Gunsmoke," "The Big Valley." All of these shows are known to have shot at various times on the Iverson Movie Ranch. Maybe one or more of them set up shop in the Upper Village for a period of time. The search goes on ...


If you have info on the Upper Village, please comment here or email me at:

iversonfilmranch@aol.com

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A ton of fun with a gun: Frontier lawman Wyatt Earp hauls a state-of-the-art weapon of war all over the Lower Iverson

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1958)

Hugh O'Brian appeared as Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp for six seasons on the ABC series "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," from 1955-1961. Early in season four, he got a chance to play with a Gatling gun — the closest thing they had to the "nuclear option" back in the Old West days — during what I'm sure was a memorable shoot on the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Apparently the bone-jarring weapon raised such a ruckus that even a he-man like the legendary Wyatt Earp had to close his eyes when he was mowing people down with it. Still, O'Brian — or should I say Earp — seemed to have a ton of fun with the gun. But best of all, he got to show it off with a series of Lower Iverson landmarks in the background. These first two shots, which appear toward the end of the episode, are taken just off the Garden of the Gods Trail.

The episode, appropriately titled "The Gatling Gun," premiered Oct. 21, 1958, and was shot mainly in or near the Iverson Gorge. When the gun first surfaces, it's hidden in Zorro's Cave, where it's being stored on a wagon and kept under a tarp by a group of Native Americans. In a common theme for the "Wyatt Earp" TV series, the Indians in this episode are more reasonable than the white settlers or the U.S. military, and even though a group of Native warriors originally stole the Gatling gun from the Cavalry, Earp is able to talk them into giving it back.

As the wraps come off, Wyatt and his odd alliance of Native American pacifists look on. The shot includes a portion of a distinctive diagonal rock found at the back entrance to Zorro's Cave, seen here in the top left corner of the frame.

This shot points out the diagonal rock, along with the direction to nearby Zorro's Cave. The diagonal rock can also be seen with a Ray Harryhausen monster next to it in this earlier blog post — scroll down to the 10th and 11th photos in the entry (but feel free to read the rest of it too, especially if you like monsters).

A wider shot of the area includes Heroes Tower at top center, along with more of that diagonal rock behind Zorro's Cave. With Earp are Chief Joseph, left, played by Richard Garland, and Earp's Indian adviser Mr. Cousin, right, played by Rico Alaniz.

This annotated version of the shot pinpoints Heroes Tower and the distinctive diagonal rock. I came up with the name Heroes Tower after I first discovered this area in 2008 while a shoot for the NBC series "Heroes" was under way.

Here's a photo of the same area from 2008, taken during the period when "Heroes" was taping, with Heroes Tower painted up for the occasion. The videographer in the photo is standing on that same diagonal rock behind Zorro's Cave. You can click here to read more about the "Heroes" shoot in the Ray Harryhausen post mentioned above.

And what a fine killing machine it is. The actor playing the Indian in this shot from "The Gatling Gun" is uncredited. In the background is Zorro's Cave.

The old-fashioned machine gun next surfaces near Overhang Rock, where Mr. Gatling's pride and joy gets a chance to show off its firepower. In this shot Mr. Cousin gets a crack at it while Wyatt observes and theoretically provides backup. That's Overhang Rock at the top left with a guy on top of it.

The view from the business end offers another look at Overhang Rock, on the right this time. Overhang Rock no longer exists, having become one of the casualties of condo development in the Upper Gorge in the late 1980s. But a number of its neighboring rocks, which also appear in the episode, did survive, as I will point out below.

As the camera pulls back — and the smoke clears — we get another look at Overhang Rock on the right (it should be clear how it got that name), along with some of its neighbors. One of those neighbors, the round boulder in the top left corner, is Cagney Rock — named after James Cagney.

This version of the shot identifies both Cagney Rock and Overhang Rock. While Overhang Rock was destroyed by development, Cagney Rock has survived and can still be found among the condos along Redmesa Road.

"The Oklahoma Kid" (1939)

Cagney Rock got that name largely because of this famous promotional still featuring Jimmy Cagney in front of the rock. Cagney rarely did Westerns, but when he did "The Oklahoma Kid" for Warner Bros., he shot it at the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Here's the same promo still with the key players identified. I go into detail about Cagney Rock and Overhang Rock — including photos of Cagney Rock as it appears today — in this blog post from earlier this year.

Here's an interesting shot that takes place just after the Gatling gun leaves the Overhang Rock/Cagney Rock area. It would be easy to miss, but Iverson's famous Saddlehorn Rock can be seen in the background. I've highlighted it in the next shot.

This is the same shot with Saddlehorn Rock pointed out.

Here's Saddlehorn Rock as it appears today, up close — although not from exactly the same angle. It has survived, and now lives among the condos on the west side of Redmesa Road.

The Gatling gun moves past the Three Kings, in the top left corner, a group that includes, left to right, the Pharaoh, an unnamed rock that could be referred to as "King 2," and Tower Rock. Also visible is a portion of the Sphinx, but it is NOT one of the Three Kings.

This labeled version of the previous photo differentiates the Three Kings from the Sphinx. The road seen here, Garden of the Gods Trail, is still in place as a foot trail, and is the main entrance route into Garden of the Gods Park.

"Zane Grey Theatre" (1958): "The Freighter"

This shot from a 1958 episode of the Western anthology TV series "Zane Grey Theatre" offers a relatively common view of the Three Kings, shot from the eastern side of the Gorge with the camera facing generally toward the west. The episode, "The Freighter," first aired on Jan. 17, 1958, and would have been filmed in 1957.

This version of the "Zane Grey" shot identifies the Three Kings, along with an often filmed background hill farther west, which I call Boat Hill.

This view of Garden of the Gods from the eastern side of the Gorge includes the Three Kings as they appear today.

Here's the same recent shot with a number of features noted, including the Three Kings and Boat Hill.

A closer view of the Three Kings from a recent visit gives a better idea of what these imposing rock figures look like today.

In this shot I've identified each of the Three Kings. I've mentioned the Pharaoh before, in a post you can find by clicking here. Tower Rock, besides being one of the Three Kings, is a famous rock in its own right, often seen paired with the Sphinx. For more about Tower Rock, which has also been called Indian Head, please click here.

"The Gatling Gun": This scene takes place in the Arena

In the "Wyatt Earp" episode the gun continues down Garden of the Gods Trail, where Wyatt takes it over and there ensues a massive confrontation with substantial bloodshed. Suffice to say the guys who get mowed down are mostly not nice people. But more important, the rocks: Those seen during this sequence are located in an area off to the side of Garden of the Gods Trail that was rarely filmed, which I call the Arena.

The same part of the Arena as it appears today

The Arena remains intact today, and is seen here on a visit to the site a couple of months ago. You may be able to match up the rocks in the above two photos. The rock at the center of this shot is the same rock that fills the top left corner in the "Wyatt Earp" shot above this one. The well-lit rock in the foreground in the recent shot is also partially visible in the "Wyatt Earp" shot, through the spokes of the Gatling gun's wheels.

This comparison of the two shots — the "Wyatt Earp" shot from 1958 on the left, and the recent shot from a site visit on the right — should help you match up the rocks of the Arena as they appear in the two shots.

Is this not a Wonderland of Rock? The episode makes great use of the Iverson Gorge's rocky terrain.

Here's another unusual shot from the climactic sequence in "The Gatling Gun." How great is this episode? Some readers will probably recognize Doglips at top right.

"The Gatling Gun" — the rock is Bald Knob

The episode also pays a meaningful visit to Bald Knob, the rock featured prominently in the center of the shot above. I talked about this "Battle of Bald Knob" sequence — and about some of Bald Knob's other screen appearances — in a recent post, which you can read by clicking here. A follow-up post, about whether Bald Knob is real or fake, can be found here.

I would be negligent if I didn't point out a hidden delight in the above photo of Bald Knob: Parts of the vegetation along the left edge of the frame are unusually intriguing, especially the top half. If you're the type who sees faces, I recommend you look there for some.