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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Iverson Movie Ranch in glorious Technicolor

It's a little bit unusual to see the Iverson Movie Ranch on screen in color — especially good color. When I do see Iverson in color it's typically in the low-grade picture quality of early color efforts for TV. But here are some shots from one of only a handful of productions where Iverson appeared on film in glorious Technicolor: the Gary Cooper movie "Dallas," a Warner Bros. feature from 1950.

It always starts with Garden of the Gods and the two iconic figures: Eagle Beak, or Sphinx, on the right and Indian Head, or Tower Rock, on the left.

"Dallas" is the only production in which I've seen this cabin, which was built right in the middle of Garden of the Gods, somewhere behind the Sphinx. I initially thought it may have been built on the relatively small patch of flat ground where a camera mount was in place, overlooking Iverson Gorge. (The track for that camera mount is still in place today.) But further research determined that the cabin was more likely a little to the west of that spot, probably tucked in behind the Sphinx and a nearby rock known as Phantom. My guess is the cabin was built specifically for "Dallas" and was probably torn down soon afterward. Gary Cooper already had a track record of construction at Iverson, having been responsible for building Iverson Village for his 1945 movie "Along Came Jones." In that case the construction paid lasting dividends for Iverson, as the village was used in countless productions for the next 12 years or so.

Lookouts were placed strategically on the rocks of Garden of the Gods, which served as an outlaws' hideout in "Dallas." In this shot the lookout is positioned near the base of the Sphinx, or Eagle Beak.

Here's another lookout perched up high, leaning on the rock known as Indian Head or Tower Rock.

That's Cleft Rock toward the left, just to the left of the clouds of gunsmoke. Cleft Rock is a relatively minor structure, but it has a distinctive shape and appears in a number of films and TV shows. My attempts to find it at Iverson proved fruitless for months, but I finally located it thanks to this movie. It's in the North Cluster area, just above Garden of the Gods, near a group of condos. These days it's covered with ivy and barely distinguishable.

Here's a shot of Gary Cooper in Garden of the Gods for his starring role in "Dallas."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saddlehorn Relay Station and related structures

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1954)

One of the many structures that came and went at Iverson during the filming era, the Saddlehorn Relay Station is a favorite of researchers, probably in part because it is a fairly complicated structure and in part because it has been a challenge to pin down details about it such as where it was located and when it existed. An early theory suggested that the building was relocated around 1946 or 1947, when it would have been moved a bit farther to the west, but later research indicates that it was probably in one spot all along. The above shot of the building comes from the "Backfire" episode of "The Roy Rogers Show," which originally aired Oct. 10, 1954.

"Escort West" (1959)

This screen shot from the Victor Mature movie "Escort West" shows the Saddlehorn Relay Station at the left, and a number of other buildings that first surfaced around this time, in the right half of the photo. "Escort West," which filmed in 1958 for an early 1959 release, was made near the end of the main filming period at Iverson, and a number of unusual buildings crop up in some of the later productions that didn't end up being around for long. But it appears the small cluster of buildings seen here, sometimes called Saddlehorn Village, lasted through the 1960s.

Here's another shot of the relay station, at right, taken from "Escort West." This one shows Garden of the Gods in the background, with Indian Head and Eagle Beak or Sphinx visible at the top of the photo on the left half.

"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941) — Saddlehorn Rock

Saddlehorn Relay Station is one of two main relay stations at Iverson, the other being Grove Relay Station. Saddlehorn Relay Station has also been called a variety of other names, including Heldorado Relay Station and Batman Rock Relay Station. Its location is generally described as near Batman Rock or north of Garden of the Gods. It is also sometimes spotted, obviously, near Saddlehorn Rock, which is shown above.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Classic Rock: "Doglips," aka "Chinless Wonder" — This strange rock formation on the Iverson Movie Ranch starred in countless Westerns in the 1930s-1950s


The rock formation "Doglips," on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

Doglips is something Salvador Dali might have conjured up. It's so weird it's hard to believe it happened naturally. Not only is it weird from the angle seen here, which is the "common" view, as seen from Redmesa Road, but it's also weird from just about every other angle.

The same rock from another angle, getting its "Chinless Wonder" on

The rock hid one key element of its personality from me for months, until I was finally able to determine that Doglips was also Chinless Wonder, a rock I had been searching for from the beginning and couldn't find even though it was right under my nose. I love this view of Chinless Wonder/Doglips looking like some kind of cocky cartoon character.


"Jungle Girl" (1941)

Here's another look at Chinless Wonder — in other words, Doglips — as it appears in the old Republic serial "Jungle Girl." It's the dark, sort of monkeyhead-shaped figure that dominates the left half of the shot. You can also catch a glimpse of the Elders just to the right of it, in the background, the light-colored rock more or less in the center of the shot. I've highlighted both of these landmarks in the shot below.

The "Jungle Girl" shot again — with two key features noted

For more on the Chinless Wonder aspect of Doglips, check out this post. And you'll find more about Doglips/Chinless wonder by clicking here or by finding Doglips (or Chinless Wonder) in the long index of labels at the right side of this page.

Here's a partial list of movies, TV shows and serials in which Doglips appears — just a fraction of the total:

Undersea Kingdom (1936)
Ghost-Town Gold (1936)
Zorro Rides Again (1937)
Overland Stage Raiders (1938)
Wall Street Cowboy (1939)
Frontier Pony Express (1939)
Jungle Girl (1941)
King of the Texas Rangers (1941)
The Perils of Nyoka (1942)
Raiders of Ghost City (1944)
Son of Zorro (1947)
The Hawk of Powder River (1948)
Lone Ranger (TV series) (1949-1957)
The Invisible Monster (1950)
Don Daredevil Rides Again (1951)
Sky King (TV series) (1951-1962)
The Roy Rogers Show (TV series) (1951-1957)
Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)

This post is part of a series on "Classic Rocks" — sandstone giants located on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., that became a part of not only America's physical landscape but also its cultural heritage, through featured roles in old movies, cliffhanger serials and early TV shows. Other entries in the series can be seen by clicking here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Elephant with a monkey on its back


Here are a couple of characters found in the menagerie that's still in place in the Eucalyptus Grove — an area I called "Rock Wonderland" when I first discovered it, located in the Above Nyoka section of the Iverson Movie Ranch. In case you're unsure it's worth noting that these are actual rocks, formed by natural processes, and are not any kind of manmade sculpture. The elephant is especially lifelike, but I also appreciate what looks like a monkeyhead on its back — even though the two figures aren't to scale.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Captain Hornblower and White Fang


This shot from the movie "The Naked Hills" (1956) is a personal favorite, falling squarely under the heading of tricks of light and imagination. It depicts not one but two mysterious rock characters who probably are figments of accidental movie magic and whose appearance here probably bears little resemblance to whatever they might look like in real life. I've never been able to locate them, and it may turn out that the scene wasn't shot at Iverson Ranch. The movie includes some fantastic footage of Iverson, but it also shot at Corriganville, an interesting place in its own right. Regardless, these characters deserve any recognition they can get.

Captain Hornblower

Captain Hornblower is the easier of the two figures to make out, and by far the more colorful — the triangular, light-colored rock at the top center of the photo with the wild mustache that seems to be blowing in the breeze.

White Fang

White Fang is the wolf's-head figure at the left of the photo, directly behind the horse on the left.

Jaunty Sailor, as seen in "The Naked Hills" (1956)


Then-and-now shots of the Jaunty Sailor, as it came to be known because of its appearance in "The Naked Hills," with its beret tilted "just so." It was a real treat to discover where this rock was at Iverson, partly because it's just such a character but also because it turned out to be the back end of a prominent and widely filmed rock known as GTR. Like many other formations at the site, it has completely different personalities when viewed from different angles; the more familiar frontal view of GTR is much more sedate than its flamboyant backside.


Jaunty Sailor also had an interesting role in a 1951 TV production called Hill Number One, where the rock formed part of the tomb of Jesus. That production is also noteworthy as the first screen appearance of James Dean. Click here to see a blog entry about it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Turtle Rock ("Thunder River Feud")




The screen shot at the top shows Turtle Rock, one of the Upper Iverson Ranch's main landmarks, as seen in "Thunder River Feud" (1942). Turtle Rock appears in the top left corner of the photo. Below that is a recent shot of Turtle Rock, seen near the top of the photo, in the center. (Not the large rock in the foreground.)

Turtle Rock can be spotted towering above countless chase sequences shot on the Upper Iverson Ranch. It marks the eastern end of the widely filmed South Rim area that includes recognizable movie rocks such as Wrench Rock (also known as Indian Head or Upper Indian Head), the Slates, Easter Island (sometimes called the Totem Pole Rocks), T-Cliff and the Cul de Sac Crew. As I searched for Wrench Rock in fall 2008 (I was calling it Bobby at the time, not knowing any better), it was when I happened to look up and spotted Turtle Rock directly above me that I knew I was getting close. A few minutes later I found Wrench Rock.

Chase sequences were the Upper Iverson's bread and butter, and they were typically filmed from the north side of the chase road, shooting toward the south. The action often moved east to west, with a series of towers and other features along the South Rim turning up repeatedly as markers. Among the key "towers" moving east to west were Turtle Rock, followed by Eagle Beak Rock, then Prominent Rock (sometimes called Medicine Rock) and finally Cap Rock (sometimes called Hunchback). Name confusion is unavoidable at Iverson, as a number of rocks have multiple names, while multiple rocks tend to have the same names or similar names. For example, Eagle Beak Rock, on the Upper Iverson, and Eagle Beak, on the Lower Iverson — also known as Sphinx Rock or simply Sphinx — are two different rocks. An entry addressing one of the biggest sources of name confusion, Indian Head, can be found here.