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.
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• 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).
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Platypus Shack" and "Platypus Farm" — an oddity of the old Upper Iverson

This is a screen shot from the 1949 Paramount Western "El Paso," starring John Payne, Sterling Hayden, Gail Russell and Gabby Hayes, directed by Lewis R. Foster with cinematography by frequent Iverson shooter Ellis W. Carter. It shows a farm set I call "Platypus Farm," after the rock near the left of the shot, Platypus. (I call the rock in the center of the shot "Fish Head.") The farm set was probably built specifically for "El Paso," as the full set has not been spotted anywhere else. It has been suggested that the main house, on the right, may have been a false front or a mobile structure. Either way, by the end of the movie, it's gone.

The main building may have been destroyed in the production, as the house burns to the ground later in the movie. The above shot has the survivors burying two poor souls killed in an attack on the farm, and the charred remains of the house can be seen in the background, behind the rider on the right. It seems unlikely that they would have gone to the lengths of actually destroying a building to get the shot, but who knows? This shot seems to support the theory that the house was just a front and was perhaps designed to ultimately be destroyed on camera. Either way, at least part of the set — the shack, partially visible at the left of both of the above shots — survived and went on to appear in a number of productions, including episodes of the "Lone Ranger" TV show.

Here's "Platypus Shack" again, along with the rock Platypus, in the "Lone Ranger" episode "Barnaby Boggs, Esquire," which premiered Feb. 2, 1950, during the TV show's first season. The shot ran properly oriented in this episode, but in a different episode, the exact same footage was used — but flipped horizontally, as seen below:

This is how the shot ran in the "Man of the House" episode, which aired one week earlier, on Jan. 26, 1950. It may seem like shoddy production to run back-to-back episodes containing such an obvious shortcut — presumably just a way to save money by using the same footage twice. But that sort of thing was common in B-Westerns and carried over into early TV, where the producers were convinced, and probably rightly so, that no one was looking at this stuff very closely. Thankfully, we have DVDs and other digital media now and can really tear it down. (Click here for some additional posts about flipping shots.)

One more "Lone Ranger" shot, back to the "Barnaby Boggs, Esquire" episode, where Platypus Shack ran in its correct orientation. This shot offers a better look at the shack, with the Lone Ranger, played by Clayton Moore, circling around back. The shack stood from about 1949-1952 and appeared in a number of movies, including the Whip Wilson B-Westerns "Gunslingers" and "Silver Raiders" for Monogram (both 1950) and the Rocky Lane B-Western "Marshal of Cedar Rock" for Republic (released in early 1953 but filmed in 1952).

"Gun Belt" (1953) — "fancy" version of Platypus Shack

A fancier version of the shack, located a bit closer to the rock Platypus, can be seen in the 1953 movie "Gun Belt," which is discussed in a blog post here.

Here's another look at Platypus — the rock, minus the shack — in the slightly upscale Columbia B-Western "The Gun That Won the West" (1955).

And here's a real Platypus. Maybe you can see the resemblance in the bill, which gives the rock its name. I'll take the blame for it.

The 1957 George Montgomery Western "Gun Duel in Durango" provided this unusual shot of Fish Head, Platypus' neighbor to the east, with a couple of sentries on it — including one sitting on the rock's fish lips. As a footnote about Platypus and Fish Head, I believe both of these distinctive and heavily filmed rocks have survived, although I've never seen them in person. If they do still exist, they're "living" in someone's back yard on the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch.


Drifting Cowboy said...

Good job nailing this one. I always assumed the shack was on one of the many other locations in and around the valley :-)

Electric Dylan Lad said...

Thanks, Pard' ... maybe someday we'll have everything figured out!