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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Iverson Movie Ranch videos: "Cripple Creek"


Below are a couple more Iverson videos posted by film historian Bill Sasser — both from the 1952 Columbia Western "Cripple Creek." You can see some of Bill's other clips in a recent post found here.


This brief clip offers a look at Hangover Shack on the Lower Iverson. The shack was named after Hangover Rock, which can be seen in the bottom photo in an earlier post, found here. That photo, part of the introductory post for this blog, shows Hangover Rock in 2008, with an African hut featured in the NBC TV series "Heroes." The hut was set up in the same general area where Hangover Shack was previously located — the shack would have been to the left of the hut in the photo, if it were still around. Hangover Shack was one of the longest-surviving buildings at Iverson, seen in productions as late as 1996 — although it was in tumble-down condition in later appearances.


Another short clip from "Cripple Creek," this one shifts to the Upper Iverson and focuses on a water feature that appears to have been created just for this movie — a waterfall trickling down the f-clef section of the "T-Cliff," aka "The Cliff." Waterfalls were set up in the same spot for other productions, but as soon as the production moves on, the waterfall goes away. In the "Cripple Creek" clip, the waterfall tumbles into a small manmade pond directly in front of Wrench Rock. This pond appears to be an expanded version of a more common water feature I call the Reflecting Pool, which is below the Cliff and is set off by a concrete berm. The main part of the Reflecting Pool is still in place on the South Rim — usually just as a concrete berm, although it does become a pool again when it gets enough rain.

Wrench Rock does not appear in the clip, but you can see it here.

The more accepted name for the cliff, albeit admittedly obvious, is ... "The Cliff." My alternate name the "T-Cliff" refers to a distinctive T-shaped marking near the cliff's western end. You can see other posts about it here. The f-clef designation for the area where the waterfall trickles down in the above clip stems from the feature's resemblance to the shape of the f-clef musical notation and the f-shaped sound hole found in some guitars and mandolins.

My guess is the waterfall is a low-end special effect along the lines of someone standing at the top of the cliff emptying buckets, as the filming areas at Iverson generally didn't include running water.

Bill Sasser's YouTube channel can be seen here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Allan "Rocky" Lane — a terrific cowboy actor and an Iverson Movie Ranch mainstay


A new blog post by Jerry England — longtime Iverson researcher and an expert on all things cowboy — spotlights one my favorite B-movie cowboy stars, Allan "Rocky" Lane, seen above with Black Jack.

Check out Jerry's tribute to Rocky here — Jerry has posted a bunch of great movie stills showing the actor in his element at Iverson. Also check out any Rocky Lane movies you might happen to find — he was easily one of the most natural and believable of the cowboy heroes. It helped that Rocky was a big guy, so when he beat people up, it seemed real. It was an advantage that Roy Rogers and Gene Autry never had — although that didn't keep them from beating up everyone too.


Rocky Lane spent the bulk of his movie career shooting at Iverson. I guess that sucks for him — I've always heard that everyone hated to shoot there, due to the intense heat in the summer and the cold, windy conditions in winter. But for better or worse, Rocky, who died in 1973, left behind a legacy of strong Iverson movies. The crew assembled by Republic Pictures for the Lane series raised the studio's game in just about every facet, with strong scripts, solid acting and terrific action.

Late in his career, Rocky Lane had a long-running role that made him a familiar presence while keeping him anonymous at the same time — as the voice of Mr. Ed in the TV show about everyone's favorite talking horse. Oh Wilbur!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Some cool Iverson Movie Ranch videos

Film historian Bill Sasser has been doing research for years on Western movie locations and has put up some terrific video clips on YouTube. Many of them feature the Iverson Movie Ranch, but Bill's prolific research encompasses a wide range of locations — from the other major filming sites, such as Lone Pine and Corriganville, to some of the less widely known ones, such as Beale's Cut and Walker Ranch.

I wanted to share some of Bill's videos and make sure my readers know about the work he has been doing. I'll start off with a few brief videos about Iverson ...



The above clip shows a corner of Iverson Village and spotlights a couple of the nearby rocks. (Click here for more posts about Iverson Village.) I don't know which movie this clip is from, but it includes some good stuff. The distinctive rock at the beginning of the clip, which appears right next to the wooden walkway in front of a building, is an interesting feature that is also seen during periods when the town didn't exist, often in the middle of a pond as the area flooded during the rainy season. I call it Pond Rock, but it is also commonly called Stacked Rocks. Sadly, Pond Rock was destroyed to make way for the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village — and presumably they cleared up that flooding problem before they moved the trailers in.

Also in the clip, starting around the 39-second mark, is Center Rock, which can be seen in the background, sticking out from under a big tree. I have an earlier blog post here that includes some background on Center Rock. Center Rock can still be seen today in the mobile home park. The tree is still there too, but it has been trimmed back considerably.



Here's a clip that compiles still shots of Iverson Village, aka the Western street, when it was flooded. I think most or all of these shots come from the episode of "The Roy Rogers Show" called "Ghost Town Gold," which first aired on May 25, 1952. It's one of only a couple of instances I know of where the town appeared in a production when it was flooded. The town was in hundreds of movies and TV episodes, even though it only existed for a relatively short time — from 1945 until about 1957.



This next clip features the Saddlehorn area on the Lower Iverson — and the video begs for ample use of the pause button. If you're quick you can catch the Sphinx in the background in the first three seconds. Right after Sphinx, still in the first three seconds, a stacked rock, presumably manmade, makes a brief appearance. Saddlehorn Rock surfaces at the 6-second mark, followed by a mysterious saddle-shaped rock at 10 seconds. (It's not the same rock as the Saddle, although that rock is located nearby.) The Saddlehorn Relay Station makes an appearance near the end, about 19 seconds in.

The relay station is long gone — none of the buildings from Iverson's filming era survived. As for the rocks seen in this video, the Sphinx and Saddlehorn Rock can still be seen today on a visit to the former Iverson Ranch. The Sphinx is in Garden of the Gods, which has been preserved as a park, and Saddlehorn Rock is just off a walkway through the condominium complex. The mysterious saddle-shaped rock, however, didn't survive, nor did the stacked rock.



Finally, here's a video of the opening sequence from the movie "Callaway Went Thataway" (1951), which features a romp through various parts of Iverson Ranch. The clip, which depicts a movie within the movie, flashes past too many famous movie rocks to try to name them, but it offers a good overview of the ranch. The sequence includes shots of Iverson horizontally flipped as well as properly oriented, and it blends Upper Iverson with Lower Iverson.

You can go directly to Bill's YouTube channel by clicking here. I plan to post more videos from Bill in future entries.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roger Corman's Iverson Movies, Part 2:
The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage
to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent

I posted recently about Roger Corman's first movie as a director, "Five Guns West," which included an extensive shoot at Iverson. You can see that post here.

Roger Corman

Corman has returned a number of times to Iverson since that first effort. He directed four Westerns early in his career, all released in 1955 and 1956 — with "Apache Woman" and "The Oklahoma Woman" also featuring Iverson footage. Corman transitioned early in his career to the more campy fare that has remained his calling card over the decades, but even after leaving Westerns behind, he continued to find ways to put Iverson's rocky terrain to good use.

The focus here is on one of his earliest cult films, the 1957 release "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent." That's the complete title, but it's also known by shorter variations, including "Viking Women and the Sea Serpent," as in the poster above, as well as "The Saga of the Viking" and "Undersea Monster," among others.

If your interest in these movies mainly involves sea serpents, you might be disappointed. Its title notwithstanding, the movie gives precious little screen time to the sea serpent. However, the Viking women content is good — and the Iverson content is excellent. Overall, the movie is good, campy fun. In the above shot, filmed in the Iverson Gorge, one of Iverson's most familiar landmarks, Nyoka Cliff, can be seen in the background as the Viking women and their boyfriends go for a stroll. Also visible in the background is a glimpse of the western San Fernando Valley.

As he always seems to do when he shoots at Iverson, Corman again comes up with some unusual shots of the movie ranch. Here's a double "burning at the stake" scene shot in Garden of the Gods.


This shot from a few moments earlier gives a better idea of the location, which is behind (or south of) Sphinx, another of Iverson's famous landmarks. The large rock that takes up most of the frame is Sphinx, and Tower Rock, also called Indian Head, appears in the top right corner.

The gang looks on during the stake burning from some of the nearby rocks in Garden of the Gods. For an update on the site where this shot takes place, please see this later blog entry.

In another fiery sequence, a crowd gathers atop Nyoka Cliff, where the "sink" in the top of the cliff serves as a firepit for a cremation ceremony.

Here's an interesting shot from a location standpoint, because it shows Iverson's elusive Bulldog Bluff in context — something that almost never happened. Bulldog Bluff, the sandy area at top left — directly above the three riders bringing up the rear — was a frequently seen feature in the many B-Westerns shot at Iverson, because the slope and the (relatively) soft sand combined to make it the perfect spot for "bulldog" moves — the takedown that ended a chase, typically involving a rider jumping from his horse at full gallop and "bulldogging," or tackling, the other rider, launching him off his horse and bringing them both crashing to the ground. Then they would typically have a fistfight in the sand near the base of Bulldog Bluff — with the good guy always winning, naturally.

Bulldog Bluff is almost never shot from this angle, and because it was displaced years ago by a condo development, it has been a challenge to pinpoint its location.

Movie location expert Jerry England — the "drifting cowboy" — has a good blog entry about Bulldog Bluff, which you can find by clicking here.

Stepping away momentarily from Iverson, the movie includes a few shots at Bronson Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, including this one showing the entrance to Bronson Cave. The cave is famous as the Bat Cave in the "Batman" TV series of the 1960s.

"Viking Women" shot extensively in Iverson's Upper Gorge and Garden of the Gods. This shot in the Gorge is set against the background of The Wall — a key rock feature of the Gorge during the filming era, and one that, sadly, was later destroyed to make way for condos.

Roger Corman was back at Iverson soon after he finished "Viking Women and the Sea Serpent," working on another cult movie, "Teenage Caveman," a 1958 release starring "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s" Robert Vaughn. The scene above from "Teenage Caveman" was shot on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson. Vaughn was about 24 at the time, but that didn't keep him from playing the title teen. The movie plays out as a satisfying literal adaptation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, one of my favorite pieces of ancient literature. "Viking Women" and "Teenage Caveman" complement each other nicely, offering a summary of Roger Corman's Iverson work during this period.

Conveniently, someone else thought to link the two movies too, as they've been combined into a two-DVD set. I've included a link below to the DVD set on Amazon.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

Built at Iverson: Lone Ranger Rock Shed

In addition to the more widely documented "permanent" structures that were in place at the Iverson Movie Ranch during the peak filming years — the Western street (Iverson Village), Middle Iverson Ranch Set, two relay stations (Saddlehorn and Grove), the Fury Set and a number of key cabins and shacks (Grove Cabin, Gorge Cabin, Hidden Valley Cabin, Hangover Shack) — a series of lesser-known buildings came and went over the years. I'm always delighted to spot new ones, even if they were only around for one movie or TV episode. I'll try to put up posts about as many of them as possible. Another example that I posted about previously can be seen at the bottom of this earlier post.

Here's a temporary building that turned up during season three of "Have Gun — Will Travel" in an episode called "Jenny," which first aired Jan. 23, 1960. This shed would have been in place during production of that episode in 1959. I haven't seen it in any other productions (until now ... see below), but I suppose it could turn up somewhere. It's obviously a really minor structure, just a simple shed, and it looks portable. But what's interesting about it here is where they put it: right below one of the most famous rocks at Iverson, Lone Ranger Rock. For that reason I've been referring to it as Lone Ranger Rock Shed — the obvious names tend to be easiest to remember. In the shot above, which looks toward the west, Lone Ranger Rock isn't especially clear but that's it above and to the right of the shed. The big cluster of rocks that dominates the top-center of the photo is in Garden of the Gods, and includes Tower Rock (also known as Indian Head).

A closer look at Lone Ranger Rock Shed gives a better idea of its proximity to Lone Ranger Rock, which appears in the top right corner. Many of you will probably recognize the rider from his back, but of course that's Paladin, the "Gun" in "Have Gun Will Travel," always in black, played by Richard Boone.

A still closer look at the shed spotlights its simple appointments — sterile enough that if we didn't know any better it might look like a studio set. But what gives it away here is the glimpse of the southeastern corner of Garden of the Gods at top left. These rocks can still be found off Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, and can be accessed by a fairly easy hike through the portion of the former Iverson Movie Ranch that has been preserved as Garden of the Gods Park.

I was just about finished with this post when I realized the same shed — and yes, it's definitely portable — also appears in another episode, later in the season, moved to a different part of Iverson. The above screen shot is from the episode "The Trial," which aired June 11, 1960. The shed looks a lot more beat-up here but still appears to be the same one, based on its windows, door and roofline. It shows up this time in the Cave Rocks area, which is now the swimming pool area of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village. I'm sticking with the name "Lone Ranger Rock Shed," as the earlier placement of the shed near Lone Ranger Rock is just so iconic (and what else would it be called anyway).

I've included a link below to the complete Season 3 DVD release of "Have Gun Will Travel," available on Amazon.com. The series is a good one for Iverson sightings, and Season 3 is among the best seasons. I found Iverson content in eight of the 39 episodes, including the two episodes mentioned above, and I still have a few left to scan. The show produces a lot of "Iverson surprises" — and besides, it's a good show.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A tale of two filming locations

This post is a little off topic, as I usually focus on the Iverson Movie Ranch. But it concerns two filming locations that pop up regularly in many of the old Westerns and other movies that also feature Iverson: Vasquez Rocks and Corriganville.


The above photo is a contemporary shot of the stunning Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, located more or less between the Santa Clarita Valley and the Antelope Valley. In case you're unfamiliar with the rocks and their scale, it's a massive formation. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you may be able to make out a tiny group of people near the middle of the shot, positioned atop the recessed portion of the rock.

Tiburcio Vasquez

The rocks are named after the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who, legend has it, hid out there in the 1870s. A great many movies and TV shows have been shot at the site over the years — not quite approaching the sheer volume of productions shot at Iverson, but still pretty respectable. Even today you can sometimes spot new TV commercials featuring the distinctively angular rocks of Vasquez. Car companies are especially fond of shooting their ads at the location.

"Star Trek"

Among the hundreds of productions shot there, a few of the more famous ones are "Blazing Saddles," the "Flintstones" live-action films — where the rocks provide the backdrop for the town of Bedrock — and some episodes of the original "Star Trek" TV show.

Melody Ranch — before it was destroyed by fire in 1962

Santa Clarita Valley natives are rightfully proud of their area's movie history, which, like that of Iverson in Chatsworth, goes all the way back to the silent era. Unlike Chatsworth — where development took hold faster than it did in the more remote Santa Clarita area — the SCV still has a few working movie ranches, with Disney's Golden Oak Ranch and the rebuilt Melody Ranch among the main ones.

The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society does a good job of getting the word out about the area's movie history, and a number of events take place regularly in the area — classes, tours, the Cowboy Poetry Festival, etc. — to help keep the legacy alive. This information is easy to find online, with the Historical Society's website a great place to start.


Incorrectly labeled photo, from scvhistory.com

A while back I discovered a mistake on the SCV Historical Society site, where a photo of some early Western actors at Corriganville in Simi Valley, seen above, was attributed to Vasquez Rocks — about 35 miles away. Most site visitors would never notice the mistake, even though the rock formations don't look much like Vasquez Rocks. But any film location researcher familiar with Simi Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains — and there are a few of us — would easily recognize the rocky formation toward the left of the shot. The photo, by the way, is a promotional still from the 1943 Monogram Western "Death Valley Rangers," shot at Corriganville.

Corriganville's Fort Apache, with "Rock Face" in background

That formation, which I've been calling "Rock Face" in my research for years, is seen in the backgrounds of countless productions filmed at Corriganville. (Update: I learned about a year after posting this blog entry that the formation has been called "Fort Apache Rock" by Corriganville historians.) The above screen shot is just one example, from the 1952 Ben Johnson movie "Wild Stallion." Rock Face/Fort Apache Rock was easy to spot behind Corriganville's Fort Apache, as in the above shot, or looming over many of the movie ranch's chase roads. There's no mistaking that it's the same formation seen in the shot of the movie cowboys above it.

Interpretive sign at Corriganville

Underscoring the point that there's no question about this sighting, Rock Face/Fort Apache Rock even appears on one of those "interpretive signs" at the former site of Fort Apache, which is now part of Corriganville Regional Park. A couple of the other hills seen in the SCV Historical Society photo can also be seen here.



I made an attempt at the time to let the SCV Historical Society know about the mistake, but I never heard back. (Update: The SCVHS website appears to have since taken down the photo.) Nothing alarming about any of that — people are busy these days, and who has time for that sort of thing? Unfortunately, I soon realized that, as tends to happen in the digital age, the misinformation had already found its way all over the Internet.

Sadly, one place the errant photo appears is right on the cover of what I'm sure is a terrific book, "Santa Clarita Valley," part of the "Images of America" series. Poor John Boston, author of the book. He's a highly respected SCV historian, known as "Mr. Santa Clarita Valley," and from all accounts, a great guy. And it doesn't seem to me that any of this is his fault. He apparently got his photos from the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, which is co-credited on the book. I'll just say that if I had written a book about, oh, say Chatsworth, and then found out the cover, which one would presume would depict Chatsworth, actually had a picture of some other place ... well, let's just say it would bug me.

Magic Johnson

My heart goes out to the people involved in the book and the website. These kinds of mistakes are all too easy to make. The only way to be sure we avoid them would be to not do anything, and that's no good. I often cite the example of Magic Johnson, who led the NBA in turnovers during his Hall of Fame career — and also led the Lakers to nine NBA Finals and five championships. The point is he made things happen, and when you do that, sometimes things go wrong.

An argument could be made for keeping quiet about all this. After all, it's an unfixable problem: The book's already out there, and the photo is all over the place, mislabeled as Vasquez. But I'm a journalist and a historian, and to me everything starts with accuracy. I hope the people at the Historical Society, presumably also being historians at heart, understand and don't mind finding out this way. Anyway, below is a link where you can buy the book off Amazon — maybe they'll change the cover for later editions and this one will be a collector's item.