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.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave comments on any of the posts.
• To find specific 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 join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• 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.
• 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 go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
• Readers can email the webmaster at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cowboy star Gene Autry in action at the Iverson Movie Ranch



The video above contains the climactic chase sequence from the 1947 B-Western "Robin Hood of Texas," Gene Autry's final movie for Republic Pictures before he spun off Gene Autry Productions and aligned with Columbia. The action takes place almost entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., with just a few shots using stock background footage from other sites. 

I'll spotlight some of the features seen in the clip above with still shots from the video, below. I'm including the times to point readers to where these shots can be found in the clip:

0:09 — A wagon speeds along one of the main chase roads on the Upper Iverson, located in the South Rim area.

0:13 — In one of only a few shots in the clip NOT filmed at Iverson, Gene Autry joins the chase after mounting up at a barn on the Republic backlot in Studio City. The former Republic lot is still involved in the production of movies and TV shows, as the site is now the CBS Studio Center. Unfortunately, all of the outdoor sets from the Republic era have been leveled.

0:24 — Another shot filmed on the Upper Iverson, this one is interesting for the non-Iverson content seen in the background. The flat area at top right is part of the neighboring Brandeis Ranch, which was located immediately to the west of the Upper Iverson, and which was also used for filming for a brief period, mainly in the late 1930s. This flat section, which I call the Brandeis Plain, was separated from Iverson by the low line of trees you can see in this shot. One item of interest in the shot, although it's just a tiny feature in the background, is the rock formation that can be seen on the Brandeis Plain. It's a small white two-part rock stack, against the dark background of a tree. This rock, which I call the Sherman Tank, is still in place, and is now a part of the gated community that occupies the former Upper Iverson and Brandeis properties.

Here's the same shot with notations to make it easier to find the Sherman Tank and to indicate how the two movie ranches were oriented.

This is what the Sherman Tank looks like today, part of the decor at Indian Falls Estates, the gated community that occupies much of the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch and neighboring Brandeis Ranch. The Sherman Tank was on Brandeis property during the filming era.

Here's a real Sherman Tank for comparison. The rock reminds me more of a Sherman Tank in reverse, with its gun aimed over the large, flat rear surface. I couldn't find a shot of that, but that's one of the "tactics" I used to employ during my tank-playing days. (My tanks were much smaller than the real ones, and made of plastic — but I had a lot of them.)

0:27 — Gene rides along a chase road on the Upper Iverson. The distinctive beak-shaped rock at top right is Eagle Beak Rock, a feature that turns up consistently in chase sequences in the B-Westerns and early TV Westerns. If you watch the video clip closely, the chase in "Robin Hood of Texas" speeds past Eagle Beak Rock multiple times.

0:30 — Not far from Eagle Beak Rock was, and still is, a rock that film historians call the Molar. Eagle Beak Rock is seen again in this shot, and the Molar is directly below it — a three-part rock that resembles the crown of a large tooth.

The same shot, with Eagle Beak Rock and the Molar highlighted.

Here's the Molar in recent times, part of the landscape of a driveway in the gated community. I talk about the discovery of the Molar in this earlier blog post.

0:38 — Gene is a blur as he rides past Round Rock, which isn't looking exceptionally round from this angle.

Round Rock as it appears today, in the lower left corner, with much of the frame filled by Prominent Rock, also known as Medicine Rock.

0:46 — Gene takes a shortcut through the rocks, and as he heads south he goes past a rock I call Bignose, seen framing Gene in this screen shot.

This is what Bignose looks like today, on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson.

1:09 — Cut to the Lower Iverson, where Gene rides past Stegosaurus, above and to the left of Gene, and Bill Rock, to the right.

Here's a detail shot from the top left corner of the above screen shot. This portion shows Stegosaurus, framed something like the way it is in the recent shot below.

Here's a closeup of Stegosaurus in modern times.

"Red River Renegades" (1946): Bill Rock, left; Cactus Hill, background; Stegosaurus, right.

Bill Rock comes up a lot in the old Westerns, and is a useful marker, as it's easily identified by its "bill" on top. Even though the above screen shot from the Sunset Carson B-Western "Red River Renegades" is taken looking north, from the opposite angle of the Gene Autry shot, the bill remains identifiable. Stegosaurus is unrecognizable from this angle, but that's it at the right.

It's hard to get a decent shot of Bill Rock in modern times because of a tree that conceals much of the rock. This shot — looking north again, similar to the "Red River Renegades" shot — is about the best we can do. The shot also shows the rock's proximity to the condos that now occupy much of the former Lower Iverson.

2:01 — Back on the Upper Iverson, the wagon continues along a chase road in what is now the cul de sac area. The distinctive rocks at the far left — I call them the Cul de Sac Crew — remain in place today, at the end of a cul de sac filled with large residential estates.

Here's a view of the Cul de Sac Crew in recent times. It's not obvious how the above two shots match up, but the rock seen in the color shot above, with a circular "hole" in it near the center of the shot, is the same rock seen in the black-and-white screen shot, at the very far left — and that same hole can be seen there, too.

2:25 — Here's some of that stock background footage I mentioned earlier, with the actors being filmed in a studio while location footage winds past them on a screen in the back. It looks to me as though this particular background sequence might be shot at Burro Flats, a filming location that was located just a few miles southwest of Iverson. The fake sequences seen in this movie do not appear to me to be Iverson, although Iverson footage was sometimes used in that manner. At any rate, to my eye these fake shots have a much different appearance to them from the actual on-location chase footage shot for this movie at Iverson, with the fake footage looking, well, fake, while the backgrounds are sharper and more realistic in the location shots. If you're following the video clip itself, you can probably see it too. (Another example of the fake backgrounds begins around 1:47.)

3:06 — Here's a nice shot of Gene and his horse, Champion, up near the eastern end of Cactus Hill, looking down on the wagon still speeding along a well-traveled Upper Iverson chase road, with Oak Flats in the background. Gene is looking more or less toward the west.

3:24 — Another look at the wagon as the action approaches its climactic moment. This shot looks north, with Oat Mountain filling the background. The dark triangular feature near the top of Oat Mountain, directly above the two men, is an important identifying mark I call the Triangle Brand, which has helped me identify Iverson in the movies countless times. The feature is formed by a patch of trees and bushes, and remains plainly visible today in the hills above the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley.

3:26 — A stuntman dressed up as Gene Autry earns his pay by braving the perilous rock ledge known as Ambush Rock. Today Ambush Rock is in the back yard of an estate on the former Upper Iverson.

This is what Ambush Rock looks like today. Western film historian Tinsley E. Yarbrough was lucky enough to pay a visit to the site a few years back and captured this gorgeous shot of the rock in its fully landscaped contemporary setting.

3:33 — As the wagon speeds by, the stuntman prepares to take a flying leap off Ambush Rock.

3:33 — The stuntman flings himself toward the wagon ...

3:34 — ... and lands safely in the back of the wagon.

3:48 — Now the stuntman has been replaced by Gene, who proceeds to beat up bad guys as the wagon rumbles along.

4:08 — These two shots of Gene in the wagon — still working over that baddie here — are done in the studio, and provide another example of the fake background footage mentioned above. As with the previous example, my best guess is that this background material was filmed at Burro Flats.


4:17 — Back to the stuntman, now focused on subduing the second bad guy, and we're back to an actual location shot, with the wagon racing past the Upper Iverson feature known as Prominent Rock, or Medicine Rock, looking nice and rugged in the top right corner.

4:18 — The stuntman continues to have his way with Baddie No. 2 while the wagon speeds past the Iverson rock known as Frankenstein, directly above the two men fighting. Much of the background in the above two shots is taken up by Cactus Hill.

4:45 — Finally, Gene has control of the wagon. It's another studio shot with that fake background footage — Burro Flats or whatever it is this time.

This chase sequence provides a nice taste of the kind of action that was Iverson's bread and butter during the heyday of the B-Western and the early TV era. It's also a pretty good showcase for Gene Autry's formidable on-screen presence. Even though some of the heavy lifting in this action sequence is done by stuntmen — and even though it's kind of obvious at times, due in part to the primitive editing standards of 1940s B-Westerns and in part to our increased sophistication as movie watchers — the sequence represents Autry at his cowboy hero finest, more than holding up his end of the impressive riding and fighting.

For more clips like this, please check out my YouTube channel, which you can find by clicking here.

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It looks as though "Robin Hood of Texas" is getting hard to find, but the Amazon links below may help. The first one is for this movie — if it's still available — and the others are for various Gene Autry DVD sets.





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Below are links to some of the work of Western film researcher Tinsley E. Yarbrough, who provided the recent shot of Ambush Rock seen above, and whose book "Those Great Western Movie Locations" sets a high bar for the rest of us. Yarbrough is also a respected judicial scholar who has written a number of acclaimed biographies of Supreme Court justices and other important studies of the nation's highest court. Here's just a small sample of his body of work:




Sunday, December 1, 2013

You can't tell me you don't see these faces ...

"The Cisco Kid" TV series, episode "Ride On," original airdate Nov. 19, 1951

On the surface the above screen shot depicts a routine sequence from a "Cisco Kid" episode with a dark horse at a gallop, almost unnoticed at the left of the screen. The sequence is shot on the old Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., and includes a familiar feature, Eagle Beak Rock, in the top left corner. But would you just look at those other rocks? Some of them are almost unbelievably weird.

Let's take a closer look ...

This group has a lot going on.

Doesn't this rock look like some kind of ancient king? And what's he doing with a puppy on his head?


Here's the puppy.

Don't overlook this guy — sort of a 
hollow-eyed space something-or-other.

Or this guy — a grumpy Sesame Street 
character wearing a vest.

I'm not sure what to make of this one.

I see either a little girl or a doll here.

This one looks a bit demonic — which
may "explain" the rest of them.

That's kind of a lot in one freeze-frame — and I have a feeling I've missed a few. I honestly think it's just weird rocks, shot in a weird light using a weird color process that made them turn out looking weird. Still, I find this stuff mighty intriguing. That demon in the last shot goes 3D if you look at it long enough. Heck, they all do ... some of them just take a little longer.

Click here for the "tricks of light" thread, which is more of this sort of thing.

Below are some links to the "Cisco Kid" TV series on DVD and Blu-ray:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adventures of the Three Stooges on the Iverson Movie Ranch, Part III: "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules"

The third and final entry in the series "Adventures of the Three Stooges on the Iverson Movie Ranch" focuses on the 1962 movie "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules," in which Iverson is used to depict ancient Greece. The movie is probably the most highly regarded of the three movies in this series, although admittedly the bar isn't very high when it comes to the later Stooges efforts.

This Dell "Movie Classic" comic book was issued in connection with the movie in 1961, with the movie itself following on Feb. 15, 1962. Hamming it up with the Stooges for the cover shot is Samson Burke, who plays Hercules in the movie. "Hercules" did reasonably well at the box office, making the Stooges some money and helping to make up for their being underpaid throughout most of their careers.

Here's an example of what the comic book looks like on the inside.

"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

The Stooges lineup for "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" includes, as always, Larry and Moe, with the rotating third spot filled this time around by Joe DeRita (or "Curly Joe"). With them in the shot above are Vicki Trickett and Quinn K. Redeker. Behind Quinn, in the top left corner, is the time machine that has just delivered the group to Greece in the time of Hercules, circa 800 B.C. — although they're really on the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., in 1961.

Moe and Larry on the South Rim, in "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules"

This shot includes a "special effect" of the time machine materializing over ancient Greece (supposedly) — and also features a beautiful view of a rock I call Water Turtle. The rock appeared in many movies and TV shows, and is still in place on the former Upper Iverson. Today it's part of a private residential property, and as far as I know it has never been documented by film historians in its contemporary setting.

I have a hard time explaining the name "Water Turtle," but here's a picture of a real one. Maybe the name works for you, maybe not.

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

Here's an earlier movie appearance by Water Turtle — looking less "turtle-like" this time, but revealing some of the background hills and neighboring rocks. This shot from Republic's 1949 Roy Rogers movie "The Golden Stallion" includes an unusually large herd of horses on the Upper Iverson — unusual because filmmakers had to pay by the head for bringing livestock onto the site, so they usually kept it to a minimum.

A substantial battle sequence was filmed at Iverson for "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules."

This view of the battle includes a few Iverson rocks. The battle was filmed in the South Rim area of what was then the Upper Iverson.

Another shot from the battle introduces the Greek hero Hercules — even though that's his Roman name. His Greek name was Heracles, but for some reason he has gone down in history as a Greek hero known mainly by a Roman name. Anyway, the above two shots are filmed in the same spot and include most of the same rocks.

That's Eagle Beak Rock in the top-left corner, as the production continues to shoot in the South Rim area on the Upper Iverson.

"Oklahoma Territory" (1960): Gloria Talbott sees something; Eagle Beak Rock in the background

Here's another look at Eagle Beak Rock from almost the identical angle, from the United Artists B-Western "Oklahoma Territory." The point of this shot is to show Eagle Beak Rock with more of its surroundings — but also seen here are some of the same rocks that appear in the "Hercules" shot above this one.

"Rocky Mountain Rangers" (1940)

This shot of Eagle Beak Rock, taken from a familiar chase angle, is more representative of what the rock usually looks like when it appears in movies and TV shows. That's Eagle Beak Rock at the far left. The shot is from Republic's Three Mesquiteers movie "Rocky Mountain Rangers" — which is in my personal pantheon of the Greatest Iverson Productions. This is such a big deal that I capitalized all three of those words: Greatest Iverson Productions.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950) — Eagle Beak Rock

Another familiar view of Eagle Beak Rock, in color this time, as seen in the Columbia Western "Calamity Jane and the Texan."

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

Here's what Eagle Beak Rock looks like up close.

Eagle Beak Rock is seen here in its contemporary setting, as part of a residential landscape.

Prominent Rock, also known as Medicine Rock, appears directly behind the Greek warrior's head, at top right, in another battle shot from "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules."

This is Prominent Rock from the same angle — from farther away, in color and in the top-left corner this time — as seen in the 1949 movie "The Golden Stallion." The shot gives an idea of the kind of space the filmmakers had available to stage that battle sequence in "Hercules."

Another shot from "The Golden Stallion" illustrates how Prominent Rock could be featured artistically, effectively becoming a part of the action. At least that's what I see. Your mileage may vary.

From a different angle, here's a photo of Prominent Rock as it looks nowadays. This shot is from 2009. The photo also shows Round Rock, the much smaller rock near the bottom left corner.

This screen shot shows the setting for the first encounter between the Stooges and the ancient Greeks, with more South Rim rocks in the background.


Later in the movie, the action shifts to the Lower Iverson. In the above shot the Stooges are seen entering the Eucalyptus Grove area, with Flat Rock visible in the background near the Stooges. In the distance, near the center of the shot, you can see a portion of Stoney Point, off in the haze. Stoney Point is one of Chatsworth's best-known landmarks, a popular rock-climbing area next to Topanga Boulevard just below the 118 Freeway.

Here we get a closer view of Flat Rock, above Curly Joe's arm. Something else of interest here is the triple-stack rock directly above Larry's head.

For what it's worth, here's a detail taken from the above screen shot, zoomed in on the triple stack (and part of Larry's head). A larger rock is behind the triple stack, making it hard to see the smaller rock at the top of the stack.

"Escort West" (filmed in 1958, released in 1959)

The triple stack can be seen again at the far left in this screen shot from the Victor Mature movie "Escort West." It's worth pointing out that the producers chose to film a water feature for this shot — whether it was a puddle left over from a rainstorm, or they brought in their own water to create the effect. Water features were not common at Iverson, where filmmakers typically had to haul in their own water. Even so, two of the Three Stooges movies in this series — "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" and "Have Rocket, Will Travel" — both included scenes featuring Iverson Pond. (See below for more about that.)

"Have Gun, Will Travel" (1959)

A quick glimpse of a slightly blurry triple stack pops up again here, in an episode of the TV Western "Have Gun, Will Travel." It's the same stack of rocks seen in the previous shots. This episode from the show's second season, "Death of a Gunfighter," first aired March 14, 1959.

That triple-stacked rock is still around today. Here's a shot of it in recent times, along with Flat Rock to the left.

A closer look at the triple-stacked rock as it appears today reveals that it is a manmade creation. The rocks are real, but they've been joined by cement, which you can see between the top two rocks.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1953)

I haven't determined the date when the triple stack was created, but as the above shot from "The Roy Rogers Show" proves, it was around at least as early as 1953. The shot comes from the episode "Gun Trouble," which first aired Nov. 22, 1953. It's likely that this three-rock stack goes back even further, as a lot of that type of cement work took place at Iverson around 1950-1951. Another example of cement-assisted rock stacking is Gold Raiders Rock, named after the 1951 Three Stooges movie "Gold Raiders." Click here for more about Gold Raiders Rock.

"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

As they did a few years earlier in "Have Rocket, Will Travel," the Stooges paid another visit to Iverson Pond for "Hercules." Iverson Pond was a feature of Sheep Flats that appeared after a good rain. Incidentally, this is the only time I can think of that I've seen actual sheep in a production shot at Sheep Flats.

At Iverson Pond we meet a whacked-out shepherd played by comedic actor Emil Sitka, who worked extensively with the Three Stooges over the years. Toward the right of the shot, rising out of the pond, is Pond Rock. Directly above Pond Rock, peeking out through the tree, is a partial glimpse of Center Rock, which is discussed in detail here. I also talked about both Iverson Pond and Pond Rock in the entry on the Stooges' "Have Rocket, Will Travel."

The Stooges and their much taller traveling companion — Schuyler, played by Quinn Redeker — listen to the shepherd's story, with Sheep Flats in the background. The rocks in the background are mostly still in place, with the bulk of them located in the swimming pool area of the mobile home park that now occupies Sheep Flats.

Something of interest in this shot, though it's a little hard to make out, is the small shack in the background, which I call the Corral Rocks Shack. You may want to click on the photo to see a larger version.

"Bonanza" (1960) — The Corral Rocks Shack

Here's a much better look at that same shack. The name is derived from the shack's location next to a group of rocks I identify in my research as the Corral Rocks. I was calling it the "Pup Shack" early on, but eventually thought better of it as that was a dumb name — and I apologize in the unlikely case that any readers have already started calling it the Pup Shack. Anyway, this shot comes from the "Bonanza" episode "Denver McKee," which premiered Oct. 15, 1960. The shot features Dan Blocker as Hoss, with a dead guy on the ground near him.

"Marshal of Heldorado" (1950): The Corral Rocks Shack, with some of the Corral Rocks

This shot from the Lippert B-Western "Marshal of Heldorado" provides a good look at the shack's neighboring rocks, the Corral Rocks, many of which have their own names. The large, pitted rock in the top right corner is one I identify as Big B, which is also one half of a pair of large rocks widely known as the Cave Rocks. The Corral Rocks Shack's origins go back at least to 1945, when it first began appearing in movies. It was most likely built during the construction of Iverson Village, which stood from 1945 to about 1957. But the tiny shack was surprisingly resilient, outlasting the town itself by several years.

"The Virginian" (1963)

The above shot is probably the final appearance of the Corral Rocks Shack in any production. It's from an episode of the TV series "The Virginian" called "Strangers at Sundown," which aired April 6, 1963. The episode would have been shot during the winter of 1962-63, and the land you see here was sold later in 1963 to be turned into a mobile home park. It was the first portion of the Iverson Ranch to be sold off. The land seen here and in the shots above of the sheep herd is all part of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village now.

 "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

The action in "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" builds up to a climactic chariot battle filmed mostly on the Upper Iverson, with one scene shot at Iverson Pond, on the Lower Iverson. The frame above takes place in what is now the Cul de Sac area on the former Upper Iverson's South Rim.

This sequence lends itself more to video — here's the clip:




Columbia title card, 1936

The Stooges are best known for the 190 Columbia short features they cranked out from 1934-1959, which can still be seen in regular rotation on TV. In the early title card above, note the spelling of "Curley," which would later evolve into the more widely recognized "Curly," as seen below.

For most Stooges fans, Moe, Larry and Curly constituted the quintessential lineup. Curly Howard — real name Jerome Lester Horwitz — was the younger brother of Moe Howard (Moses Harry Horwitz) and Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz), and in many ways, the star of the show. You know: "Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk," "Soitenly!," "Oh, a wiseguy," etc. Curly died in 1952 after years of poor health, suffering the first of several strokes around 1944 and being replaced in the Stooges lineup by Shemp in 1946. Moe and Larry were a part of every configuration of the Stooges, with only the third spot rotating. Larry Fine was unrelated to the Howards.

Columbia title card, 1952

Shemp Howard's return to the fold in 1946 reunited the original Stooges lineup. Shemp had already done his first tour of duty back in the early 1930s, when they were known as "Ted Healy and His Stooges." Healy was reportedly an exploitive boss who underpaid the hard-working Stooges. But after they left Healy they wound up in another difficult situation, with tough-as-nails Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn taking over where Healy left off and taking advantage of the Stooges for years. During Shemp's second go-round with the Stooges, he was a part of the 1951 movie "Gold Raiders," one of the Stooges' feature films shot at Iverson. Shemp died in 1955 at age 60.

Columbia title card, 1958

Joe Besser signed on for a brief run as the third Stooge from 1957-1959 — a period that is not highly regarded by the Stooges faithful. Along with Larry Fine, Besser was one of the few Stooges who weren't related to brothers Moe, Shemp and Curly. Also noteworthy, sort of, about Besser is that he became part of a tradition of name confusion involving the third Stooge, with a Joe, a Curly and a Curly Joe all in the rotation at various times — along with a Shemp.

My research on the extensive body of work contained in the Three Stooges shorts is a long way from complete, but I'm reluctantly arriving at the conclusion that they did not film any of the shorts at Iverson. The Stooges cognoscenti have been examining shooting locations for the Columbia shorts for years, and at least one fairly comprehensive book has been written on the subject. That's the cover above, and you'll find a link below.

The previous entries in my Three Stooges series can be found by clicking here for Part I, on "Have Rocket, Will Travel," or here for Part II, on "Gold Raiders."


If you're interested in learning more about Three Stooges filming locations, the Amazon link below should take you to the book "The Three Stooges: Hollywood Filming Locations," by Jim Pauley.




Here are some other Amazon links related to the Stooges, including links for the movie "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" and a link for Moe's autobiography, "I Stooged to Conquer":