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 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

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A "Star Trek" shooting location — lost to history for almost half a century — has been found

It may come as a surprise given that "Star Trek: The Original Series" was all about exploring the universe, but the TV show rarely ventured outside the studio.

Only nine of the 79 episodes produced over the course of three seasons were shot on location, while another five episodes made it only as far as the backlot at Desilu Studios. The rest of the series, which aired on NBC from 1966-1969, was all done on soundstages.

The Gorn menaces Capt. Kirk in "Arena," 
shot at Vasquez Rocks

Those few location shoots have been a source of intrigue among "Star Trek" aficionados. Some shoots, such as the one shown above for the "Arena" episode at Vasquez Rocks, have become legendary. The episode featured an infamous fight sequence between Kirk and the rubber-suited Gorn across the distinctively tilted rocks. Vasquez was the remote location of choice for "The Original Series," with four episodes shot there.

Landscape of Planet Neural in "A Private Little War," 
shot at Bell Location Ranch

"Trek" insiders have been working for years to determine the rest of the locations where "The Original Series," or "TOS," was shot, and that work is now pretty much complete. One of the most challenging episodes to figure out was "A Private Little War," which first aired Feb. 2, 1968, during the second season. I'm happy to be able to confirm that the location for this episode has been found: "A Private Little War" was shot on the lower plateau of the Bell Location Ranch, in the Santa Susana Mountains above Box Canyon, just outside of Chatsworth, Calif.

"A Private Little War"

The location shoot for "A Private Little War" has been widely misunderstood. Through a brief online search I found sites attributing the episode separately to Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon, and I've seen a YouTube clip — no longer posted — by a fan who speculated it was shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch. Not one of those theories turns out to be correct. "Star Trek: TOS" did shoot one episode at Bronson Canyon — season two's "Bread and Circuses," which aired March 15, 1968. But the series never shot at Iverson.

A March 2013 expedition by a group of film historians to the site of the former Bell Ranch, spearheaded by "TOS" location expert Larry Herdman, finally unlocked the mysteries of "A Private Little War." One of the first signs the group was on to something was the sight of these rugged cliffs looming over Bell Ranch's lower plateau.

Here's that same rugged cliff area, as seen in early 1968 (but shot in late 1967) in "A Private Little War." The shot leaves no doubt as to where the episode was taped.

In an early scene from "A Private Little War," a small band of Villagers sets up an ambush in the rocks. The scene takes place in a group of rocks near the edge of Bell Ranch's lower plateau.

This is what that same group of rocks looks like today — pretty much the same as when the episode was taped in late 1967, although the lighting conditions give the rocks a darker appearance.

A closer shot of two of the guys in the ambush shows them hiding in a small cluster of rocks.

This is that same cluster, as seen today.

Here's a wider view of the ambush area today, with the San Fernando Valley in the background. The small cluster seen above with the two ambushers is just to the left of center in this shot.

A little to the east, four Hill People walk past a rock with distinctive circular markings — unaware they're walking into an ambush.

Here's that same rock today, with the markings still easy to identify.

Pulling back for a wider view of that area today, the angular rock seen above with the distinctive circular markings appears at the far left of the frame. (For a better look at it, click on the photo to enlarge it.) The area where the Villagers would have been waiting in ambush is at the far right. Here again, the San Fernando Valley is seen in the background.

Another distinctive rock, photographed during the March 2013 expedition to Bell Ranch's lower plateau.

A portion of that same rock can be seen behind McCoy in the "TOS" episode, in the top right corner.

Here's another rock photographed during the recent visit to Bell Ranch.

And here's the same rock in another screen shot of an injured McCoy. The two angles are pretty close, and you should be able to easily spot similarities in the rock's shapes and markings between the two shots.

Spock was a part of at least one landing party during the episode and joined Kirk in romping around Bell Ranch's rocky terrain.

One of the main characters in the episode is Nona, who is being attacked by a Villager in this scene near the end of "A Private Little War." It seems to me that this shot inadvertently exposes some buildings in the background at the right — a blurry glimpse of the western San Fernando Valley circa late 1967.

This photo shows that same general area of the Valley in recent times. I don't think it's possible to match up specific buildings, as the angle is not exactly the same and the place has grown a lot in the past 45 years. But the same cliff face is seen in both shots — at the left in the above shot and at the center in the "TOS" shot, directly above the Villager's head. If you look closely you should be able to make out the same horizontal markings and "pock marks" in both shots, although this match isn't quite as obvious as some of those above.

For additional views of the Bell Ranch shoot for "A Private Little War," please click here to see a blog entry by movie location expert Jerry England.

"A Private Little War"

With the discovery that "A Private Little War" was shot on the Bell Location Ranch, the bulk of the location research for "TOS" is now done. But at least one loose end remains.

"This Side of Paradise" — widely believed to be 
shot at Golden Oak Ranch

A certain amount of mystery still surrounds the 1967 episode "This Side of Paradise" from season one, which is generally thought to be shot at Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon near Newhall, Calif. Golden Oak continues to be used as a filming facility and is closed to the public, so "TOS" historians have yet to get a look at the site to verify the shoot.

A warning about Bell Ranch: The former movie location site also remains closed to the public, hidden behind locked gates and difficult to access. While the lower plateau is still relatively undeveloped, much of the rest of Bell is now occupied by residential housing. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry about a "Bonanza" shoot on Bell's lower plateau, the area is defended by residents who don't appreciate strangers traipsing around on their turf — and other hikers who have gone into the area have received something less than a warm welcome from the locals.

1 comment:

Swami Nano said...

Yes, any uncertainty about the "Star Trek" shoot at Golden Oak Ranch that may have still lingered two years ago has since been put to rest, largely through the detailed location work done by the webmaster. It's a great site and I recommend a visit there to anyone with an interest in filming locations. The focus is on "Spin and Marty," which shot extensively at Golden Oak and a little bit at Iverson. But the location research on display at the site extends well beyond Golden Oak and beyond "Spin and Marty." is a unique site and an important resource — plan to spend some time there!