Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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Monday, May 5, 2014

More to the story of Midway House: Here's a movie where it appeared as a two-story house ... and how easy it is to see that it's fake

"Return to Warbow" (1958)

The above screen shot from the Columbia Western "Return to Warbow," starring Phil Carey, features the Iverson Movie Ranch's Midway House, which I recently wrote about in a blog entry that you can find by clicking here. In the short time since I wrote that post the house turned up again in this movie, and this time it's a two-story building — or so they want us to believe.

It took me back for a moment when I saw it as two stories, until I realized how kind of obviously fake it looks — and how easily the two-story effect was achieved. All it took was building a fake front for a supposed second story and propping it up on the roof of the main house. The amusing thing is the shadow gives it away. If you look closely at the shadow cast by the second story, it's clearly a shadow that would be cast by a false front — not the full-sized shadow that a full second story would cast.

Here's another look at the original screen shot with the shadow highlighted and the nearby Fury Set identified. It's easy to miss the Fury buildings because that background is dark, but if you squint you may be able to make out the barn on the left and a small house on the right.


Cliff Roberts said...

I just watched Return to Warbow the other night. I believe when the shot faced to the south you could see the south rim rocks, Easter Island and the Wall. thanks for the blog.

Swami Nano said...

Hi Cliff ...

It's good to hear from you — thanks for your comment. "Return to Warbow" is definitely worth more attention from a location standpoint, and I'll probably have to blog about it again soon. I realized after I put up this post that it's hard to see what's "wrong" with the shadow, as the shot seems a little darker here than in my original screen grab. But the shadow doesn't go all the way to the top of the roof, as it would have to do if it were the shadow of a fully formed second story.

Good call about those shots looking south. The movie includes a number of cool views of the South Rim area, as seen both from Midway House and from the Fury Barn. One shot looking out the south-facing door to the barn is especially interesting because it shows what appears to be some prominent South Rim rocks such as Turtle Rock as seen from inside the barn, and it looks to me like the shot is a "legitimate" shot from the inside of the barn. I always prefer that to the usual way it's done, using a studio interior with some fake (and usually fake-looking) rocks or a generic rocky landscape outside the door that they want us to believe is actually outside the building (when it's really done in some studio downtown or in Hollywood). So bravo to the filmmakers for that shot.

But I'm less than satisfied with the movie's handling of the two-story house, even though they put some effort into it. I may put up yet another blog post about it. It becomes clear later in the movie why they needed a two-story house, as the kid climbs out a second-story window at one point and it's a key plot development. The shots of the kid climbing out do a decent job of replicating the look of the house with the fake front. But they really blew it when they tried to show the house as seen from the barn, as they tried to get away with using a matte version of a house that looks nothing like it. Did you notice how horrible the attempt was to replicate the house in those shots from the barn? (One good example can be seen around the 22:11 mark, at least on my DVD.) The house they inserted for those shots is about 10 times the size of Midway House and looks nothing like it. The house is so different that a lot of viewers probably wouldn't even realize they were trying to present it as the same house.

I understand that they couldn't use the real house from that angle, with its fake second story. But I wonder why they didn't just put up another fake second story on the roof of Midway House that would work from that angle? It may be that the house was too far away from the barn to get the effect they wanted, as Midway House is some distance to the south of the Fury Barn. Or it may be that they didn't realize that they needed that shot until they were in post-production and the easiest solution was to "fix it in post," as often happens.

The movie has some other interesting shots too. I expect to blog more about it in the future ... but I have to get out to Iverson first to see whether I'm seeing what I think I'm seeing. The movie's opening sequence in particular is messing with my brain.

I hope all's well in your world.

-Swami // edl // etc.