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.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

1958: The Battle of Bald Knob

"Have Gun Will Travel" (1959)

One of the more intriguing rocks to be found in the Iverson Gorge during the filming days was a seemingly gravity-defying sandstone behemoth that I have been referring to in my research as Bald Knob. In the photo above, taken from the episode of the TV series "Have Gun Will Travel" titled "Heritage of Anger," which premiered June 6, 1959, Bald Knob is the large rock hovering above the character at the center of the frame.

This version of the shot pinpoints Bald Knob, along with Nyoka Cliff in the background. The camera is facing south here.

"Law of the Range" (1941)

Bald Knob also makes an appearance in the Johnny Mack Brown Western "Law of the Range," from Universal, as seen in the promo still above. The camera is again facing south, and in the background at top right, a portion of the still undeveloped western San Fernando Valley is visible. The promo shot is courtesy of Western movie historian Jerry England.

Here's the "Law of the Range" promo still with a few features identified, and you'll note that in this shot Lone Ranger Rock is visible, although it's seen from its less familiar back side.

"Go West, Young Lady" (1941)

This shot of Iverson's Upper Gorge comes from another 1941 movie, Columbia's "Go West, Young Lady," a musical comedy/Western that starred Glenn Ford, Penny Singleton and Ann Miller. Here again, Bald Knob is near the center of the frame. This time the camera is looking north.

This version of the "Go West, Young Lady" shot points out a number of features of the Iverson Gorge, notably Rock Island. You can see additional photos of Rock Island and learn what became of it by clicking here.

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1958)

One production that makes nice use of Bald Knob is "The Gatling Gun," an episode of the "Wyatt Earp" TV series that premiered Oct. 21, 1958. In the above screen shot from the episode, Bald Knob is hard to miss in the foreground — even with a chunk of its "knob" cut off — at the right of the frame.

The "Wyatt Earp" episode is one of the few productions I've seen that goes so far as to incorporate Bald Knob into a battle sequence, with soldiers using the rock as cover, as seen in the shot above. Based on these shots, I think of the sequence as depicting the "Battle of Bald Knob" — but I do want to make it clear that it's just something I made up.

This shot offers a look at the then-state-of-the-art weapon of war that gives the episode its title, "The Gatling Gun." In this scene the gun is being deployed by Wyatt Earp next to Hawk Rock. The episode showcases a series of picturesque Lower Iverson rocks — almost as though the director told his production team, "Just wheel the gun around and get shots of it in front of a bunch of cool rocks." (I can picture him shouting it through a bullhorn, but then, I have a fairly vivid imagination.)

Here's the same shot with Hawk Rock pointed out, along with Garden of the Gods Trail, which is heavily featured during the Battle of Bald Knob — and which remains in place today, serving as the main entrance to Garden of the Gods Park. I will revisit this episode soon in an upcoming blog post that will highlight some of those Gatling gun "photo ops" with various rocks.

"Deathsport" (1978)

One of the final appearances of Bald Knob — most likely its last in any production — came in the 1978 sci-fi feature film "Deathsport," from producer Roger Corman, who by that time had a long history of moviemaking at Iverson. In this low-budget action pic, futuristic motorcycles are seen racing past Bald Knob, visible here toward the left of the screen.

Here's another shot from "Deathsport" that showcases Bald Knob. Roger Corman, who's now 88 years old and is still actively producing movies, shot a number of pictures at Iverson over the course of his long career, going all the way back to his first film as a director — the fine Western "Five Guns West," released in 1955. I've blogged before about the terrific Iverson shoot for "Five Guns West," and you can read that entry by clicking here.

In this version of the previous "Deathsport" shot I've highlighted a few of the features, mainly because I wanted to point out that Hawk Rock, which was a close neighbor to Bald Knob, is visible in the shot. Hawk Rock has survived, and today holds a plaque dedicating Iverson's Garden of the Gods as public parkland. You can read more about Hawk Rock here, or click here to read about the rock's unusual appearance in the John Ford Western "Stagecoach."

"Deathsport" is about as close as we can come to seeing what Bald Knob would look like today if it were still above ground. Sadly, Bald Knob did not survive the development of the Iverson Gorge in the late 1980s, when the terrain of the Gorge was dramatically altered by grading to enable construction of the Cal West Townhomes. In all likelihood, Bald Knob today is buried somewhere beneath Redmesa Road. But in this shot from the 1978 movie you can see Bald Knob up close, at the left, along with its neighbor Hawk Rock.

Here's the same "Deathsport" shot with a few of the key features noted.

For a follow-up to this post, focused on the question of whether Bald Knob was real or fake, please click here.

Below you will find links to some of the productions mentioned in this post, for sale on DVD on Amazon.com:


2 comments:

Mark said...

So, Bald Knob was not manmade? Great post! Thanks!

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your comment, Mark, and great question. I've often wondered that myself. What have you heard? For that matter, if anyone else has heard anything, I would love to get any additional info on Bald Knob that might be out there.

For now, all we have are the sightings of Bald Knob in movies and TV shows, and while there's plenty of evidence to be found, I wouldn't say it's conclusive.

Clearly, something about the rock doesn't look natural. But based on the weight of evidence I've seen, my hunch is that Bald Knob was the real deal. Still, I think it received "help" at some point, in the form of structural reinforcement.

There's a lot more to be said about the rock. I've been going over my Bald Knob sightings since I saw your comment -- I have sightings of it going back to "Miracle Rider" in 1935. I plan to do a follow-up post on Bald Knob soon. It's an intriguing rock, to say the least.

Thanks again!

-SN