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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The march of progress claims another casualty: The Cockatoo is dead

The Cockatoo, in happier times

Raise a glass to the Cockatoo, as another noble Iverson Movie Ranch rock has gone the way of the dodo. The Cockatoo is no more.


Here's the setting where the Cockatoo rested peacefully on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson, presumably for centuries. The Cockatoo, in its characteristic reclining position, can be seen near the bottom center of the shot. You may also notice the distinctive movie rock Ol' Flattop nearby — I'll ID them both in the next shot.

This version of the shot has the Cockatoo and Ol' Flattop highlighted. The cluster of rocks seen here was situated a little bit "out back" — adjacent to a busy filming era, but not right in the main mix — back when Iverson was a hub of the movie and TV business. Still, the camera did occasionally wander out their way, as you'll see below.

"Captain Midnight" (1942)

This shot from the Columbia serial "Captain Midnight" captures a couple of relatively rare movie rocks in Ol' Flattop, at top left, and Gorilla, above the roof of the car.

Gorilla gets its name from its appearance from a different angle, which you can see below or by clicking here.

Situated at the northeast corner of Cactus Hill, the rock I call Gorilla is positioned today adjacent to lots that have been cleared for development of hillside estates.

You can probably match up Gorilla with the shot from "Captain Midnight," but here's a labeled version of the photo just in case. The angle here is a little different from the "Captain Midnight" shot — the rocks seen immediately to the left of Gorilla in "Captain Midnight" are separated from it here and can be seen more toward the left of the frame.

"Five Guns West" (1955)

Gorilla really looks like a gorilla in Roger Corman's great Iverson movie "Five Guns West," as seen here. Please click here to see additional photos from this Iverson spectacle.

Recent shot of Ol' Flattop

On my most recent visit to the former Iverson Movie Ranch, I discovered to my great disappointment that the Cockatoo has fallen victim to the bulldozers — buried alive, in a sense. You'll notice in the above shot of Ol' Flattop that this side of the rock is now abutted by dirt. The entire cluster of rocks below Ol' Flattop on its eastern side — the same group seen in the shots higher up in this post, including the Cockatoo — is now buried beneath this expanse of dirt.

Here's an illustration approximating the area that has been buried.

This version of the shot lets you see the rocks that are now hidden underground. While being buried under dirt may not sound like a death sentence for rocks, my experience with the Iverson Movie Ranch, and specifically with how the encroachment of development plays out at the site, dictates that once the rocks are buried, they stay buried.

Rock Island — or what's left of it — as it exists today: "only" about three-quarters buried

A number of widely filmed movie rocks on the Lower Iverson suffered similar fates, and are unlikely to ever be seen again. In many cases it's unknown whether a rock was buried or broken up, but among the probable burials are Plaza Rock and Bald Knob, while the fate of Rock Island is known: The once-towering rock feature was buried about three-quarters of the way up, with the "tip" of the formation still visible next to the swimming pool area in the condos, as seen in the photo above.

"Ride 'em Cowboy" (1942)

This is what Rock Island used to look like, in a screen shot from the Abbott and Costello movie "Ride 'em Cowboy." The bulk of the formation seen in this photo is now underground.

This version of the shot indicates the portion of Rock Island that remains above ground. For more about the partial burial of Rock Island, please click here.

Retaining wall for "Mansion on the Hill" being built at the east end of Cactus Hill
— the Cockatoo is buried somewhere under this dirt

The shakeup on Cactus Hill and the Upper Iverson's South Rim was triggered by construction of what appears destined to eventually be a large estate at the east end of Cactus Hill. A huge retaining wall went up about a year and a half ago, and the ongoing project has increasingly had an impact on the historic rocks and other features in the area.

Springtime on Cactus Hill

The march of progress has been going on sporadically at Iverson since the 1960s, when the land began to be repurposed from its role in filming and converted into mobile homes, condos and residential estates. Only a few areas have remained relatively pristine — including Cactus Hill, until recently.

Looking northeast from Cactus Hill toward Oat Mountain

Today the region suffers from historic drought conditions, which has slowed — but not stopped — development. In this view of the construction area at the east end of Cactus Hill we can see barren versions of a number of familiar background hills: Two-Humper on the left and Notch Hill on the right, with the sprawling Oat Mountain in the background.

The hills identified here were not on Iverson property, but appeared in the backgrounds of countless movies and TV shows shot at Iverson. Through their roles in hundreds of Westerns in particular, these heavily filmed features — like many of the iconic rocks on the Iverson Ranch — became representations of the American West for generations of film goers and TV viewers.

I can't help but wonder about the pile of rubble seen next to the construction equipment in the photo. It's unclear what this pile of rocks used to be, but that is what famous movie rocks would look like after tangling with a bulldozer.

I've blogged before about the Cockatoo — which at times I've also called either the Rock Cockatoo or the Rockatoo. You can see an earlier entry on the Cockatoo by clicking here.

"Zane Grey Theatre" (1958)

If you clicked on the Plaza Rock link I included up above and you find you want more, more, more Plaza Rock — I hear you. It's a cool rock; here's another fun Plaza Rock item.

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