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Monday, November 10, 2014

Shazam! Historic stone buttressing found in Garden of the Gods

An exciting new discovery was made in the past week in the park area preserved as the Garden of the Gods in Chatsworth, Calif. The site is part of the former Iverson Movie Ranch, and film historians have located the stone buttressing for an old movie road. The road and buttressing were seen in a handful of movies and TV shows, including an appearance in the 1941 Republic serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel."

"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941)

This shot from Chapter 12 of the serial shows the buttressing along the bottom of the photo. I became aware of the buttressing thanks to screen shots from Kurt Spitzner, who runs the wildly informative Spin and Marty site — a site I can enthusiastically recommend to anyone who has an interest in filming locations. This is the definitive screen shot of the buttressing in "Captain Marvel," and also features distinctive background rocks.

The tall rock in the top left corner pinponts the shot as Garden of the Gods, and with that I figured the buttressing was as good as found. But as tends to be the case at Iverson, insights don't always come easy. I wound up making a series of expeditions deep into Garden of the Gods in search of the elusive buttressing, coming up empty-handed each time — and only later learning that I had been searching too far south.

Ultimately it was fellow film historian and Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts who located the feature, on a visit in early November. This is what the buttressing looks like today, with the same rocks visible in the background that appear in the "Captain Marvel" shot. The buttressing can be seen near the bottom right corner of the shot.

Another angle reveals more of the buttressing, which is in the process of "going native" and has begun to be overtaken by the local flora.

Garden of the Gods Park (Bing bird's-eye view)

Here's an overview of the Garden of the Gods area as seen from the east, indicating where the buttressing is located. I recommend clicking on the picture to see a bigger version of it.

You may be able to find your way to the buttressing more easily using this zoomed-in version of the bird's-eye view. From the park entrance off Redmesa Road (just north of Santa Susana Pass Road), head up the Garden of the Gods Trail and keep going more or less in the same direction, straight across to the western side of Garden of the Gods. The buttressing area is just past the Phantom.

Garden of the Gods (1952 aerial photo)

Here's another perspective on where the buttressing is located in relation to the rest of Garden of the Gods, as it appeared in an aerial shot from 1952, during the filming era. The road that was buttressed by the stone structure was part of a network of dirt roads that criss-crossed the movie ranch. It appears to have been a minor road, and is barely visible in the old aerials.

The segment of the road in the area of the buttressing seems to roughly follow this path. The road appears to end abruptly just south of the buttressing, where the terrain becomes too rocky for a road.

Here's another look at the 1952 aerial without annotation directly on top of the road, to make it easier to see the road. However, I'll note again that the road is barely visible in these old aerials. Here I've also noted Sphinx and Phantom, two major landmarks located near the buttressed road.

The road that the buttressing was once there to buttress is little more than a dirt trail today, as this Bing bird's-eye view points out. This view is looking from the north.

This version of the bird's-eye view adds IDs for a few of the surrounding rock features.

"Adventures of Captain Marvel" owns at least a couple of major distinctions. Not only do many serial aficionados call it the best serial ever made — although Republic's "Spy Smasher" is also usually in the conversation — but "Captain Marvel" also is credited with being the production that started the trend of superheroes making the jump from comic books to the big screen — a trend that remains a big part of popular culture today, with Spider-Man, the Avengers, X-Men, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and others following suit.

Captain Marvel's Superman-like qualities

Captain Marvel is often compared to Superman, who became more of a household name due in large part to the popular 1950s TV show "Adventures of Superman." This 1941 poster for "Captain Marvel" uses language reminiscent of the familiar "Superman" TV opening: "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" Both descriptions appear to have originated in 1941, with the Superman mantra going back to the first of a series of eight revered Fleischer Studios "Superman" cartoons.

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

The stone buttressing in the Garden of the Gods area did not appear frequently in productions, but it does show up in at least one TV show, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp." The sequence seen above and in the shots that follow appears in the episode "My Husband," which first aired June 10, 1958.

This shot from the "Wyatt Earp" episode takes place moments later, following a bloodbath, and has the nice added touch of a dead guy's arm draped over the buttressing, not to mention another dead guy face down just below it. Earp is recognizable in his white shirt, second from left, and that's Doc Holliday sitting on the rock at right.

Earp, played by Hugh O'Brian, and Myron Healey as Doc showcase another vantage point on the buttressing.

Why not get another look at that dead guy's arm as long as Doc's sitting there showing off another angle on the buttressing area.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

All good things come in time,