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.
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• 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).
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tornado's Mine: A little-known artifact of the filming era on the Lower Iverson

"Zorro's Black Whip" (1944): Tornado's Mine

A movie set on the old Iverson Ranch that has been largely overlooked is an old fake mine entrance that once stood in the Iverson Gorge. I call it Tornado's Mine, because it was built at the southern end of a cave that film historians know as Tornado's Cave. The mine entrance had one of its most high-profile appearances in the Republic serial "Zorro's Black Whip," as seen above.

"Perils of Nyoka" (1942): Tornado's Cave (northern entrance)

The northern entrance to Tornado's Cave is much more widely documented than the southern entrance. I've blogged previously about Tornado's Cave, focusing mainly on its north end — seen above in the Republic serial "Perils of Nyoka." For a detailed look at this screen shot and additional views of Tornado's Cave, please click here to read my earlier blog entry.

The Tornado's Mine location in modern times

The mine entrance is long gone now, along with virtually all of the manmade sets that once proliferated at the Iverson Movie Ranch. That is, most of it is gone — but I'm getting ahead of myself. The above shot taken on a recent visit to the Iverson Gorge shows the mine location as it appears today.

Antonio Banderas as a latter-day Zorro in Columbia's 
"The Legend of Zorro" (2005), riding a latter-day "Tornado"

Tornado's Cave is named after Zorro's horse, Tornado, sometimes called Toronado. By extension, Tornado's Mine also gets its name from the horse. I understand that in real life Tornado was played in Disney's "Zorro" TV series by Diamond Decorator. Whether there's a connection between "Zorro's Black Whip" and the naming of the cave is unclear, but it appears to be purely coincidence that Tornado's Mine makes one of its primary appearances in the Zorro serial.

"Laramie" TV series (1960): Tornado's Mine

One reason the southern entrance to Tornado's Cave didn't appear to get much airtime may have been because, throughout much of the filming era in the Iverson Gorge, the entrance was covered up by the fake mine entrance. In other words, the area may have in fact been filmed, but because of the mine, it wasn't recognizable. In some form, the mine entrance was in place for a couple of decades, if not longer. I've spotted it as far back as the early 1940s, and more recently I found it in a 1960 episode of the TV show "Laramie," as seen above.


The mine entrance appears to have gone through some remodeling over the years, and it's likely the whole thing was torn down and rebuilt a time or two. The "doorway" in particular looks different in various productions. The "Laramie" shots are from the episode "Saddle and Spur," which premiered March 29, 1960, on NBC.


One cool thing about the "Laramie" episode is that it includes this wider shot, which really nails down the location of the mine. Tornado's Mine was a close neighbor of Lone Ranger Rock, which can be seen near the bottom left corner of the frame.

Here's the wide shot from "Laramie" again, with some of the features highlighted. I've blogged about most of these features before, and for example, you can find much more about Split Roof by clicking here. This may be the first time I've mentioned Bust of Kennedy, which I tend not to talk about out of respect for the former president. But from certain angles, the rock formation really does look like JFK — to me, at least.

Here's a wide shot of the Nyoka Cliff area from a visit to the site a few years ago that I think shows the resemblance of the formation Bust of Kennedy to an actual bust of JFK. The base of the statue, if you choose to see it as a statue, is incorporated into the mine set in certain configurations.

"Have Gun — Will Travel" (1958)

Tornado's Mine also appears in an episode of "Have Gun — Will Travel" titled "A Snare for Murder," above. The episode aired during season two of the CBS Western, premiering Nov. 22, 1958 — five years, to the day, before the JFK assassination ... coincidence?

The rocks seen in front of the mine in the "Have Gun — Will Travel" screen shot help pinpoint the location of the mine set. These rocks, which I call the Tornado's Mine Rocks, remain in place today in the Gorge, just below Nyoka Cliff.

This shot from "Have Gun — Will Travel" shows a sign that was placed at the mine entrance for the episode. Other than the sign, the appearance of the entrance is similar to how it would look two years later in "Laramie."  Many readers may recognize series star Richard Boone as Paladin just outside the mine.

"Triple Justice" (1940)

Here's another view of the Tornado's Mine Rocks, from the RKO B-Western "Triple Justice," starring George O'Brien and Virginia Vale. The mine itself is not visible here, but Nyoka Cliff can be seen in the background.

This version of the shot identifies the Tornado's Mine Rocks, along with Nyoka Cliff.

The Tornado's Mine Rocks remain in place today, as seen in a recent photo by film historian Jerry Condit. Jerry was the one who pointed me to Tornado's Mine earlier this year.

Another recent view of the Tornado's Mine Rocks approximates the angle seen in "Triple Justice," with Nyoka Cliff again in the background.

A short distance from the Tornado's Mine Rocks, the mine area can be found.

Tornado's Mine: The site as it appears today

Here's a view of the site of Tornado's Mine on a recent visit to the location, and this is where I think it gets really interesting. We don't have to guess where the mine entrance was positioned, because remnants of it remain at the site — still attached to the rocks.

Piece of the mine entrance — still in position and still upright

It seems that whoever's job it was to demolish the set had the foresight — or more likely, was just lazy enough — to leave behind a few scraps so historians could come along decades later and rediscover it. Thank you!

Another piece of the mine entrance can be found a short distance away, also still upright.

I've marked the first two artifacts, because it may be a little hard to see them in the photos.

Pulling back for a wider view, this shot points out where artifacts A and B are positioned in the context of the overall setting for the mine entrance.

This may be the best find of the bunch: a hunk of concrete still attached to a rock, high above ground level, marking the upper reach of the mine entrance.

In the wider view, this is where the third artifact is situated.

Putting all the pieces together, this is where the mine entrance was located.

I hope to come back soon to the subject of Tornado's Mine because there's a little bit more to the story. But that's it for now.


Mark said...

So it was concrete they used to build the cave entrance? I'm surprised, as concrete can sometimes almost be impossible to remove as it adheres to a natural surface. I can't believe there's not more evidence of the manmade cave entrance. This is a great post! Thanks!

Swami Nano said...

Hi Mark ... thanks for your comment.

Construction materials aren't my strong point, but I would describe it as a type of concrete-like material in conjunction with chicken wire. It may be that they tried to use material that was easier to remove than concrete to minimize the damage to the rocks. That may also explain why it's hard to find traces anymore of most of the mine entrances and other structures at Iverson.

I plan to get some better shots of the Tornado's Mine pieces and post those in a future blog entry. The "concrete-like" material ends up with a honeycomb pattern from the chicken wire, which can be seen from the back of the remaining pieces. I'll be sure to post photos of the back next time.

I have looked into other mine entrances at Iverson and found very little in the way of remnants, but I have a feeling there may be more to be found. That's one of a number of areas where the research is continuing.

Thanks again!