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.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Man From Sonora": Cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton's Iverson masterpiece

The 1951 Monogram B-Western "Man From Sonora," starring Johnny Mack Brown, Phyllis Coates and Lyle Talbot, is one of the greatest Iverson movies I've ever seen.

"Man From Sonora" (1951): The stage rolls past Phineas, on the Lower Iverson

I'm not saying it's a great movie — this isn't about the quality of the plot, the script, the acting or the direction. This is mainly about what's going on in the backgrounds.

"Man From Sonora": Holdup men lurk behind Chili Pepper

The movie is a spectacular showcase for the Iverson Movie Ranch. "Man From Sonora" contains shot after shot of rarely seen rocks, unusual angles, and clues to the history of the location ranch.

Gilbert Warrenton in 1921

The camera shots on "Man From Sonora" are the work of cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton, who had a number of strong outings at Iverson during a 50-year career stretching well back into the silent era.

As a stage holdup ensues on the Lower Iverson, we get a glimpse of some of the distinctive rock features that stood in what is now the Indian Hills Mobile Home Park. I'll point out a few of these rocks below.

With the dust still swirling, Mushroom Rock appears in the background, at top left.

Mushroom Rock received a lot of screen time back in the B-Western era because of its prominent position next to a heavily filmed chase road.

Mushroom Rock in recent times

When I was writing this post early this year, I noted the "impressive green Afro" worn in recent years by Mushroom Rock, which today is located adjacent to the mobile home park and shares space with a collection of garbage bins and unused construction material. But on a visit to the site a few months later, I was delighted to find that Mushroom Rock had received a "haircut" and it's distinctive crown is now on display again. You can see it here.

Mushroom's defining feature, its mushroom-shaped top, can no longer be seen, as much of the rock is now covered with vegetation.

"Man From Sonora"

As the stage holdup winds down, we get a wider look at the area. In the background, directly above the stage team, is a readily identifiable overhanging saucer-shaped rock.

A number of the rocks in this area, including Chili Pepper, were removed to make way for the mobile home park. As to which rocks have survived and which were destroyed, not all of those questions have been answered.

Rock north of Saucer, south of Range Rider Rock

Then there's this beauty. I'm tempted to call it Sonora Rock because it's featured so nicely in "Man From Sonora."

As the holdup men flee, they ride past Range Rider Rock.

The other Leaning Tower

The other Leaning Tower is visible in this shot, as noted above. As I hinted earlier, the term "Leaning Tower" refers to two different rock features in the area.

Next stop after Range Rider is the ubiquitous Bugeye & Trapezoid. I don't mean "stop" literally — in the movie they keep going. But anyway, for some reason I think of B&T as a single rock feature.

Bugeye & Trapezoid in modern times, part of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village

Bugeye & Trapezoid form one of the most widely filmed rock features in this area that can still be found relatively easily. Unfortunately, you'll be driving around a mobile home park and won't want to linger too long. But one thing rocks are good at is standing still for a photo.

North of Bugeye & Trapezoid, the plot thickens — from a rock standpoint.

This seemingly routine frame is the kind of shot that elevates the value of "Man From Sonora" for film location research. There's more here than meets the eye, and I want to at least point out Fireplace Rock.

Taken from an unusual angle, the shot combines familiar rocks, such as End Rock, on the left, with relatively obscure rocks.

Here's Fireplace Rock from another angle. That's it on the right.

The name comes from this part of the rock, which resembles a fireplace. One would never know it without poring over multiple angles, but Fireplace Rock is the same rock that forms the large base under Bugeye.

Backing up the hill, we also get a look at an interesting rock neighbor of Fireplace, which fills much of the bottom right corner of the frame in this shot.

The unnamed neighbor of Fireplace Rock gets its closeup in this shot. The rock pops up from time to time in other productions, but this is a rare angle on it.

Moving to something a little more familiar, this is one of the best shots of Tilted Cube I've seen in a while.

Tilted Cube survived, as you can see from this recent shot of it. I wish I could show it from the same angle seen in "Man From Sonora," but this is the closest I have. Today it's hard to get access to this spot.

The screen shots in this post are all from the first five minutes of "Man From Sonora," and the terrific images just keep coming. Anyone with an interest in the Iverson Movie Ranch would find a lot to love in the movie. I'll include a link below for a DVD set of Monogram remasters that features "Man From Sonora" in great picture quality.

Lewis D. Collins (Neal Graffy Collection)

Some of the credit for the Iverson rocktacular that is "Man From Sonora" has to go to director Lewis D. Collins, who built his resume largely on serials and B-Westerns. Collins clearly knew his way around the movie ranch.


But I want to single out cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton again, as he was the man looking through the lens of the camera and capturing these great rocks on film. Near the end of his career, Warrenton shot the 1962 bomb scare movie "Panic in Year Zero," which is also on my "Great Iverson Movies" list.


Below you'll find links to a couple of terrific Iverson movies shot by Gilbert Warrenton. "Man From Sonora" is on Volume 1 of the Monogram Cowboy Collection, a set of nine remasters that includes six Iverson movies, all in nice picture quality. I'm also including a link to Warrenton's fun Iverson movie "Panic in Year Zero."

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