Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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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, April 11, 2015

Where did Fuzzy Knight place the dynamite in "Boss of Bullion City" ... and how much damage did he do?

Fuzzy Knight, left, Johnny Mack Brown and Maria Montez in "Boss of Bullion City" (1940)

Veteran B-Western sidekick Fuzzy Knight has a scene in the Universal picture "Boss of Bullion City" where he places some dynamite in a rock, and in the process he appears to use an ax to chip away at the rock. I wanted to see whether I could find the exact spot, and whether any actual damage was done to the rock.

"Boss of Bullion City" — Fuzzy Knight at work on the South Rim

Here's a shot of Fuzzy at work on the rock. Finding the spot was easy, as it's in a widely filmed part of the Upper Iverson and the instantly recognizable Wrench Rock appears at the left of the shot. The area where Fuzzy is working is part of the T-Cliff, also known simply as the Cliff, one of the largest rock features on the South Rim.

In this shot Fuzzy is swinging the ax right into the hole as he tries to make the hole large enough to fit the dynamite. Some of the screen shots I was able to get off my DVD version of the movie are a bit ... well, fuzzy. But the shot pinpoints where the ax came in contact with the rock.

Fuzzy checks his work, and we get a look at the hole in the rock.

Even in a wider shot, the hole is plainly visible. One thing that makes this spot relatively easy to locate is a missing piece of rock surface right near the dynamite hole. This section where the surface has fallen off can be seen in other productions and can be easily found at the site.

This version of the shot points out two key elements in finding the dynamite hole: the hole itself, and the nearby area where the surface material has fallen off the rock. I have pondered the question of whether the missing hunk of surface material has anything to do with the production of this sequence for "Boss of Bullion City."

A closeup shows Fuzzy placing the dynamite in the hole he has apparently created in the rock. The question of whether the antics of Fuzzy and the rest of the "Boss of Bullion City" crew may have helped pry loose the nearby surface material is probably unanswerable — but that doesn't prevent us from contemplating it.

Is Fuzzy contemplating the damage to the rock?

Production on the movie would have taken place in 1939, which was still early in the use of the Upper Iverson as a filming location. I have yet to run across any earlier movie shots of this area, which could help determine whether the damage to the rock was fresh at the time "Bullion City" was in production. In the absence of such evidence, I'm willing to assume the slab fell off as part of the natural erosion process.

It may be worth pointing out that I'm not investigating any damage from the dynamite itself, as any explosions would have been handled by special effects. The possible damage I'm tracking involves the creation of the hole in the rock where the dynamite was placed and any collateral damage to nearby rock surfaces.

"Teenage Caveman" (1958): Robert Vaughn, the dynamite hole and the missing slab

Here's the same spot as it appears almost two decades later in Roger Corman's cult film "Teenage Caveman." That's future "Man From U.N.C.L.E." Robert Vaughn in the title role of the Teenage Caveman. I may be stating the obvious, but Vaughn was no teenager at the time — he was about 25 when the movie was made.

The pertinent features seen in "Boss of Bullion City" are easy to spot again here, but to avoid ambiguity, here's a labeled version of the photo.

This is what the rock looks like today, with Fuzzy's handiwork still easy to spot. The site retains both its presumed natural scars — notably the missing slab of surface material — and its movie scars, such as the dynamite hole.

The dynamite hole and missing surface hunk are marked again here. One thing you may have already noticed is that a bigger, better hole for setting up dynamite appears to already be in place at the base of the rock — seemingly a more logical place to do meaningful dynamite work.

The obvious question comes to mind: Why would the filmmakers want to bash a hole into the rock in the first place — especially in such a silly spot, and especially when a better hole was already available directly below that spot. Of course, we're beating our heads against a rock wall if we're looking for logic in a B-Western.

Field operative Cliff Roberts snapped this closeup of Fuzzy's dynamite hole on a recent visit to the site. My faith in human nature tells me to assume the hole occurred naturally, rather than being created by Fuzzy or a crew member swinging an ax into the rock. But it does have the appearance of something that was created intentionally, and I'm probably giving the film crew too much credit.


Cliff said...

You're history lessons on the many interesting film activities at Iversons are amazing, great work.

Anonymous said...

The spot from the B-Western and the spot from the Robert Vaughn film are not the same. The present-day image, however, IS the same as the Vaughn shot.

The area of "missing rock surface" is both larger, and near head level, to Knight; where as the similar reference in the Vaughn shot is too small and too low to the ground.

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your comment, Anon. The spot with the missing slab of rock surface is the same in all the photos, including the Fuzzy Knight shots. I think you may have been taken in by the camera angle used in the Robert Vaughn shots. Vaughn is much closer to the camera than the rock is, and the low angle makes it appear as though he towers over the missing slab area. If Vaughn were to move closer to the rock it would become apparent that the slab area is just as large as it appears in the Fuzzy Knight shots, and head-high.

I appreciate your careful scrutiny. Please keep it up!