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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Friday, July 24, 2015

Perils Tower — a fake rock that made its presence felt in the movies of the early 1940s

"Perils of Nyoka" (Republic serial, 1942)

I've had a request for more information about Perils Tower since I first mentioned the fake rock formation in a recent post about the John Wayne movie "The Fighting Seabees."

The name "Perils Tower" comes from the fake rock's appearance in the Republic serial "Perils of Nyoka," probably the feature's most high-profile screen role. The 1942 production filmed much of its outdoor action on the Iverson Movie Ranch, including an extensive shoot in the Iverson Gorge.

Other than its unusual shape, with a large, overhanging cube perched on top of a smaller rectangular "trunk," Perils Tower looks realistic and is typically seen standing around among the legitimate rock features of the Upper Gorge, acting like it belongs there.

Another shot from "Perils of Nyoka" offers a view of Perils Tower from a slightly different angle. Appearing again at the right of the screen is The Wall, and from this angle we can see Potato Rock sitting on top of it.

I've identified a few of the key features in this version of the shot. In this shot and the photos above this one the camera is aimed more or less toward the south.

Turning the camera around and shooting toward the north this time, another shot from "Perils of Nyoka" takes us in even closer to Perils Tower. The large rectangular shape at the top center of the frame is part of the "trunk." 

From this angle a portion of the Devil's Doorway Cluster is visible at the right.

I've spotted the fake rock tower in just a handful of movies and serials, almost all of them released from 1940-1944. The tower appears repeatedly in "The Fighting Seabees."

Additional shots of Perils Tower in "The Fighting Seabees" can be found in this recent post focused on the extensive Iverson shoot for the John Wayne World War II movie.

"Fugitive Valley" (Monogram, 1941)

In a scene from the Range Busters B-Western "Fugitive Valley," Perils Tower provides cover to some of the cowboys involved in a big shootout in the Gorge. It's unclear whether any or all of the smaller rocks that form the "foot" of the tower are real, but my hunch is that they are — possibly with a few fakes in the mix.

Crown Rock, a portion of which remains in place today as part of the Cal West Townhomes complex, can be seen in the top left corner of the "Fugitive Valley" shot.

"Perils of Nyoka"

Perils Tower was one of the defining features of the Iverson Gorge during its brief lifespan, standing tall in the midst of more durable movie rocks such as The Wall, Crown Rock, Devil's Doorway and Three Ages Rock. From this angle part of Nyoka Cliff is visible in the background.

The tower as seen here appears to be situated in its usual spot in the Upper Gorge. However, it's possible the fake tower was mobile and may have been moved around from time to time within a limited range.

Just for fun, I'm calling this the Sleeping Horse, although I'm sure it's just an accident of shadows and light. You may or may not see what I'm talking about.

"The Denver Kid" (Republic, 1948)

In a few instances recycled clips shot during the period when Perils Tower was standing in the Gorge — from about 1940-1944 — turn up as rear-projection footage in later productions. This appearance in the Rocky Lane movie "The Denver Kid," released in 1948, is an example.

This version of the shot points out Perils Tower as part of the rear-projection footage. This sequence would have been filmed in the studio using footage filmed at Iverson a few years earlier.

"Thundering Caravans" (Republic, 1952)

Another example of rear projection — possibly using the same recycled footage — turns up in another Rocky Lane movie from Republic, "Thundering Caravans," released in 1952. In this shot Perils Tower appears at far right.

Nyoka Cliff is also seen in the "Thundering Caravans" shot. Republic seems to have made the most use of Perils Tower, although my earliest sightings of it so far have been in Monogram's 1941 release "Fugitive Valley," as noted higher up in this post, and in the backgrounds of some PRC B-Westerns going back to 1940.

"Billy the Kid Wanted" (PRC, 1941)

Here's one of those PRC movies I'm talking about. PRC made a lot of use of the Gorge Cabin for its Billy the Kid series in the early 1940s, and Perils Tower popped up a few times in the background — although you have to know what you're looking for to find it.

I've noted Gorge Cabin here, along with Perils Tower, which is much harder to spot. Gorge Cabin was quite a bit older than Perils Tower, dating back to the mid-1930s, but the two manmade features ended their run in the Iverson Gorge around the same time, in about 1944.

The shot from "Billy the Kid Wanted" contains a number of Upper Gorge rock features, and I wanted to be sure to point out a few of the important ones while we're in the neighborhood.

Promo still for unknown Columbia production of the early 1940s

Columbia also had its encounters with Perils Tower. This promotional still from the early 1940s, focused on Gorge Cabin at the center of the frame, includes a number of familiar features of the Iverson Gorge, with Perils Tower making an appearance toward the left of the frame. The rocky hill in the background is Cactus Hill.

Perils Tower is highlighted here, along with some of the other features found in the promo shot. Both the presence of Perils Tower and the look of the cabin help determine that the shot is from the early 1940s.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent as usual...Keep up the good work.