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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Iverson's neighbor to the east: A surprise discovery

"The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)

I've been trying for a few years to figure out what this compound is that appears briefly in the background of a scene in the Bob Steele B-Western "The Trusted Outlaw." I always assumed it was a farm, as that's mainly what could be found in the northwest San Fernando Valley back then.

"The Trusted Outlaw"

I knew from the context that the shot was taken on Sheep Flats, on the Lower Iverson, and that the camera was aimed more or less toward the east. That meant that whatever the compound was, it was the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch's neighbor to the east.

1959 aerial photo

I was able to determine that the compound was situated inside a U-shaped (or C-shaped) bend in the road along the old Mayan Drive. Outside of "The Trusted Outlaw," it was all but impossible to find photos of the place — this old aerial provides one view, but it's not much help. At best, you can "kind of" make out some buildings.

L.A. County Fire Department: Station 75 (1937)

Then I ran across this photo in a presentation by the Chatsworth Historical Society. It's the mystery compound, which turns out to be a fire station. The photo — taken the same year "The Trusted Outlaw" was filmed — originated from the L.A. County Fire Department archives.

Fire Station 75

The station reportedly dates back to 1935, so it was still pretty new when these photos were taken — and when it made its fleeting appearance in "The Trusted Outlaw."

Topanga Canyon interchange with the 118 Freeway

The Fire Department moved out in the mid-1960s when the 118 Freeway came through, with Station 75 relocating to Chatsworth's Lake Manor community a few miles to the southwest. The freeway now runs pretty much directly over where the station used to stand.

The site of Fire Station 75, as it appears today

Thanks to the durability of rocks, we can still get a fix on the general location of the old fire station — even with the freeway now dominating the terrain. Iverson researcher Cliff Roberts snapped this shot of the site on a recent visit, shooting from the north side of the 118, looking south.

A number of the area's key features are identified in this version of Cliff's photo. The former Lower Iverson is essentially off to the right of the frame. The cars are exiting the 118 westbound at Topanga.

Many of the same rocks can be found in both the recent photo and the 1937 photo of the fire station. I've zoomed in a little on the photo here and have identified several of these rocks.

The same rocks identified in the recent photo — Rocks A, B, C and D — are identified again here in the 1937 shot. By comparing the two photos we can see approximately where the station was situated — even though much of the site has been consumed by the freeway.

"The Rifleman" (1961): The Lower Iverson's East Gate

While we're focused on the eastern boundary of the Lower Iverson, I wanted to share a related shot I found in an episode of the TV show "The Rifleman." Anytime a gate turns up, it's interesting, and this particular gate is one I've never seen in any other production. It appears in an episode called "First Wages," which premiered Oct. 9, 1961.

It turns out it's the gate between the Iverson Movie Ranch and Fire Station 75, more or less. On the other side of the gate is Mayan Drive, and just across Mayan Drive, although we can't see it, would be the fire station.

1959 aerial map — eastern half of Sheep Flats

Going back to that 1959 aerial, here's the lay of the land at the east end of Sheep Flats, including the location of the gate leading to Mayan Drive and the fire station. I've also noted the location of the landmark Center Rock, which remains in place today as part of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mushroom Rock cleans up its act

"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947) — Mushroom Rock, center

This is the classic view of Mushroom Rock, as seen in the Lash LaRue movie "Ghost Town Renegades." The heavily filmed rock was located on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch, next to a road that was used repeatedly for essentially this same shot, with riders headed north on the road, riding toward the camera.

I've spotlighted Mushroom Rock here, along with a couple of other key elements of the shot — including the presumably dead guy at the bottom of the frame. You never know about "dead guys" in old B-Westerns, because half the time it's just a trick to get you to stop so they can steal your horse.

"The Lone Ranger" TV show (filmed in 1949)

Here's a rare occasion when the riders actually rode on the other side of Mushroom Rock — the east side. This shot comes from an episode of "The Lone Ranger" called "Buried Treasure," which premiered March 2, 1950 — midway through season one.

In case you're wondering about the other distinctive rock in these shots, it's a beauty too. With a canopy far larger than that of Mushroom Rock, Saucer is shrouded in its own mysteries — but that's a topic for another time.

"Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1959)

In this shot Mushroom Rock is on the left, with Saucer toward the right. The scene is filmed from the south, a much less common angle. Here again, the rider has opted to bypass the main road to the west of Mushroom, just visible in the bottom left corner, and instead rides the road less traveled — between Mushroom and Saucer.

The shot comes from an episode of the TV show "Wanted: Dead or Alive" called "Twelve Hours to Crazy Horse," which premiered Nov. 21, 1959.

Mushroom Rock in recent years

For several years now, it has been impossible to see the distinctive cap atop Mushroom Rock because it has been covered with foliage. I commented on this in a recent post, which you can read by clicking here.

At the time I noted that Mushroom's cap remained concealed. But I have some good news to report.

Behold: A cleaner, meaner Mushroom Rock

Mushroom Rock has recently had a "haircut" and can now be seen again in much of its former splendor — possibly for the first time since the filming days.

It's still a rough neighborhood

Mushroom Rock's neighborhood, however, still leaves a lot to be desired. Before we jump to the conclusion that the "haircut" had anything to do with satisfying our aesthetic and nostalgic interest in the rock, the nearby trash bins and stockpiles of construction material might tend to quash such romantic notions.

It can be tricky to match up the shots from before and after the foliage trim, so I've identified some of the markers here. In this recent shot a number of distinctive scars and indentations are noted, along with the rock's "cap."

The same markers can be found in this shot taken before the haircut, allowing for a more accurate approximation of where the cap was hidden. This process reveals that my earlier estimate was off the mark — I needed to place the cap farther to the right.


I'll leave it to readers to come up with your own answers to the obvious question: Why the trim, and why now? The idealist in me still wants to believe someone is looking out for film history buffs and cut back the shrubbery to give us a better look at an old friend. But my cynical side argues that someone probably just wants to pile more junk in the area and the bushes were in the way.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rocks that look like elephants

Elephant Rock, on the Lower Iverson

It's been a while since I rounded up the herd of elephants, elephant parts and other pachydermalia found on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch. This beauty is located in the Grove, on the former Lower Iverson.

Elephant and Monkey

A wider shot reveals that the Elephant has what looks like an oversized monkeyhead on its back.

Elephant's Trunk

Should you ever sojourn deep into Garden of the Gods, you might run across this oddity, which I think bears a striking resemblance to an Elephant's Trunk.

Woolly Mammoth — aka Vultura's Trail Rock

The most high-profile pachyderm-related rock feature at Iverson would have to be Woolly Mammoth, which is more properly known as Vultura's Trail Rock.

Woolly mammoth (artist's rendering)

The relationship between the prehistoric woolly mammoth and the contemporary elephant — particularly the Asian elephant — is well-established. As for the relationship between the rock I call Woolly Mammoth and the prehistoric creature ... you be the judge. The original woolly mammoth would probably sneer at the rock version's puny hump ... but the fact that they both HAVE humps in the same place strikes me as noteworthy.

"Heroes" (NBC TV series, 2008) — Woolly Mammoth with a rock painting

Woolly Mammoth, or Vultura's Trail Rock, has had countless appearances in movies and TV shows. It's usually seen from another angle — where it looks nothing like a woolly mammoth — but when NBC landed at Iverson in 2008 for the TV show "Heroes," the show captured what I think is the essence of the rock.

Woolly Mammoth just after the "Heroes" shoot (2008)

Shortly after the "Heroes" production team pulled out of Iverson in late summer 2008, Woolly Mammoth still bore what appeared to be a temporary "scar" from the production. Like other rocks in the area, Woolly Mammoth served as a storyboard on the TV show, providing a backdrop for rock paintings depicting the future. It appeared that a little bit of that paint was overlooked during the cleanup.

In the "Heroes" screen shot we can make out the exact spot on Woolly Mammoth where the small triangular patch of white paint originated.

Woolly Mammoth in 2015: The same patch of white paint remains

I assumed at the time that the paint was water soluble and would soon wash away. However, going on seven years later, that white spot remains visible on the rock today. My hunch is still that it's just a spot they missed when they were cleaning up, but I'm amazed that it has lasted this long.

Woolly Mammoth looks less mammoth-like from the other side, but this shot, looking toward the east, provides some context. That's Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the background, with the ridgetop homes of Porter Ranch and a small section of the 118 Freeway visible at top left.

"Rocky Mountain Rangers" (1940): Hangdog, foreground, with Woolly Mammoth

By far the most common angle depicting Woolly Mammoth in the movies is this one, as seen in the Three Mesquiteers B-Western "Rocky Mountain Rangers," an Iverson masterpiece from Republic.

Woolly Mammoth — which has been described as resembling a saddlehorn from this angle — almost always takes a back seat to its higher-profile neighbor Hangdog. Click here to read more about the enigmatic Hangdog.

Woolly Mammoth in 2008, with nearby ruins

Up until a few years ago, Woolly Mammoth could be seen with some ruins nearby. You can read more about these mysterious ruins in this earlier post.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932)

It's worth noting that at one time real elephants roamed the Iverson Movie Ranch. In the final sequence from "Tarzan the Ape Man," shown above, Jane and others rode a live elephant through the Iverson Gorge.

Elephant rock on the Island of Heimaey in Iceland

Iverson doesn't have a monopoly on rocks that look like elephants. In fact, it turns out that elephants are a relatively widespread theme in the "rocks that look like other stuff" universe. Here are a few examples ...

Sardinia, Italy 

The locals report that this elephant rock on Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, was shaped by wind, and I have no reason to disagree.

New Zealand 

I like the mossy-looking foliage effect on this one.

Saudi Arabia 

Here's another variation on the fat-trunked elephant theme — this one is starting to grow on me.

City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho 

I don't think this rock looks particularly elephant-like, but I had to include it for the obvious reason: It has a sign. Does it reflect poorly on me that this picture makes me want to block the gate?

Point Reyes, Calif. 

I've driven past this thing countless times without ever noticing its elephantine qualities. Thank you for the reality check, Internet!

Washoe County, Nevada 

For some reason I find myself feeling sorry for this one.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

No reason to feel sorry for this character, with plenty of water and fresh air to be found ... although living in a world with a skewed horizon line might get old after a while.


Island of Heimaey, Iceland 

This is the second photo I'm including of the elephant rock in Iceland. This thing looks great from any angle.

Old Hartlepool, England 

The elephant rock in Old Hartlepool was washed away in a storm in 1891, but at least it was around long enough to be immortalized in an old colorized postcard.


This post marks the launch of "Rocks that look like ..." — an occasional series that, needless to say, focuses on rocks that look like other stuff. I anticipate that the series will maintain a connection to the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., where plenty of rocks can be found that look like other stuff.