I recently received the sad news that my friend Bill Sasser, an accomplished film historian and a longtime fan of the Iverson Movie Ranch, has died.
Bill Sasser on the Iverson Ranch in 2009
Bill was one of the first major location researchers I got to know back when I was getting started on my own full dive into movie history about 10 years ago. Even though we lived on opposite coasts, we kept in touch and collaborated when we could, connecting over our shared obsession with the Iverson Ranch.
"Iverson Summit," 2009: Bill Sasser, left, and Jerry England on the Nyoka Summit
Bill traveled to California almost every year from his home in Virginia, specifically to visit movie sites. His annual Iverson visit presented an opportunity for some heavyweight movie historians to gather — and gave me, as an upstart Iverson researcher, a chance to tag along and learn from the masters.
"Iverson Movie Ranch - Then and Now" — a 7-minute Bill Sasser YouTube video from 2008
Bill captured much of his research on video, including constantly expanding his famous "Iverson DVD" over the years. The last time I received the latest updated version from Bill, it ran more than three hours.
"Callaway at Iverson's" (Posted by Bill Sasser in 2010)
Bill posted one of my favorite Iverson Movie Ranch clips, from the 1951 MGM movie "Callaway Went Thataway." The clip pays tribute both to the cliches of the cowboy movie and to Iverson's widely filmed rock features.
"Gold Raiders Rock"
Bill put together a quick "then and now" focusing on the Upper Iverson feature known as Gold Raiders Rock, posted in 2011. I believe it was Bill who came up with the rock's name.
Most of this clip comes from the 1937 Shirley Temple movie "Wee Willie Winkie," and the clip includes a "then and now" on the Pirate Ship.
Footage posted by Bill from the 1953 Western "Gun Belt" showcases the rocktabulous South Rim of the Upper Iverson, including location aficionado favorites Wrench Rock, Turtle Rock, the Molar, Ambush Rock and Ambush Pass — plus a few seconds at the end of something that looks to me like the Conejo Valley.
Here's some eerily silent footage of a shootout in the 1936 Buster Crabbe Western "Desert Gold," spotlighting a bunch of familiar Lower Iverson features along with nearby Stoney Point.
This one's just a rough cut with three clips on a formation I usually hear referred to as "Tornado's Cave," which remains in place today in the Iverson Gorge. Bill posted this back in 2011.
"Stacked Rock & Center Rock"
This clip features the old Western town set on the Lower Iverson, including Pond Rock and, at the very end, a quick look at Center Rock.
"Law of the Canyon" (1947)
In this YouTube clip, Bill highlights the weird two-tone fake mine near the Grove Cabin.
"Relay Station" ("The Plunderers," 1948)
Just one more video from Bill — this one has color footage from "The Plunderers" showing a lot of the Saddlehorn Relay Station with some fake rocks sprinkled in.
Bill Sasser, left, with Williamsburg Film Festival Lifetime Achievement recipient Grady Franklin, 2010
Back home in Virginia, Bill poured much of his energy over the years into the Williamsburg Film Festival, and was one of the prime movers behind the event's success.