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

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

That Quentin Tarantino set being built at Corriganville is just about done — shooting is expected to start any day now

Corriganville, September 2018: Set built on location for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Work has continued at a rapid pace on the former site of the Corriganville Movie Ranch, where we've confirmed that the big set being built is for Quentin Tarantino's next movie, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."

Drone's eye view of the Tarantino set looking north

My buddy Dennis Cohee visited the site the other day with his drone and sent some terrific shots of what the sprawling set looks like from up above. If you click on the photos you should see a larger, more detailed version.

Junk cars "clutter up" the Corriganville set (photo by Jerry Condit)

One of the most recent developments is they've brought in a bunch of old junk cars that are now strewn about among the distressed buildings.

Period-appropriate prop cars, circa 1969

The cars appear to be among the finishing touches being put on the set. Volkswagen Beetles were a common site back in 1969 — the period being re-created for the movie. But in this case the Beetles are integral to the story.

The main "Spahn Ranch" set for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (Cliff Roberts photo)

The movie is set in Charles Manson-era Hollywood, and the Corriganville set replicates the old Spahn Movie Ranch. This part of the set re-creates what might be called the "main set" at Spahn.

Police raid on Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

The original Spahn Ranch, where Manson and his followers were based at the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders, was located across the street from the Iverson Movie Ranch. Spahn's main set is seen here in a widely circulated photo taken during a raid on the Manson compound one week after the killings.

Photo from circa 1969 reportedly depicting the Spahn Ranch dune buggy operation

The raid wasn't triggered by the murders, but by reports about a "chop shop" operation being run at the movie ranch in which stolen Volkswagen Beetles were being chopped up to make dune buggies.

Charles Manson arrested at Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

Manson and 25 other people were arrested during the raid on suspicion of running a "major auto theft ring" — the dune buggy chop shop. The suspects were released a few days later due to a clerical error in the warrant.

Manson family members in one of the group's chopped-up dune buggies, circa 1969

The dune buggies apparently had been getting some use among Manson's followers while they were on the ranch. Manson would be rearrested in October 1969 — not at Spahn but at the Barker Ranch in Death Valley, Calif.

Tarantino's re-creation of the dune buggy shop

This is the view Dennis Cohee's drone had of the Corriganville chop shop set for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Again, I encourage readers to click on the photo to see it in more detail.

Jerry Condit captured another angle on the Tarantino chop shop, seen in the background.

The "Rock City Cafe" and "Longhorn Saloon" signs can be seen in many of the old photos of the main set, along with the "Trading Post" sign, which is harder to make out. Tarantino's set closely matches the original.

The Tarantino set in early September — shiny and new, with signs covered up for secrecy

Access to the set is restricted, but Jerry Condit managed to get a nice shot of the main Spahn set back in early September. A number of the signs were covered up in an attempt to keep the project as secret as possible, and the set still looked relatively shiny and new at that point.

The set a few days later — "distressed" and exposed

Within a few days the set had been ... the word that keeps coming to mind is "distressed." This shot was taken by location researcher Cliff Roberts on Sept. 6.

"Randy Starr" sign — one of the early clues

One sign that has been covered during much of the construction — but happened to be exposed when Cliff stopped by in late August — mentions stuntman Randy Starr, who was a real-life figure in the Manson story.

Randy Starr

Starr, born Joseph Randall, was the foreman at Spahn Ranch in the late '60s. He reportedly owned a .22-caliber revolver used in the Manson killings and was scheduled to be a prosecution witness in the Manson trial.

The "Randy Starr" sign was one of the first pieces of solid evidence that the set was being built for the Tarantino movie. Starr never got to testify — he died of meningitis on Aug. 4, 1970, at age 38.

The original sign at the east end of the main set at Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

We can catch a glimpse of the original "Randy Starr" sign during the 1969 raid on Spahn Ranch.

"Boat Hill" to the west, in the Rocky Peak area

Fans of the Iverson Movie Ranch might recognize a familiar rocky ridge in the background. The profile of "Boat Hill" to the west, in the Rocky Peak area, is commonly seen in productions shot on the Iverson Ranch.

"The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch

To cite just one example, Boat Hill can be seen in the John Ford classic "The Grapes of Wrath." The rocky ridge appears over the shoulder of actress Jane Darwell, who won an Oscar for her role in the movie.

Main set area at Spahn Ranch in 1969

This view of Spahn Ranch in 1969 is taken looking south, with Santa Susana Pass Road visible in the bottom half of the frame. The rocks in the foreground are located today near the Church at Rocky Peak, which is situated on the north side of the road and now owns much of the property surrounding the former Spahn Ranch set area.

The same location in 2015

This matching shot was taken by Jerry Condit in 2015. The rocks remain in place today, as does the distinctive hill in the background. As it turns out, the church rents out land that was once part of the Spahn Ranch for filming, with the Fox series "The Orville" one of a number of productions to shoot in the area in the past few years.

The plateau that once housed the main set area is now a vacant field. Today this triangular plateau is part of the sprawling Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park and is not part of the church's filming operation.

Tarantino presumably would have tried to secure the former Spahn property to build his Spahn Ranch set, but had to settle instead for Corriganville, about 3 miles to the west down Santa Susana Pass Road.

New building coexisting with the old stone walls

Besides the main Spahn set, several other structures have been built. This charismatic old barn was erected partially within the surviving stone walls of what was once Corriganville's "New Barn" or "Barn No. 2."

Tarantino's barn alongside original Corriganville stonework

Here's another view of the barn, along with some of the old Corriganville stonework on the left. I don't know what role the barn will play in the movie, but presumably it's another part of the Spahn Ranch set.

"Fighting Lawman" (1953): Corriganville's "New Barn" at the northeast end of Silvertown

This is what the place looked like, including the old stone walls, back in the filming days. Today the surviving walls of Corriganville's "Barn No. 2" are considered an important historical artifact.

Being integrated into the stone walls of the original Corriganville barn would seem to limit the new structure's usefulness as a set, but it will be interesting to see whether the old walls show up in the Tarantino movie.

George Spahn's house?

One building that appears to be getting some extra attention is this one, which reportedly will play the home of Spahn Ranch owner George Spahn. Sadly, the part of George Spahn will have to be recast following the recent death of film icon Burt Reynolds, who had signed on to play Spahn.

Possible permanent building?

Here's what Spahn's house looks like with its paint job "finished." It's the only building in the entire set that appears to be built to more than movie set standards. The solid foundation suggests the building could be permanent.

This is a shot I took of the George Spahn house back on Aug. 26, before the roof patch was in place and before the building was "spruced down," if that's a term, with its distressed whitewash job.

Gorilla Rock, one of Corriganville's best-known and most heavily filmed rock features, lurks in the background.

"Have Gun Will Travel": Corriganville's Silvertown and Gorilla Rock in 1957

Back in the filming days, Gorilla Rock loomed over Silvertown, Corriganville's famed Western street. This shot comes from the "Have Gun Will Travel" episode "The Great Mojave Chase," which premiered Sept. 28, 1957.

The George Spahn house — complete with concrete slab

A view of the Spahn house from this angle gives some idea of the work that has gone into the foundation. Movie sets don't usually get the full concrete slab treatment unless they're meant to be kept around after filming wraps.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in costume for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

The Tarantino movie is a big-budget production, with a cast that includes not only Brad and Leo, but also Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, Kurt Russell and other A-listers.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" has a tentative release date of July 26, 2019, which strikes me as a bit optimistic, but who knows? I'm looking forward to it — if only to see Corriganville back in action.

The "Manson bus," parked near the old Corriganville stone wall — photo by Jerry Condit

I want to give a special shout-out to the folks on the front lines who have been sending in updates and photos, especially my pals Cliff Roberts, Jerry Condit and Dennis Cohee, for helping us all keep up on this fun story.

The Corriganville set in the early stages of construction — just a few weeks ago

For some background on Corriganville and views of the Tarantino set as it appeared in its early stages a few weeks ago, click here to see the feature we posted about the project back on Aug. 25.


Anonymous said...

cannot see any buildings still up after the film wraps. corriganville is a public park the buildings and all the cars would be a liability we all know some foolio will get hurt now wondering if the buildings were left would they be fenced off to keep people from that part of the park

twbrxdx said...

Great stuff. Thanks for showing us this! Say, is that the Alamo façade standing on the backlot of Universal Studios in back of Brad and Leo? Sure looks like it. Although that set was not there in 1969. Maybe part of the movie is set in Texas?

Anonymous said...

The property where Spahn Ranch sat is owned by the state, not the Church. The Church own the land all around it.

Sean Lagonegro said...

Thanks for sharing. Filming has begun and according to security on site, none of the sets will stay after filming.

Anonymous said...

When I was hitchhiking back in 1969, two of the girls from Spohn ranch picked me up in a white Jeep with the soft top up. They offered me some honey bread or cake made in a paper milk carton! After they told me where they were from, I wouldn’t eat anything they offered me. I was coming back from the beach over topanga Canyon To the valley. PJ

Anonymous said...

Filming at the actual Spahn ranch site would have been difficult as it is right off the Santa Susanna Pass road. Unless they got permission to block the road keeping curiosity seekers away would have been impossible. Also access to the church across the road and the houses in the Upper Iverson ranch would have been troublesome. Going to Corriganville puts the production in the same terrain with much better access control.
Those with an eye for detail will notice that the 2018 buildings face south while the original Spahn ranch faced north. Also one of the VW bugs pictured is at least a 1971 model, or newer, so it would have been unavailable in 1969-70.