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

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adventures of the Three Stooges on the Iverson Movie Ranch, Part III: "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules"

The third and final entry in the series "Adventures of the Three Stooges on the Iverson Movie Ranch" focuses on the 1962 movie "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules," in which Iverson is used to depict ancient Greece. The movie is probably the most highly regarded of the three movies in this series, although admittedly the bar isn't very high when it comes to the later Stooges efforts.

This Dell "Movie Classic" comic book was issued in connection with the movie in 1961, with the movie itself following on Feb. 15, 1962. Hamming it up with the Stooges for the cover shot is Samson Burke, who plays Hercules in the movie. "Hercules" did reasonably well at the box office, making the Stooges some money and helping to make up for their being underpaid throughout most of their careers.

Here's an example of what the comic book looks like on the inside.

"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

The Stooges lineup for "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" includes, as always, Larry and Moe, with the rotating third spot filled this time around by Joe DeRita (or "Curly Joe"). With them in the shot above are Vicki Trickett and Quinn K. Redeker. Behind Quinn, in the top left corner, is the time machine that has just delivered the group to Greece in the time of Hercules, circa 800 B.C. — although they're really on the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., in 1961.

Moe and Larry on the South Rim, in "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules"

This shot includes a "special effect" of the time machine materializing over ancient Greece (supposedly) — and also features a beautiful view of a rock I call Water Turtle. The rock appeared in many movies and TV shows, and is still in place on the former Upper Iverson. Today it's part of a private residential property, and as far as I know it has never been documented by film historians in its contemporary setting.

I have a hard time explaining the name "Water Turtle," but here's a picture of a real one. Maybe the name works for you, maybe not.

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

Here's an earlier movie appearance by Water Turtle — looking less "turtle-like" this time, but revealing some of the background hills and neighboring rocks. This shot from Republic's 1949 Roy Rogers movie "The Golden Stallion" includes an unusually large herd of horses on the Upper Iverson — unusual because filmmakers had to pay by the head for bringing livestock onto the site, so they usually kept it to a minimum.

A substantial battle sequence was filmed at Iverson for "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules."

This view of the battle includes a few Iverson rocks. The battle was filmed in the South Rim area of what was then the Upper Iverson.

Another shot from the battle introduces the Greek hero Hercules — even though that's his Roman name. His Greek name was Heracles, but for some reason he has gone down in history as a Greek hero known mainly by a Roman name. Anyway, the above two shots are filmed in the same spot and include most of the same rocks.

That's Eagle Beak Rock in the top-left corner, as the production continues to shoot in the South Rim area on the Upper Iverson.

"Oklahoma Territory" (1960): Gloria Talbott sees something; Eagle Beak Rock in the background

Here's another look at Eagle Beak Rock from almost the identical angle, from the United Artists B-Western "Oklahoma Territory." The point of this shot is to show Eagle Beak Rock with more of its surroundings — but also seen here are some of the same rocks that appear in the "Hercules" shot above this one.

"Rocky Mountain Rangers" (1940)

This shot of Eagle Beak Rock, taken from a familiar chase angle, is more representative of what the rock usually looks like when it appears in movies and TV shows. That's Eagle Beak Rock at the far left. The shot is from Republic's Three Mesquiteers movie "Rocky Mountain Rangers" — which is in my personal pantheon of the Greatest Iverson Productions. This is such a big deal that I capitalized all three of those words: Greatest Iverson Productions.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950) — Eagle Beak Rock

Another familiar view of Eagle Beak Rock, in color this time, as seen in the Columbia Western "Calamity Jane and the Texan."

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

Here's what Eagle Beak Rock looks like up close.

Eagle Beak Rock is seen here in its contemporary setting, as part of a residential landscape.

Prominent Rock, also known as Medicine Rock, appears directly behind the Greek warrior's head, at top right, in another battle shot from "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules."

This is Prominent Rock from the same angle — from farther away, in color and in the top-left corner this time — as seen in the 1949 movie "The Golden Stallion." The shot gives an idea of the kind of space the filmmakers had available to stage that battle sequence in "Hercules."

Another shot from "The Golden Stallion" illustrates how Prominent Rock could be featured artistically, effectively becoming a part of the action. At least that's what I see. Your mileage may vary.

From a different angle, here's a photo of Prominent Rock as it looks nowadays. This shot is from 2009. The photo also shows Round Rock, the much smaller rock near the bottom left corner.

This screen shot shows the setting for the first encounter between the Stooges and the ancient Greeks, with more South Rim rocks in the background.

Later in the movie, the action shifts to the Lower Iverson. In the above shot the Stooges are seen entering the Eucalyptus Grove area, with Flat Rock visible in the background near the Stooges. In the distance, near the center of the shot, you can see a portion of Stoney Point, off in the haze. Stoney Point is one of Chatsworth's best-known landmarks, a popular rock-climbing area next to Topanga Boulevard just below the 118 Freeway.

Here we get a closer view of Flat Rock, above Curly Joe's arm. Something else of interest here is the triple-stack rock directly above Larry's head.

For what it's worth, here's a detail taken from the above screen shot, zoomed in on the triple stack (and part of Larry's head). A larger rock is behind the triple stack, making it hard to see the smaller rock at the top of the stack.

"Escort West" (filmed in 1958, released in 1959)

The triple stack can be seen again at the far left in this screen shot from the Victor Mature movie "Escort West." It's worth pointing out that the producers chose to film a water feature for this shot — whether it was a puddle left over from a rainstorm, or they brought in their own water to create the effect. Water features were not common at Iverson, where filmmakers typically had to haul in their own water. Even so, two of the Three Stooges movies in this series — "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" and "Have Rocket, Will Travel" — both included scenes featuring Iverson Pond. (See below for more about that.)

"Have Gun, Will Travel" (1959)

A quick glimpse of a slightly blurry triple stack pops up again here, in an episode of the TV Western "Have Gun, Will Travel." It's the same stack of rocks seen in the previous shots. This episode from the show's second season, "Death of a Gunfighter," first aired March 14, 1959.

That triple-stacked rock is still around today. Here's a shot of it in recent times, along with Flat Rock to the left.

A closer look at the triple-stacked rock as it appears today reveals that it is a manmade creation. The rocks are real, but they've been joined by cement, which you can see between the top two rocks.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1953)

I haven't determined the date when the triple stack was created, but as the above shot from "The Roy Rogers Show" proves, it was around at least as early as 1953. The shot comes from the episode "Gun Trouble," which first aired Nov. 22, 1953. It's likely that this three-rock stack goes back even further, as a lot of that type of cement work took place at Iverson around 1950-1951. Another example of cement-assisted rock stacking is Gold Raiders Rock, named after the 1951 Three Stooges movie "Gold Raiders." Click here for more about Gold Raiders Rock.

"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

As they did a few years earlier in "Have Rocket, Will Travel," the Stooges paid another visit to Iverson Pond for "Hercules." Iverson Pond was a feature of Sheep Flats that appeared after a good rain. Incidentally, this is the only time I can think of that I've seen actual sheep in a production shot at Sheep Flats.

At Iverson Pond we meet a whacked-out shepherd played by comedic actor Emil Sitka, who worked extensively with the Three Stooges over the years. Toward the right of the shot, rising out of the pond, is Pond Rock. Directly above Pond Rock, peeking out through the tree, is a partial glimpse of Center Rock, which is discussed in detail here. I also talked about both Iverson Pond and Pond Rock in the entry on the Stooges' "Have Rocket, Will Travel."

The Stooges and their much taller traveling companion — Schuyler, played by Quinn Redeker — listen to the shepherd's story, with Sheep Flats in the background. The rocks in the background are mostly still in place, with the bulk of them located in the swimming pool area of the mobile home park that now occupies Sheep Flats.

Something of interest in this shot, though it's a little hard to make out, is the small shack in the background, which I call the Corral Rocks Shack. You may want to click on the photo to see a larger version.

"Bonanza" (1960) — The Corral Rocks Shack

This shot comes from the "Bonanza" episode "Denver McKee," which premiered Oct. 15, 1960. The shot features Dan Blocker as Hoss, with a dead guy on the ground near him and the Corral Rocks Shack behind him. The shack's name is derived from its location next to a group of rocks I identify in my research as the Corral Rocks.

"Marshal of Heldorado" (1950): The Corral Rocks Shack, with some of the Corral Rocks

A shot from the Lippert B-Western "Marshal of Heldorado" provides a good look at the shack's neighboring rocks, the Corral Rocks, many of which have their own names. The large, pitted rock in the top right corner is one I identify as Big B, which is also one half of a pair of large rocks widely known as the Cave Rocks.

The Corral Rocks Shack's origins go back at least to 1945, when it first began appearing in movies. It was most likely built during the construction of Iverson Village, which stood from 1945 to about 1957. But the tiny shack was surprisingly resilient, outlasting the town itself by several years.

"The Virginian" (1963)

The above shot is probably the final appearance of the Corral Rocks Shack in any production. It's from an episode of the TV series "The Virginian" called "Strangers at Sundown," which aired April 6, 1963. The episode would have been shot during the winter of 1962-63.

Corral Rocks Shack, hiding in background

The land seen in this screen shot was sold later in 1963 to be turned into a mobile home park, becoming the first part of the Iverson Ranch to be sold off. This setting and the area seen in shots above of the sheep herd are all part of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village now.

 "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" (1962)

The action in "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" builds up to a climactic chariot battle filmed mostly on the Upper Iverson, with one scene shot at Iverson Pond, on the Lower Iverson. The frame above takes place in what is now the Cul de Sac area on the former Upper Iverson's South Rim.

This sequence lends itself more to video — here's the clip:

Columbia title card, 1936

The Stooges are best known for the 190 Columbia short features they cranked out from 1934-1959, which can still be seen in regular rotation on TV. In the early title card above, note the spelling of "Curley," which would later evolve into the more widely recognized "Curly," as seen below.

Moe, Larry and Curly were the quintessential Stooges lineup. Curly Howard — real name Jerome Lester Horwitz — was the younger brother of Moe Howard (Moses Harry Horwitz) and Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz), and in many ways, the star of the show. You know: "Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk," "Soitenly!," "Oh, a wiseguy," etc.


Curly died in 1952 after years of poor health. He suffered the first of several strokes around 1944 and was replaced in the Stooges lineup by Shemp in 1946. Moe and Larry were a part of every configuration of the Stooges, with only the third spot rotating. Larry Fine was unrelated to the Howards.

Columbia title card, 1952

Shemp Howard's return to the fold in 1946 reunited the original Stooges lineup. Shemp had already done his first tour of duty back in the early 1930s, when they were known as "Ted Healy and His Stooges." Healy was reportedly an exploitive boss who underpaid the hard-working Stooges. But after they left Healy they wound up in another difficult situation, with tough-as-nails Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn taking over where Healy left off and taking advantage of the Stooges for years. During Shemp's second go-round with the Stooges, he was a part of the 1951 movie "Gold Raiders," one of the Stooges' feature films shot at Iverson. Shemp died in 1955 at age 60.

Columbia title card, 1958

Joe Besser signed on for a brief run as the third Stooge from 1957-1959 — a period that is not highly regarded by the Stooges faithful. Along with Larry Fine, Besser was one of the few Stooges who weren't related to brothers Moe, Shemp and Curly. Also noteworthy, sort of, about Besser is that he became part of a tradition of name confusion involving the third Stooge, with a Joe, a Curly and a Curly Joe all in the rotation at various times — along with a Shemp.

Book: "The Three Stooges Hollywood Filming Locations"

I'm a long way from finished examining the extensive body of work contained in the Three Stooges shorts, but I'm reluctantly arriving at the conclusion that they did not film any of the shorts at Iverson. The Stooges cognoscenti have been examining shooting locations for the Columbia shorts for years, and at least one fairly comprehensive book has been written on the subject. That's the cover above, and you'll find a link below.

The previous entries in my Three Stooges series can be found by clicking here for Part I, on "Have Rocket, Will Travel," or here for Part II, on "Gold Raiders."

If you're interested in learning more about Three Stooges filming locations, the Amazon link below should take you to the book "The Three Stooges: Hollywood Filming Locations," by Jim Pauley.

Here are some other Amazon links related to the Stooges, including links for the movie "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules" and Moe's autobiography, "I Stooged to Conquer":

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