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 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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Cisco Kid was a friend of mine — and a friend of the Saddle, Cleft Rock, Bathtub Rock and Water Wiggle

Duncan Renaldo as the Cisco Kid

What do Duncan Renaldo, I. Stanford Jolley and Water Wiggle have in common? They all appeared together in an episode of "The Cisco Kid" called "Montezuma's Treasure."

"Montezuma's Treasure" — first aired Feb. 24, 1955; the shot features perennial B-Western baddie 
I. Stanford Jolley as, what else, a bad guy — the crooked Professor Danforth.

I can never get enough of the sandstone wonderland that was — and to a large extent, still is — the Iverson Movie Ranch's rock-strewn North Cluster, a portion of which is seen in the above screen shot. With that in mind, this blog post picks up where the previous one left off, breaking down the main rock features of the North Cluster with the help of "The Cisco Kid." The shot above depicts an especially rock-rich section as it appeared in 1955, looking toward the west. An adjacent chunk of equally rocky terrain can be seen in the screen shot of Cisco below, and I'll combine the two halves later in the post to present a wider view of the area.

By the way, "The Cisco Kid" is reportedly the first TV series filmed entirely in color. The early TV Western was a syndicated production from Ziv Television Programs that ran for six seasons and 156 episodes, with its first run stretching from 1950 to 1956. The odd thing is hardly anyone saw it in color until years later, because nobody had color TV sets at the time.

Duncan Renaldo as Cisco — another shot from the 1955 episode "Montezuma's Treasure"

In the above shot the Cisco Kid runs through the North Cluster in pursuit of the crook Danforth, played by I. Stanford Jolley. This shot is sort of the "other half" of the screen shot up above — you might spot the smaller two-humped rock known as the Saddle in both shots. It's at the left of the screen in the Cisco shot above, and at the right of the screen in the shot of Danforth.

I. Stanford Jolley, perennial B-Western heavy

I'll try to connect some of the dots among the rock features Toucan and Freddie Frog, which were examined in detail in the previous blog post (you can find it by clicking here), and a number of the other rocks seen in the two screen shots above, including the Saddle, Bathtub Rock and Cleft Rock. First up, allow me to introduce Water Wiggle ...

The rock highlighted above in the blue rectangle is Water Wiggle, and it was at the center of a long-running mystery for me. As of a few weeks ago, that mystery — like the mystery of Freddie Frog — is solved.

"Days of Jesse James" (1939)

The Water Wiggle mystery originated here, in the 1939 Roy Rogers/Gabby Hayes movie "Days of Jesse James." I became fixated on the large rock toward the right — shaped sort of like a bell, lying on its side. I eventually took to calling it Water Wiggle. It's highlighted in the shot below.

The name comes from the rock's bell shape, which reminded me of the old Wham-O hose attachment toy.

You know, this thing. Along with the way-more-fun (and of course, way-more-dangerous) Slip 'N Slide, the Water Wiggle was a children's summer staple for years, going back to the early 1960s. Historical note: The original version of the Water Wiggle itself was apparently also dangerous, and millions of them were recalled back in 1978 after at least a couple of youngsters drowned when the nozzles became lodged in their mouths.

It took me a few years to assemble the puzzle pieces I needed to find the real-life rock Water Wiggle, which was hiding in plain sight all along. The above shot shows Water Wiggle in recent times, largely obscured by foliage. One big problem is that it doesn't look much like it did in the old Roy Rogers movie, but that's the kind of challenge that makes this research as much fun as it is.

Back to the "other half" the "Cisco Kid" scene. Besides featuring an airborne Duncan Renaldo as Cisco, this shot from "Montezuma's Treasure" contains rocks that are adjacent to those found in the screen shot of Prof. Danforth. The rocks behind Cisco, above, are generally to the north of the rocks seen in the frame with Danforth. The Cisco frame seen here includes the landmarks (left to right) the Saddle, Bathtub Rock and Cleft Rock.

This is how the two halves fit together, more or less. As composites go, this one is a bit clunky, but I suppose it will do. You may want to click on it for a larger view. I'll get back to this shot again later in the post and will mark up the main rock features. But I wanted you to see most of the area in one piece before we continue.

Now, back to the "Cisco half" of the shot ...

One of the best-known features of the North Cluster, the Saddle, also known as Saddle Rock, is highlighted in the rectangle in the above shot.

"The Living Bible" (1952)

The Saddle surfaces pretty regularly in productions shot at Iverson. It's only partially visible in the above example, where it's positioned right behind what appears to be a small stable at the center of the shot. For some reason I find this use of Saddle Rock mildly amusing, as it had to be intentional to place it in the middle of the scene, but at the same time it's hard to see the point.

In case there's any doubt, this shot pinpoints the Saddle. By the way, the larger rock to the immediate right of the Saddle is Bathtub Rock, which will be discussed in more detail below.

I wanted to include this additional shot from "The Living Bible" because, even though it shows only a portion of the Saddle, it provides a little more detail — and it continues to use the rock in an unusual way. To my eye, the rock is just sitting there for no good reason with nothing to do, getting in the way of the other action to some extent. But as I'm a self-admitted "rock guy," I suppose it's to be expected that my focus would be drawn to the rock.

Probably not necessary, but again, in case there's any doubt, the Saddle is highlighted here. The Toucan also appears in these "Living Bible" shots, and I've noted it above as well.

This is the world of the Saddle today, forever in shadow beneath a large oak tree. The main use for the Saddle these days is as a step for people who want to climb up onto Bathtub Rock — the larger rock to the right of the Saddle. And people do want to climb up there to get a look at the tub.

I managed to catch the Saddle with sufficient light for a closeup on a visit to Iverson a few years back.

Directly to the right of the Saddle is the much larger Bathtub Rock, so named because Buster Keaton took a bath in a "tub" at the top of the rock in the silent feature "Three Ages."

Here's another view of what Bathtub Rock looks like these days, with its constant companion, Saddle Rock, lurking in the shade toward the left.

This is the famous shot of Buster in the "bathtub" from the shoot for "Three Ages" in 1923. Keaton plays a caveman in this portion of the movie.

The bathtub is still intact, and still holds water — as seen in this photo from modern times. It's rare to see the "tub" quite this full, but it can fill up whenever Southern California gets a decent rainstorm. Up to this point, I've resisted the temptation to get in the tub when it has water in it — but I will admit to having posed for a photo in the tub one time when it was dry.

To the immediate right of Bathtub Rock is another well-known Iverson Movie Ranch feature, Cleft Rock.

"Gunsmoke" TV show (1965)

Cleft Rock turns up pretty regularly in movies and TV shows. The above shot comes from the "Gunsmoke" episode "Two Tall Men," from Season 10 of the long-running Western series. The shot shows Festus, played by Ken Curtis, at the right, with Cleft Rock directly above his back. The larger rock to its left is again Bathtub Rock.

I've circled Cleft Rock here, as it's a little hard to make out in the "Gunsmoke" shot. I wasn't trying to circle Festus' head, but he's right in front of the rock.

"Outlaws of the Panhandle" (1941)

Here's a closeup of cowboy star Charles Starrett from the 1941 Columbia B-Western "Outlaws of the Panhandle," with Cleft Rock right behind him.

You're probably getting good at recognizing Cleft Rock by now, but here it is pointed out anyway.

The contemporary setting for Cleft Rock includes plenty of bushes, condos in the background and, as always, Bathtub Rock to the left. The rock is tucked away in a pretty obscure corner of Garden of the Gods Park, with ivy and other foliage gradually swallowing it up.

Once again, here's that composite photo of the site as it appeared in 1955 for "The Cisco Kid." I've highlighted the main rock features, making for a "busy" shot, but I thought it might be a useful way to summarize the rocks found at the location. Again, you may want to click on the photo for a larger view.

Almost all of these rocks remain in place today and can be seen on a visit to Garden of the Gods Park — although in some cases you'll have to look under trees to find them. In the case of Freddie Frog, let's just say that Freddie's not himself these days ... but you can still visit his two halves.

"The Cisco Kid" remains one of the best sources of color footage of the Iverson Movie Ranch when it was still a working filming location. As you can see in this post and the previous one, the show extensively documented the North Cluster. But that was just the beginning, as the series was all over the 500-acre ranch during Cisco's six-year run on TV. I've blogged before about the TV show, including a weird entry about faces in the rocks, which you can see by clicking here. I also expect to be writing more about "The Cisco Kid" in upcoming posts.

In the meantime, you may want to take a look at the "Cisco Kid" TV show DVD sets being sold on Amazon, as they're highly recommended if you're into the Iverson Movie Ranch, location research in general or just old TV Westerns. The picture quality is generally really good — I'm not sure how well it comes across in the screen shots you see here, but this is by far the best "Cisco Kid" TV show stuff I've seen. I'll include some links below to the same sets I'm using for these posts. One minor disclaimer: Collection 1 doesn't have much Iverson content, although the other sets are loaded with it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Toucan makes an appearance in "The Cisco Kid" — and brings along its pal Freddie Frog

"The Cisco Kid" TV show episode "Montezuma's Treasure," which first aired Feb. 24, 1955;
I. Stanford Jolley appears as crooked Professor Danforth.

Here's a screen shot from the "Cisco Kid" TV series showing the juxtaposition of a bunch of great old movie rocks. The shot is set in the northern reaches of Garden of the Gods, in an area I call the North Cluster.

Iverson Movie Ranch aficionados may recognize the rock noted here, known as the Saddle or Saddle Rock. It's worth noting that, for the most part, the rocks in this shot have survived — although many of them have seen better days.

Above perennial B-Western bad guy I. Stanford Jolley's head, is a rock I call the Toucan — not that it looks like a toucan here, but it did in "The Lone Ranger," where I first saw it. I've blogged about it before, and you can click here to read a post that reveals how the mystery of the Toucan was solved.

"The Lone Ranger" TV series — shot in 1949

This is the shot that gave the Toucan its name — my first sighting of the rock, in an early episode of the "Lone Ranger" TV series. The same shot can be found in the movie "The Lone Ranger," released in 1952, which is an edited version of the first three episodes of the TV show. (The movie is also sometimes called "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" or "Enter the Lone Ranger.")
As it appears here, the rock reminds me of a toucan's beak, even though the effect turns out to be an optical illusion. It may be hard to tell that the rock in this shot and the one in the blue rectangle in the "Cisco Kid" shot above are the same rock, but they are.

For comparison, here's an actual toucan. I know — the beak is curved, and the rock really doesn't look much like the bird. Still, that's what came to me at the time, and I've been stuck with it ever since.

Here's the Toucan — the rock — as it appears today. It's hard to get a decent shot of it because these days it's hidden under a tree. It even has a coating of moss on it from being in the shade all the time.

Back to "The Cisco Kid," the blue rectangle here highlights a rock I call Freddie Frog. Freddie doesn't look at all like a frog here, but I think it does in the next shot — kind of a cartoonish frog.

"Range Beyond the Blue" (1947)

That's the same rock, Freddie Frog, at the bottom center of the frame, showing a little more personality than in the "Cisco Kid" shot. You may also notice the Toucan again making an appearance, in the center of the shot, directly above Freddie Frog.

"Freddie the Frog" — the plush toy

Here's an example of a "Freddie Frog" in the real world, if toys are the real world. It's a plush toy called "Freddie the Frog" that you can buy anywhere as part of the NoJo Jungle Babies line. I get that not everyone will see the resemblance, but I have to say it works for me.

"The Living Bible" (1952)

Freddie Frog pops up again in the 1952 production "The Living Bible," which was marketed under a variety of titles including "Jesus, the Christ" and "The Life of Christ." That's Freddie at the left in the above shot, and once again, the Toucan shares the screen with him. The Toucan is harder to make out here, but that's it just above the two guys at the right.

A "meaningless" pile of rocks containing clues to movie history

It took me a few years to figure out what happened to Freddie Frog — the rock — but I finally unlocked the mystery on a visit to Iverson earlier this month. The Freddie story turned out to be a bit more convoluted — and definitely more interesting — than I ever suspected. The secret of Freddie's fate was contained in the pile of rocks seen here.

First, to put that pile of rocks in its place in the universe, here's a slightly wider view of the spot. The pile of rocks appears at the right, but pay attention to the larger rock at the left of the shot. That same rock, which is unnamed, can also be seen in the "Cisco Kid" shot, as noted below.

In the "Cisco Kid" shot, I've highlighted the "unnamed larger rock" as it appeared in the TV show. I've also highlighted Freddie Frog again to point out how close these two rocks were to each other.

Now let's take a closer look at that pile of rocks ...

These two large rocks have splotches of cement and concrete all over them, revealing that they were used to hold another rock in place during the filming era. That other rock, of course, was Freddie Frog, and these rocks formed its base. The large crack between the two rocks can be seen in the "Cisco Kid" shot, highlighted below.

The crack is one of the key identifiers revealing that the two rocks at the site today — seen in the photo above this one — formed the original base for Freddie.

Here's a closer look at some of the cement that once held Freddie's head in place. This is the same patch that's near the top of the frame in the "traces of cement and concrete" photo a couple of shots up, and it apparently secured the "north leg" of Freddie's head, if that makes any sense. It looks just like sand in person — as cement tends to do — but it's hard as a rock.

And the mystery is solved: These two unrecognizable rocks are the former Freddie Frog, having been toppled off his carefully cemented perch for unknown reasons and apparently splitting in half in the process. The two rocks that were once Freddie's head now fill the spot where the bad guy stood in the "Cisco Kid" shot. It remains unclear whether Freddie got his block knocked off by vandals, an earthquake — maybe even as part of preservation efforts. Regardless, Freddie Frog has survived, in a way — even if he's not quite ready for his closeup anymore.

You may want to take a look at the "Cisco Kid" TV show DVD sets being sold on Amazon — highly recommended if you're into the Iverson Movie Ranch, location research in general or just old TV Westerns. The picture quality is generally really good — I'm not sure how well it comes across in the screen shots you see here, but this is by far the best "Cisco Kid" TV show stuff I've seen. Click on the links above to order the same sets I'm using for these posts. One minor note of caution: I don't think Collection 1 has as much Iverson content as Collections 2, 3 and 4.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Quetzalcoatl flies — and kills — on the Iverson Movie Ranch

Quetzalcoatl — the feathered serpent deity of the Aztecs — made an appearance on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., in 1946 for the low-budget PRC horror flick "The Flying Serpent." And low-budget or not, the movie produced at least a couple of noteworthy location shots, thanks to the magic of special effects.

"The Flying Serpent" (1946)

The movie's opening shot, above, includes some real-world Iverson features at the bottom of the frame, incorporated into a fake Aztec setting via a superimposed backdrop at the top of the frame. I've pinpointed some of the key elements of the shot in the photo below.

The adobe village seen in the bottom half of the shot was in place in the Iverson Gorge throughout the late 1940s, and turns up occasionally in old PRC B-Westerns and other productions of the era. The buildings were temporary movie structures and had a tendency to move around, so the key thing that pinpoints exactly where the above shot was taken is The Wall, a massive rock feature at Iverson that clearly never moved — until it was destroyed after the filming days so that condos could be built in its place. The Wall is barely noticeable in the above shot, but it's there, and Potato Rock, which sat on top of The Wall, helps identify it.

Another shot from the movie further incorporates real-world Iverson rock features into a make-believe world that includes ancient Aztec structures. In this shot we see the full spread of the Devil's Doorway rock features at the bottom of the frame, and another set of Aztec buildings superimposed at the top.

The labels make for a "busy" photo, but the simple version is this: The bottom one-third of the frame consists mainly of actual Iverson Movie Ranch rocks, with the rest of the shot created through movie magic.

This shot appears to me to be yet another special effect  — a smaller-scale composite along the same lines as the larger-scale shots above — combining some unknown Iverson rocks at the bottom with a superimposed background that includes a representation of an Aztec structure.

The movie also has a fun scene in which Quetzalcoatl flies down from Tower Rock in Iverson's Garden of the Gods and attacks a guy. For the most part, shots of the deadly serpent in flight appear to have been filmed in and around Bronson Canyon, including just before Quetzalcoatl shows up in Garden of the Gods in the clip below. Check out the clip: