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.
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• 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).
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Hidden filming location discovered on the Iverson Movie Ranch

French poster for "Apache Woman" (1955)

With all the filming that took place on the Iverson Movie Ranch over the past 100 years, it's still possible to find a significant shooting location at the site that has never previously been discovered.

"Apache Woman": Hidden shooting location on the Lower Iverson

That's what happened earlier this month, when the location seen here, used in the filming of the 1955 Roger Corman Western "Apache Woman," was found.

The shooting location is largely defined by a cluster of rocks overlooking the Iverson Gorge.

The "Apache Woman" filming site as it appears today

Those rocks remain in place today on the former Lower Iverson, on land that has been preserved for public use as part of the Garden of the Gods park.

The terrain has undergone big changes since 1955, and the area as we find it today is overgrown with foliage and dried brush. But it's still possible to identify the main rock features — note the rocks labeled "A" through "J."

Rocks "A" through "J" can be identified in the "Apache Woman" screen shot, filmed more than 60 years earlier.

Other rocks that were a part of the scene are now concealed by brush.

Back in 1955 the site was large enough and open enough to enable seven cowboys to park their horses with room to spare as they positioned themselves against the rocks to observe the riders below.

The scene would be impossible to shoot in 2017 without first putting a lot of work into brush clearance. The openness of the site in 1955 stands in stark contrast to its inaccessibility today.

The hidden overlook rocks, with Nyoka Cliff at top right

The rocks forming the hidden overlook are clearly photogenic. Given the ample filming room to the west, it's surprising that they didn't get used more often during the filming era.

The setting afforded a clear view of the road below in 1955. This widely used movie road, built by Joe Iverson in the 1930s, is often referred to as "the stagecoach road," but the Iverson family called it Steep Canyon Road.

Also visible from the overlook in "Apache Woman," looking east into the Iverson Gorge, is a second cluster of distinctive rocks. These rocks held the key to finding the location.

Although only a few of these rocks have survived, I recognized them from a previous expedition into the Gorge.

Nyoka Cliff, top, and a portion of the Iverson Gorge in 2016

They're the same rocks that turned up in the old Columbia serial "Atom Man vs. Superman," which I blogged about in early 2016. You can click here to read that post, which includes aerial photos to help locate the area.

The terrain was dramatically altered by the construction of Redmesa Road, built in the late 1980s to provide access to the new Cal West Townhomes development.

It is no longer possible to see even the surviving "Atom Man vs. Superman" rocks from the "Apache Woman" site, as they've been replaced by a view of the cars parked along Redmesa.

The "Apache Woman" scene appears to have been filmed from a high vantage point either adjacent to or on top of "Minisub," a rock tower just west of the hidden overlook.

Minisub came up in a post two years ago about the Chinese Bridge in the silent movie "Tell It to the Marines," which you can read by clicking here.

The shape of the rock reminds me of a small submarine, which provided the inspiration for the name.

This shot pinpoints the hidden filming location in its position on a small plateau above Redmesa Road.

The rocks that form the overlook, seen from street level

Approaching the Garden of the Gods trail entrance from Redmesa Road, the rocks forming the hidden overlook can be seen on the hillside up above.

"Apache Woman" filming location (Bing bird's-eye view)

A bird's-eye view shows the proximity of the site to Redmesa Road and the Garden of the Gods Trail. The shooting location can be reached by parking on Redmesa and hiking up the trail.

To get to the "Apache Woman" location, start at the gate to Garden of the Gods, hike up to the top of the trail, then turn right and head north through the Footholds area, continuing north past Minisub before turning east.

"Five Guns West" (1955) — Cactus Hill, on the Iverson Ranch

"Apache Woman" was one of three Westerns Roger Corman filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch in the mid-1950s, as he was just starting his directing career. The others were "Five Guns West" and "The Oklahoma Woman."

Corman, who is now in his 90s and continues to actively produce movies, had an intuitive understanding of the Iverson Ranch's rocky terrain, repeatedly featuring its best vistas and its overlooked nooks and crannies.

"Five Guns West": Unusual ambush sequence using Wrench Rock on the Upper Iverson

Corman's early Westerns showcase not only the filmmaker's enthusiasm for the Iverson Ranch, but also his unique perspective on what it was that made the place special.

"Apache Woman": Lloyd Bridges, right, and Paul Birch at the hidden overlook

It's perfectly natural that Corman would be the one to find, and feature, the overlook seen in "Apache Woman" — a spot that had been, well, overlooked, by other filmmakers for decades.

"Viking Women and the Sea Serpent" (1957): Burning at the stake in Central Garden of the Gods

Corman also filmed "Viking Women and the Sea Serpent," "Teenage Caveman" and the original "The Fast and the Furious" on the Iverson Ranch in the 1950s before returning to the ranch in 1978 for "Deathsport."

"Apache Woman": Anne's brother catches her making out with Lloyd Bridges

"Apache Woman" represents one of Corman's most comprehensive explorations of the Iverson Movie Ranch, including location footage shot on the Upper Iverson, Middle Iverson and all over the Lower Iverson.

Lloyd Bridges vs. Lance Fuller in the Iverson Gorge 

If you like your Western action on the rocks, like I do, "Apache Woman" really delivers. This scene takes place among some relatively obscure rocks in the Gorge.

"Apache Woman": Joan Taylor rides the Iverson Ranch

The movie also gets a lot out of Joan Taylor as its half-Native American, half-white title character, Anne LeBeau. In this shot Joan is seen riding near some of the familiar stone towers of the Garden of the Gods.

Joan Taylor as Anne LeBeau: Don't call her "half-breed"!

Born Rose Marie Emma in Illinois, Taylor was in reality of Austrian and Italian descent. But she apparently looked Native American "enough" — she found a lot of work playing Indian maidens early in her career.

"The Savage" (Paramount, 1952): Joan Taylor and Charlton Heston

Taylor was just 22 when she played Luta opposite Charlton Heston in "The Savage." Heston's English-Scottish genes can be forgiven in this case, as he plays a white man raised by the Indians. But "Luta" was pure Sioux.

"War Paint" (United Artists, 1953): Joan Taylor as Wanima

It didn't take long for Taylor to start being typecast. She was back in uniform a year later as Wanima in "War Paint."

Joan Taylor — promo shot for "Rose Marie" (1954)

By the time Taylor found her way into Mervyn LeRoy's adaptation of the Western musical "Rose Marie," someone realized it was time to start showing off her body, and a batch of sizzling promo stills were shot.

Joan Taylor may have had the scene-stealing costumes in the movie, but it was Ann Blyth who got the title role in "Rose Marie" — which may have been a bitter pill for Taylor given that her real name was in fact Rose Marie.

Poster for "Apache Woman" featuring a naked lady with a gun

Taylor's, ahem, body of work wasn't lost on the people who did the marketing for "Apache Woman," who gleefully exploited the movie's sexy star with innuendo-laced taglines like "Half-breed emotions stripped to raw fury!"

Remember we warned you not to call her "half-breed"? It's not about political correctness, even though today we might say "mixed ethnicity." No, it's only because if you call her "half-breed" she will knife you.

Italian poster for "Apache Woman": Less rock, more leg

The Italian poster for the movie gives its cartoon version of Joan a smaller rock to hide behind, leaving more of her to be ogled. She also gets a more youthful haircut along with a whole new face.

Another fun poster for "Apache Woman"

Whatever was going around the marketing department ... I want some! The "busting out of her blouse" scene in this poster bears little resemblance to the movie — and the character bears no resemblance to Joan Taylor — but you have to love the "naked violence" come-on.

By the way, did you notice where the cowboy's eyes are fixed? Something tells me this is not an accident.

Advertisement for "Apache Woman," featuring Joan Taylor (1955)

They may have taken things a little too far with this ad, but apparently they could get away with it in 1955. Somebody dredged up the racy "Rose Marie" photo shoot for this promotion.

"Apache Woman": Lloyd Bridges and Joan Taylor have a moment

Taylor's sex appeal wasn't lost on Lloyd Bridges' character, Rex. After the obligatory "meet cute" and "bust the babe skinnydipping," the couple gets busy with some heavy petting — always against the backdrop of the rocks.

Bridges and Taylor "meet cute"

It wasn't always sunshine and roses for Rex and Anne. First there was that incident in town where Anne was politely reminding the townsfolk at knifepoint that she also prefers not to be called "squaw."

Meet cute opportunity No. 2: The "naked violence" skinnydip

Then there was that embarrassing skinnydip, where Rex got his chance to "size up the wares" before he gets in too deep. Don't worry — he stays dry ... for now.

The movie delivers the promised naked lady with a gun ... sort of

If the idea of a beautiful woman skinnydipping with a six-shooter has you salivating, don't get too worked up: This is about as good as it gets for the "naked violence" portion of the program.

The skinnydip confrontation does yield a minor shenanigan after Anne puts some clothes on and then tries to conk Rex on the head with a rock. Still, the overall level of titillation in the movie proper falls well short of the posters.

Before long, wouldn't you know it, Anne and Rex are picking wallpaper patterns and reviewing the guest list for the wedding. Boy, it never took long for people to fall in love in the old Westerns.

Anne and Rex, now officially an "item," join the sheriff on a posse adventure

Soon they find themselves doing typical "couple" things like going on manhunts. This sequence takes place at the base of an old movie road on the Upper Iverson that I reported on last year.

The rocks identified here form a section of the buttressing for the movie road. Please click here to read more about the road, including "then and now" shots and maps of the area.

Rocky cove on the Upper Iverson, near the base of the old movie road

The sequence brings the group to a picturesque rocky cove — still another underutilized Iverson location uncovered by Roger Corman and his team, which included Oscar-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby.

The hidden cove in recent years

The hidden cove was located just below Prominent Rock, so plenty of filming took place in the area — but almost no one thought to let the camera peer into the cove itself until Corman came along.

"Apache Woman?": Anne in her "identity crisis" white dress

For an "Apache Woman," Anne wears a lot of white dresses. It's all part of a broader identity crisis for Anne, who pretty much rejects the whole Apache thing. (Case in point, her frequent makeout sessions with Rex.)

"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956): Joan Taylor, Hugh Marlowe and the tourists from hell

Following her lead role in "Apache Woman," Joan Taylor became a bit of a science-fiction icon over the next couple of years with roles in "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" and "20 Million Miles to Earth."

"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers": Washington, D.C., under attack

"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" was a landmark sci-fi movie — you may recall some of the images of flying saucers wreaking havoc on Washington, D.C.

Italian poster for "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers"

Once again, the Italians made a point of ramping up the sex quotient in their poster for the movie.

Poster for the Swedish version of "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers"

Not to be outdone, Sweden put its own sexy cartoon version of Joan Taylor's character in the movie poster, where she was abused by space robots.

"20 Million Miles to Earth": Joan Taylor solidifies her sci-fi cred

Then came "20 Million Miles to Earth" in 1957, another chance for Taylor to wear revealing dresses and be terrified by aliens.

Ray Harryhausen's monster, "Ymir," on the Lower Iverson

The alien this time was named "Ymir," and he was the handiwork of special effects master Ray Harryhausen. One place the producers of "20 Million Miles to Earth" turned Ymir loose was on the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Joan was apparently pretty vexed by the big space lizard. If you'd like to see more of Ymir's rampage on the Iverson Ranch — and also in Rome, another place he terrorized — please click here to read my post from 2013.

"The Rifleman": Chuck Connors with Joan Taylor

In the early '60s Joan Taylor was back in Westerns — as a white woman this time — playing Lucas McCain's girlfriend Milly Scott on "The Rifleman." Taylor retired from acting in 1963.

Closing shot of "Apache Woman": Lone Ranger Rock at top center

Producer and director Roger Corman chose the rock we now know as Lone Ranger Rock for the final shot of "Apache Woman." I like to think the shot was meant as a tribute to the Iverson Ranch, where he had already made three movies at this early stage in his career. He would go on to make many more at the location ranch.