Monday, August 25, 2008

Los Angeles Arboretum

A few weeks ago, my tour of Roger Corman filming locations ended abruptly. I had planned to include the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia – where parts of Attack of the Giant Leeches were filmed – but decided to wait and make the trip later when I could spend more time there. This weekend, Leon Smith’s book Movie and Television Locations (McFarland, 1999) prompted me to make the trip. Smith claims that the Arboretum has been used in more than 100 movies and television shows since 1937 – among them, the Madonna vehicle Who’s That Girl?, the 1990 remake of Lord of the Flies, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The American President with Michael Douglas, the 1997 b-movie Anaconda with Jennifer Lopez, plus various Tarzan movies.

The Arboretum proved to be a beautiful getaway, but I have a bone to pick with Smith’s book: Most of its pages are devoted to pointless synopses of films, with very little additional information about where specific scenes were shot. For example, the unnecessary one-sentence synopsis of T2 is followed by this line: “The jungle is a location in several scenes.” Which scenes? I don’t remember any jungle scenes in T2. Other entries don't even provide this much information about where the supposed filming took place, which makes it seem that this book is a result of very basic detective skills (by a former member of the LAPD) rather than a genuine passion for the films or the filmmaking process.

A much more thorough list of movies shot here (at least, prior to 1994) exists on the Arboretum’s official website. Most of the shoots, it seems, revolved around the lagoon – which is probably most recognizable from the star-studded TV series “Fantasy Island.” In the middle of this lush jungle setting is a striking Victorian house, painted red and white like something out of a fairy tale. The house, known as Queen Anne Cottage, was commissioned in 1885 by Elias Jackson Baldwin – owner of the Santa Anita Ranch – as a wedding present for his fourth wife. The marriage didn’t last very long and the house was re-designed as a memorial for Baldwin’s late third wife, and used mostly as a guest quarters. Baldwin himself stayed at a nearby adobe, built on the property in 1839 and reconstructed in 1958-60. Just up the hill, there's a second oasis with views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

While I was in the neighborhood, I decided to pop down the street to Sierra Madre, which doubled as Santa Mira in one key scene from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Dr. Miles Bennell’s office was in a two-story building overlooking the town square. From a second-story window in that building, he saw the townfolk gathering giant seed pods to distribute throughout the region. Through the magic of the movies, he and Becky Driscoll escaped via Beachwood Drive (several miles away in the Hollywood Hills) to Bronson Canyon (in nearby Griffith Park). For more information on this film, see Jerry Schneider’s comprehensive “Movie Making Locations” website.

No comments:

Post a Comment