Solarbabies and the Denver Mine

The surviving structures of the Denver mining plant hang precariously off the hillside above the town of Rodalquilar, inside the Cabo de Gata Natural Park. When the mine was constructed during the 1950s, it was believed there were vast gold deposits hidden under ground. But the state-sponsored enterprise failed to meet expectations and the mine was abandoned in 1966.

In the summer of 1985, the site was turned into a post-apocalyptic prison camp for Solarbabies. In the film, a mysterious police state controls the planet’s water resources, but a rebellious group of adolescents (including actors Jami Gertz and Jason Patric) escape on roller skates over the desert landscape to break into the water storage facility and release the water back to the earth. The painted letters, still readable on the mine buildings –“Dorm Block B,” and “Guard Block D”–are leftovers from the film.

A few years later, the site was transformed into a snow-covered medieval England for The Reckoning (2002), starring Willem Dafoe and Paul Bettany. A castle was constructed on top of the mine buildings while Tudor facades wrapped around the circular foundations at the bottom of the hill, creating a surreal, curving structure. Variety magazine wrote at the time, “The Reckoning’s most impressive player … is its stunning set. When scouting expeditions in England failed to yield a viable medieval village, the producers opted to create one in Spain.”

Once Upon a Time in Almería: The Legacy of Hollywood in Spain’ (Daylight Books 2017)

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