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The Story of El Condor  

I put together this short video about one of my favorite film sets in Almería, which appears in “Once Upon a Time in Almeria: The Legacy of Hollywood in Spain” (Daylight Books 2017). One of the most intriguing locations in Almería is the site of an elaborate fortress originally constructed in 1969 for the film El Condor. Adobe houses, horse stables, an elevated water tank, and a luxurious two story stone house surrounded a central plaza the size of a soccer field. The entire complex was circled by 30 foot walls with a network of watchtowers and stairways. The fort […]

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WW84 in Spain  

In Wonder Woman 1984, Diana Prince appears to be in semi-retirement, working at the Smithsonian Institution as an expert in ancient civilizations while playing mall cop in her spare time. But she is soon faced with a new challenge when an ancient Dreamstone shows up, granting wishes while creating havoc. This is where the real action starts. Diana and reanimated dead boyfriend Steve Trevor fly to Cairo, chasing after Max Lord, who has fled with the Dreamstone to fulfill his quest for limitless power. The Egypt segment was entirely filmed in Spain, in Almería, on the southern coast, and the […]

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El Astronauta  

This 1970 Spanish comedy follows Pepe (Tony LeBlanc), a small town dreamer who, after watching the US moon landing on television, decides to build his own rocket to the moon. Amazingly, after numerous setbacks, he finally blasts off into space before coming to a rough landing in a desolate lunar landscape. But while he believes he has reached the moon, his capsule has actually fallen back to earth, landing in the Tabernas desert in the south of Spain. Suddenly, an American cavalry rides by on horseback. The director yells ‘cut!’, while Pepe stands bewildered in his space suit in the […]

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China Film / Latest News
Nov 22, 2020

Shanghai Film Studio’s ‘Nanjing Road’  

If you’ve seen a film or TV show set in period Shanghai, you’ve probably seen this three block long stretch of 1930s-era Nanjing Road. Originally constructed with Taiwanese financing for Chen Kaige’s “Temptress Moon” in 1995, it’s been reused for numerous films from Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” to future science fiction film “Looper.” I created a brief video retrospective on the many lives of this movie set. Click on the viewer above to watch.

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China Film
Sep 14, 2020

‘Kill Bill’ at the Beijing Film Studio  

In 2002, Quentin Tarantino filmed parts of Kill Bill at the historic Beijing Film Studio. The House of Blue Leaves, where Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo (Uma Thurman) has a blood-splattering showdown with the Crazy 88, was constructed on a soundstage here. But the only scene to use exterior sets on the studio’s back lot was cut from the final edit. In this now infamous scene, Michael Jai White (with fake New Zealand accent) and his gang confront Bill (David Carradine) while he is out for a casual stroll with his disciple. Bill begrudgingly accepts the challenge while Kiddo watches from […]

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China Film
Sep 9, 2020

Book Video: Once Upon a Time in Shanghai  

When the Capitol Hill Book Fair was moved virtual this spring, I put together this 5 minute video to present my latest book ‘Once Upon a Time in Shanghai: Behind the Scenes of the Chinese Movie Industry’ (Daylight Books, 2019). I wanted to share what I find so fascinating about the mainland China film industry, as well as the process and thought that went into making the photographs. Understanding the oversized movie production infrastructure in China seems even more relevant now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down movie production and theaters across the US. PEN America released a report […]

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Candice Bergen on Almería: “It was the most romantic location of my life.”  

Candice Bergen was unfortunate enough to be kidnapped not once but twice along the southern coast of Spain in Almeria. It first happened in the 19th Century Old West (The Hunting Party, 1971). An outlaw (Oliver Reed) abducted her outside the schoolhouse, unaware she was the wife of a powerful cattle baron. Then, in 1904, while living in Morocco as an American expat, she was taken with her two children by the Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (Sean Connery) and his band of Berber insurrectionists (The Wind and the Lion, 1975). She shows herself to be fearless, outsmarting and provoking her […]

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The Summer of 1970: Almeria becomes a global movie hub  

The summer of 1970 was a boom season for international movie productions in Spain. A long list of stars passed through Madrid and, of course, Almeria. Yul Brynner was here in June for Adios Sabata, then off to Yugoslavia for another production, before returning to Spain for The Light at the Edge of the World with Kirk Douglas. Omar Sharif and Jack Palance appeared in The Horsemen, Rod Steiger and James Coburn in Duck, You Sucker (Sergio Leone’s final Western), Robert Shaw and Martin Landau in A Town Called Hell, Oliver Reed and Candice Bergen in The Hunting Party, Faye […]

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Then and Now: The Attack on Aqaba  

Compare the beach at Algarrobico on the southern coast of Spain then and now in the video clip above. The city of Aqaba was reconstructed here in 1962 for the filming of this classic scene from Lawrence of Arabia. Though nothing remains of the set today, just the hulk of an abandoned hotel project. I previously wrote about the history of this spot on this blog here.

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Nelson Algren and Simone De Beauvoir’s Road Trip Through Franco’s Spain  

Only a handful of photographs exist of Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren together from a love affair that persisted, mostly across the Atlantic ocean, for over a decade. Possibly the last photograph of them together is from a visit to Spain in May 1960. In the photograph, they stand with Catalan writer Juan Goytisolo to their right along the wall of the Alcazaba, an old Moorish palace, in Almería. A glimpse of the mountainous landscape beyond can be seen over Goytisolo’s shoulder. Beauvoir, in the middle, looks intently into the camera with the air of a school teacher, while […]

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