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Straight to Hell  

In August 1986, an unlikely crew descended on the Tabernas desert, including Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello, members of the Pogues, Sy Richardson, and Jim Jarmusch. Even Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones jetted in for a day. The resulting film, Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell, was neither a commercial nor critical success, but it has since achieved a form of cult status. A remastered director’s cut was just released last year. But the fact that the film got made at all was the result of an equally improbable set of circumstances. In 1984 The Clash were on the verge […]

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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. The buildings still bear black painted letters–”Dorm Block B,” “Guard Block D”–from a movie production almost 30 years ago. The foundations of the separation tanks create enormous circles at the bottom of the hill. Across the plain lies the Mediterranean ocean. The mining industry transformed the landscape of Almeria during the nineteenth century as modern technology allowed for large scale exploitation of iron, lead and other resources. Activity slowed during the Spanish Civil War in […]

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The Final Duel  

Mortimer stands eyeing his Colt Buntline Special on the ground, which has just been shot out of his hand. Indio approaches holding a musical watch. Inside the watch is a picture of Mortimer’s sister, who shot herself while being raped by Indio. The two gunmen stand inside a large circle bounded by a low stone wall at the edge of town. In the background is only desert, a few dry shrubs and distant mountains. Manco approaches, offering his gunbelt and pistol to Mortimer before taking a seat on the low wall. The duel begins. As Indio starts to reach for […]

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Cleopatra in Almeria  

By the start of 1963, the ill-fated 20th Century Fox production of Cleopatra was three years in the making and tens of millions of dollars over budget. The film had lost its first director, suffered months of delays due to the star’s illness, and moved its operations from London to Rome to Egypt, rebuilding enormous sets and reshooting scenes along the way. The final cost was over $40 million dollars. Adjusting for inflation, it remains one of the most expensive films ever made.  In February, a boat arrived in the port of Almeria transporting roman carriages and other set decorations […]

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