Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Almost half a century since the creation of the Pharaonic set 'El Cóndor'

Behind the Rambla de Tabernas, it was built in 1969 for the film of the same name.

By Manuel Rodríguez ‘Marofer’

In some past time, the Tabernas Desert hosted many of the most important film stages in the world. It stood out and was recognized by all as one of the best scenarios of cowboy movies and the old west, by then, in the so-called 'Spaghetti Western' that was so fashionable in the 1960s and 1970s. Jewels like the famous dollar trilogy: 'For a Fistful of Dollars' (1964), 'for a Dollars More' (1965) and 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' (1966), with directors like Sergio Leone and protagonists such as Clint Eastwood, and others like 'Once Upon a Time in the West' with Henry Fonda and Claudia Cardinale, they were the prelude of a barrage of films that would be arriving in one of the best landscapes of Spain.

But just over 70 years after the first film was shot, César F. Ardavín's "The Call of Africa" ​​(1952) was one of the Almerian film sets that he later highlighted with the peculiarity of its sets, unlike other small studios such as the Poblado 'Nueva Frontera' (Tabernas), El Rancho de las Salinillas, El Poblado de Tecisa or 'Gobi' Fort (direction Gérgal from Tabernas). Located in an ideal location behind the ravine of Tabernas is the Fort 'El Cóndor', a film studio that gave shelter to John Guillermin's film back in 1969 under the name of 'El Cóndor', premiered in 1970 with actors John Brown, Lee Van Cleef nd Patrick O'Neal.

Asleep in time

As if it remained dormant in time, this place, designed by the Oscar winner for his work in 'Patton' (1969), and well-known Spanish artistic director Gil Parrondo, has retained some of its original buildings to date without having been protected or left in the care by the hand of man. Since then, almost half a century has passed and more than 15 films have been recorded in it. Between its walls of adobe, plaster and wood remains a sea of ​​memories of all those years of filming that has suffered the plundering by the most curious.

It was abandoned back in 1990 for more than a decade where, until its next and last recording years later in 2001 with the film by Mauricio Nichetti, 'Honolulu Baby', said goodbye to 30 years of productions.

Some films like 'March or Die' by Dick Richards, (1977) with Gene Hackman and Catherine Deneuve, 'A Reason to Live a Reason to Die' by Tonino Valerii (1972), with James Coburn and Telly Savallas and the most recognized, 'El Justiciero Ciego (Blindman)' by Ferdinando Baldi (1971) with Ringo Starr, Tony Anthony and Lloyd Batista, and 'Conan, the Barbarian' by John Milius (1981) with Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones, were also recorded in this place.

Observing the place, it must be said that you lose your sight looking at the construction. The first thing you see when arriving at the place is the arch of the entrance, which lies crumbling. In front and on the hill that was the location of several of the houses, and parts of the decoration as the 'mechanical workshop', the 'post office', the 'church' or the central well.

What remains standing

Another of the most picturesque constructions, ancient and seen in its filming is the watchtower at the top of the place has already collapsed due to the remarkable wear and tear of its structure, although it is fortunate that today still retains much of them: the boarding house, the trough, the tavern, the cafeteria where riders tied their horses at the door and a scaffold in perfect condition that still holds the rope of one of the first shoots ... Construction that still impose and defy the laws weather.

On the left, its most symbolic and known building is the same 'Pensión Coyote', name engraved with all its letters and color still on the facade for the last film that El Cóndor would see forever in 2001 with 'Honolulu Baby' by Maurizio Nichetti , a building that previously served as a hostel or fortress in most of the filming. It is, by far, the best preserved decoration while maintaining its structure, especially a deterioration in the floor, ceilings and stairs leading to the upper floor, where they housed the rooms that served as a refuge in the feature film for its protagonist, 'Mr . Colombo ', when he fled from the women of the place, has now collapsed.

Accessing the building, it is impressive to see the imposing entrance doors to the pension, protagonists in all the films recorded here, as if the time had not passed through them they keep the blue color with which was painted for 'Honolulu Baby'.

Films shot at El Condor
El Condor – 1969
Blindman – 1971

Massacre at Fort Holman – 1972
The Man Called Noon – 1973

The Stranger and the Gunfighter – 1974
Comin’ at Ya! – 1981
Scalps – 1986

Dollar for the Dead (TV) - 1998

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