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What Hit Us?

Long Before "Asteroid," moviemakers made their mark on Colorado. A guide to some high and low points.

Vonderesch denies that Utah is grabbing Colorado business. "I don't know who would spread that rumor," Vonderesch says. "I fly in at the dead of night and take from Michael Klein [head of Colorado's film commission]? It's not the way you work getting movies. We're not in a negotiating position."

The states have been rivals since the early 1950s, when both Durango and Kanab, Utah, were vying for the title "Hollywood of the Rockies."

THE NATIVES ARE GETTING RESTLESS
* The filming of The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (1976), with Goldie Hawn and George Segal, enraged some Central City residents after asphalt streets were covered with dirt to make the town appear older.

* While The Last Gun (1978), a Western with samurai overtones, was filming in Central City, residents balked at the hassles. "I guess if I wanted to live in a movie colony, I'd have moved to Hollywood," said local merchant Vern Terpening.

* Filming of the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) at Mesa Verde National Park came under fire from the park's archaeologist, who feared that filming would damage ancient ruins. He was overturned by the National Park Service's regional office in Denver, but the filmmakers wound up shooting in Conejos County, near Antonito.

* Filming of a 1989 episode of the Father Dowling Mysteries on High Street, a few blocks from the Denver Country Club, had residents up in arms about all the lights and all the trailers and all the noise.

* When The Shining was filming in Congress Park last summer, residents were up in arms about all the lights and all the trailers and all the noise.

WE PAUSE FOR A PRODUCT PLUG...
Smokey and the Bandit (1977): Back in the days when Burt Reynolds, a black Trans Am T-top and Coors beer were all you needed, Burt tried to smuggle several hundred cases of Coors east of Texas, where it wasn't sold and importing was illegal. Mayhem ensued.

SNOW JOBS
* Aspen, a 1977 TV mini-series, featured Sam Elliott and a gaggle of near-stars in a steamy soap opera.

* Avalanche, a 1978 "disasterama" set at a posh mountain resort, starred Mia Farrow, Rock Hudson, cheesy special effects and lots of snow.

JUST PASSING THROUGH
* The Searchers (1956): This classic John Ford-John Wayne film has the Duke playing a Civil War vet obsessed with finding his missing niece, who was kidnapped by Indians. Parts were shot in Gunnison.

* Eighty Hoofs to Denver (1962): Based on the true story of a 1908 race sponsored by the Denver Post to prove that the bronco was better on Western terrain than other breeds. The race started in Evanston, Wyoming, and followed a path along the Union Pacific tracks to Denver.

* Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): Paul Newman and Robert Redford play bandits cheating and charming their way through the Old West. Shot in southwestern Colorado.

* Vanishing Point (1971): In Richard C. Sarafian's cult classic, Barry Newman and an all-white Dodge Challenger race from Denver to San Francisco (1,257 miles) in fifteen hours. Newman plays an ex-cop, ex-racer loser named Kowalski.

* Bite the Bullet (1975): Another horse-race film, about a 600-mile jaunt through the West, this one featured filming in Antonito with Gene Hackman and James Coburn.

* National Lampoon's Vacation (1983): Chevy Chase clowns his way through a cross-country trip that takes the Griswold family through southern Colorado en route to Wally World.

* Thelma and Louise (1991): We don't know for sure whether the gals passed through Colorado en route to the Grand Canyon, but the filmmakers did, shooting scenes in Mesa County on the Western Slope.

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR
The most famous Western film landscape, Monument Valley (The Searchers, Once Upon a Time in the West), is less than 100 miles from Colorado, on the Utah-Arizona border.

NOT EVEN CLOSE
* In 1967, long before Oliver Stone's JFK, Robert Larsen of Colorado Springs planned to make Countdown in Dallas. The pivotal roles of Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby were to be played by musicians who closely resembled the two men. The film was never made.

* In 1979, sites in southern Colorado were being considered for a 2,500-acre, $400 million movie set and science-fiction theme park that would have been larger than Disney World. The park would have been built as a set for a $55 million sci-fi extravaganza called Lord of Light. The project never got off the ground.

* The biggest movie ever to be filmed in Colorado--according to the film's backers (and given the demise of Lord of Light)--was supposed to be Battlefield Earth, L. Ron Hubbard's very long science-fiction saga. Shooting was set for 1985 in Denver, Canon City, Colorado Springs, Climax and Longmont and was to include a flying platform suspended from a large crane overlooking the Royal Gorge.

* Greeley's near-contribution to furthering the Colorado film scene was a 1989 pilot for a TV show called Curse of the Corn People, which followed several twenty-year-olds in a Midwestern town who were making a horror film of the same name.

* Enter the Bassett was to be a 1984 low-budget, locally shot parody of Bruce Lee featuring characters named Awesome Lotus, Chuck Tuna and Tofu Cava, who battle against Herr Bassett, a canine lover who runs the "Federation for the Advancement of Rayon Textiles." Coming nowhere soon!

JUST HOW MANY PERRY MASON MOVIES WERE THERE?
The answer? Thirty, shot between 1985 and 1995. Raymond Burr did 26 before he died of cancer in 1993; Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starred in the remaining four. Twenty-two were shot in and around Denver, according to Viacom, the show's producer.

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