The Boy Who Stole a Million (1960)

The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Holiday in Spain/Scent of Mystery (1960)

Spartacus (1960)

September Storm (1960)

Moment of Danger/ Málaga (1960)

King of Kings (1961)

El Cid (1961)

Mysterious Island (1961)

The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)

The Savage Guns (1961)

The Singer Not the Song (1961)

Francis of Assisi (1961)

Billy Budd (1962)

HMS Defiant (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The Happy Thieves (1962)

The Day of the Triffids (1962)

Guns of Darkness (1962)

Commando (1962)

The Running Man (1963)

Cleopatra (1963)

55 days at Peking (1963)

The Castilian (1963)

The Ceremony (1963)

From Russia with Love (1963)

Woman of Straw (1964)

The Thin Red Line (1964)

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Circus World (1964)

Wonderful Life (1964)

The Pleasure Seekers (1964)

The Hill (1964)

The Truth about Spring (1964)

Gunfighters of Casa Grande (1964)

Pyro…the Thing without a Face (1964)

Saul and David (1964)

Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

A Few Dollars More (1965)

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

The Battle of the Bulge (1965)

Crack in the World (1965)

Finger on the Trigger (1965)

Masquerade (1965)

10.30 P.M. Summer (1965)

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

The Tramplers (1965)

Joaquín Murrieta (1965)

Navajo Joe (1966)

A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

How I Won the War (1966)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Return of the Seven (1966)

Lost Command (1966)

One Million Years BC (1966)

Kid Rodelo (1966)

Savage Pampas (1966)

The Texican (1966)

The Fantastic World of Doctor Coppelius (1966)

El Greco (1966)

Hallucination Generation (1966)

Finders Keepers (1966)

The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967)

Camelot (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Custer of the West (1967)

Tobruk (1967)

The House of a Thousand Dolls (1967)

Fathom (1967)

Bikini Paradise (1967)

The Long Duel (1967)

The Christmas Kid (1967)

Cervantes (1967)

The Bobo (1967)

Grand Slam (1967)

OK Connery (1967)

Bang Bang (1967)

Maneater of Hydra (1967)

A Witch Without a Broom (1967)

The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)

Run Like a Thief (1967)

A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die (1967)

Duffy (1968)

The Magus (1968)

Villa Rides (1968)

Play Dirty (1968)

The Immortal Story (1968)

Beyond the Mountains/The Desperate Ones (1968)

Shalako (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

A Twist of Sand (1968)

The Face of Eve (1968)

Deadfall (1968)

The Vengeance of She (1968)

Son of a gunfighter (1968)

The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968)

The Wild Racers (1968)

Kiss and Kill (1968)

Ace High (1968)

White Comanche (1968)

They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968)

Massacre Harbour (1968)

Laughter in the Dark (1969)

The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)

100 Rifles (1969)

The Battle of Britain (1969)

A Talent for Loving (1969)

The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)

Java: East of Krakatoa (1969)

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)

The Desperados (1969)

Hard Contract (1969)

The Land raiders (1969)

More (1969)

Some Girls Do (1969)

Island of Despair (1969)

Honeymoon with a Stranger (1969)

The Looking Glass War 1969

Future Women/ The Girl From Rio (1969)

The House that Screamed (1969)

A Candidate for a Killing (1969)


The Boy Who Stole a Million (1960)

Charles Crichton, the man who would later direct John Cleese’s ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, directed and wrote this curious film made in Valencia in 1960.

It concerns a young boy working in a bank, who steals money to help get his father’s taxi back. He is then chased all over Valencia during the world famous ‘Fallas Festival,’ which culminates each year on 19th March with an orgy of fire and fireworks.

The film begins with an aerial view of the city, in which the River Turia is prominent, although now the entire river bed is a lush park full of joggers and cyclists.

Next we can see an organ grinder in the nearby Viveros Park, after which we are introduced to the boy, Paco and his dog Pepe.

Paco works in the Banco Nacional, which is now La Casa del Xavo, on the corner of Calle San Pablo and Avenida Marqués de Sotelo, close to the city’s Town Hall.

Paco’s Bank

A few yards away in the Town Hall Square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento) Paco’s father’s taxi breaks down while picking up a passenger who wants to go to the station. In fact the station is only 50 metres away, but Hollywood is Hollywood, even when it’s Valencia.

Paco decides to help out, ‘borrowing’ a million pesetas from the bank, and the chase is on.

There is a surprise appearance by the one and only Alf Garnett, or Warren Mitchell, as Pedro, who reveals drunkenly to the local underworld that a little boy is running around town with a million.

One of the locations we see him stumbling around in front of is the Farmácia San Jaime 49, now the Café Sant Jaume, one of Valencia’s most popular bars in the medieval Carmen district in Plaza Tossal.

In the following scenes we see Calle Paz with the Santa Catalina church tower at the end, and then travel out to the beach where the Malvarrosa tram enables Paco to escape his pursuers.

The pursuit takes in many of the city’s landmarks, such as the two remaining gates to the city, the Towers of Serrano and Quart (the latter pockmarked by Napoleon’s cannons from the early 19th century siege), and several of the old bridges over the river.

The Plaça dels Furs behind the Torres de Serranos is repeatedly visited, and it is here that Paco is given a ‘churro’, a typical Valencian snack, by a kind lady.

At one point in the film the thief (or hero if you prefer) appears in Valencia’s Plaça dels Furs at the climatic moment of the ‘Cremá’, when all the giant models in the city are burnt. Behind the bonfire we can see one of the two remaining historic gates to the city, the Towers of Serranos.

We see La Llonja, the medieval silk exchange, when Paco hides from a malevolent knife grinder beside a blind beggar, who then tries to kidnap him.

There is also a visit to the Plaza Redonda (which you could translate as ‘Round Square’, but you’d sound a little bit silly), famous for its haberdashery stalls, where Paco is separated from the faithful Pepe.

After losing the stolen money in a rubbish truck, Paco meets another boy at a rubbish dump and they visit the boy’s home at the cave houses known as the ‘Coves de Benimàmet’.

The action moves back to the centre, first of all to the Hotel Astoria, one of Valencia’s most traditional hotels in the Plaza Rodrigo Botet, where the villains start to close in as the other boy steals a chicken from The Astoria Hotel, and then, as the Fallas festival gets into full swing, we are once again in Plaça dels Furs as Paco runs under the Torres de Serrano, which magically become the inside of a Cathedral.

Meanwhile Paco’s father gets his taxi back in the square known locally as the Plaza de los Patos, because of its duck statues, but which is really Plaza San Vicente Ferrer, patron saint of the city. It is here that the father discovers romance with the lovely María (all Spanish girls were called María then, which led to much confusion).

Finally the father finds his son down at the docks and beats off the villains, returns the money to the bank and indubitably lives happily ever after; unlike the baddies who are to be seen disconsolately grinding their organs again in Viveros Park.

The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960)

Gulliver was travelling to India when a shipwreck changes his schedule and deposits him among, first the little people, and then the big people, as Jonathan Swift strives to teach us that we are either tiny and foolish or huge and clumsy.

This film is quite a good advertisement for Spanish scenery, and the film crew used many of the same locations as the ‘7th Voyage of Sinbad’, beginning with the beautiful Costa Brava beach of Sa Conca in Girona province, where Gulliver is washed ashore and finds himself in Lilliput.

The Castle of the Emperor of Lilliput is the town walls of Ávila on the outside and inside the gardens of La Granja de San Idelfonso, the royal summer residence near Segovia, with its fountains and ponds that are the scenario for the balancing contest to decide who will be the next Prime Minister. The enemies of Lilliput, the people of Blefuscu, have a much humbler castle at S’Agaró, really nothing more than a series of arches in the harbour.

La Granja de San Idelfonso

Later, when he arrives in Brobdingnag, the kingdom of the giants, the King’s castle is Segovia’s Alcázar, from which our heroes are seen escaping after the showdown with the tiny, giant crocodile (if you get my meaning).

The woods are also from Segovia, specifically the Valsain forest, and the mountainous scenes were shot in the Boca de Asno Natural Park nearby.

When finally Gulliver and Elizabeth return to sanity, or Wapping if you prefer, they are washed up on another beautiful Costa Brava beach, this time at Sa Conca, and are informed that Wapping is just over the rise, which will no doubt delight the residents of that beach-starved London borough.

Holiday in Spain/Scent of Mystery (1960)

This film was shown as a ‘Smell-o-Vision’ movie, as the theatre was equipped with a system that gave off various odours in synch with the film.

Denholm Elliott and Peter Lorre star in a thriller about a tourist travelling, strangely enough, around Spain, and his ‘unusual’ Spanish taxi driver. Leo Mckern also appears.

The film opens with an aerial view of Granada and the Alhambra palace. The terrace of the Hotel Alhambra Palace, where the stars actually stayed, appears, along with various bits of the Alhambra itself; such as the ‘Jardines del Partal,’ and the ‘patio de los leones.’ The Alhambra is where we first meet Elliott, the tourist.

The opening scene also involved a butterfly flitting among flowers, with accompanying delicious odours.

Málaga’s cathedral, which the mysterious woman in the huge hat walks mysteriously past, appears next with its distinctive railings, as the first attempt to kill her occurs, with some excellent Spanish vocabulary: “sombrero grande!”

There is next a brief appearance of Diana Dors on the beach below the iconic Hotel El Fuerte, Málaga, where Elliott tries to convince her that her life is in danger, although blondes only want to have fun.

Further afield but still in Granada province, Guadix, famous for its cave dwellings, is the next stop. Here we see some rambling Flamenco music and dancing as Lorre and Elliott converse philosophically about life.

Guadix Cave Dwellings

As they pursue the endangered woman we briefly see Sevilla’s San Telmo Bridge with the Torre de Oro behind it, for no particular reason.

Back to the province of Málaga, and the village of Pizarra, is used as the taxi follows the blonde in the red convertible through the streets before leaving Pizarra across the bridge over the River Guadalhorce, after which they are diverted by a herd of inconvenient goats. Archidona, Cortijo de Realejo and the Montes de Málaga also feature.

The film was banned for a while in Spain; not because of its political content perhaps, but because national pride could not stomach the scene in which a taxi ride begins in Málaga then passes Segovia’s Roman Aqueduct and finally arrives in Pamplona, Navarra to experience the bull running phenomenon of the ‘San Fermín’ festival.

Consuegra in Toledo, a well known Spanish snapshot because it conserves its Quixotic windmills on a hill at the edge of town, then featured, although briefly.

After the scenes in Tommy’s (Leo Mckern’s) hotel, they escape to Sevilla during fiestas and curiously end up in Córdoba’s emblematic Mosque with its black and white hooped pillars, where the blonde woman is being pursued by the villain.

The mosque has its own ghost, believed to be Juana de Sousa. She was the lover of  King Enrique II de Castilla, known as ‘El Magnífico.’ She bore him a son, Enrique de Castilla y Sousa, in 1378.

The boy died young in 1404, and so heartbroken was she that his mother stayed by his corpse in the mosque for several days and, so it is believed, continues to wander there, looking for him presumably.

In quick succession, the taxi takes them past Segovia’s Alcázar castle and Malaga’s El Chorro, where the blonde woman tries to shoot them and steals the taxi.

After shooting at the blonde (and the taxi!), the villain pursues them along the Caminito del Rey, a famous wooden pathway built along the walls of a canyon at los Gaitanes, where a train catches him.

The final scene was shot at the Gibralfaro castle, overlooking the city, where Elliott puts his umbrella to good use and Elizabeth Taylor finally appears.

Spartacus (1960)

Although he came to Spain as producer, Kirk Douglas’s scenes were already finished, and the Spanish scenes were mostly ‘fillers’ inserted into the main scenes, apart from the final battle.

The Madrid hotel, Castellana Hilton, now known as the Intercontinental, was the headquarters of the stars and the production team. Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds were also lodged there as they were filming ‘It Started with a Kiss’ at the same time.

The story of a slave who almost brought down the Roman Empire obviously rang some alarm bells in America where great efforts were made to censor the film and remove (successfully) many of the scenes that showed Spartacus’s rebellion in too positive a light, including the battles he won against the Roman legions.

The final battle, the only one we really see in any detail, was filmed in Spain, on the estate known as Finca Navalahija at the Dehesa de Navalvillar at Colmenar Viejo, Madrid, where 167 days were needed.

Another part of Colmenar, the hill known as Peña del Cerro, a Spanish army observation point, was used for the scenes where the slaves were being trained to become an army, while Vesuvius, in fact the Cerro de San Pedro, smouldered in the background. We also see some domestic scenes of children being bathed, bread being made and goats being milked, so as to ensure that we know who the goodies are. All these scenes were shot at an estate known as La Encerrada.

In the same area, specifically in a location known as Los Rancajales, the mass crucifixion of the slaves was set up, to take advantage of the Roman aqueduct in the background, although the aqueduct was in fact a railway bridge on the Madrid-Burgos line. The slaves were not too uncomfortable, despite the freezing cold, as they were perched on bicycle saddles, and towards the end were in fact quite merry, having spent the day drinking hot punch to fight the cold.

Planning sessions for the logistical nightmare took pace in the sedate surroundings of the Gran Hostal hotel at Colmenar Viejo.

Additional scenes were shot at Aldea del Fresno, where a sandy river bank (Rio Alberche) doubled up as a beach where young slaves are free to demonstrate their affections and children bathe in the twilight. This was inserted after the scenes of Spartacus and his men arriving at the coast.

At Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, the town gate, la Puerta de Madrid, is clearly visible in the scene when the victorious slaves enter a Roman town, which is Metapontum in the film. That scene was shot on the 9th and 10th of October 1959. If you look carefully you can see that the houses are a bit modern to be Roman, although phone lines and antennae were scrupulously hidden.

Another day’s shooting, showing some passing slave troops, took place at Venturada (Madrid) and some scenes in the snow were filmed near the Monastery of El Paular and at Rascafría. A few additional scenes were shot in Madrid’s great open park, the Casa de Campo, for the scenes of the slaves making their way through wetlands, as well as another insert where we see the doubles of Spartacus and Varinia riding along a crest at sunset after their reunion following the initial slave uprising.

Other scenes were shot in Guadalajara at Taracena and Iriepal, the former for some beach scenes (although it was really a river) and the latter for the scene at a spring next to a large elm tree and a trough. The scene where the slaves say their farewells to Spartacus, on his way with his defeated army to his death as they pass through a town, and another scene where the slaves are burning their dead, were also filmed there.

Over 8,000 Spanish army soldiers were used for the battle. Kubrick had to go to Spain as he needed real soldiers to execute the complex military manoeuvres and the US army was tied up defending democracy.

It was Franco’s wife who closed the deal with the Spanish army, forcing the film company to pay a large sum to one of her favourite charities.

Kubrick had another reason for going to Spain; he felt that Spanish peasants could depict slaves with more authenticity than well-fed Americans. Rumours that Franco offered to starve large segments of the population nearly to death for authenticity’s sake, have been denied.

Before the final battle we see Spartacus walking through the camp looking at his loyal slaves, although the people we see through his eyes were Spanish extras, filmed later undertaking all kinds of peasanty tasks to which they were well accustomed.

September Storm (1960)

A story of greed for hidden treasure and some nice underwater photography that favours both the sharks and sting rays and Mallorca’s many diving schools, as well as highlighting the island’s many coves and cliffs.

Palma’s Bellver castle can also be seen after one water-skiing scene when Joe and Ernie come aboard to speak to Manuel about chartering a boat.

Directed by Byron Haskin in 3D and starring Joanne Dru, Mark Stevens and Robert Strauss.

Moment of Danger/ Málaga (1960)

Trevor Howard plays a safe cracker who is betrayed by his partner after a jewel theft in London.

He pursues his ex-partner across Spain, first to Madrid and, from the title you won’t be surprised to learn in which Spanish province most of the chasing is done, with some attractive mountain scenery and streams, even in black and white.

To get to Málaga they have to walk and hitch-hike. This is authentic Spain, with donkeys galore and a goat on the car roof!

On the way they come upon a wedding party and Howard’s angst seems to melt for a while as he shows off his flamenco dancing talents.

King of Kings (1961)

‘King of Kings’ and ‘Rebel without a Cause’ were both directed by Nicholas Ray, and both tell the stories of rebels at odds with the society they live in.

King of Kings was filmed at various locations in central Spain and was one of the productions of Samuel Bronston, who built and lost a film empire in Spain.

Spain, where filming began in March 1961, was able to provide fairly convincing ‘Holy Land’ scenery; Nazareth was brought to life by Manzanares el Real in Madrid province, although they managed to keep its enormous castle hidden. The wilderness scenes were filmed at the Almería wilderness of El Cautivo, in the area where the spaghetti westerns would later be made.

Also in Almería, at Rambla de Lanujar, Jesus is offered all worldly dominions by the Devil; an offer that he could refuse, thank God.

The Jordan River, where Robert Ryan baptises the faithful and suffers manfully behind his ample beard, was in fact the River Alberche at Aldea del Fresno just west of Madrid, and the Sea of Galilee was cleverly represented in Toledo province at the Alberche Reservoir.

River Alberche

One of the most spectacular scenes was undoubtedly that of the Sermon on the Mount, which was given at a place called Venta Frascuela near Chinchón on the outskirts of Madrid.

5,400 extras were used during the five days of shooting of a technically complex scene. In his biography director Nicholas Ray explained that they constructed the longest track ever built for a film, from the top of a hill to the bottom, and followed Jesus as he moved through the crowd, answering the questions he was asked.

Another significant hill, Golgotha, where Christ meets his maker, was filmed at Navacerrada, a popular ski resort near Madrid, whereas the Mount of Olives was to be found at Añover de Tajo in Toledo province.

Añover Town Hall employees Marisé and Manolo took me to the site where the scenes were shot, just outside the village at Arroyo de Valdemiguel, and where it is some day hoped to place a plaque, lest we forget.

Cándido Carmena Cuéllar told me of his memories of the filming at Añover de Tajo. He was 14 years old when the shooting took place and remembers that they filmed at two local locations: the Arroyo de Valdemiguel and at Los Hijares, two kilometres from the town among olive groves, which still stand. The exact location was by the CM 4001 road at Kilometre 29.

Cándido recalls that the Valdemiguel scenes represented an oasis at Judea, with people coming down the mountain. At that time he recalls that there was a lot of water in pools before the dumping of rubble dried the area up. Also nearby the hills were painted red for scenes where the Devil tempts Christ, and another scene was with horsemen riding down the hillside.

There was also a sandstorm filmed thereabouts using wind machines.

At Hijares they filmed the scenes in the Garden of Olives where Christ is finally captured.

Also near Madrid at La Pedriza they shot the scenes of Barrabus ambushing the Roman column and getting his ass kicked.

La Pedriza

The final scene, where Christ appears to his disciples at the Sea of Galilee, and the fishermen’s’ net and Christ’s shadow form a cross, was actually filmed at Cabo de Gata in Almería.

Another actor in the film was Rip Torn; the man with the most subtle pseudonym in the history of Hollywood plays Judas Iscariot.

Christ was played not by James Dean, but by Jeffrey Hunter, on the recommendation of director John Ford. Perhaps it was tempting fate to play the Son of God in a God-fearing catholic country because when he returned to Spain in 1969 to film ‘Viva America,’ Hunter was accidentally injured in an explosion on the set. Soon afterwards he would die, at the age of 42.

The narration of the story was fairly epic; it was written by Ray Bradbury, a fact which gave rise to much speculation as to whether Martians would rescue Christ on the cross, and was read by Orson Welles.

So anxious was producer Sam Bronston to please the authorities that he actually achieved official Papal blessing for the film from Pope John XXIII in March 1960.

El Cid (1961)

It’s often hard to work out who the baddies are in this film as some of the Moors fight on the Christian side to help a Christian king whose descendants will later churlishly have them expelled from Spain.

There is fortunately one Moor who dresses himself and his army in black, making things a whole lot simpler; although on the Christian side we have the bad sister Urraca (‘Magpie’ in English), who can’t decide whose side she’s on and plots to have one brother murdered to help the other brother, who starts out as a baddie but later, through El Cid’s example, becomes a good and wise king, Alfonso VI.

In the film El Cid fights for a Spain in which Moors and Christians can fight (sorry live) together in harmony. In reality he was at one time happy to take work as a freelance mercenary, fighting against Moor and Christian alike. He was in real life contracted by the Emir of Zaragoza, who in the film is captured and pardoned by El Cid, and later fights beside him. The pardon scene takes place in front of Ampudia Castle in Palencia province, a 15th century castle which was in ruins at the time, and which has since been restored, and is now the home of the Fontaneda family and their spooky museum.

Ampudia: Photo courtesy Mark Yareham

Filming took place there on the 23rd March 1961 to shoot the scene where El Cid arrives at a Christian town that has been sacked by the Moors.

In January 1521 Ampudia was besieged during the War of the Communards, changing hands more than once.

After the Battle of Pavia on the 25th of February 1525, King Francis of France was forced to surrender his two sons Henri and Francois as hostages to the Emperor Carlos V, and Ampudia was one of their comfortable prisons during that captivity.

Today the restored castle is managed by the Eugenio Fontaneda Foundation, and contains his varied collection ranging from art works to medieval toys and medicinal artefacts.

This businessman, well known for the biscuit brand that bears his name, died in 1991.

The castle is now the summer residence of the Fontaneda family, and we were shown around by his son Eugenio, who attentively explained the far ranging collection that his father built up.

Each room of the collection, which is open to the public for guided tours, has a theme, such as an apothecary, and is a visual deluge of images and objects almost impossible to take in on a single visit.

Ampudia is a delightful village and its inhabitants are well aware of their connection with the filming of El Cid.

I have been invited twice to give talks there, in July of 2020 and again in 2021, accompanied by local expert and ex-squatter Epi Romo and castle owner Eugenio Fontaneda, and introduced by the irrepressible local councillor and statue fan José María Atienza.

Torrelobatón and its striking castle in Valladolid province celebrated one of the greatest events in the history of this small village when 350 local people participated in the film as extras, as did a bunch of medical students from Valladolid University. The town represents Vivar, El Cid’s hometown in real life. Apart from the 350 good people of Torrelobatón, 1,500 Spanish soldiers and 500 police horses took part in the film. The horses were shamefully paid in hay!

In the scene filmed here, with the castle looming as castles do, El Cid saves his captives from an angry rock-throwing mob (actually they were sponges; the rocks not the mob), and then protects them from the bloodthirsty King’s envoy.

Today, a permanent photographic exhibition in the castle recalls the film.

Torrelobatón: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

The famous jousting duel, supposedly to decide the ownership of Calahorra in Aragón, was filmed below the spectacular castle of Belmonte in Cuenca, Castilla La Mancha. The fact that Belmonte castle dates only from the 15th century trivialises what is otherwise a splendid duel.

Today you can still find the flattened land halfway up to the castle through some rabbit-infested shrubbery where the joust took place on what was previously a football pitch. The area is within the two walls that descend from the castle before enveloping the town, although the town walls have now largely been demolished or used to build houses.


However, between the castle and the town, the two main walls are still intact, and on the one to your right, as you look up at the castle, is a small tower called Torre Albarana, where they filmed the scene in which Prince Sancho is stabbed to death.

Apparently, Charlton Heston called a halt to the filming in Belmonte when he saw a woman on top of the castle keep. It is believed that she was the last Empress of France, Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III.

The castle was built in 1546 by Don Juan Pacheco (Marqués de Villena) and stands on a hilltop known as Cerro de San Cristóbal. It currently belongs to relatives of the Duchess of Alba.

Orders were given to begin construction of the castle in the XV century, with building works lasting 18 years directed by architect Hanequín of Brussels and continued by Juan Guás.

In 1488 the castle received some illustrious guests, the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando and Isabel, who stayed there on August 12th.

The castle of Belmonte has had its violent moments, even when film makers were not shedding blood all around it.

The XIV Duque de Peñaranda, Conde de Montijo, Hernando Alfonso Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, who was the castle’s owner at the time, was on the wrong side of the lines when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, and was executed at Paracuellos del Jarama on the 8th of November in the same year.

The name Fitz Stuart dates back to the War of Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, when the leader of the Borbon troops, supporting Felipe of Anjou’s claim to the throne was James Fitz – James Stuart, Duke of Berwick,

The Republican militias used the castle as a prison and barracks while they controlled the area during the Civil War.

Before them, Napoleon’s army had also used the castle for similar purposes.

One of Spain’s guerrillas, known locally as ‘Uncle Camuñas’, was shot against the castle walls.

The International Medieval Combat Federation and Belmonte Castle host International Championships in Spain, promoting re-enactments of medieval battles and combats as a way of attracting more tourists.

Heston took his role seriously, taking fencing lessons on the pitch of the Real Madrid stadium. The swords were supplied by Hermanos Garrido of Toledo, where sales of swords to American tourists have diminished slightly now that it’s harder to smuggle them onto planes. Heston also took some bullfighting classes, but didn’t get around to putting them into practice in the film.

Various scenes of Charlton, with or without an army, galloping across snowy mountain scenery, were filmed in the Guadarrama Mountains, and particularly at La Pedriza and La Cabrera near Madrid.

These scenes include El Cid’s rescue of Prince Alfonso from the hands of some soldiers, and the ambush by a treacherous group of Moors.

Colmenar Viejo’s council has erected a photographic panel to commemorate the filming of El Cid in a chapel there called La Ermita de los Remedios. This chapel was used for the scenes where Sophia Loren is handed over to the protection of some nuns and is later visited by El Cid to see his daughters for the first time.

The final battle is for Valencia, although anyone who lives in Valencia wouldn’t recognise the town situated on a rock jutting out into the sea. If they go a bit further north up the coast however, into Castellón province, then they’ll recognise it as Peñiscola, famous for having been the home of Pope Benedict XIII (Papa Luna). The fact that Peñiscola castle dates from the 16th century is surely too nit-picking a point to be of consequence.

Peñiscola: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

At Peñiscola filming took place between 8th February and 30th March 1960, with Heston and Loren staying at the Parador in nearby Benicarló. Peñiscola is certainly worth a visit out of season, when you can tear up the beach on your horse and imagine yourself attacking the castle without trampling naked Norwegian tourists; you can also look at the historic 20th century Moorish gates at the entrance to the city, built for the film and left as a gift for the people of Peñiscola.

Today visitors can stay at the El Cid camp site or eat in the El Cid restaurant; but, most important of all, they can stroll along the beach with its perfect view of the castle, and enjoy this spot where El Cid’s final, posthumous beach battle took place in the film.

Juan Domingo Pau is an English teacher and works at La Salle school in Paterna, Valencia. He was born in Castellón, and told me of a story told to him by his grandfather, who owned a bakery. One day, trying to get away from his fans, Charlton Heston himself came into the bakery and stayed an hour learning how bread was made.

The film was the beginning of Peñiscola’s tourism boom and current prosperity. Before the film was made there it had hardly had any visitors and was unknown to foreign tourists.

Our thanks to Cuenca teachers Jesús D. Aragón, Antonio Claver Espada and Pedro Pablo Jiménez Fernández for their help in providing information about Cuenca and Belmonte.

El Cid in reality didn’t die a martyr’s death as shown in the film, but in his bed, 5 years later in 1099. To make matters worse, Valencia was soon retaken by the Moors.

Mysterious Island (1961)

Once again the Sa Conca beach in Girona is deemed appropriate to represent a tropical paradise.

Our hero, Michael Craig, had a rough time fencing and tussling alone in his American Civil war uniform to the amusement of tourists. His enemies were added later in the editing process.

Among the enemies were giant crabs, chickens, bees and squid, all amusingly superimposed by special effects genius Ray Harryhausen.

The close ups of the giant crabs were in fact real crabs, which were later boiled and eaten by the crew; without unnecessary cruelty or suffering presumably.

The fight with the giant bee also took place on the S’Agaró beach, although the underwater scenes were all filmed in the limpid waters near Benidorm on Alicante’s Costa Blanca.

The Colossus of Rhodes (1961)

Before he started on his spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone tried some moussaka odysseys first. Curiously, he depicted the Mediterranean scenery using locations from the greenest part of Spain, the northern coast, and specifically at Laredo and Santander in Cantabria and Luarca and Oviedo in Asturias.

The local people of Laredo still comment with awe the good fortune of Spanish stuntman Jose Luis Chinchilla, who was paid the princely sum of 25,000 pesetas to be thrown from the Colossus into the sea.

Another 1,500 local people made do with a daily 100 pesetas and a ham roll in the summer of 1960 when Sergio Leone virtually took over the town. So much money was this at the time that some people slept outside the offices at night to make sure they got work.

The main filming took place at the harbour entrance with the gigantic statue astride the entrance, although in fact only the 25 metre high legs were ever built there, the rest being tricks of the trade.

Leone’s production team was installed in the school then known as Colegio ‘Miguel Primo de Rivera.’

In several scenes when they are in the mountains and they wished us to see the sea, what we were in fact seeing was the reservoir of Santillana at Manzanares El Real, Madrid, which impressively passes for the Aegean.

The rebel camp was installed in Cuenca in the Ciudad Encantada, whose peculiar eroded rocks look like toadstools. It is here that Darius finds the rebels slaughtered, lying around like so many bloated picnickers on a Sunday outing.

The royal palace of La Granja de San Idelfonso in Segovia was also used for scenes between the permanently cheerful Darius and the evil but besotted Diala.

The Savage Guns (1961)

A pre-spaghetti western in which Richard Basehart stars in a film set in Sonora, Arizona and made in Almería by Michael Carreras, whose father, of Spanish origin, was the owner of Hammer Films, the horror film giant.

Yet another story of a sworn pacifist forced to strap on his revolvers in order to protect what is his.

All but three of the actors were Spanish, including Fernando Rey, a must for any ‘Hispanic’ role.

Rey’s beach scenes with Paquita Rico were shot at Cala Cerrada, right on the boundary between Murcia and Almería provinces.

One of the locations used in this and many later films was the Espinaza bridge in the ravine (Rambla) of the same name, near Pechina, just north of Almería city.

Also used in Almería were Turrillas (which was the main Mexican village in the film) and the Sierra Alhamilla mountains with a spa, which was used as the ranch, where Fernando Rey is murdered.

Alhamilla Spa

The palm trees in front of the spa were also used for the scene where Basehart and Juana go for a flirtatious horseride.

The Singer Not the Song (1961)

Dirk Bogarde once described this film as beyond camp, and he should know. His leather costume is ‘challenging’ to say the least.

A battle between good and evil set in Mexico and with John Mills co-starring, it was filmed along the coast of Málaga, where the village of Alhaurín de la Torre was used extensively and the local people participated en masse in what was the event of the decade in the town and was celebrated many years later in September 2003 when actress Mylene Demongeot, who plays Locha, returned to the town to see the film again and listen to anecdotes from the many local extras who participated.

In the funeral scene, where a young man curiously named Francisco Goya is buried, from the cemetery we can clearly see the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

With half the people driving Cadillacs and half riding horses it’s hard to define this almost western film.

According to Juan José Carrasco, author of ‘Granada y el Cine’, the scene where Mills and driver hurtle down a mountain road without brakes was filmed at the Arenas del Rey road.

In Granada province some filming took place at Las Gabias, eight kilometres from the capital, where Dirk and company stayed at the Hotel Nevada Palace.

 John Mill´s church scenes were shot in there at the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, quite a long way from Alhaurín de la Torre.

Francis of Assisi (1961)

Almost 20 years after making ‘Casablanca’ in California, Michael Curtiz made this film about Saint Francis, mostly in Italy.

The Pope sends Francis to the Holy Land and, while in Egypt, two fiendish Saracens let loose their leopards, only to see them tamed and reduced to kittenhood by Francis, who then convinces the Sultan that peace on Earth is more than just a maybe.

A minion informs the Sultan that they had found Francis in the Sahara, although it should be remembered that ‘sahara’’means ‘desert’ in Arabic, and these scenes were shot in Almería at the Cabo de Gata dunes according to local author José Enrique Martínez.

Bradford Dillman played Francis and Stuart Whitman his alter ego.

Billy Budd (1962)

Starring and directed by Peter Ustinov, the film used Alicante port as a base. The ships used in the making of ‘John Paul Jones’ were also employed in this film.

Terence Stamp makes an impressive debut as a pressed sailor, in the non-grape or olive sense of the word, and Robert ‘Flogger’ Ryan adds an enviable element of unbalanced character acting. The story, set in 1797, the year the British Navy mutinied (but don’t tell anyone!) was written by Herman Melville.

Filmed mostly at sea, which could have been anywhere and probably was, it’s all grey seas and grey ethical areas for most of the film.

The mountains of Sierra Helada near Benidorm can be seen in the background, especially at the final scene with the hanging (oops, spoiled it for you) and sea battle.

When the mutineers return to their senses and once again discover that their true enemies are the French, the final battle takes place around the island of Portichol, just off Cabo de la Nao, near Jávea.

HMS Defiant (1962)

Although made largely in Shepperton Studios, London, this film also used the boats in Denia’s harbour, Alicante. In some scenes the distinctive Montgo Mountain between Jávea and Denia can be identified, posing as the coastline of Sicily.

Denia was also the English port from which Defiant set sail, and where Alec Guinness and his son say farewell.

Guinness and Anthony Quayle in fact took advantage of a two month break in the shooting of Lawrence of Arabia to ‘knock off’ this minor film, during which time the crew transferred from Jordan to Spain.

They rented a house named after and situated below the Torre (Tower) del Cherro with Dirk Bogarde, who caused a stir on the local streets, cruising in his Rolls.

Guinness plays good cop to Bogarde’s bad cop in a naval adventure with the Spithead Mutiny as its setting. English sailors proved once again that with just a minor reduction in flogging they are prepared to give their all for a decent chance of killing Frenchmen.

The sea scenes were all filmed around Denia, even though the action supposedly took place at Spithead, Corsica and Italy.

Our thanks to local experts Toni Reig and Romu Soler for their help with these locations.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia was an epic film and one that greatly influenced Stephen Spielberg, who saw it when he was still at school, and later participated in its restoration.

The impressive desert scenes were filmed mostly in Jordan, but in order to get a more ‘realistic’ Arabian feeling, almost all the interiors were shot in Spain, mostly in Sevilla.

The town of Aqaba, which Lawrence and his Arab army crossed the desert to take from the Turks, was also used during the filming, but was considered unsuitable for the scenes of its capture, and so they rebuilt it in Almería.

The film-makers wanted to show the horses and camels (and riders) attacking along the length of the valley, but this was only possible by building a completely new Aqaba on the deserted dry river bed at Playa del Algorrobico just north of Carboneras, complete with 300 houses. A Turkish hospital was also built nearby beside the road to Níjar. The pillaging after the battle however was filmed at the village of Alquían on the eastern outskirts of the city of Almería, and Lawrence’s triumphant ride along the beach after the battle was filmed on the beach at Agua Amarga, just south of Carboneras.

Today the dry river bed at Algorrobico is deserted, and were it not for the road crossing it carrying tourists between the resorts along the coast, would no doubt look as it did before the set designers went to work on it.

Lawrence’s men are seen attacking Aqaba from left to right, and it was in fact a ploy of director David Lean that nearly all the movement in the film is from left to right to create the impression of a journey.

Having built a whole new town, it was a simple matter to build a railway; or at least two and a half kilometres of railway at Cabo de Gata-Níjar, where Lawrence and his men blew up a Turkish train convoy obtained from the Spanish Railway Company Renfe. After the attack, the place where Lawrence’s men rest up was filmed at Las Salinillas, which is where Lawrence settles a tribal dispute in the Rambla Otero by shooting a man he had previously saved in the desert, although in Lawrence’s book ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, they are two different men.

Another restful scene is to be found at the oasis, situated in the Rambla Viciana. The oasis, made from palm trees brought in from Alicante, would later be used in many other films.

The Oasis: Rambla Viciana

This gulley begins at the bridge known as Puente del Cautivo, just south of the junction of the A92 and A340 roads. The oasis was especially built for the film by Eddie Fowlie. Fowlie, set decorator and property master in the film was so captivated by Almería that he built a hotel in Carboneras and used a lot of leftovers from the sets of various films he worked on for its decoration. The hotel, ‘El Dorado’, still exists, although Fowlie died in 2011. It is well sign-posted in Carboneras, and is at the north end of the beach. Inside, the bar and restaurant are full of photos, mainly of the shooting of Lawrence. The Town Hall has dedicated a bust to Fowlie in recognition of his contribution to the town, as well as erecting a statue to Lawrence.

Other scenes were shot in the Rambla de Alfaro, where Lawrence’s troops rest up before attacking Aqaba, and Las Salinillas, where Lawrence is interviewed by an American journalist.

During their 3 month stay in Almería in 1962, O’Toole, Alec Guinness and producer Sam Spiegal stayed in the Cortijo Romero situated in the district of Villablanca in the capital of Almería and known locally as ‘La Casa del Cine’ because of its connections with the silver screen. It is now a cinema museum.

Sevilla provided many of the exotic locations. The Cairo Officers’ Club where Lawrence arrives from the canal after crossing the desert was in fact Sevilla’s Palacio Español in the Plaza de España, built for the 1929 Spanish-American Exhibition. Today the same building is occupied by the Spanish army.

The courtyard of the Officers’ Club where Lawrence is first spurned and his “wog” is refused a drink, but then cheered is the Hotel Alfonso XIII, also in Sevilla, and Lawrence’s interview with Allenby takes place in the impressively Moorish Casa de Pilatos.

When Lawrence goes behind the lines to Deraa, in modern Syria, he is captured and raped by a Turkish officer. This was filmed by the 12th century city wall known as the Macarena.

The scene where Lawrence shows his eecentricity and courage by burning his hand was shot in the basement of the Peru Pavillion also built for the Expo in 1929, and today the seat of the Science Museum. The torture scene was also filmed there.

One Cairo street scene however was filmed in Almería’s Calle Nicolas Salmerón, the portside promenade, which Lawrence is driven along after being picked up at the Suez Canal following his victory at Aqaba.

He ascends some steps, the Escalera de la Reina, later used in Patton, and then magically is in Sevilla.

Later Allenby fights his way to Jerusalem, but still ends up in Sevilla; the civic buildings are the Plaza de las Americas and the British headquarters was a trade exhibition centre back in 1962 when the film was made.

Lawrence’s own arrival in Jerusalem was filmed with 800 local extras in the Plaza de América, with the Mudéjar Pavillion as a backdrop.

After more battles and lots more dead Turks, Allenby finally makes it to Damascus where, yet again he finds himself in Sevilla; the Arab parliament, where the Arabs demonstrate that they are not fit to run their own country, was in fact the Sevilla Casino, which has since been transformed into an exhibition centre.

If Lawrence is portrayed in the film as being a bit off his head, pity poor Allenby, played with superb cynicism by Jack Hawkins; all those logistics, all that planning, effort and casualties and still he ends up in bloody Seville.

Visitors to Sevilla will be pleased to learn that, like the desert, the city is very “clean”, and that people of all colours, creeds and races will be treated with respect, and served a very cold glass of lemonade on request.

The Happy Thieves (1962)

Madrid is the backdrop for this art world story of chortling crooks starring Rita Hayworth and Rex Harrison, which The New York Times described as a “limp herring”; although in all fairness a stiff herring would be even less appetising, and almost certainly deader!

Rex Harrison and his wife (and the film’s producer; her husband James Hill was the director) Rita Hayworth, are blackmailed into stealing a famous Goya painting called ‘the 2nd of May’ from the Prado Museum.

To achieve this they organise a distraction at the local bullring; as if death and sand weren’t distraction enough!

The film starts with Rex stealing a painting from a castle, where he is an ungrateful guest. This is Viñuelas castle near Madrid, and they return later to plot with Victor, the unscrupulous owner, among the suits of armour.

Viñuelas: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Filming took place in front of the Prado, with its statue of Velázquez, and inside.

El Prado. Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

A distraction is organised with a friendly bullfighter, Cayetano, soon to be a friendly, dead bullfighter, at Madrid’s famous Las Ventas bullring.

The Day of the Triffids (1962)

Another film so haphazardly made that it has become a cult classic, and another product of American producer Phillip Yordan, who was one of Samuel Bronston’s closest collaborators, participating in many films shot in Spain.

There are some anonymous, but attractive locations, and a lighthouse surrounded by sea water to which the Triffids flock, despite the fact that it is sea water that finally turns them into sludge. As our heroes flee the plants (Spanish extras on supermarket trolleys adorned with twigs, but let’s not quibble!) we see some pleasant Spanish rural architecture; plenty of arcades and winding mountain roads. One alleged Spanish town was in fact the Poble Espanyol, a theme park in Barcelona.

There is a certain nostalgia about some aspects of the film; of scientists operating enormous machines with rows of meaningless lights; of nurses lighting their patients’ cigarettes, of all and any problem being resolved by a refreshing cup of tea; of apparently intelligent women trying to scream the enemy plants to death instead of scything their tendrils like the men do.

Perhaps it was the need to relax after such an intense and stressful film that led the producers to film the climax in Alicante, where they destroy the beasts from space with plain old seawater.

However, despite the fact that Alicante is constantly mentioned as the final destination of all the seeing humans fleeing the Triffids, the final scenes were not shot there.

The final scene, with a single view of a coastal town, was shot at Sitges, a coastal town in the province of Barcelona, and the church seen looming in the background is the ‘Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu y Santa Tecla,’ the same one that appears in Errol Flynn’s ‘King’s Rhapsody.’


Guns of Darkness (1962)

David Niven recuperates his existential role as a kind of Hamlet, doubting the meaning of everything while running (as Hamlet didn’t) a plantation in South America.

When the President is overthrown, Niven and his wife, who he also has doubts about, help him escape.

The South American country is fictional, but Málaga, is not, fortunately for the people who live and film there.

As the intrepid group flees the revolution, they reach the town of San José, which is in fact Ojén in the province of Málaga, whereas the border area known as Barea in the film in fact shows scenery from around Turrillas and the village of Gérgal in Almería.

On several occasions the camera looks up to a hill, which is where Mijas castle once stood. The capital of Málaga is used for the Customs scene, while other parts of the film visit the outskirts of Madrid, specifically Aranjuez, Nuevo Baztán and the long and winding Alberche river, where they lose their car in some unconvincing and inconsistent quicksand.

Anthony Asquith directed, and the Spanish government made it clear that the film could only be made, not set in Spain, where military coups were clearly a thing of the distant past.

Commando (1962)

Stewart Granger played the leading legionnaire in this German film about how Algeria never had it so good.

As the makers of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ were occupying all the hotel space in Almería, the makers of Commando made do with Águilas in Murcia for their HQ.

Frank Wisbar directed, and among the Almerían locations used was Mojácar, from whose pre-tourism, cobbled streets the Algerian leader was kidnapped. The foreign Legion fort was a set built nearby.

The two helicopter scenes were shot among the boulders of La Pedriza, Madrid.

The film has a curious morality, including Granger sympathising with the ‘illness’ of one of his soldiers, a serial rapist and, after losing all his men, walking off into the desert with a little local boy.

The Running Man (1963)

Carol Reed, who directed ‘The Third Man,’ chose Andalucía for this thriller.

Lawrence Harvey embezzles his insurance company by faking his death and soaking up the sun in Málaga.

Lee Remick plays his wife and Alan Bates the enigmatic investigating insurance agent.

Reed made his name in the area by filling Málaga with donkeys brought from Mijas for scenes shot in the Plaza de la Constitución, where Harvey and Remick’s first hotel is situated, and the Alameda.

Assorted Donkeys at Mijas

Harvey mistreats a barman on a restaurant terrace in front of the cathedral when Remick comes out to greet him and discovers his changing personality.

In San Roque, Cádiz, most of the second half of the film was shot in and around the Plaza de Andalucía, where the small Hotel Andalucía was supposedly situated, as Bates and Harvey play their mind games.

Fernando Rey expands his repertoire by playing the English speaking Spanish policeman.

The climax was filmed on both sides of the line in Gibraltar (where Winston Churchill Avenue, the road that joins Gibraltar to Spain, features) and Algeciras, Cádiz.

Most memorable perhaps was Harvey’s first plane crash at the beginning and the shower of bras (it makes sense when you see it).

Cleopatra (1963)

It isn’t clear if the life of Cleopatra was more traumatic than the life of Elizabeth Taylor or vice versa, but the film Cleopatra was a trauma for the studio that produced it.

It certainly got off to a good start when after 16 weeks of filming, and at a cost of 7 million dollars, the production had come up with 10 minutes of film and lost its director.

As epics go it’s a pretty feeble story about a man giving up an empire for the woman he loves, who then lets him down continuously until he does the decent thing by running himself through on his own sword (an action which Hollywood always seems to portray as bordering on an erotically pleasurable experience for some reason).

Having finally proven his love (losing an empire wasn’t good enough, being merely on a par with giving up going to the match on Saturdays) she then takes the ass to her bosom (or hand in this wimpish version; the snake negotiated equal billing).

This is the film that almost broke 20th Century Fox; it also led to the glut of stars who appeared in ‘The Longest Day,’ which was being produced at the same time. Cleopatra was so badly planned that stars such as Richard Burton and Roddy McDowell were sitting around with nothing to do, begging for parts on the other Fox epic.

The film finally cost the studio over 40 million dollars and led to the rolling of heads in the board room, where Daryl F Zanuck took power.

Second director Joseph L Mankiewicz was sacked and then re-hired when it was decided to re-do the battle scenes in Almería, although, of the famous couple, only Burton was needed for that, the rest having originally been filmed in Italy, Egypt and London, where bad weather and trade unions stopped play on numerous occasions. Apparently nobody told the company that London’s weather on occasions can be worse than Egypt’s.

Mankiewicz chose Almería because Africa was considered too expensive, and finished filming at Cabo de Gata and Tabernas.

The scene where Anthony confronts Octavian’s legions was made at Las Salinas, Cabo de Gata, whereas the Rambla Alfaro was used to represent Philipi and the scene where Caesar defeats Pompey at Pharsalus.

The Alcazaba palace of Almería was used as Anthony’s headquarters at Tarsus, and a full shot of the castle is seen just after the death of Cassius, and after Cleopatra has insisted that Anthony needs her.


Elizabeth Taylor was eventually paid 7 million dollars in overtime for a part which largely consisted of lounging about counting her jewels. She also managed to lose a husband, (her fourth) Eddie Fisher, who she’d stolen from Debbie Reynolds, in order to begin her only true epic, her relationship with Richard Burton.

55 Days at Peking (1963)

Nobody better epitomises mythical Englishness than David Niven; a man of manners and sophistication who will not allow war, death or catastrophe disturb his composure or ruffle his haircut.

55 Days at Peking was yet another Samuel Bronston epic, in which he re-built the Peking of 1900 in his Las Matas, Madrid plot at immense cost and closed down all the Chinese restaurants and laundries in Spain in his search for Chinese extras to be shot and blown up by a redoubtable group of European, American and Japanese heroes, who made China safe from the sleeping Chinese dragon by occupying Peking and (although it doesn’t appear in the film) enabling the opium trade to continue against the wishes of the Chinese government, represented inscrutably by their Empress Dame Flora Robson.

As she points out, while daring to stand up to the Allied powers, the Allies were occupying 13 of China’s 18 provinces and using its ports for their warships, but, well, dammit, somebody had to bring civilisation (and opium) to the east!

The outdoor set at Las Matas, on land that had previously belonged to the Marqués de Villabrágima, had appropriately enough been the site of fierce fighting during the Spanish Civil War, and was located near the road that goes to La Coruña in Galicia.

Unfortunately, throughout the film, various characters (even David) express doubts about why they are there, callously betraying the memory of so many who died to preserve the British Empire without knowing why they were there either.

When his son is shot, Niven questions his role in the conflict and wonders whether he isn’t in fact there to serve the ambitions of powerful men.

I hope the cad returned his salary; after all, if everybody questions the validity of Empire, who’s going to do all the killing?

Actually it was mostly the 6,000 members of the Spanish army contracted for the film, but let’s not quibble.

Charlton Heston fortunately has no such weak-kneed doubts; he is there to kill goddam chinks, get a little target practice, fall in love with a promiscuous Russian Baroness (Ava Gardner), and ride back to Iowa with a little Chinese girl, daughter of a fallen comrade, who in the twelve seconds or so of their relationship has decided that she could never possibly be happy with anyone else, despite the fact that Chuck has never shown any sign of affection towards her, or anyone else for that matter, unless they’re dying in his arms.

Fortunately the action suspends disbelief and you find yourself cheering each time the Chinese get mown down and commiserating each time one of the heroes gets killed, conveniently forgetting who exactly is in whose country, and even whose civilisation is older, and whose is based on drug-trafficking.

The first day’s shooting, with Spanish dictator Franco and his entourage in attendance, was on 2nd July 1962 and consisted of the Boxer attack on the European positions.

Valencian Pyrotechnic Company A. Caballer of Moncada was responsible for the fireworks when the Chinese rocket attack is foiled by a Scottish priest firing a home-made cannon that seems to be some kind of flower vase. Caballer also did the firework display for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

Director Nicholas Ray was carried off the set in disgust and with a heart attack at some point. Possibly he got fed up of all the papier-mâché sets falling down, or in trying to justify why the Peking sewers were better decorated than the crew’s living quarters.

He would later open a nightclub called ‘Nikas’ in Calle María de Molina in Madrid, where he discovered the famous Spanish pop group Los Bravos.

The Castilian (1963)

Made two years after ‘El Cid,’ and perhaps in an attempt to cash in on Charlton Heston’s success, the film tells a similar tale of Spanish knights led by Fernán González (923-970) heroically chopping up Moors, breaking treaties, (Ok so a hundred damsels in exchange for peace isn’t PC these days, but a deal’s a deal!) and trying to unite Spain.

The best thing about it is undoubtedly the scenery, including the spectacular walled, hilltop castle of Berlanga de Duero, Soria, which is supposed to be Fernán’s hometown from the outside, although when we go inside, we are in La Alberca in the province of Salamanca, with its telltale cross in the Plaza Mayor.

Berlanga de Duero: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham
La Alberca

Here Fernán is proclaimed Count after the death of his brother, and rides off to settle the whole hundred maiden business. The film begins and ends with a minstrel, Frankie Avalon, strumming his lute, riding his ass among the ruins of a castle telling us the story of Fernán González, Count of Burgos, but before that Count of Lara. The castle was in fact Fernán’s home, at Lara de los Infantes, Burgos, built by his father.

Lara: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

In Covarrubias, at a fortress known as Torreón de Fernán González, a Moorish force appears to drag off the 100 maidens, fulfilling their part of a signed treaty; a treaty broken by Fernán, who swaps the maidens for his soldiers, and deals with the cowardly Moors.

The castle is all that’s left of a series of fortifications that Fernán González built along the River Arlanza.

The oldest parts date back to 942, and another legend suggests that there is a secret passage to a neighbouring house, no doubt for the carrying out of sinful pursuits.

As is often the case, it was built upon the foundations of a Roman edifice.

A great conflagration devastated the building in the 17th century (which means we can’t blame Napoleon this time) and in the 18th century it became a private property, rebuilt by the new owners.

A further reform was carried out in 1971, and today the fort is a haven of peace and tranquility with lawns and fountains, and of course a remarkable collection of siege weapons.

The owner, Millán Bermejo, gives guided tours in which he explains the workings of each weapon with a passion that enthralls visitors of all ages.

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Torreón de Fernán González: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

After Fernán González is forced into killing his girlfriend the Infanta of Navarre’s father, just like El Cid didn’t really in his film, the funeral cortege takes us on a curious trip, passing in front of the spectacular hilltop castle of Peñafiel, Valladolid, before entering the church of Santo Domingo, located in the centre of the city of Soria, with glimpses of the Monastery of San Saturio, on the outskirts of the city, before entering the caves of the ‘Hermitage’ of San Saturio, inside the monastery on the banks of the river Duero. A complicated journey.

Just to complicate things even more, when Fernán is captured in a cowardly way by the new King of Navarra, he is imprisoned in “Peñafiel, deep in the heart of Navarra”, which looks much smaller when seen sideways.

Peñafiel: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Our thanks to Soria cinema specialist Julián de la Llana for his help with this information.

The Battle of Hacinas (939 AD), was actually filmed on the original site of the battle, on the road between Burgos and Soria, and involved a massive logistics exercise with 10,000 extras and animals, not to mention the divine intervention of Saints Millán and Santiago.

Fernando Rey plays King Ramiro II, King of León; a very subdued role for him.

The Ceremony (1963)

Although set in Tangiers, the film, directed by Laurence Harvey, tells of an Irishman falsely accused of a capital crime, attempting to escape the gallows.

It was in fact filmed in Sevilla and Spanish actor Fernando Rey (surprisingly) appears.

Filming started in December 1962 with some scenes at the Campo de Criptana monastery, Ciudad Real, and in the forest of Casa del Campo in Madrid.

From Russia with Love (1963)

As usual there is lots of exotic scenery, mainly in Istanbul, Venice and Yugoslavia; but if it’s rats you’re looking for then Madrid is your city!

In one scene, Bond and his allies blow up the Russian Consulate and retreat through the sewers, where they are diverted by rats. As the use of real rats was not allowed in British films, lab rats coated in cocoa were originally tried. Unfortunately they spent more time licking each other than snarling in a menacing manner.

The sequence, supposedly taking place in Istanbul, was finally filmed in a garage in Madrid with over 200 live rats collected by a local enthusiast, each of whom had to pass a demanding casting with director Terence Young, despite which, several apparently succumbed to stage fright and escaped onto the mean streets of Madrid, only to discover that they weren’t made of golden cheese, and to end up in dead end jobs in restaurant kitchens.

Inevitably, the rats and the characters are never actually seen together.

Perhaps not the most glamorous example of Spain’s long standing relationship with Bond films, and there are no current plans to organise trips for cinema fans to the garage in question.

Woman of Straw (1964)

Sean Connery worked his way into the Bond tuxedo in this minor film directed by Basil Dearden and also starring Gina Lollobrigida and Ralph Richardson, about whether an old fool (not Connery) and his money are easily separated.

The action moves aboard the fool’s yacht to Mallorca, where the unspoilt coast is not favoured by filming in black and white, although there is enough sparkle from the sea to see that the area around the headland of Formentor is an attractive backdrop for plotting murder and deceit.

Even in the 60s its cove was known as the ‘English Beach’ because of the large number of tourists and foreign residents there.

The Thin Red Line (1964)

Based on the same book as the later film that we all know and love by the same name, this first attempt to capture the horror of Guadalcanal was filmed entirely around Madrid and starred Jack Warden and soon to be ‘2001’ star, Keir Dullea, who seems to have had a monopoly on weird roles around this time.

After fighting their way through a swamp, C Company attack Bula Bula, and, with a jeep-load of explosives, knock out the last Japanese resistance among the boulders of La Pedriza, with the Santillana Reservoir clearly visible in the background, portraying the Pacific Ocean, after having portrayed just about every other expanse of water on the planet in other films.

The scene where the Americans fight their way up to some cliff caves, known as ‘The Elephant’ was shot at Risco de las Cuevas situated on the River Tajuña near the town of Perales de Tajuña. There are about 50 caves, inhabited originally by Neolithic people.

Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

The river crossing took place at the Henares River near Alcalá de Henares.

A large cast of Japanese tailors’ dummies spend a lot of time falling out of trees and off rocks, and a whole philosophy of life and anatomy is summed up by Jack Warden’s catch phrase “it’s only meat.”

Ironically, it is not inappropriate that a film about Guadalcanal should be made in Spain. The island, which was charted by Álvaro de Mendaña in 1568, was named after a town of the same name in the province of Sevilla, and given its name because his assistant, Pedro de Ortega, came from there.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Although most people associate the spaghetti westerns with the arid wastelands of Almería, the first of Sergio Leone’s legendary ‘Dollar Trilogy’ with Clint Eastwood actually started filming near Madrid.

Leone had first discovered the attractions of Spain’s scenery when scouting locations for his Roman epic ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ in which he participated as co-director. He would later film ‘The Colussus of Rhodes’ in northern Spain and Cuenca.

Ok, so there’s cheap and there’s cheap, and the spaghetti westerns are not called ‘caviar westerns’ for a very good reason. Even so, they could have made a bit more effort at authenticity here, in a film whose very title in fact referred to Sergio Leone’s desperation at shooting with a paltry budget.

For instance, in the scene where bandits dressed as Union soldiers despatch a group of Mexican soldiers with a Gatling gun, we can clearly see near the end of the scene a road with a storm drain underneath that is obviously modern, and may very well have been paid for with the money pouring into Madrid to make these and other films during the fifties and sixties, but which unfortunately, and ironically, almost destroyed the primitive landscapes that took the film makers there in the first place. This scene was filmed at Aldea del Fresno, to the west of Madrid.

True to the shoe-string nature of the film, Clint Eastwood kitted himself out; he bought the black jeans on Hollywood Boulevard, the hat in Santa Monica and he used the boots from the TV programme ‘Rawhide’ that he was simultaneously making.

The cigars were bought at a Beverly Hills store. Eastwood, a non-smoker, cut the cigars into three pieces to make them shorter.

Director Sergio Leone, desperate to stretch his budget, even resorted to stealing a dead tree from a local house for the gallows tree at the opening of the film, claiming when asked by its bemused owner, that it was a health risk.

Clint Eastwood has probably shared his bed with all kinds of exciting people for all I know, but in the making of this film (for budgetary reasons of course) he shared it with Eli Wallach in a guest house in Madrid’s Calle Fuencarral. Later he would have to endure a nine and a half hour journey down to Almería; these being the days before Spain’s network of modern, unromantic motorways and high speed trains existed.

Clint Eastwood’s characteristic squint during the film was not intentional, merely a reaction to the strong Spanish sun, and his poncho may well have been a reference to the Spanish bullfighter’s solitary stance against superior, brute strength with courage and technique. And then again it might not have been.

Eastwood’s role was first offered to Henry Fonda, then to Steve Reeves, later James Coburn, afterward Charles Bronson, next Richard Harrison, and penultimately to Eric Fleming, before Clint Eastwood became the obviously perfect choice.

Despite Almería’s marketing skills, the main part of the filming of the first of the dollar trilogy in fact took place around Colmenar Viejo, Madrid, and also at Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, where San Miguel’s main street was built and where the mock western town and the graveyard were situated.

The western township was situated just south of Hoyo de Manzanares in an area known curiously as El Chapparal, and led to a local bonanza of western films following its construction in 1962 by the cinema producers Eduardo Manzanos and Arturo Marcos. Unfortunately, like the old west, it no longer exists.

In the last scene of the film we can see the mountain known locally as La Maliciosa, near Manzanares El Real in the background.

Also, some scenes were shot in the Casa de Campo park in Madrid, specifically in the Pabellón/Casa de Toledo, a temporary and now mostly demolished construction built for the Feria  del  Campo, which existed from the 50s until the 70s. The still standing Restaurante La Pesquera occupies what was the family home of the Rojo family in the film.

Other parts of San Miguel were filmed at Cortijo El Sotillo, just outside the town of San José, Almería, where the film begins, and where Marisol is rescued. Marisol’s house is now the four star Hotel Cortijo el Sotillo.

Hotel Cortijo el Sotillo

Inside the hotel you can see photographs from the film, making the scenes easily recognisable. The chimney in particular has changed very little since the film was made; and outside the main gate is a sign reminding you of the place’s role in the history of the cinema.

One man who has met all the stars and directors is Antonio Ferré. Antonio was born in Cortijo el Sotillo and has spent his whole life working in the Cabo de Gata park.

Antonio and the world’s most beautiful woman

Whenever a director would arrive to shoot some scenes, it was Antonio who would drive them around the park to find the perfect location. Connery, Spielberg, Leone, Eastwood; they have all bumped along the tracks in his jeep, and today he continues to drive tourists around the park to the places where traffic is not allowed.

However, although he has been involved in so many films, and enjoys a good western, he would much rather talk to you about some of the species of plants that only grow here, or about the underground water storage caverns built by the Arabs and known as ‘aljibes’. And when he stops the car, don’t be surprised if he starts making a basket out of some reeds that he liked the look of, or offers you a clump of lavender that smells like nothing you’re likely to find in your local Body Shop.

Although he can identify the locations of various films for you, he’d prefer to show you a corral full of goats being milked by their minder and explain how in the old days they would walk the goats to the summer pastures of Sierra Nevada on a 15 day journey across the countryside, cooking their meals on an open fire and sleeping out under the stars.

At Los Albaricoques the scene in which Joe enters San Miguel on a mule was shot, as was the one where we see a Mexican leaving town with the words ‘Adios Amigo’ pinned to his back.

The local council has set up a series of information points indicating where different scenes were filmed and even named some of the streets after the stars.

At Boca de los Frailes, a small, tranquil village just north of San José, we see the Rojos heading home with a hostage, and at Rambla del Indalecio are the scenes where Joe takes a short cut to the small house and the Rojos follow him.

Victor Matellano’s superb book ‘Dispara Clint’ tells the story of the Dollar Trilogy in great detail, and José Enrique Martínez’s Se Busca: Tras la Pista de Sergio Leone contains an immense amount of detail about the locations and Leone himself.

Leone’s fellow Romans, Ennio Morricone and Alessandro Alessandroni gave the film its special soundtrack; the former as composer and the latter as the mother of all whistlers.

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Sophia Loren is a good candidate for the unluckiest Roman of them all. As she is in love with her step-brother she opts for a life as a vestal virgin, but when that doesn’t work out a little bit of pouting in the mountains near the Rhine, where her father is fighting Germanic barbarians, is enough to bring her beloved Livius (Stephen Boyd) running into her arms.

It’s pretty cold up there on the snowy mountains of Germania slaughtering the locals, although the mountains are in fact just north of Madrid in the Sierra Guadarrama, faithful home to many a Hollywood epic, and where filming began on 14th January 1963.

It was there, at Navacerrada that the chariot race between Boyd and Plummer took place, descending all the way to Boca del Asno (or ‘Ass’s Mouth’ if you like colourful translations). The site is known locally as ‘Siete Revueltas’ (Seven Turns).

Filming began there on the 14th January 1963 and continued until May, much to the delight of the 5,000 local extras and hotel owners of Segovia, who all did very well out of the shooting, although some of them had to wear one of the 5,000 wigs prepared for the filming.

The scenes shot here were of the battle against the Germanic tribes, and actor James Mason was so enchanted with Segovia that he bought a house there in the medieval district of Canonjías.

A lot of the serious eating between takes was done at Restaurante Hilaria, (opened in 1917) and located at Pradera de Navalhorno. The restaurant still exists and has expanded to offer rural accommodation.

The set for the Roman fortress in Germania was built about a mile from Valsaín, on the road to Madrid near the spring known as La Canaleja or Los Mosquitos at La Perdiguera.

The bridge over a canyon where Boyd exacts his decimation of cowardly soldiers was at Puente de la Cantina, close to the CL-601 between Puerto de Navacerrada and Valsain.

The arrival of the American production company in the area brought many benefits to the local people, with improvements in the electrical grid and local railway system, new roads and even powdered milk for local schoolchildren.

Having declared her love for Livius, Sophia quite naturally agrees to marry the King of Armenia in order to seal an important treaty, and so off she goes, leaving Livius with no consolation except some more extermination and some serious bonding with his troops, with whom he has a special relationship, despite the fact that every last one of them is prepared to sell him out at the end of the film for a fistful of Roman gold.

Unhappy in Armenia, and having lost her father the Emperor Marcus Aurelius to a blind poisoner, Sophia organises a rebellion against her brother the Emperor Comodus (Plummer), which results in her husband, (Omar Sharrif in a very fetching mini-skirt), being impaled on a Roman javelin in a battle fought out at La Pedriza near Madrid.

La Pedriza

Fortunately Livius is in time to save her from certain death and so she sulks back to Rome where she helps reveal to her brother that his faithful gladiator mentor is in fact his true father (after having tried to kill her brother’s true father –Anthony Quayle- and then persuade him to kill her brother). Her brother beats her to it however and kills his real father, who, like most important people in the film seems to find something erotic about a sword in the stomach, managing to stagger through a couple of rooms in order to find something without hard marble to fall onto, finally, conveniently landing in the swimming pool.

Sophia we next see tied to a stake and ready to be burnt alive with Livius, who kills Caesar (Christopher Plummer), who is much more convincing as a mad sadistic emperor than as an Austrian anti-Nazi in ‘The Sound of Music’ [his next role in fact], and releases her just in time, but forgets about the other 30 or so captives who go up in flames while Sophia pouts a bit more.

The only soldier who didn’t sell out Livius, is killed defending Sophia from righteously angry Roman soldiers whom Sophia implores not to accept the bribe.

So, plenty of slaughter and splendid locations in Spain with a complete Roman Forum which at one time was in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest outdoor film set (1,312 by 754 feet) being built on the site of Bronston’s Peking at Las Matas.

It took 1,100 workers six months just to build the façade with 170,000 blocks of cement, 6,705 steps, 601 columns (somebody must have lost count there!) 350 statues (that’s more like it!) and 27 full-scale buildings.

While we are spewing statistics, 8,000 Spanish soldiers were employed for the first battle scene, as were 1,500 horses.

There is also a full scale battle between Romans and Persians at Manzanares El Real, near Madrid, and a brief glimpse of the Santillana reservoir just after the battle.

Everybody’s favourite etymological scene in The Fall of the Roman Empire must undoubtedly be the Roman version of bungee jumping, where Roman soldiers are pushed off a bridge as punishment for cowardice in battle. In fact they only push off one in every ten, which was the Roman way, and the origin of the word ‘decimate’.

These are of course the same soldiers who are later expected to forswear gold out of loyalty to their pushy leader; not the best of business propositions really.

Circus World (1964)

For many years there had been a book running on which is the worst film that John Wayne ever made. There was a separate book run by engineers to determine in which film he walks at the most acute angle.

My candidate for the former is definitely Circus World, which challenges disbelief to infinity and beyond.

Wayne plays a circus owner who decides (after 15 years pining) to go to Europe in search of the trapeze artist who left him when her husband committed suicide on finding out about their liaison. Whatever happened to straightforward ‘Good versus Evil’ stories like ‘The Alamo’?

The trapeze artist is Rita Hayworth, whose real name was Margarita Carmen Cansino (a surname which curiously means ‘tiring’ in Spanish, and may refer to the wearing down of her allegedly numerous lovers). Her father was the Spanish flamenco dancer Eduardo Cansino.

Wayne’s circus troupe ship arrives at Barcelona, where we catch a two second shot of the original port with Columbus’s statue, although as the city seems to be rippling as much as the sea it was probably a back-screen.

Once in the port they are greeted by a very un-Catalan looking Mayor, who would make a convincing original model for ‘Manuel’ of ‘Fawlty Towers,’ and then a mast breaks with an acrobat on top, inexplicably causing the ship to keel over and explode. Wayne quite naturally jumps on board and tames a lion, while all else are optimistically rehearsing for their roles in ‘Titanic’ by hanging vertically from the deck.

The ship that was contracted, painted and sunk was a 50 year old cargo ship called ‘Cabo Huertas’.

The Mayor, played by José María Caffarel, was in fact the only Spanish extra contracted for a speaking part, although 600 extras shook their heads and gasped, careful not to mutter expensive words. Wayne actually speaks a phrase in Spanish and manages to insert three extra syllables into his “muchísimas gracias” to the Mayor.

Also contracted for five months was an entire German circus led by Fritz Althoft, who performed in Barcelona’s famous Liceo Theatre, converted into a big top. The film crew also converted Madrid’s Retiro Park into the Champs Elysses, and the film’s last scene is also performed there as we see the happy circus troupe with the famous lake and statue of King Alfonso XII behind them.

So much material and animals did they have that producer Samuel Bronston provided a large selection of participants in the traditional Three Kings parade in Madrid on 6th January 1964.

We see various shots of Wayne in various European cities, until he finally tracks down Rita and they all live happily ever after; apart from the big top burning down in a fire which, in real life; if John Wayne ever had a real life, almost cost the actor his…… life, when he didn’t hear an order to get out. This scene was shot in Aranjuez’s Plaza del Palacio Real near Madrid. Aranjuez’s Puerta de Legamarejo also appears. The palace appears as the burning canvas of the big top is cut away during the fire.

The story for Circus World was written by Nicolas Ray, who later directed ‘Rebel without a Cause,’ proving that he was a far better director than writer.

It was filmed in Samuel Bronston’s Madrid studios, with some footage taken in Chinchón, where cowboys and Indians fight it out in the town’s famous round central square, where bullfights are still held today.

Chinchón is an interesting town that produces a well known liqueur called anís and has a Parador hotel, up whose steps we see Wayne walking in one scene with some blue, red and white striped tents to his left. It is here that Claudia Cardinale is treated by a doctor and meets her mother, and Wayne finally finds Rita and chases her under the temporary stands of Chinchón’s round square.

Chinchón Parador

It was to be Bronston’s last epic film in Spain, after which the creditors virtually chased him out of the country. He did return though; his ashes were brought to Spain a month after his death in Sacramento, California in January 1994, to the cemetery of Las Rozas, in an urn inscribed with words from Hamlet.

Other scenes were filmed at Toledo. In one scene on the outskirts of Toledo we can see a tightrope walker, clowns and an elephant rehearsing on the banks of the River Tajo, and in the distance the towers of the famous Alcázar of Toledo, which was a symbol of Nationalist resistance during the Spanish Civil war; a kind of Alamo for fascists, except that the besieged held out.

The area is known as the Playa (Beach) de Safont, although the beach has now gone, replaced by a park.

 John Wayne spent most of his spare time at a villa in La Moraleja, which belonged to Ava Gardner, moving later to room number three at the Hotel Richmond once his family, with whom he had crossed the Atlantic on his yacht, returned to the States.

Initially Frank Capra was going to direct, and actually spent some months with his family in the Hotel Castellana Hilton before handing over to Hathaway.

Circus World is worth seeing as a means of demystifying John Wayne, whose attempts to show his tender side almost make you forget his limp; but few spectators actually make it past the theme song at the beginning of the film, far more painful than being mauled by a lion or having a flaming big top fall on your head.

Or so they tell me.

Wayne in fact pronounces what may be his best line ever in a film: “I’d wash my face, I’d comb my hair and make myself decent enough to go up to that little girl and say ‘I’m your mother.’” Forget what I said about his tender side.

Wonderful Life (1964)

Cliff Richard and the Shadows, in the days when somebody believed that pop stars just had to make films and that plot and substance weren’t as important as clothes and good old British zany antics.

The Canary Islands provided the exotic background for this film that was dated before it was even released.

Nevertheless, Shakespeare would have undoubtedly approved of the film within a film within a film concept.

In one scene that might not have been exactly Oscar winning material, our Cliff is to be seen chasing a camel and then being dragged along through the sand by the same beast, atop of which is, as is often the case, a beautiful veiled lady. This scene was filmed at the sand dunes of Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, whereas the island’s capital, Las Palmas, provided the town scenes, including the rooftop of the Santa Catalina 5 star hotel, where the flamenco scenes were shot long before it occurred to The Beatles to reach for the sky.

Also used were the Escaleritas district, Paseo de Chil, Puerto de la Luz (where the boys arrive on the island), Parque de Santa Catalina, and San Bartolomé de Tirajana.

The Canary Islands key export, the banana, also features fruitfully, with wild chases through plantations of this curious foodstuff, which is, technically, or so I’m assured, a herb.

The songs are awful, except when ‘The Shadows’ intervene, as in ‘On The Beach.’ The plot is silly, and even Cliff looks uncomfortable speaking to the “chaps.”

Nevertheless, the dunes are impressive, as are the banana plantations, and the homage to silent movies ‘on the beach’ isn’t bad at all.

The Pleasure Seekers (1964)

Set in Madrid, starring Ann Margaret, and with the inevitable scenes inside the Prado Museum to add a touch of class with views of El Greco and Velasquez master-pieces, the best moment is undoubtedly the all too brief appearance of the great Flamenco dancer Antonio Gades.

It is the tale of three American girls seeking love with a Latin touch. There is a brief trip to Segovia, whose aqueduct appears over the opening credits.

When one of the girls agrees to visit Toledo with a beau, she takes the other along as chaperone; but they separate and one ends up picnicking below the Alcázar of Segovia, while the other has a view of Toledo with its own Alcázar.

At some point in history, people stopped building castles and started building palaces, either because they felt safer or because modern artillery made castles redundant.

The Alcázar of Toledo is a halfway house between castle and palace, although during the Spanish Civil War it back-graded to its role of castle when the Nationalists were besieged by the Republicans and held out, much to the greater pleasure of Franco’s regime, which would later print a propaganda newspaper called El Alcázar as a tribute to the defenders of their very own Alamo.

On 18th September 1936 Asturian miners detonated a bomb which largely destroyed the castle, which was visited on 21st October 1940 by none other than SS leader Heinrich Himmler, looking for inspiration no doubt.

The Alcázar really does make an excellent distant backdrop for whatever else is going on in the foreground, with its distinctive turrets; and that is what it has mainly been used for in a number of films.

The original Alcázar of Toledo was once a Roman palace in the III century. Restored under Carlos I and his son Felipe II in the 1540s.

In 1521, Hernán Cortés visited Carlos there following his conquest of the Aztecs.

 The castle was rebuilt between 1939 and 1957 after the Spanish Civil War.

We visit Toledo’s Church of San Tomé to see El Greco’s ‘Burial of the Count of Orgaz,’ and there are also shots of Madrid’s squares and the bull ring, Las Ventas.

El Chorro, an area of rocky mountains and steep ravines in Málaga province also features, as does the beach at Estepona.

The Hill (1964)

Sean Connery opted for a bit of realism and a moustache after so much Bonding, and between shooting ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ hung around Cabo de Gata, Tabernas and Gérgal for five months, shaking but not stirring some authentic Almerian sand from his boots.

The film’s main action takes place in a punishment camp, which was built at Dunas de las Amoladeras, near ‘Cortijo Hoya Altica’ and the road there was located in the Rambla de Tabernas.

The ‘hill’ was a punishment hill, constructed using 10,000 feet of tubular steel and over 60 tons of stone and timber. The heat was unbearable despite the 2,000 gallons of pure water that were shipped in for the crew and almost everyone suffered from dysentery and similar pleasantries.

Ian Bannen, the sadistic NCO, described the desert, water and food as “ghastly”, smelling permanently of fish.

Potential tourists should know that the area no longer stinks of fish and has some very pleasant hotels (providing you pay your bill and don’t complain too much).

The Truth about Spring (1964)

Fun for all the family, or at least the Mills family, as John and Hayley fight off rivals Lionel Jeffries and Harry Andrews in a search for hidden treasure in the Caribbean, with all the action taking place using that most exotic of Catalan beaches at Platja d’Aro in the province of Girona, off which the Mill’s yacht is anchored.

Don’t expect the birds and the bees; ‘Spring’ is just the name of the kid, who is, as the title song informs us, as innocent as apple pie; whatever that means!

As for the rest of the players; a lot of salty sea dogs but not much salt of the Earth.

Gunfighters of Casa Grande (1964)

Just another everyday tale of bank robbers who try to go legit and end up plugging each other with lead just across the border in Mexico.

Filmed around the lonesome rocky prairies of Dehesa de Navalvillar, and the multiple purpose (sea, river, reservoir, you name it!) Santillana Reservoir, all near Madrid. Both Santillana and the Alberche river provide the Rio Grande as necessary.

Roy Rowland directed and Alex Nicol starred with the enlightening name of Joe Daylight, a psycho-outlaw who never has enough until he does.

Pyro…the Thing without a Face (1964)

Athough it is a cross between ‘Fatal Attraction’, ‘The Invisible Man’ and ‘The Mask,’ Pyro does show off the wonderful scenery of Galicia’s Costa Verde, with Barry Sullivan playing an American engineer who wanders into an affair that will turn his life around like a ferris wheel.

The fairground near a beach at the beginning and end of the film is situated, as we are correctly informed by the Spanish policeman, at Puerto de Bares in the province of La Coruña, and Laura’s house, where she meets her inferno, is supposed to be on an island beyond the bay, which is in fact the island of Coelleira.

Much of the filming took place in and around Viveiro on the coast in the province of Lugo.

When we see the policeman after the burning of Laura’s mother’s house talking about how to trap Vance (Sullivan), we can see behind him, in the sea, a group of rocks known as Os Castelos at the Playa de Covas.

The scene on the bridge, where the police intercept a fairground convoy, and incredibly don’t recognise the man with the rubber face that they are looking for, was shot on the Misericordia bridge, also in Viveiro.

Sullivan’s reason to be in Galicia is to build a hydro-electrical plant, and the dam where all this takes place is the Belesar dam and reservoir, just south of Lugo capital.

Despite the many warnings and burnt houses and people, the characters, true to epoch, still continue to smoke quite excessively.

Saul and David (1964)

This Italian production was shot in Almería and starred a German born British actor, Norman Wooland.

As José Enrique Martínez points out in his book ‘Cabalgando Hacia La Aventura’, the crew lent filming material to Sergio Leone who was at the time making ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ nearby on a wing and a prayer.

In one scene Saul’s army is seen marching with Almería’s Alcazaba castle behind them, and the dunes of Cabo de Gata and desert of Tabernas are easily recognisable.

Alcazaba, Almería

Castle employee, the historian Carlos Martín is a treasure trove of information and a cinema buff himself.

He informed us that ‘Rat Patrol’ was the first international series to make use of the castle, one of many from many countries that would be filmed in the castle over the years.

Construction of the castle and defensive walls began in the 10th century when the city belonged to the Caliph of Cordoba, Abdar-Rahman III.

It was later enlarged by Caliph Al-Mansur and Al-Jairan.

The first enclosure, the Muro de la Vela, was built by King Carlos III.

Christian forces under Alfonso VII first took the castle in 1147, although they lost it 10 years after, until 1489 when its reconquest was finalized.

The third enclosure was commissioned by the Catholic monarchs Isabel I of Castilla and Fernando I of Aragon.

In 1522 a massive earthquake badly damaged the castle.

One legend states that those entering the Alcazaba on the Night of San Juan at midnight will behold a tunnel leading to an enchanted palace inside one of the nearby mountains.

A huge display of treasure can be found there, but if anyone dares to take anything, like a Moor who in 1485 took a scroll, the elves will condemn him to wander through eternity, or at least until he returns his loot.

Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

Frank Sinatra finishes the film face down on a railway track with a dozen machine gun bullets in his back; the rest of his stay in Málaga was largely unsuccessful too.

Although the shooting mainly took place in Italy, the crew did briefly pass through Málaga on the Costa del Sol and spent enough time there for Frank Sinatra to get arrested. Prosecution may have been waived due to the large numbers of citizens of Málaga who were contracted to dress up as German and British soldiers for the film.

The arrest was a classic set up, in which a Cuban would-be actress tried to convince the press that she and Sinatra were having a lovers’ tryst in the Hotel Pez Espada in Torremolinos. Sinatra, probably irate because there was only a single Cuban would-be actress involved, broke a camera. He later had to be dragged out of the country onto a plane, after paying a 25,000 peseta fine; spitting on the floor in front of Franco’s photo, but then, who wouldn’t?

The hotel bar where the incident took place is now, appropriately enough, called ‘Frankie’s Café,’ and has a wall full of photos of old Blue Eyes, as well as a constant soundtrack of his music. He is also supposed to have met his future wife Mia Farrow while staying there in a seventh floor suite.

The final scenes of the film, which are supposed to occur in the Italian Alps, were actually made using a local beauty spot near Málaga known as El Chorro.

A tunnel through El Chorro was used, next to which there was an iron bridge. The train in the film had to be shunted back to El Chorro station every time a ‘real’ train passed by.

It is here that Von Ryan’s express is attacked by three Messerschmitts (the planes were designed by Willy Messerschmitt but if they’d called them ‘Willys’, they probably wouldn’t have been so intimidating for the enemy) and the men at one moment attempt to escape along a path cut into the mountainside.

This path is in fact ‘El Camino del Rey’, ‘the King’s Path’, and was built alongside three kilometres of precipice to allow Spanish King Alfonso XIII access to a dam that was being inaugurated. The path is located in the Torcal de Antequera natural park.

It is only a metre wide and has a drop of 100 metres in some places and was too dangerous for all except expert mountaineers and British soldiers fleeing the Nazis, although it has now been made safe for responsible tourists.

A Few Dollars More (1965)

For the follow up to ‘Fistful of Dollars’, many of the old cast were joined by new ‘names’ such as Lee Van Cleff and Klaus Kinski. Like the first in the trilogy, the film’s title is a reference to Leone’s ‘state of the budget’.

Italian villain Gian Maria Volonte, in reality a Shakespearian actor, returned to play the marihuana-smoking baddy El Indio.

In the city of Almería, the bullring hosted the prison from which El Indio is freed by his men, while Van Kleef’s visit to the El Paso Tribune to obtain information was in fact filmed at the offices of what is today the Voz de Almería.

Religious symbolism played an important role in the film (there are twelve bandits helping El Indio and he explains his plan to rob a bank from the pulpit of an abandoned church), the Church of Santa María, Turrillas, Almería. Director Sergio Leone was in fact quite obsessed with religion, among other things.

The church still stands, although the exterior as seen in the film is actually in a completely different place (such is the magic of the cinema). The exterior of the chapel is in fact the 16th century Alumbres Castle in the Rodalquilar Valley, built in 1510 to protect nearby miners from the attacks of Berber pirates.

In this it was not very successful as in 1520 the pirates burnt the village and took the inhabitants away as slaves, bringing an end to mining for the next 50 years.

The tower is located on the road leading to the beach called El Playazo.


Trains also play an important role in the film, perhaps because RENFE was always on hand to lend its old steam trains and, for a few dollars more, build some extra track in the middle of the Almería desert, just as they did for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

The train stations of Almería and Guadix, Granada were employed, and La Calahorra station represented Tucumcari.

The previously used location of Los Albaricoques repeated for the shooting of the apples, and the final Mortimer-Indio showdown took place there inside the circle of stones, which can still be seen, and which are in fact an ‘era’, used for collecting hay or grain.

Los Albaricoques is Agua Caliente in the film, where Eastwood faces the three Mexican gunmen.

Old Madrid favourites Colmenar Viejo (‘White Rocks’ in the film) and Hoyo de Manzanares (‘Tucumcari’), also saw action again.

The scene where the bandits drag the stolen safe cross country was filmed at Cortijo de la Union among the dunes of Cabo de Gata.

Almería has been quick to take advantage of the spaghetti western trend by creating western theme parks, although Oasis Mini Hollywood, constructed in 1965, was not created as a theme park, but to represent the town of El Paso in ‘For A Few Dollars More’. Included on the site are the bank that is robbed by Klaus Kinski, Aldo Sanbrell and Luigi Pistilli.

The set was designed by Carlo Simi, who also played the bank manager in the film. It later also featured in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.

Other sites used for the film in Almería were Cortijo de Genoveses (the jail and hay cart scenes), Oasis de Rambla Viciana (built for ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ it is the place Indio plans to meet his gang after the bank hold up when he says “after the hold up we will meet at Las Palmeras”) and Venta de los Callejones, where we can find the cantina where Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef drink and plot together. Indio’s headquarters also used some partial shots of Almería’s bullring.

At Rambla de Indalecio we can see the scenes where Indio checks that the posse has left, Groggy shoots the telegraph wires and the gang race off with the safe.

Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Chimes at Midnight was based on the play ‘Five Kings’. It was written by Orson Welles and condensed Shakespeare’s Henry IV, V, VI, and Richard III into one show. He produced the show in New York in 1939, but the opening night, where Part 1 was performed, was a disaster and Part 2 was never put on.

He tried again in 1960, but without success, although the latter version would become the basis for the film.

At the beginning and end of the film, in which Welles plays Falstaff, we see the unmistakeable wall of Ávila, although in the film it is supposed to be London’s wall.

The film, made in 1965, is still remembered in the medieval village of Calatañazor in Soria, where many scenes were shot, depicting the streets of London. The village of La Alberca in Salamanca served a similar purpose.

La Alberca

The local bars of Calatañazor in fact still display photos to remind themselves of their greatest moment. Calatañazor (where the exchanges between Shallow and Falstaff take place) and La Alberca are still today medieval enough to pass for 15th century London.


The area around Barriomartín features in a snowy scene before the opening credits, and during the credits we see some hanged men filmed in Calatañazor, where visitors today are assured a much warmer welcome and are encouraged to hang around for as long as they like. The scenes where soldiers are drafted from among the grumpy populace were filmed here in front of the church.

Also in Soria province Welles employed the Cistercian Monastery of Santa María de la Huerta, where part of Henry V’s coronation was filmed, as well as Soria’s cathedral of San Pedro.

The scene with the nobles discussing Henry’s speech after the coronation was filmed in front of the façade of Santo Domingo church, also in the city of Soria.

The battle scene, supposedly the Battle of Shrewsbury, where Prince Hal crushes Hotspur’s rebellion, was filmed in Madrid’s sprawling Casa de Campo, where the forest scenes were all shot too.

John Gielgud, who plays Henry IV, stayed at the Hotel Felipe II at El Escorial while making his regal contribution.

Other Spanish locations used for the film included Puerto de San Vicente in Toledo province and the Parador at Cardona castle in Barcelona, Catalonia, where some of the scenes of Henry’s court and his coronation were shot, as well as at the crypt of the Abbey of San Vicente, where all Henry IV’s interior scenes, including his funeral were filmed, purporting to be Windsor Castle.

Cardona also portrayed Hotspur’s castle before he rode off to his destruction. A sign at the entrance to the Parador bar recalls the making of the film there today.

Cardona: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

500 local people participated in the scenes shot at Cardona, an event that was of enormous importance in this sleepy little town at the time.

The original fort is thought to have been built by the exquisitely named Wilfred the Hairy (Wifredo el Velloso) in 886 AD.

During the 14th century it housed the Dukes of Cardona, an important Spanish family.

In 1711, the Borbon troops which supported Felipe V besieged the castle and did little to improve its look.

The siege was lifted after an allied army arrived and defeated the Borbon forces in a battle which is explained in one of many boards around the castle detailing its history.

The castle quite naturally has a ghost, and a very fastidious one at that as it only haunts a specific room, number 712, and guests are warned about possible unwanted company if they reserve it.

Standard ghostly activity includes moving furniture, voices and taps that run by themselves.

The cleaning staff now clean the room in pairs, and when I was there in October 2015, I happened to see a cleaning lady having problems with her cleaning cart outside the room, and so quite naturally I disappeared quickly and decisively.

The ghost has a name, Adalés, and a typical Romeo and Juliet/ West Side Story story. She was an 11th century Christian who fell in love with a Muslim boy, and so her father locked her up to avoid trouble, causing her to pine away and die.

Also in Catalonia, in Barcelona, Monjuich Castle was used for some scenes of the palace of King Henry IV.

Montjuic is an extensive hill overlooking the city of Barcelona. Its name comes from ‘mons judaicus,’ as it was the site of the Jewish cemetery in medieval times.

The castle was originally a fort built in 1640 around the lighthouse at the time of the Catalan Revolt. It was then extended during the Nine Years War (1689-1697).

It first saw action when it was attacked on 26th January 1641, by Castilian troops

It was captured by Charles Mordaunt, Lord Peterborough, on 17 September 1705, although Felipe V took it back on 25 April 1706, but lost it again on 12th May of the same year, until 12th September 1714, when it surrendered to Borbon troops, a day that is (curiously) celebrated every year by Catalan secessionists.

In 1751 a new castle was built, this time with a moat, and 120 cannons were installed for dissuasive purposes.

On 13 February 1808, Napoleon’s soldiers entered Barcelona and on 29 February, stormed Montjuïc mountain to capture the castle.

The castle has been a centre of civilian and military disturbances in Barcelona.

In 1842 Barcelona was shelled from the castle for the first of three times to crush a revolutionary uprising. Like many castles, there is a clear idea that the purpose is not to defend the inhabitants from an enemy without, but that the inhabitants are an enemy below.

In the 1890s, and again in the famous ‘Tragic Week’ of 1909, revolting workers were imprisoned there and the pedagogue Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia was executed there by a firing squad.

In 1919, another 3,000 workers were imprisoned and between 1936 and 1938 Nationalists were held there during the Civil war.

Altogether 173 people faced the post-war firing squads, including the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, on 15th October 1940.

The castle remained a military prison until 1960, and then on 24 June 1963 Franco presided the inauguration of a military museum.

Today the museum is open to visitors and also shows films in the summer in the moat; occasionally of people being shot.

The snow scenes were filmed around Lecumberri and Lesaca in the Valle de Larraun in Navarra. (Welles’ stay at the Hotel La Perla, where Hemingway also stayed, and his copious meals at the hotel restaurant Las Pocholas in Pamplona are still remembered).

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

The Russians are great lovers of poetry; something to do with the immense snowy wastes I’m told. It is therefore not surprising that to capture the heart and soul of a Russian poet, they should use an Egyptian actor.

Doctor Zhivago was released in 1965, except in Russia where it came out just a little bit later in 1994. As the book was banned in the Soviet Union, so the film was too, and of course that meant that the wide vastness of Siberia could be found nowhere else but in the Spanish province of Soria, a land where snow is always guaranteed; except when you actually want to make a film about Russia there, which naturally meant that they had one of the mildest winters on record.

Two streets of Moscow and a tramway were rebuilt in great detail in Canillas on the outskirts of Madrid. The site has since been urbanised and is now occupied by Calle de Silvano, near the Canillas Cemetery.

Also in Madrid, the Palacio del Capricho (Whim Palace!) belonging to the Duke of Osuna was used, specifically for the scenes of Zhivago’s funeral, where his brother (Alec Guinness) and lover (Julie Christie) have their last meeting.

The entrance to the palace in the park was also used for a scene where the scheming but really not a completely lost cause Rod Steiger meets Julie Christie for one of their illicit trysts.

Most of Robert Bolt’s screenplay was written in the Hotel Richmond, also in Madrid.

As he recreated Arabia in Franco’s Spain, so director David Lean recreated revolutionary Russia there, and had a good supply of Spanish soldiers to depict Cossacks massacring Spanish (Muscovite) extras singing ‘The Internationale.’ Good practice.

The famous dam at the beginning and end of the film, a tribute to the proletarian achievements of communism (or it would have been if Franco hadn’t built it!) and where Alec Guinness interrogates Rita Tushingham, is in fact the Aldeadávila hydro-electric dam in Salamanca province, on the border with Portugal on the River Duero.

David Lean must have liked his realism, and the scene where the woman falls while handing a baby into a moving train to escape carnage, was a genuine accident. This was shot at Aldealpozo in Soria and the woman’s name was Lilí Murati; after all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

She survived with what journalists like to describe as ‘a few scrapes and bruises.’

Other parts of Spain were also treated to a sprinkling of Yankee dollars; the funeral of Yuri’s mother, with 8 year old Yuri played by Omar Sharif’s own son Tarek, took place near La Calahorra, Granada, specifically in the area known as Marquesado de Zenete, probably in order to use the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop, impersonating the Urals.

The scenes of Yuri and Lara living their last days together in the ‘ice palace’ at Varykino were in fact manufactured using hot wax and marble dust as the snows refused to fall, and many winter scenes were actually shot in summer at 40 degrees, fur coats and all.

The battle on the frozen lake for example was shot near Candilichera in June with temperatures of over 30 degrees, using marble powder and plaster to simulate the ice. The Bolshevik cavalry galloping through the forest was filmed at Abejar, between the present day camp site and the Cuedar del Pozo dam.

The villagers of the tiny village of Candilichera couldn’t believe their luck when the studio offered to pay them the equivalent of two years’ harvest in order to use their land for filming the scenes at Varykino.

Mind you, the money wasn’t spread evenly, and when we visited the village some inhabitants remembered that while some landowners were able to buy a flat in Soria with the money, others got nothing.

Visiting Candilichera today it is easy to understand why they chose this area to make Zhivago. The wide open spaces around the village still have an isolated feel and very little has changed apart from the occasional electricity line and an expansion of sunflower crops among the endless wheat fields. There’s even an abandoned railway line.


The scenes of Yuri’s time in a World War One hospital were filmed in the fields around Gómara and Ólvega in Soria, with the Moncayo mountain in the background. Here were also shot the scenes of Yuri and Lara’s separation.

Near Candilichera they filmed the scene where the two Russian armies going to and from the front meet and have a bit of a disagreement with their officers, as well as the wheatfield machine gunning of young cadets.

The Ural Mountains were represented by the more modest El Moncayo Mountain, and the battle scenes were shot among the pine trees bordering the Cuerda del Pozo reservoir, which can also be seen when Yuri and his wife and father in law are riding towards Varykino the first time, and stop to contemplate Yuryatin covered in smoke.

The film is train spotters’ heaven; Yuri’s long train journey took him further away from Lara, and included stops at the stations of Tardelcuende, Matamala de Almazán (which represents Barikino where the family arrive en route to their summer residence), Villaseca de Arciel, Navaleno and Villar del Campo.

The tram scene, where Yuri doesn’t achieve his longed-for reunion with Lara at the end was filmed using the tram that used to go to Pinar de Chamartín in Madrid, and was shot around the Plaza de España.

Another train station used was ‘Delicias’, now a railway museum to be found at Plaza Delicias, Madrid. This is where Sharif and Geraldine Chaplin are first seen together when she arrives by train all dressed up in pink.

Madrid Delicias. Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

When Zhivago unadvisedly gets off a train, he is briefly taken prisoner by partisans and interrogated by Tom Courtenay; this scene was shot on the road between Vinuesa and one of Soria’s most popular nature spots, the lake called Laguna Negra, (which isn’t black at all).

The station at Guadix, Granada was also used, and represented the Russian Siberian station of Yuriatin, and Lipgrad station in Russia was recreated at the now disappeared station of Muñogrande in Ávila province.

The city of Soria had its heyday during the making of the film, with every hotel occupied. The producers even rented out the local teacher training college in the Paseo de El Espolón as an administration building (today it is a health centre). Even today there is a Lara Cinema in the city. 80 sequences all in all were shot in Soria province.

The Hotels Comercio (now the Caja Duero Savings Bank), Las Heras, (now demolished), and Florida (now a police station) were all filled to the brim with actors and crew.

The people of Soria received their first ever children’s playground in the area known as La Dehesa, next to the Cafeteria Alameda, thanks to MGM. It was in this area that Omar Saharif would walk with his son in the evenings after shooting. The playground has since been replaced with a more modern one, but you can still drink from the same fountain as the Doctor on his evenings off.

Thanks to local expert and author Julián de la Llana for much of this information. In fact some of the furniture collected by artistic director John Box for the film came from Julián’s parents’ and grandparents’ houses!

The Battle of the Bulge (1965)

This was another of those great films showing heroic but gory tales of men standing ankle-deep in snow and mud, made possible thanks to the keenly available Spanish army with its World War II material and open willingness to abandon the defence of Spain’s frontiers in order to make a few extra bob as extras.

The film was shot mainly around Valsaín in the province of Segovia. When Henry Fonda is seen at the beginning of the film searching for the German army in a scout plane, the area observed is between Río Peces, and ‘Cruz de La Gallega’, on the western slope of Cerro de Matabueyes, a Spanish army artillery range.

The first skirmishes of the battle, when the Americans are overrun, are located in the Valle del Pinar de Valsaín, around ‘Los Asientos’ or ‘La Boca del Asno’.     

The attack on Ambleve, which the Americans initially repel, is actually on the town of Valsaín, seen from ‘El Parque,’ across which the Panzers advance. The ruins where the Americans resist are called ‘Torreón’ and are all that is left of the Palacio de Valsaín, built for King Felipe II and destroyed by a fire in 1686.

The fuel dump was located at Cruz de La Gallega, and the bridge that the Americans are unable to blow up because it has been taken by Germans dressed as Americans is on the SG 312 road between Valverde del Majano and Segovia, just north west of the city.

As regards the machinery of war, the Spanish army happily obliged: the German tanks were mostly M-47s of the Regimiento Alcázar de Toledo, whereas the Americans’ were M-24s, supplied by the Grupo de Dragones de Caballería Alfambra, based in Móstoles.

When Robert Ryan arrives at a chateau after abandoning Ambleve and decides to commit his tanks to the battle, few people will have problems recognising the same terrace (La Granja royal palace, Segovia) from which George C Scott would later make his ambiguous apology for hitting a soldier in ‘Patton’.

When Charles Bronson herds the army cooks out of their kitchen and into the fire, a large paella pan can be seen on the table; not exactly typical of Belgian cooking.

Crack in the World (1965)

One of many low budget films made by the same people who made ‘The Day of the Triffids’, using what resources remained from the Bronston empire.

The film details attempts to harness the energy of the Earth’s core and was filmed largely in Madrid at CEA Studios and at the Bronston lot of Las Matas.

The mountains in the opening scene are to be found at La Pedriza just north of Madrid, and the scene with the commission deciding on the scheme to exploit the magma at the centre of the Earth was shot in a Madrid museum.

Towards the end we see Doctor Rampion and his team drive through La Pedriza and then look down upon the sea, where a new volcano is brewing, although they are in fact looking down (once again) on the Santillana Reservoir, a trick employed by many makers of films in this scenery-rich area of Madrid.

Nevertheless, some real sea images were used, and were shot at the Saler beach, just south of Valencia.

Dana Andrews stars and Andrew Marton directs this story of two men who love the same woman with a sub-plot of their disagreement over whether they are destroying the world or not.

In the end the younger man gets the girl, but the older man (Andrews) gets to create a new moon (although nobody asked him to; especially the people on the toy train that crashes to its doom from the toy bridge).

There are many significant lessons to be learned from this film: when a woman is in danger she should channel all her energy into screaming; when trapped two miles underground in a collapsing complex, take the lift; when you want to shut yourself in the control room and die a hero, turn the dial that was clearly installed for the sole purpose of short circuiting the metal doors.

Don’t you miss this kind of film?

Finger on the Trigger (1965)

Confederate and Union soldiers show what they were fighting for, joining forces against the ‘Native’ Americans.

The film was set in Oklahoma, although everything including the fringe on top was filmed in Spain.

Madrid and Almería provided the locations. Close to Madrid the ‘Lega Michelena’ western township near Colmenar Viejo was employed.

Filming took place in Almería around Rioja, and the ramblas of Tabernas, such as El Cautivo, Llanos Mellado and Indalecio, as well as Venta de Araoz. A ‘Venta’ is an inn, and in this inn prisoners were kept during the Spanish Civil War. In the film it portrays a US Cavalry fort.

The film stars the aptly named Rory Calhoun, who on first seeing the desert of Almería described it astutely as: “acres and acres of nothing but acres.”

Victor Mature was supposed to be the star but managed to get lost on the way, and Sidney Pink directed.

Masquerade (1965)

Jack Hawkins does devilish deeds in Almería to separate an Arab prince and his oil, with authentic Arabian sand dunes provided by the Cabo de Gata.

Cliff Robertson also stars in a film about the kidnapping of an oil-rich Arab prince, with a lot of dusty action taking place in and around the castle of Santa Bárbara in the provincial capital of Alicante.

The castle first appears when Cliff is kidnapped and taken there in a wine lorry, which seems to get him drunk, although as he passes the whole film whiskey in hand, that isn’t difficult.

The castle is the HQ of the villains and a lot of the action takes place there, although from the distance there seem to have been some additional bits and pieces added to the original.

The climax of the film takes place around the under construction dam of Guadalest, Alicante.

10.30 P.M. Summer (1965)

Romy Schneider, Melina Mecouri and Peter Finch formed a fatal triangle in this film, directed by Mecouri’s husband Jules Dassin, and featuring old, dusty Spain as a background to the tense relationships between the three.

Another fatal triangle reaches its bloody conclusion as they arrive in Colmenar de Oreja, Madrid, where many Spanish films and TV series have taken advantage of the town’s ‘circular’ main ‘square.’

The first half of the film takes place here among the columnated rainy arcades, alleys and rooftops.

The town’s strange name in fact has nothing to do with ‘ears’, but is the Spanish interpretation of the town’s Roman name ‘Aurelia’.

After a drive among the dry mountains and wheatfields around Madrid, they hit the capital and, among other monuments we see the Cibeles fountain, the Don Quijote statue in Plaza de España and a curious Plaza Mayor when it was still a car park, until reaching the Palace Hotel.

In a climax with some typical Flamenco amongst hanging Halloween pumpkins and cured hams, manic Melina, we imagine, meets her fate somewhere in Madrid and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker and Suzannah York fight for survival after their plane crashes in South Africa, in deepest Almería.

Harry Andrews takes a break from his traditional screaming Sergeant Major roles and plays a man with a strange accent and a monkey on his shoulder.

The film directed by Cy Enfield, is memorable for presenting us with the least believable and most inexpensive plane crash in the history of film making.

The Tramplers (1965)

Joseph Cotten teams up with James Mitchum (son of Robert) in a western set in post civil war America, where some southerners don’t accept defeat.

Although an Italian production, the cattle drive scenes were filmed in Spain.

Joaquín Murrieta (1965)

Set in California, where even then some white folks were not too keen on having Hispanics clean their pools, this film, directed by George Sherman and starring Jeffrey Hunter and Arthur Kennedy, was one of many to use the Lega-Michelena township, built on the wild prairies of the Dehesa de Navalvillar to the north of Madrid.

The township was built by set decorators Augusto Lega and Félix Michelena in 1963 and today, Félix’s son Miguel Aroztegui keeps the flame alive maintaining studio facilities on the Dehesa right next to the site of the battle scene from ‘Spartacus’.

It is here that Joaquin has his first run-in with racist cowboys.

Unfortunately the township was demolished to make way for a helicopter base, although Miguel and a group of cinema enthusiasts are trying to have it rebuilt, and have set up some signs so that people can still locate the site.

Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

The Alberche River, also used when Hunter played Christ in King of Kings, was used again as Joaquin starts to build his dream home. He later returns there to his wife’s grave.

Most of the action takes place among the boulder-strewn mountains of La Pedriza, Madrid.

Navajo Joe (1966)

Burt Reynolds rehearses for his role in ‘Deliverance’, but without the banjos, alongside a bunch of Italian secondary actors, plus Spanish actor Fernando Rey, in one of his favourite roles as a priest. The film was made all over some of Spain’s drier ‘Western’ scenery, such as Colmenar Viejo, near Madrid, Guadix in Granada province for all the train sequences, (the station of Esperanza was in reality Zújar-Freila), Tabernas in Almería province and Torremocha in Cáceres province.

In Granada a lot of the shooting took place at the 18th century Cortijo Anchurones de San Pedro at Fonelas, which is now a hotel. Specifically we can see on the hotel estate the hill known as Pico del Grajo, in the scene with the horse ride along the River Fardes just north east of Fonelas, and  the final fight that takes place with the Rambla de los Bancos in the background, situated between Fonelas and Guadix.

Reynolds apparently thought this was a Sergio Leone film, only to discover that Leone was not the only Sergio in Italy. This one was directed by Sergio Corbucci, who passed through on his way to obscurity, although the music was composed by the real Ennio Morricone.

The scenery is quite spectacular and Corbucci knew how to take advantage of the variety of scenery, with lush green prairies, snow-capped peaks and landscapes with soils of many colours.

A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)

The ‘ruins’ of the sets from ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ were still lying about at Las Matas near Madrid, enabling Richard Lester to make this strange Roman parody. It seems dated today, but is the last film featuring Buster Keaton, who was dying of cancer at the time, but keen to revisit Spain, where he’d been in the thirties.

It was mostly made in the Bronston studios near Madrid, with some chariot ride scenes at La Pedriza, Madrid, and one scene, when Phil Silvers and his wife are off to visit her mother, where the town walls of Ávila can be seen in the background looking very post-Roman.

The forest that Keaton wanders through is the often used forest of Valsaín in Segovia.

The Roman aqueduct of Segovia also makes a brief appearance during the song ‘Everybody Ought to Have a Maid’ with a group of Romans parading across it singing.

At the end of the chaotic chariot pursuits towards the climax of the film, as a Captain rounds everyone up to take them back to Rome, a glimpse of Toledo and its Alcázar castle can be seen in the background, a view that Richard Lester would use again in his Musketeers Trilogy.

How I Won the War (1966)

Directed by Richard Lester, who also directed the Beatles films ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ (in which co-star in this film, Roy Kinnear, also appeared) as well as ‘Help,’ the film is interesting for many people as it marked the first performance on screen by John Lennon being something other than a Beatle.

Lennon played a Second World War soldier ‘Private Gripweed’, a name worthy of his own imagination.  This was also the first time that the public saw Lennon wearing his Granny, or Trotsky (whichever way you lean) glasses.

Being a long way from home, and frequently bored, Lennon wrote one of his most emblematic songs, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ in Almería. Strawberry Field (as it is really called) was in fact an orphanage near his house in Liverpool, in whose garden Lennon played as a child.

The Spanish sections of the film, which were supposed to represent North Africa, were used for the most ‘English’ part of a surrealistic, funny film with a serious anti-war message.

The desert scenery used included Carboneras (in whose port they arrive in Africa), Cabo de Gata, Guardias Viejas and Tabernas, and the beaches of Matíl, Mónsul, Cala Príncipe and Mojácar.

As they set off on their journey across the desert Mesa Roldán castle appears briefly when the quaintly eccentric (or bloodthirstily mad) Grapple, played by Michael Hordern, shouts at his men from the top of it, inculcating military discipline and cricketing values.

Mesa Roldán

In the film the castle appears to be a round tower because it is seen from the side, although in fact it is considerably larger when seen from the front or back.

The tower was built around 1497 to resist the attacks of Berber pirates.

At the Rambla de Lanujar, the British are attacked by their own side, and at Rambla Otero they launch an incompetent attack on a German petrol dump.

The desert scenery and beaches of Almería in fact provided the battle scenes not only of the Battle of El Alamein, but also for the scenes representing Dieppe and Dunkirk (specifically this latter one at the Dunas de las Amoladeras at Cabo de Gata).

The hilarious scenes of a ‘crack’ (or ‘cracked’) unit of soldiers sent behind enemy lines with a roller to construct a cricket pitch (located at Rambla de Tabernas) were light years (journalistic language for ‘one or two’) ahead of their time, which may account for the film’s lack of commercial success.

The film is full of zany humour, which makes you unsure whether to laugh or ponder, as it was released at the time of the Vietnam War.

While in Almería Lennon stayed in a guest house called ‘Delfín Verde’ (Green Dolphin) at the El Zapillo beach in Almería, Calle García Cañas 2, and he spent time in a nearby restaurant ‘El Manzanilla’.

We stayed there in April 2022 and found in the reception a little tribute to Lennon.

According to the owner, our room was also Lennon’s, number 3.

Like Lennon, we had to change rooms the following day, as the noise of heavy machinery from the restaurant below kept us awake.

With the arrival of Ringo to celebrate Lennon’s 26th birthday on October 9th, Lennon’s wife Cynthia insisted that they move somewhere bigger, and they ended up in a mansion called Santa Isabel (also known locally as Casa Romero), which was also rented at other times by actor Peter O’Toole, and producer Sam Spiegel. It was here and at the beach that Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields.

The gate of the mansion, which has now been converted into a multi-functional centre dedicated to the cinema and in remembrance of Lennon, used to bear a resemblance to the gate of the real (although ‘nothing is’) Strawberry Field, in front of which tourists regularly pose during Beatle nostalgia tours of Liverpool. Cynthia Lennon, who would later own a pub in Mallorca, claimed that she and Lennon believed the mansion to be haunted.

Casa Romero

Lennon’s stay in Almería is commemorated by a statue of him playing his guitar, in Plaza Flores, by Spanish artist Carmen Mudarra, unveiled in 2006.

Lennon Statue in Almería

Lennon’s violent death in the film is, with hindsight, a tragic irony, as he looks into the camera and berates us in that we knew this was going to happen. In fact, special effects maestro Eddie Fowler has commented that a condom full of false blood was exploded on Lennon’s chest to achieve dramatic effect.

Lennon’s connection with Spain didn’t finish there. He returned to Spain, or more specifically as the song ‘Ballad of John and Yoko’ says to Gibraltar near Spain, to get married to Yoko Ono on the 20th March 1969, and four days later had lunch with the father of Surrealism, Catalan painter Salvador Dalí in Paris.

A Spanish film, ‘Vivir es Facil con los Ojos Cerrados’ tells the story of a Spanish English teacher driving to Almería in search of Lennon. The film’s title is a line from Strawberry Fields.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Despite all the publicity that Almería gets for the trilogy, the climax in fact takes place in Burgos.

The bridge that Tuco and Blondie blow up during an American Civil war battle, was built especially for the explosion over the River Arlanzón in Burgos province by Spanish army engineers.

However, when it came to blowing the bridge the Spanish army Captain in charge didn’t warn Sergio Leone, and just blew it up without any cameras rolling. The army was so repentant with what had been done that the bridge was rebuilt, only to be blown up again two weeks later.

With a much bigger budget, following the success of the first two parts, the third and last part of the trilogy (hence the name ‘trilogy’) was largely shot in the badlands of Almería with 1,500 Spanish soldiers as extras. The prison camp ‘Betterville’ was inspired by the actual Confederate prison camp of Andersonville, where thousands of Union prisoners died, and based on steel engravings of Andersonville dated from August 1864.

Andersonville prison gave the English language the word ‘deadline.’ Its origin was a line beyond which Union prisoners, if they crossed it, were shot dead.

Today junior executives are shot dead (or the equivalent), if their reports are not in on time.

Back to Burgos, the town being shelled while goodies and baddies and uglies fight out their own battle was at Covarrubias.

The Valle de Tierra of Carazo, also in Burgos, and right next door to the Santo Domingo de Silos Monastery, famous for the Gregorian chants of its monks, supplied the valley where the cemetery (Sad Hill) was built for the final shoot out, near Contreras, while the military hospital was the Monasterio de San Pedro de Arlanza, Covarrubias.

Valle de Tierra of Carazo

To visit the Burgos locations you should start at Sala de los Infantes, about 50 kilometres south east of Burgos. Drive towards Burgos on the N-234 to Hortigüela, and there take the road towards Covarrubias. After three and a half kilometres turn right and you will reach the location of the American Civil War Langstone Bridge Battle, with the trenches to the right of the road.

One kilometre further on are the ruins of the Monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza, which was the San Antonio Mission in the film.

San Pedro. Photo Courtesy Juan Angel Gonzalez

Carrying on, and just before the second bridge over the Arlanza River at Fuente Tubilla, is a road to the left that goes towards Contreras.

From Santo Domingo de Silos a signposted track heads up a valley which opens out into an upper plain, at the beginning of which is the site of Sad Hill Cemetery, the location of the final shoot out.

Sergio Garcia

The Sad Hill Cultural Association was formally created on 13 March 2014, being the founding members: David Alba, Antonio Sanz and Sergio García. Two objectives were set: to reconstruct the Sad Hill Cemetery to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the filming in 2016 and to enhance the value of the route that links the 4 filming points in the Arlanza Valley.

The association picked up the work of the Colectivo Arqueológico de Salas that had previously held activities related to the film and established ties of friendship with Almería. To achieve the reconstruction of Sad Hill it was necessary to obtain two permits, the first was from the owner of the land: Santo Domingo de Silos Town Council, but also from the Castilla – León Environment Council, as the area is a protected natural area: Sabinares del Arlanza Natural Park.

On Saturday 3 October 2015, the first volunteer day was arranged and throughout the weekends of that autumn, progress was made little by little in the unearthing of the stone circle, which had been buried by the passage of time. There was no trace of the stone wall or the crosses. In spring 2016, the Junta de Castilla León cleared the burial mounds of the tombs. Immediately afterwards, about 1,000 wooden crosses were placed, in response to the crowdfunding call “sponsor a tomb”.

On the 23rd of July, the authorities were invited to inaugurate the reconstruction and the following day, the film was shown on a giant screen, an event attended by 4,000 people.

Sergio says: “Five years later, we can look back and be proud of all that has been achieved so far, but our collective has continued with the mission of seeking the maintenance and institutional protection of the site. Interventions are also planned for the other 3 filming points. Last 2020, the Sad Hill to Betterville trail was signposted, an unprecedented route, giving added value to a place through a film.

Currently, another of the Association’s great challenges is the promotion of the Burgos Film Commission, with the institutional support of SODEBUR and Burgos Promueve.”

In July 2020 I finally realised an old ambition, to visit the Sad Hill cemetery, accompanied by founding member of the association, Sergio Garcia.

Sergio explained that the valley was suggested by a Spanish collaborator of Sergio Leone’s, Antonio Perez Giner, who had worked nearby on a film called The Castilian, an attempt to exploit the success of El Cid.

Using filters, the lush green of Burgos was faded and a closer approximation to New Mexico was achieved.

A documentary called ‘Sad Hill Desenterrado’ (Unearthed) not only got them onto Netflix but also a video call from Clint Eastwood himself.

The authorities finally woke up to the advantages of Cinema Tourism, and now the destination features prominently on the brochures of the nearest town Santo Domingo de Silos.

Today school trips visit the site and there is always movement, sometimes led by Sergio, suitably apparelled. The approach from Silos has been improved, you can now make it by car, and as Sergio pointed out, and as we saw for ourselves, there are always visitors.

When we were there about 12 people listened in as Sergio brought the famous scene to life, while four skulking hombres sheepishly attired themselves with ponchos and pistols, waiting for us to leave.

They no longer offer tombs for adoption, but there are always novelties, such as the flower-decked tomb for the recently deceased Ennio Morricone.

From here it’s a six kilometre walk to Carazo, where the prison camp scenes were shot. The location is 500 metres north east of the town, situated on a hillock known as Majada de las Merinas.

Back in Almería, the opening scene of the film was shot at Camino de la Rellana, and at Caserio del Campillo de Doña Francesca is Steven’s house, where he is killed by the sadistic Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), although the interior was filmed at Cortijo de la Hoya Altica.

Las Salinillas is the spot where Blondie and Tuco meet the Union army, while at El Tablazo we can find the place where Blondie dumps Tuco in the desert. At Cabo de Gata are the famous dunes where Clint Eastwood is forced to walk in the desert by Eli Wallach as punishment, before they become intimate best friends.

The railway station, from where Tuco and Eastwood catch their train, was at La Calahorra, Granada, although a kilometre of track was also built, along with a ranch, at Hazas Blancas in Almería, and a town was built at Gérgal.

The monastery where Tuco meets his brother was the Cortijo de los Frailes, Cabo de Gata. Apache Canyon was in fact Cortijo Monterreal, and near Rodalquilar, was the Castle of San Ramón, a Confederate fort in the film.

Later they visit Cortijo de los Frailes at Los Albaricoques as well as Cortijadas del Higo Seco, where Shorty was hanged, before moving into the desert of Tabernas, including Rambla Indalecio and Rambla Otero (where Eastwood and Wallach share out the bounty).

Rambla Otero, where share-out takes place

Cortijo de los Frailes has its own true, violent story, which was adapted by Federico García Lorca for his play ‘Blood Wedding’. In 1928 the owner offered a large dowry for his younger daughter. His elder daughter and son in law tried to trick him out of the money. However, on her wedding day the bride attempted to run away with her cousin. The plotters shot the cousin in the head and the younger daughter was half-strangled. Very Spanish.

Return of the Seven (1966)

The follow up to the immensely successful ‘The Magnificent Seven’ was filmed in Agost Alicante, and Colmenar de Oreja and Nuevo Baztán, Madrid.

The two main sets were built near Agost in the Serra del Castellar and the Serra de Los Tajos. The first village is easily recognisable because of the cone-shaped ‘Castell de la Murta’ mountain in the background.

Rubble and bits and pieces of the set can still be seen in the area that represented the Mexican village, once again ‘saved’ by Chris plus six.

The main Mexican ‘pueblo’ was situated near the Puente (bridge) de la Palmera (of the palm tree) and the waterwheel for the laundry scene in la Barranca (gulley) de Pina.

Yul Brynner himself also participated in a bullfight in Alicante, along with the bullfighter Curro Romero, in order to raise funds for the elderly. Brynner also helped raise 65,000 pesetas towards the building of the local school, La Milagrosa, situated in Carrer Joan XXIII.

On July 9th 2011, the Town Hall of Agost organised the first commemoration of the film’s making, with visits to the locations of the film, a meeting with local people who participated in the shooting, and a public viewing of Return of the Seven in the town’s open air auditorium.

Just two kilometres outside Agost on the road to Novelda on the left hand side, is the Bodega La Escandella, whose owner Delfina Marco, allowed the film makers to use her property for two weeks while shooting the cockfight and other interior scenes.

The barrels from the cockfight scenes are still there, as is a lot of Agost’s famous pottery, which is prominent in the film, but especially when Yul Brynner is hatching his plans to rescue the Mexican peasants.

The stairs through which Brynner and Robert Fuller enter to the cockfight were in fact a prop, although the stage on which the fight took place is still there, as is a sign from the production.

Bartolomé Canto Diaz remembers many details from the film as he was one of several boys with the unenviable task of carrying water from the village to the two Mexican village sets, built just outside the town. Not much is left to see of the villages, although Bartolomé took us over a hill to find the location of the campfire scene, where Yul and his compadres rest overnight on their way to face insurmountable odds.


Bartolomé’s sister María Dolores is a local history teacher who has started collecting photographs and mementoes from the 1966 production and is in contact with many residents of Agost who witnessed the filming.

One witness who was in the middle of the shooting is Encarna Montoya, who was the double of Elisa Montés, ‘Petra’ in the film. Encarna has a Stetson full of anecdotes, and particularly remembers when she fell off the donkey onto the gipsy boy who accompanies her to find Chris, and whose parents were less than pleased.

In fact the Mexican peasants were mostly gipsies from Alicante who were bussed in every day, and according to Delfina Marco, were watched carefully by the Guardia Civil between takes.

Fernando Rey’s presence in the town was much appreciated during the three months filming, especially when he pointed out to the locals that they could ask for many more Yankee dollars than they were asking from the film makers.

He himself paid Bartolomé 100 pesetas to wash his car, when the weekly wage at that time was only 150.

Nuevo Baztán provided the locations for the brief scenes that show our heroes riding away from a prison, where Chris has found some of his willing compadres.

The scenes were shot around the Palacio de Juan de Goyeneche. First of all Chris arrives alone trotting along Calle Palacio, and then when there is a prison escape, he and his cohorts gallop away from Plaza del Mercado through an arched gate that remains there to this day.

Plaza del Mercado: Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

The bullfighting scene for the film was shot at Colmenar de Oreja, as were the scenes after the bullfight where Chris is recruiting his men and finds two sevenths in a prison guarded by a jailer who, although he can barely dress himself, speaks perfect English, despite the fact that other allegedly Mexican characters speak Spanish with subtitles. Colmenar de Oreja’s main square with pillars stands out particularly in these images.

In one scene, Chris meets up with Petra in a corner of Colmenar’s square, and we can briefly see the ‘-cón’ from a bar sign which is Rincón (corner), a bar that is still there.

Colmenar de Oreja

Lost Command (1966)

Inevitably if you want to set a film in exotic locations such as Indochina and Algeria, the only logical place to make it is in Spain, give or take a jungle.

Having lost a war in Vietnam, a French officer played by Anthony Quinn accompanied by a more convincing French officer played by Alain Delon, decide to try their luck in Algeria.

The scenes set in Vietnam were shot at Almería’s Albufera de Adra, suitably transformed into rice fields.

The Salamanca Market in the El Molinillo district of Málaga represented a market in Algeria at one point, and the Port Authority building was the French army’s headquarters.

Madrid’s popular natural site with authentic western scenery at Dehesa de Navalvillar was also a location, and the final battle takes place at nearby La Pedriza, where Quinn’s troops launch a suicide attack on the Algerian position, held by that well known Arab actor George Segal. The set may well qualify as the most ridiculous ever made, with a clump of Greek columns perched on an outcrop of rock, looking as if they probably fell down even before they were put up.

The city of Almería’s Plaza Vieja provided the scene for the entrance of the troops into Cavas, and Calles Tenor Iribarne and Regocijos were used for the occupation.

Plaza Vieja

Some interior scenes were shot at the Hotel Solymar.

Quinn and Delon may have taken their role of aggressive, rebellious soldiers too far in Almería, where they ended up in jail having gate-crashed a bullfight.

At the end of the film Delon’s character rejects military excesses and walks away from the medals ceremony. The building he walks away from is the Military Barracks ‘Cuartel de la Misericordia,’ situated in Almería’s Calle General Luque, a building started in the late 18th century on the site of an old Arab mosque.

Misericordia Barracks

One Million Years BC (1966)

This is a film with a message, and the message is that socialism (of the blonde Swedish variety) will triumph over capitalism (dirty, sweaty, dog eat dog look out for number one etc).

Although it is a film about the past, it presents us with a vision of the future, where Man will live collectively in a sustainable artisan paradise, interrupted only briefly by the need to slay a dinosaur or two.

The model dinosaurs are really impressive, as are the iguanas, although scantily clad Raquel Welch causes the greatest caveman upheaval.

The first five minutes of the film consists of smoke, which might be an attempt to convey the idea of the Big Bang, or may be a budget deficit. When we finally see the “hard, unfriendly world” as the narrator describes it, we discover that we are in fact in Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands.

The Timanfaya Volcano Park is the main location for this warm up for ‘Jurassic Park,’ along with the well-known green lagoon ‘Lago Verde’ at El Golfo, an unusual phenomenon where sea water has become trapped to form a lake, which has turned a striking green, due to algae, and which appears towards the end.

Teguise, Islote, Hilario and the beach at Caleta de Famara were also used; the latter for the scene where Raquel emerges from the sea after the attack by the ptenarodon.

Filming also took place at Las Cañadas del Teide (which is Spain’s highest mountain, located on Tenerife island), and some locations on Fuerteventura island too.

The famous sand dunes at Maspalomas on Gran Canaria island were also employed.

It’s not such a bad world really; all the men have ample chest hair, the women wear mini furs and most of the animals that attack are fairly inefficient, especially the giant tortoise.

In the end the tribes learn that they must co-operate if they are to prevail. A bit like Star Trek without space, the final frontier.

Kid Rodelo (1966)

This western was filmed around Madrid at Colmenar Viejo, Hoyo de Manzanares and Manzanares el Real representing Yuma, and in Alicante, where the dune and beach scenes were shot, representing the Gulf of Mexico.

Greed may be good, but if greed is gold, it’ll get you killed.

Actor Don Murray stayed in the Hotel Carlton in the Rambla de Alicante in May 1965 during the filming there.

In the same hotel, the lead actress Janet Leigh also stayed. Leigh was married to Tony Curtis at the time and accompanying her was their ‘kid,’ Jamie Lee Curtis.

Savage Pampas (1966)

Robert Taylor attempts to conquer the wild Pampas of Argentina, resisting the attacks of those who were already living there. The ‘savage’ scenery around El Goloso and Las Matas, Madrid was used.

The train scenes were shot on the line between Madrid and Almorox in Toledo province, where the Alberche river was once again put to good use for the women’s bathing scene and again when the carriage turns over during a pursuit by Indians.

The Texican (1966)

An Audie Murphy western filmed in the studios at Barcelona’s Espuglas de Llobregat, whereas the exteriors were shot near Fraga in the province of Huesca, although purportedly the action takes place in Mexico.

The film is also known as ‘Texas Kid,’ and deals with the typical ex-gunfighter who rides again to avenge his murdered brother.

The Fantastic World of Doctor Coppelius (1966)

The film is a curious mixture of ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Frankenstein’, based on the ballet ‘Coppelius’. It was filmed in the Samuel Bronston studios in Madrid, featuring the ballet company and orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceo of Barcelona in a quaint fantasy full of dance and without dialogue.

El Greco (1966)

Mel Ferrer plays ‘The Greek,’ although most of us prefer Doménikos Theotokópoulos, who comes to Toledo to paint an altarpiece, falls in love with a noble young lady, who he is not permitted to marry, and is accused of witchcraft and heresy by the Inquisition. As compensation, Ferrer was allowed to marry Audrey Hepburn in real life.

As the credits roll we see young Doménikos riding towards the city with the Alcázar castle clearly visible in the distance. He then crosses the emblematic Saint Martin’s bridge to enter the city.

The film was made using interiors and exteriors of Toledo Cathedral for a funeral and Corpus Cristi procession, where Fernando Rey plays an ageing King Felipe II, and the Franciscan cloisters of San Juan de los Reyes are used for Doña Jerónima’s garden and for the first meeting between El Greco and Cardenal Guevera, as well as the convent where Jerónima seeks penance.

San Juan de los Reyes

Also used were the Palacio de Fuensalida, situated in the Plaza del Conde, where scenes of the madhouse were shot (and it may or may not be a coincidence that the palace is now the official residence of the President of Castilla La Mancha). El Greco spends some time there after Jerónima dies, and his son seeks him out there.

The Playa (Beach) de Safont on the banks of the River Tajo also features when El Greco and Jerónima first express their love with kissing and prancing as San Sevrando castle and the Alcázar loom above them.

Our thanks to Eduardo Sánchez Butragueño for this information. In the official credits thanks are given to a museum in Yecla in Murcia province, where they have 75 copies of El Greco paintings painted by local man Juan Albert Roses. The paintings toured Spain in the 60s and were on show when the film was made in Toledo. They can now be visited in Yecla’s Casa Municipal de Cultura.

Hallucination Generation (1966)

Like yeah man you know it’s uh like wow really. Actually the dialogue isn’t that good. Probably this film was made by subversive right wingers trying to scare people into going to Vietnam, where they would be safe from drugs and women with insatiable sexual needs.

Possibly the most subtle aspect is that the scenes where people are ‘tripping’ are shot in colour and the rest in black and white, which takes subtlety a step beyond.

A pity about the black and white though, as it means you cannot enjoy the full beauty of Ibiza’s limpid waters and attractive beaches.

Finders Keepers (1966)

As the world of teendom launched itself into Flower Power, Cliff Richard and the Shadows landed in Spain for yet another groovy romp among the Señoritas, and silly songs, including a homage to paella, which will be remembered for years to go.

An unlikely story about an American plane accidentally dropping a bomb near a small Spanish town where the boys are going to play. Much more believable is that it is the boys who decide to sort the problem out.

During the performance of ‘This Day’, Cliff rows his señorita through some subterranean caves, which could be those of Drach, Mallorca.

The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967)

Like ‘The Sun Also Rises’, the bull running chaos of Pamplona’s San Fermín festival in Navarra provides the backdrop, although this time for stealing jewels from a bank, played classily by the Banco Santander in the Plaza del Castillo.

However, the film begins at the airport in Madrid, with a taxi ride past the Puerta de Alcala, and then past the Alcázar castle of Segovia and under its famous Roman viaduct. The two taxis then drive through a square under a castle and on to a coastal town, where they check into a hotel; quite a circuitous and expensive taxi ride.

In the next scene we are in Pamplona, where Boyd appears in a red sports car in front of the famous Caballo Blanco restaurant, where we also see the archway made by a room built over the adjacent Calle del Redin.

Caballo Blanco Restaurant

To get into the bank, the thieves run with the crowd along the route, including the famous Mercaderes curve, where the bulls notoriously fall over during San Fermín.

Having stolen the jewels and hidden them in one of the characteristic giant heads, so prominently worn in many Spanish festivals and parades, they emerge beside the Casa de Baños de Calderería.

The shooting in Pamplona took place on the 12th and 13th July 1966, although they had to organise their own run with extras in Calle Dormitalería.

The Town Hall appears three times and the cast stayed at the Tres Reyes Hotel.

Camelot (1967)

Camelot is of course a symbol of the ideal illusion of a perfect England, merrie as mead, literate and loving it, and based upon a rigid class system where everybody knows their place and wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is of course no more an authentic vision of that perfect England than Spain, where Spanish castle magic makes Tintagel look like a pile of rubble and Glastonbury Tor a mere pimple on the bottom of ancient Wessex.

Coca is in the province of Segovia, 50 kilometres from the provincial capital, and its 15th Century Mudéjar castle is Camelot in the musical of the same name starring Richard Harris, and Vanessa Redgrave, who champions the working class by sleeping with the King’s best mate.

Coca Castle

The friend in question is of course Lancelot, whose own castle is the even more famous Alcázar of Segovia.

You can tell Lancelot is French by the way he speaks about “the table round” and “a thing remarkable”, and by the way he lusts after our Queen, as all Frenchmen do.

The film ends with the sun rising over the Alcázar just before Arthur faces his sunset in the final battle against his greatest friend, while the Queen gets herself gone to a Nunnery.

On our visit to Camelot we were joined by local expert David Rubio, who with a group of friends is endeavouring to develop a better understanding of the history and archaeology of the castle and the town, and to post the information on the castle website that he runs.

David informed us that in front of the castle you can find the ‘Fonda-Restaurante’ Villa Paquita, where some of the actors slept and ate during filming, including Richard Harris and Franco Nero (Lancelot), whose signature in the visitors’ book is still to be seen.

Filming lasted approximately two months and supposed a boom in the economy of what was then an out-of-the-way provincial town.

Just to the south of the castle, a ‘circus’ consisting of caravans, tents and a canteen was set up. Various animals were hired, and as the schools closed at midday, the teachers would take the children to watch the shooting in the afternoon. Most enjoyable were the knights fighting on horseback and the spectacular falls of the stuntmen.

On the west side of the castle various trees were cut down and a bridge was built as well as an area of small fields to give the appearance of happy peasanty labour.

The filming marked the beginning of a relationship between Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero that would span decades, a relationship which was partly retold in fiction in the film Letters to Juliet, where Redgrave reencounters her old flame, Nero.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

The ‘Little Nellie’ helicopter chase was originally filmed in Japan at Ebino, although it’s mixed in with a plane crash that was filmed in Scotland.

The Japanese authorities wouldn’t allow explosions to be used in the area, which is a natural park, and so the scenes with the helicopter dogfight were completed in the skies above Torremolinos in Málaga province because the scenery appeared to be similar, although the ground is noticeably more arid.

The film begins in Gibraltar, which is supposed to be Hong Kong, where Bond’s death is faked almost as well as Hong Kong is, by not panning too far around to see the recognisable Rock.

Whether Hong Kong or Gibraltar, I don’t think the local authorities would have taken too kindly to somebody being buried at sea in the middle of the harbour. But then Bond is different, and 007 is always given a decent opportunity to escape capture and death by his enemies, such as by leaving him in an unpiloted plane instead of simply shooting him when he is totally within their power.

Custer of the West (1967)

However many times you see a version of Custer’s life, he just can’t seem to get away from ‘Little Big Horn.’ In this version he refuses the draw offered to him as the sole survivor and dies with a scream and a diatribe about how warfare is becoming a beastly business.

Inevitably Almería’s Wild West features in this version starring Robert Shaw, but Toledo is also featured, especially when a reasonably sized river was required for massacring Indians, in which case the mighty Tajo did nicely. The studio scenes were largely shot in Madrid, and according to Second Unit Cameraman John Cabrera, filming took place around La Pedriza.

Most of the filming took place in the area of Las Salinillas in Almería, particularly the scenes in which Custer’s men use cannons to kill a group of runaway Cheyenne Indians.

Other locations used include the Punta Entinas-Sabinar Nature Reserve, an area of sand dunes situated between El Ejido and Roquetas de Mar, where Custer’s men pursue some renegade Indians into the desert, the canyons of Sierra Cabrera between Mojácar and Carboneras, as well as a location near inland Níjar.

As usual the Cavalry built their forts in the most arid locations without a scrap of agriculture to keep them alive on a diet of beans and beans.

The opening scene is particularly entertaining, with Robert Shaw leading a cavalry charge that lasts about 5 years through the sandy landscapes of Almería; reminiscent of his Panzer charges in ‘The Battle of the Bulge’, also filmed in Spain.

 Jeffrey Hunter returns as a Cavalry Captain with a conscience, although obviously not as great a conscience as when he played Jesus Christ in ‘King of Kings’ in 1961.

Tobruk (1967)

Those popular sand dunes at Cabo de Gata in Almería once again stirred from their peaceful slumbers with the explosion of fuel dumps and minefields as Rommel is once again hurled back (when he’s not surging forward).

Rock Hudson and George Peppard lead the goodies on a suicide mission with spies and double agents swapping uniforms in a flurry until nobody is quite sure who to kill.

The scenes where we see sea were all shot in Almería, as was the port scene at the beginning.

Action took place around Carboneras and Llanos de Alquián, where the ambush scene was shot.

Arthur Hiller directed and Spanish soldiers from the Viator Barracks lent a hand and some arms.

The House of a Thousand Dolls (1967)

Vincent Price led the cast in this Horror B Movie, one of many made in Spain during the sixties and seventies with top notch horror heavies.

Set in Tangiers, and dealing with the white slave trade, Price plays a magician who gets involved with the trade due to his ability to hypnotise young girls.

Ceuta, Cádiz and Madrid are among the locations used.

Fathom (1967)

Raquel Welch surprises us all by toting a bikini in this frivolous film shot along the Málaga beaches of Torremolinos, Mijas, Nerja (where Raquel is serenaded down some steps by youngsters playing Flamenco music) as she walks down ‘la Cuesta de la Calahonda’ towards Playa Calahonda.

During Raquel Welch’s first meeting with Richard (is he a hero, is he a villain?) Briers, he picks her up after a parachute jump and gives her a lift.

As they drive and talk, to our right behind them we can see the castle of Sohail.

When Raquel goes horse riding with Anthony (is he the villain, is he the hero?) Franciosa, after they drop a body off a cliff, he drops her off in Mijas, with the castle clearly visible just to the left of the town.

The final aerial scene was shot above Nerja too, and also at Nerja there is the cobbled walkway down towards Papagayo, made famous locally because of its use by Raquel Welch in the film.

Skydivers, spies and Chinese villains stealing atomic bombs are all mere backdrop for the real plot, which is Raquel’s body.

And, just in case you weren’t sure that this was filmed in Spain, Raquel gets chased and knocked down by a bull in a bullring!

Bikini Paradise (1967)

As you can imagine from the title, this is neither Shakespeare nor a philosophical discourse about the pointlessness of pointlessness.

Instead it is the story of two American sailors marooned on an island in the South Pacific, which happens to be Gran Canaria, with filming taking place on the famous Maspalomas dunes.

Hopefully it is not the same Bikini Atoll where the Americans tested their atom bombs in the 1940s, lending its name to the explosive, smoky beachware.

The Long Duel (1967)

The British Empire in India had its ups and downs, as Trevor Howard and Yul Brynner discovered in this film, which was set in India but filmed in the province of Granada, where the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada are passed off as the Himalayas at the beginning and at several other moments of this film.

The interiors were filmed at London’s Pinewood Studios, but the exteriors were concentrated mainly around the village of El Padul, making ample use of the 16th century palace of the Counts of Padul.

The fort, on the other hand, had to be built for the film at a location called the Venta del Fraile.

Many local people were employed as extras, especially for the market scenes that were filmed next to the Palace (known locally as ‘Casa Grande’).

Howard and Harry Andrews play good cop, bad cop, each defending the British Empire in his own way against its worthy although misguided subjects, led by Brynner.

Andrews describes Brynner’s tribe as “a pack of damned gypsies” and apart from the ‘damned’ part, he was probably right, as there were few Indians in Granada in 1967, but plenty of gypsies.

To capture Brynner, Howard imprisons the women and children of his tribe on a train heading towards Dehli in the film, but in reality the same steam train used in so many films made in the area, such as ‘Red Sun’ or ‘North West Frontier’.

The station of Najibabad was in fact Iznalloz, and when expanses of water were required the reservoirs of Cubillas and Bermejales were chosen.

There is a Spielbergian rope bridge scene, and it all ends in bloodshed, with many extras paying the price for the love-hate relationship between Howard and Brynner, who engage in some engaging male bonding, with a leopard making up the threesome.

The Christmas Kid (1967)

A child is born on Christmas day but the mother dies, leaving Jeffrey Hunter alone in Colmenar Viejo, Madrid to bring him up, a tragedy arising from the opening scene of the wagon breakdown shot on the rolling green plains of Dehesa de Navalvillar.

Cervantes (1967)

This is the story of Cervantes’ youth with locations all over Spain including Cartagena and Mar Menor, Murcia, Denia (for the port scenes representing Algiers, which is curious bearing in mind that when Cervantes returned from captivity to Spain, he actually landed in Denia), Alicante.

There were some scenes shot in Granada, (where it was still economically viable to film in the sumptuous Alhambra palace, specifically in the ‘Jardines del Partal’ and in the dungeons).

Filming took place in Alcalá de Henares, a beautiful University town near Madrid, where Cervantes actually lived, and where his house (now a museum) was used as a location, as was the patio of the Cisneros University.

Fernando Rey plays King Felipe II, while Horst Buchholtz plays the man himself.

The Bobo (1967)

This Peter Sellers film begins with an aerial shot of Barcelona, chiefly featuring the Tibidabo Amusement Park with its famous airplane ride clearly seen circling above the city. Looming over the park is the statue of Christ with outstretched arms perched on top of the Christo Rey Church of Tibidabo.

Peter Sellers as a bullfighter is about as believable as Mister Chance walking on water; so why not?

It’s a curious film for Sellers, neither especially funny nor serious. No doubt it was an opportunity to spend some time away from home with his wife Britt Ekland.

Frankly the highlight of the film is a Flamenco performance by La Chana, and you get the impression that Sellers knew it.

The film was intended as a vehicle for Ekland but by the time they were into it the marriage was practically over and Sellers lost interest.

Many of the street scenes were filmed in Barcelona, and near the end when Sellers, dyed blue, fails to find a remedy in a Chemist’s, he walks out into Barcelona’s famous La Rambla.

‘Bobo’ means ‘idiot’ in Spanish.

Grand Slam (1967)

Shot in Barcelona, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Rome, this ‘heist movie’ had an interesting cast with Edward G. Robinson, Janet Leigh and Klaus Kinski.

So far I haven’t located the Barcelona scenes; they may have used the city’s sewers as other film makers have, or some anonymous street scenes depicting Rio might be Barcelona.

OK Connery (1967)

Somebody cashed in on the Bond success story by drafting Sean’s brother Neil and Bernard Lee (M) into this parody.

At one point Connery flies into Málaga and we see the city and its bullring from the Gilbrafaro castle. Homing in on the bullring they find a dead Japanese girl.

The villain’s HQ is located beneath a castle in some caves, filmed at the Caves of Nerja, located at Maro, also in Málaga.

Bang Bang (1967)

Tom Bosley stars in a wholly believable tale of a little town in Arizona in the days of the Wild West, where a robot gunslinger and a castle brought over from Europe somehow blend in with characters suddenly changing into medieval costume, part of a fantasy of one of the heroines, who wants to turn a bad man good.

The castle is the frequently filmed Manzanares el Real in the province of Madrid, and is the redeeming factor throughout the film; the home of one of the villains, Bullock, who owns everything in town except the heart of the girl he secretly loves.

At one point the locals lay siege to the castle and there is an exchange of cannon fire, with Bullock defending his battlements single-handedly. In the final scene, Bosley uses the castle as a background to botch a redundant rocket launch in a film that will not go down in the annals of just about anything quite frankly.

The XV century castle, known as the Castle of los Mendoza, stands next to the Santillana reservoir, which has supplied water to Madrid and aquatic scenery to Hollywood over the years.

Construction began in 1475, and today the castle houses a museum and a collection of tapestries.

The castle is of course haunted, by a shepherdess called Maricantina. A local noble, the Marques de Santillana fell in love with her, but as often happens, she was considered unsuitable by the family and died of grief.

Some say she was a witch, probably his family.

Today she wanders through the castle singing sad love songs.

Maneater of Hydra (1967)

Also known as Island of the Doomed, Death Island, Island of the Dead and The Bloodsuckers, clearly not a healthy place for a holiday, although a group of cheerful tourists willingly go there.

Filming took place around Arenys de Mar and Sant Feliu de Codines, Barcelona, where we can find the mansion known as La Baronia, designed by a disciple of Gaudí, Joan Rubió y Bellver, which is the lair of the mad professor, (Cameron Mitchell) creator of the man (and woman) eating plants, who steal the show and most of the cast.

A Witch Without a Broom (1967)

Jefferey Hunter leaves aside his roles as Jesus in King of Kings and the first Captain Kirk from Star Trek, to play an American professor transported through time.

The film begins by situating us in Madrid, with a series of images; a lake with the Edificio de España in the background, the Arco de la Victoria at Moncloa and the Universidad Complutense, where ‘Professor’ Hunter is teaching. Our thanks to cinema expert Laura Tejerina for identifying these landmarks.

Edificio España. Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

Hunter is whisked around the centuries by the wizard Wurlitz’s daughter, and on his first landing we are given some perspective when we see a medieval castle, which is that of San Martín de Valdeiglesias, Madrid.

Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967)

 Jeffrey and Tab Hunter were friends, and so when they coincided in Madrid to make films, they decided to swap, thinking that the producers wouldn’t notice; and apparently they were right.

Tab Hunter is the victim of a plot to steal a candlestick, ‘the finger of fate’ from a church.

The farce was played out in Madrid, although there are no significant locations, and the airport doesn’t look much like Barajas.

The church is supposed to be at San Sebastián, on the road to Barcelona, but could have been anywhere.

The hotel in Madrid was in reality the Hotel Skol in Marbella, Málaga, where interiors and exteriors were shot, excluding the inappropriate Mediterranean Sea.

Tab Hunter face down in a bidet may be the stellar moment of the film.

Run Like a Thief (1967)

A mercenary steals some diamonds and the chase begins, led by Fernando Rey as Colonel Romero.

In Madrid we can see the Alameda de Osuna and the gardens known as ‘Jardín el Capricho,’ a popular park built by the Duquesa de Osuna, between 1787 and 1839.

Its gate provides the entrance to the Hotel Gran Palacio, and its gardens are well employed as the villains’ hideaway at the end when Johnny escapes and swims across the border, in reality one of the lakes in the park. Unfortunately all of that takes place in the dark.

Filming also took place in Guadalajara, probably the river scenes, although everything is supposed to take place in Venezuela.

A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die (1967)

Yet another Spaghetti western but with good actors such as Robert Ryan and Alex Cord.

Filming took place in the desert of Tabernas, Almería, when they could find an unoccupied pile of sand to shoot.

José Enrique Martinez Moya points out in his book Cabalganda Hacia la Aventura that the spa and village at Alhamilla represent Escondido.

Some scenes were shot among the boulders of La Pedriza, Madrid.

Duffy (1968)

James Coburn takes the money and runs in yet another film made in Almería, where Tangiers, Oran and Marseilles are represented by Almería harbour, Cabo de Gata and its lighthouse, and the beach at Mónsul, where a set was built to represent the Cabo del Oro Nautical Club, whereas the city of Almería represents Beirut. The Alcazaba castle is seen from Duffy’s terrace every time a panning shot of the harbour orients us.

So as not to confuse matters, the other stars hired for the film were James Mason and James Fox. Suzannah York (everybody referred to her as ‘James’ on the set), was chosen as Miss Tourism 1967 by the local authorities.

The Magus (1968)

Despite being set on the Greek Islands, various scenes of this adaptation of John Fowles’s novel ‘The Magus’, starring Michael Caine, Candice Bergen and Anthony Quinn, were shot in the Balearic Islands.

The incidence of the Colonels’ coup at the time may not be unrelated to the use of Spain instead of Greece, plus the use of a troop of Nazi soldiers, which might have gone down better in Franco’s Spain than in the cradle of democracy.

The first nudist beach in Mallorca, near Magaluf in the south west of the island, has the same name as the film, in Spanish, ‘El Mago’, and was named after the film.

Some of the buildings used in the film can still be found about a 100 metres from the beach, and today in this idyllic area of tiny coves and clear blue water, you’re unlikely to be troubled by the meaningfulness of meaning or the true nature of truth. Unless you really want to be.

Villa Rides (1968)

Three kilometres from Colmenar Viejo station the attack on the train scene was filmed on the Madrid-Burgos line. As Robert Mitchum’s plane swoops and shoots, we can see behind him the church of Colmenar Viejo. The nearby popular natural site of Dehesa de Navalvillar, with its authentic prairie scenery was another location.

The film also stars Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson, wearing his moustache for the first time on-screen, plus Spanish actor Fernando Rey (as the Mexican army Colonel Fuentes) and a lot of secondary Spanish Mexicans who are all following Pancho Villa, played by Brynner, across the deserts of Mexican Spain.

The town of Conejos, which is attacked and taken by Villa’s men, was in fact Escalona in the province of Toledo, and the bridge across the river, where Villa’s men attack, is below that town, crossing the River Alberche.

Since the film was made, the vegetation has almost strangled the bridge and it is now impossible to get a clear shot of it from where the camera was positioned during filming.

Play Dirty (1968)

The Dirty Seven plus Michael Caine might be a better name for the film in which a group of mercenaries take on Rommel’s finest and, surprisingly, lose; but then again so does Rommel.

Once more Almería is a convincing North Africa and Michael Caine and his crew explore the greys and yellows of the dry gulleys and ravines, which they blow up, pausing only to rest at the occasional oasis (the same one placed there for Lawrence of Arabia in the Rambla Viciana six years previously), and which they don’t blow up, merely slaughtering a group of Arab tribesmen, and playing hide and seek with the Germans and also a commando of thoroughly decent British chaps …….. who get blown up while Caine’s men look on dirtily.

Rambla Viciana

The Ramblas of Tabernas and Moreno are some of the chosen locations, as well as Rioja and Pechina, where the Arab market was created; all in Almería; whereas the port scenes, where Allied troops disembark and Michael Caine makes his first appearance and first impersonation of Lawrence of Arabia,’ were shot, although not blown up, in Roquetas de Mar, just south west of Almería city.

The inevitable fuel dump was situated at Cabo de Gata, among whose sand dunes there is a lot of clambering, and nearby, the village of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata is the desolate looking village they visit after the fuel dump fiasco.

Endless sand and distant horizons, which they try to blow up, and the nagging question of whether or not you can play at war in the same way that you can play cricket, are the bread and butter of this film.

The base from where they set off to cause all this destruction was actually a location used for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, and it is the Cortijo de la Hoya Altica, located on the Retamar to Cabo de Gata road about one mile from Retamar.

The presence of Vivian Pickles as the fighting German nurse is welcome, if only for the tantalising suggestiveness of the name.

The film is co-written (all the twisted, philosophical stuff presumably) by Melvyn Bragg, including the unexpected ending, which was shot at Roquetas.

Our thanks to Almería cinema expert José Enrique Martínez for his help with the locations here.

The Immortal Story (1968)

Another Orson Welles showcase in which he writes, directs and stars in a film made in Madrid and Paris and featuring Chinchón’s famous square, even though the action is supposed to take place in the Portuguese colony of Macao in the 19th century.

Mr. Clay, a merchant, is now quite old after many years liberating the Chinese of their wealth. His clerk Levinsky tells him a story about a rich man who paid a sailor to father a child with his beautiful young wife, and Clay, who doesn’t like finding ghosts in his machine, resolves to prefix a non- to this fictional story.

Orson enjoyed himself greatly in Chinchón, especially the early morning glasses of the famous local anis, a transparent fire water made from aniseed, as well as the local T-Bone steaks, known in Spain as ‘Ávila’ steaks.

He also enjoyed the summer bullfights in the oval shaped main square with its terraced restaurants.

It is in a house overlooking the square that the clerk negotiates with Jeanne Moreau her participation in his non-fictionalisation of the story.

The square, looking a lot tattier than it does today, is also the location where the inevitable Fernando Rey tells two friends about Mister Clay at the beginning of the film.

Welles stayed in a house on Calle del Toledillo and employed practically the whole town as extras. Today visitors can see photos of the great man, and other celebrities in the tavern called ‘Cuevas del Vino’.

There is an anecdote that while filming he fell into the ‘Fuente del Moro’ fountain, got out and carried on filming and laughing.

The frugal interior scenes were largely shot in his own house called ‘Aravaca’, in a rural housing estate called Colonia Camarines, near the road between Madrid and La Coruña.

To add a touch of class, the soundtrack is by Erik Satie and Segovia Cathedral also features in the film, as do the main squares of Brihüega in Guadalajara and Pedraza in Segovia.

In Brihuega we also see the district of this small town known as Barbacana del Coso, where swaying boat sails were fluttered in the square to make it look like a port.


The house used in the square for filming has since been demolished, although local residents still remember the ‘Chinese’ house that Welles decorated.

Beyond the Mountains/The Desperate Ones (1968)

Inevitably when two Polish brothers escape from a Russian labour camp after the Russian occupation of Poland during World War II, they try to make their way to Afghanistan ‘on the road’ through Siberian Spain; at least that’s where they shot this film starring Maximillian Schell and Irene Papas. Fernando Rey offers them some help along the way.

Among the Russian locations used were Valdemoro, Colmenar Viejo and Navacerrada, near Madrid.

Shalako (1968)

This is a film that shows the vast emptiness of the desert of Almería, even though in the opening scenes, the snow-capped mountains of the verdant Sierra Nevada, with the highest mountains on the Iberian Peninsular, can be glimpsed in the background.

Another western off the conveyor belt filmed around Tabernas, the only novelty being that Sean Connery is the star, and is accompanied by Brigette Bardot, whose make up is denser than Indian war paint.

By this time Connery was a regular in Almería’s Hotel Aguadulce, where many film stars have stayed.

Today the hotel is called Sheraton Playadulce and although somewhat decadent, in the nicest way, still has some stylish features and a hint of great times passed.

Furthermore there is a corridor with themed rooms and music for western fanatics.

Around the Ramblas de Tabernas they filmed the scenes with the stagecoach full of disloyal guides being attacked and killed by Indians.

In the Rambla de Lanujar they filmed the scene where Shalako, (Moses Zebulon ‘Shalako’ Carlin to give him his full name) is hiding from the Indians.

At Las Salinillas he sleeps his siesta, and the hunting party’s camp site is at the beach of Mónsul, although no sea is to be seen. The camp site, situated in a ruined farm building, is in fact the only construction in the whole film, which probably made a larger budget available for all the bullets fired inaccurately at the Indians, who once again are the victims of the treaty-breaking, fork-tongued white men, but still manage to be the baddies.

Las Salinillas

Eric Sykes adds a surreal touch to the cast as the butler serving formal dinners to the hunting party of toffs in the middle of the wilderness, so sparse that it is a wonder it can feed so many people.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Henry Fonda plays the baddy for once, in a film by Sergio Leone, filmed in both the USA and southern Spain, specifically Tabernas in Almería and La Calahorra in Granada, where the Flagstone set was built next to the railway station, at great cost, and based on old period photographs of Abilene, Texas.

The film opens with three gunmen awaiting the arrival of Charles Bronson on a train, and not exactly for the purpose of getting his autograph. The station in question is the abandoned Calahorra station, which once transported coal from the mines of nearby Alquife.

Behind the same station Leone spent the outrageous sum of 250,000 dollars to build Flagstone, whose ruins can still be visited today, but be careful not to fall over the grazing sheep.

The McBain house is now used to host cowboy shows and is a rather rundown theme park known as ‘Western Leone,’ situated in a place known as Hazas Blancas near Gérgal.

Jason Robards also participated, and was accompanied by his wife, Lauren Bacall, from whom he would be divorced the following year. They stayed, along with the other stars, at the Hotel Meliá Aguadulce (now Sheraton Playadulce).

The film demonstrated Leone’s increasing success, being shot partially in the USA. In fact one buggy ride that started off in Almería, ended in Monument Valley, Arizona, Leone’s tribute to John Ford.

A Twist of Sand (1968)

Although set in Malta and the Kalahari desert, this smuggling story also used locations from Almería, and included Honor Blackman in the cast.

Once more the eternal dunes of Cabo de Gata throw sand in our eyes as the embittered men (and Honor) trek across the desert to find their treasure and their angst.

Before that however they pay a call to a small port, supposedly along the South African coast, which was in fact Roquetas de Mar.

The dusty Almerian coast features extensively, except in the scenes where the boat is clearly a toy one.

The place where they find the sunken German submarine and disembark to hunt for the diamonds is at Rodalquilar. José Enrique Martinez, Almerian cinema expert, informed us that this point is called Los Amarillos, and is located below the castle of San Ramón.

A film that reinforces the notion that while war does strange things to a man, diamonds are his worst enemy.

The Face of Eve (1968)

The film is set in the Amazon jungle and partly made in Brazil, but with some interesting Spanish locations such as the Monasterio de Piedra (which despite its name ‘the Monastery of Stone’ is a spa), situated at Nuévalos, Zaragoza. There we find the waterfall, an icon used in various films. Towards the end, Diego (Herbert Lom) meets his death falling over it, although the images are mixed with other, bigger waterfalls.

When Eve and companions go to the ‘mountain’ to search for the cave with the treasure, they wander all over the rocky summits of La Pedriza near Madrid.

The treasure was left there by conquistador Francisco de Orellana, the man who named the Amazon.

The Poblado de Lega-Michelena at Dehesa de Navalvillar near Madrid, a Wild West town built for spaghetti westerns by its founders Lega and Michelena, was also used for filming the saloon scenes.

Deadfall (1968)

Michael Caine is involved with diamonds and thievery in Madrid and Mallorca in a film by Bryan Forbes that is based on a book by Desmond Cory, who himself lived in Córdoba from 1953, marrying a Spanish woman and finally returning to Málaga in 1996, until his death.

At the beginning of the film we find Caine in a detox clinic, which in reality is the Castillo de Bendinat, a private castle (today with a golf course, as ‘private’ often is), whose construction began in 1855.

Photo Courtesy Eva Dominguis

After leaving the clinic, Caine takes a train across the plain of Spain, ending up at the Delicias railway museum in central Madrid, which still has steam trains.

The scene where Caine attempts to first rob, and then steal a safe, was shot at the Marivent palace in Palma.

Caine scales the facade while the rich owners exit from the front door and then through the main gate of what is now the summer residence of the King of Spain.

The scene is interspersed with music written for the film and directed on screen by John Barry, accompanied by the Catalan classical guitarist, Renata Tarragó.

Mallorca resident Robert Graves is another personality to have a cameo appearance.

After the robbery the action returns to Madrid and husband and wife Giovanna Ralli and Eric Portman celebrate their success at a lakeside bar, on the banks of the lake in Madrid’s Casa de Campo.

Also in Madrid there is a concert, which takes place at the The Royal Theatre, Plaza Isabel II, Madrid.

Ralli celebrates the robbery by giving Caine a sports car and they drive off to spend a day at some gardens, which are the ‘Jardines de Alfabia,’ near Bunyola in the centre of Mallorca.

A costume party is later held, and the location is Son Termes, now a banquet centre also near Bunyola.

Cala Gat, a cove on the western extreme of the island was also used, as is the less delightful Palma cemetery, where Caine is buried……oh sorry, is that a spoiler?

The Vengeance of She (1968)

The follow up to ‘She’ but without the stars; some light porn set in Monte Carlo and Africa, with Almería standing in for the latter.

In Almería capital scenes were shot in the port and the terrace of the Club de Mar, while the cave scenes were filmed at Cuevas de los Medinas.

In the port the yacht with all the main characters, including dead George, arrives, and in the club, Phil and Harry decide to go off in pursuit of Carol, who is being drawn by mental powers to her appointment with immortality. All clear so far?

After some scrapping with hostile Arabs, during which Harry is killed in the only water for miles around and their jeep plummets from the same hilltop as Indiana Jones’ tank at the Tablero de Alfaro, Las Salinillas, Phil arrives at the cave complex of Kuma via the gulleys and arid scenery of Almería.

Tablero de Alfaro

Boy saves girl and immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Son of a Gunfighter (1968)

Fernando Rey doesn’t appear in this film….no, I’m joking, of course he does.

Russ Hamlyn, who would later rise to fame in the TV series ‘Hawaii Five O,’ plays a character straight out of Greek tragedy; after 20 years of turmoil, in which he is obsessed with killing his father, he finally finds him and then saves his life, only to have someone else kill him when they are reconciled.

Fernando Rey spends seven years ignoring his daughter because the mother died in childbirth, but finally hands his daughter over to Russ when all the killing is done.

The scenery is the holm oaks and boulder country to the north east of Madrid, and in the early scenes when Russ’s stagecoach is ambushed, we can see the Santillana reservoir near Madrid in the background.

The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968)

An international spy thriller in which the hot line is the red telephone and Barcelona is the main setting.

This was Robert Taylor’s last film –made with George Chakiris, Broderick Crawford, Charles Boyer and Edward G. Robinson. Chakiris works for IBM in Stockholm and is transferred to Barcelona.

The studios used were at Esplugues de Llobregat Balcázar Producciones Cinematográficas, Baix Llobregat.

Switched trunks and the inevitable troupe of Chinese acrobats provide some unforgettable moments, which come together at a Chinese theatre in Barcelona.

 The Wild Racers (1968)

Teen pop star Fabian plays a stock car racer who moves to Europe and changes girlfriends as often as Formula One drivers change tyres.

Although supposed to be the number two driver, when given a chance he proves his merit and wins the Spanish Grand Prix.

The film was shot on the circuit of Jarama, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid.

Kiss and Kill (1968)

Christopher Lee once again takes on the role of the evil Fu Manchu in a film in which the most frightening aspect is the acting.

The jungle scenes were shot in Brazil and the rest in Madrid by Jess Franco, the Spanish director in a film that seems to have borrowed the Rank cymbal and many other props apparently bought from a toy shop, whereas the studio sets are giant melted Lego blocks and the costumes rejected by the Whitby Women’s Guild pantomime for being too gaudy.

Nevertheless, some films are so bad that they eventually acquire cult status, and this could well be one of them. Lines such as “cold tea, no horses; I wonder why I go abroad” will surely stand the test of time, and if Biggles had swooped in at any given moment, then nobody would have been too surprised.

Christopher Lee must have been killed a great many times as Dracula to have turned in such a wooden performance. Perhaps the stakes weren’t very high.

Ace High (1968)

Cat Stevens changed his name to something less memorable, so why shouldn’t Terence Hill change his to Cat Stevens?

More blood and sand down Almería way with Bud Spencer and Woody Strode providing the brawn, while Hill and Eli Wallach provide the other stuff.

Among the locations were Oasys western township, Western Leone, Llanos de Duque, Llano Trujillo, El Nazareno, El Hornillo, Los Albaricoques, Cortijo El Fraile and some carnival scenes shot in Adra.

White Comanche (1968)

Quite how William Shatner got through this film without asking to be beamed up a few times is a bit of a mystery; ditto Joseph Cotton.

It’s not as if he needed the money; he was after all already Captain Kirk by this time.

Perhaps it was a free holiday in Spain, or the fact that this was a golden epoch for Spanish westerns, with Sergio Leone in full flight. Or perhaps it was the chance to play two roles; Cowboy and Indian twins.

Filming took place around Colmenar Viejo and Manzanares El Real near Madrid.

The authentic boulders of La Pedriza appear frequently: when Johnny Moon (good Shatner) is ambushed by García’s brother, the Indian attack on the Atlas Mining Company, where Noah (bad Shatner) shows just what Peyote can do to a man (this was ‘68 remember) by killing his own wounded, and the scenes at the Indian camp.

The western township that formed the centre piece of the action was the Lega and Michelena township. When the Shatners fight the final duel, at one point we see the Santillana reservoir far off in the background, and the snowy peaks of the Guadarrama mountains are also seen more than once.

They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968)

Filmed in the Almería desert around Tabernas, where film makers compete for square metres of sand like roasted tourists on Benidorm’s beaches, a great cast for a heist movie, including Gary Lockwood (he who made ‘2001’ and then dropped off the face of the planet), Elke Sommer, Lee J. Cobb, and Jack Palance.

The story centres around a gang’s obsession with robbing a high-tech armoured car. When they make their bid in what is supposed to be the Mojave Desert, they in fact used the dunes of Cabo de Gata, and built the road on the foundations laid there for the ambushed train in the classic film ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

Filming also took place in Madrid and Barcelona, mostly street and hotel scenes, although in Barcelona, the modernistic flyovers of the Plaza de las Glorias, provided another heist location, where the unsuccessful assault on the armoured car was inserted into scenes from San Francisco.

Spaniard Antonio Isasi directed.

Massacre Harbour (1968)

A composite of three episodes from the popular ‘Rat Patrol’ TV series, the film was designed to milk the golden egg; or something like that.

Almería provided a believable version of North Africa, where the Rats and Rommel’s men could ride about and blow things up.

Laughter in the Dark (1969)

No man is as blind as one who won’t see; or something like that.

It would have been interesting to see Richard Burton in a film based on a book by Nabokov, but he was fired at the beginning.

Nicol Williamson stepped in as Sir Edward More, in the good old days when an English Lord would quite naturally take his pistol on holiday.

More is pretty thick, even for an English Lord, and doesn’t realise that middle aged men who become obsessed with superficial bimbos usually end up sprawled on the cellar floor; metaphorically of course.

More, bimbo and his male secretary spend the second half of the film in Mallorca at various locations, but mostly at S’Estaca, a villa that 20 years later would be bought by actor Michael Douglas. Much much later it was used again in the TV series White Lines for an orgy in the first episode.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)

Let’s be nasty to Native American Indians, but south of the border for a change.

The opening shot of a castle wall claiming to be Toledo is quite clearly the wall of Ávila.

The studio work, even some shots of the impressive footbridge over the gorge, was done in Sevilla Studios in Madrid, with scenes in the village of Pedraza in Segovia.


When Pizarro, played by Robert Shaw, arrives in Peru, apparently in the Spring of 1530, we see his men riding up and down the dunes of Cabo de Gata in Almería for a few minutes before capturing a Native, who sends them off into the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Granada province, where the highest peaks of the Iberian Peninsula soar.

After giving them directions, the Native falls ominously on his own knife, but our glorious 167 men are not deterred and go on to conquer the Inca kingdom with the old “oh yes, I’m a God too” ruse.

Christopher Plummer steals the show with an indescribably camp performance as Atahuallpa, who would not be out of place swirling across the Alps along with Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

As this was the 60s, and weirdness was all the rage, the scene of the massacre of unarmed Incas inside the castle is accompanied by loud Flamenco music, while Plummer whinnies along with his priests sounds that seem to have been inspired more by the Goon Show than by the Inca or any other culture.

100 Rifles (1969)

This Mexican adventure with Raquel Welch and Jim Brown was filmed mostly in Almería, with shooting taking place around Rioja, Níjar, Tabernas, El Nazareno and Senés, as well as Valle del Búho and Lanújar.

Around Madrid they filmed at the station of Villamanta, next to which a whole Wild West town was built, and the train crash and final showdown occurred, with more deaths than the entire population of Mexico.

The opening shots of Indians hanging (literally) around the station give us an idea that we are in for some serious killing. Also in Madrid province, the ruins of the monastery of Santa María La Real de Valdeiglesia at Pelayos de la Presa were used for the scene in which Burt Reynolds, Jim Brown and Raquel Welch meet up after escaping from the Federal troops, and are arrested again, although one of the Indian tribe escapes.

Between these two scenes, the scenery they pass through is many miles away in Almería. The Cortijo where the federal soldiers have their HQ, and enjoy executing innocent Mexican peasants who only want a decent crust of bread and a revolution, is the Cortijo del Cura in Almería, just north of la Boca de los Frailes.

The Indian village where the heroes sort out their 100 rifles before moving on to the attack is Polopos, a small village in Granada province about 20 kilometres east of Motril.

The scene with the water tower, in which Raquel’s charms under a jet of water lure the Federal soldiers into an ambush, was filmed near the station of La Calahorra-Minas de Alquife, near Guadix in Granada, although the tower was especially built for the film. This 12 kilometre line once belonged to the British company the Alquife Mines and Railway Cº Ltd.

As the German officer rides off after the final massacre and Raquel appears as beautiful in death as in life, some unfortunate telephone or electricity cables are briefly visible, perhaps to ease us back from the violent past into the comfortable world of the 21st century.

Raquel was brought back to life in Almería in May 2005 when the authorities paid tribute to her for her role in this film and in ‘Hannie Coulder’ at a gala dinner.

Over 750 extras were employed during the making of the film.

The Battle of Britain (1969)

It may be true, as Churchill said, that “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” but when they actually got around to making the film of The Battle of Britain, the production team had managed to assemble the 35th largest air force in the world. Not so few after all!

The logistics team certainly did a thorough job, and it’s as well that they weren’t on the German side back in the 40s when Britain’s grey skies were darkened by Goering’s Luftwaffe.

In the film however, the enemy were our familiar, friendly Spaniards. The Heinkel 111 bombers used in the film were in fact Spanish built CASA 2111 bombers, whereas the Junkers Ju 52s were Spanish built CASA 352s. The Bf 109s were actually Spanish Hispano HA-1112 Buchons.

Twelve out of the twenty seven Spitfires found were airworthy, and three out of six Hurricanes. About 50 Messerschmitt 109s were obtained from the Spanish Air Force, seventeen of which were eventually used and flown in the film by Spanish Air Force pilots. Many mock-ups of Spitfires and Hurricanes were fitted with lawn mower engines so that they could be taxied around the airfield.

The 32 Heinkels, with crews, were lent by the Spanish Air Force, as were the two Junkers 52. Unfortunately the film makers were only allowed to take two of the planes, used by the Spanish air force for training purposes, back to the UK, and so the scenes involving them were nearly all shot in Spain at the Tablada air field near Sevilla, the planes being flown by Spanish pilots led by Pedro Santa Cruz, who cut his teeth flying German planes during the Spanish Civil War.       

The airfield was also used at the beginning of the film when a German General inspects his planes just after the credits.

Although neutral in 1940, the Spanish were lending a hand in the war effort by 1969 contributing El Corpero air base, Sevilla and Huelva’s beach (which is the abandoned beach of Dunkirk seen at the beginning of the film).

All the scenes of the Germans gazing out longingly to sea were filmed in Guipúzcoa. When a German descends in a jeep towards what is supposed to be around Calais, he passes the castle of San Telmo, situated just above Hondarribia.

Photo Courtesy Mark Yareham

In another scene we see a German machine gun post looking down on a small harbour. This is also Hondarribia, although the port has since been greatly extended.

Next to the port we can see the Bay of Txingudi, and beyond, Hondarribia. At the same place we see a smoking German plane returning from the Battle of Britain.

Goering and the German officers watch the troops preparing from the heights of Cabo Higuer.

The confident German officers hold a celebratory, pre-successful invasion lunch at a hotel on the beach at Zarautz, which was in fact the Palacio de Santillana.

San Sebastián was used to represent Berlin as it received its first allied bombing attack as a reprisal for the ‘accidental’ bombing of London, using the Avenida de la Libertad and the streets between Calles Bergara and Fuenterrabia, from which local people hired as ‘German’ extras had to be threatened with expulsion from the set if they laughed during the air raid.

The clearly labelled Kürtz Café of Berlin was in reality the Cafetería Avenida XXI.

Café Kurtz

When the bombs start to fall on Berlin/San Sebastián, the extras start running into the Metro on the corner of Idiakez Street, although there was in fact no Metro there, and not even steps to descend.

Some of the aerial scenes of unmistakably English countryside were filmed along the Urbasa mountain range in Navarra, northern Spain.

A Talent for Loving (1969)

Originally intended to be the next Beatles movie, this film was one of many to take advantage of the wild western feel of the mountains around Madrid, where Richard Widmark stars in a film based on a book by Richard Condon of ‘Manchurian Candidate’ fame.

Filming took place at the Dehesa de Navalvillar near Colmenar Viejo, La Pedriza, the castle of Viñuelas, Manzanares el Real and Fuencarral, all in the province of Madrid, as well as Córdoba, Guadix in Granada province and Málaga, all in Andalusia.

In his book Granada y el Cine, Juan José Carrasco Soto states that the train scenes were filmed at Guadix, and that La Calahorra castle also appears.

The US Video version was called ‘Gun Crazy’.

The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)

Barcelona doesn’t exactly spring to mind as the setting for the castle of Fu Manchu, and yet that’s where the film, starring Christopher Lee, was shot

Apart from the studio work, locations included Gaudí’s masterpiece, Parque Güell, portraying Fu Manchu’s castle in Turkey.

When Fu Manchu takes over the Governor’s castle at Anatolia, the assault takes place up the famous staircase with the ceramic dragon of Parc Güell, although some of the more watery parts are added from the Parque de la Ciutadella, while Fu Manchu’s throne room is in fact the hall of columns in the Parc that supports the terrace overlooking the city.

Java: East of Krakatoa (1969)

It’s a pretty long way from the Costa Blanca seaside resort of Denia, Alicante to Singapore, and yet a bit of paint here, an Oriental face there and they become one and the same for this movie, largely shot in Spanish studios with a lot of men throwing buckets of water and rubber rocks at the actors.

It’s a case of the far-fetched taking place in the far-flung as a disparate group of adventurers seek fortune or a lost son, all in the shadow of Krakatoa, which one moment is a tiny island, then a massive chain of islands with dangerous straits, emptying itself of 20 times its weight in molten rock, 13,000 times greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and I quote.

The hot air balloon scene is particularly comical as the balloon, out of control, works its way along a canyon of lava (pink tinted water) and up into the crater, at which point the occupants decide it might be a good idea to shed some ballast.

At one moment the ship is taken over by thirty desperate criminals until the noble Captain sees them off armed with a fire hose. Well, it could happen!

Denia is used for the opening dock scenes, although most of the rest, including Krakatoa is plastic models.

I think my favourite part is when the Tsunami hits the ship as it flees; although the Captain looks much better with the waves breaking on his manly chest and so the ship has to be facing the island from which they are supposedly escaping.

Some of these scenes were filmed, appropriately, in the Almacén de los Ingleses (the Englishmen’s Warehouse) in the town centre, whereas Krakatoa itself was sometimes substituted, when it got tired no doubt, by the emblematic local mountain Montgó.


The Batavia Queen, the name of the ship in the film was in fact the Enrique Maynes from Sagunto, built in the UK in the 19th century for the Valencian ship owner J.J. Sister. It was finally scrapped in 1968.

Second Unit photographer John Cabrera, who lived in Denia when he retired, informed us that the tidal wave was actually filmed in Galicia, at Malpica, La Coruña, and that the crew were forced to wait for a few days there eating vast amounts of shellfish until the right wave came along.

He also stated that some filming, including some of the ballooning scenes, took place in Mallorca around Sóller and Torrent de Parais.

Local cinema experts Toni Reig and Romu Soler took us to Denia Castle, where one of the boats used in the film has been abandoned next to the new audio-visual centre by the Torre de les Pusses.

Despite the title, Java isn’t east of Krakatoa, but the posters had been made by the time they found out.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

A cowboy wants to capture a Tyrannosaurus Rex and put it in a circus in Mexico. Suddenly ‘Jurassic Park’ doesn’t sound so original.

In doing so he at least managed to see a fair bit of Spain, with filming at Tabernas, in the Rambla Viciana

Rambla Viciana

and around the dunes of Cabo de Gata in Almería, and other scenes, once they enter the Forbidden Valley, among the weird rock formations of Ciudad Encantada, where Gwangi is first captured after a tremendous tussle with the cowboys in a lost world full of his compatriots (who don’t seem too fond of him either) supposedly “somewhere south of the Rio Grande,” but in reality in the province of Cuenca.

Poor old Gwangi, whose make up looks like a bright purple wrinkled wet suit, is exhibited in a bullring. In fact two bullrings were used; the scene in which a bull almost gores a child was filmed at Berja in Almería, although the bullring Gwangi escapes from was in Almería city, in Avenida Vilches, where the street parade was filmed.

Finally Gwangi, who despite being the headliner gets a pretty bad deal, reaps havoc in the main square of Cuenca (quite a distance away), in which we can see the arches that lead to the main square (Plaza Mayor), before the hero of our story is hunted down in Cuenca’s cathedral, which burns down with Gwangi still inside. They probably couldn’t get permission to do that today!

The main square and cathedral get ample coverage as Gwangi sweeps up his victims like so many Munchies.

Cuenca Main Square

The Mexicans look suspiciously like Spaniards in ‘Sinbad’ (made by the same people in Spain) hand me downs, especially when they start dancing Flamenco and cursing any honest cowboy who dares to enter the Forbidden Valley where El Diablo (the Devil) lives.

Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)

After growing a full head of hair and changing his name to George Kennedy, Chris returns to take on impossible odds once again.

The producers were really milking a dead steer here, but when that fantastic Elmer Bernstein soundtrack kicks in, it’s easy enough to suspend belief and just enjoy some good, old fashioned, uncomplicated shooting and unbelievable mathematics.

The whole film was shot this time around Madrid, and in fact in the second scene we see once again our old favourite, the Santillana Reservoir, this time possibly being passed off as the Rio Grande.

‘La Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios’ at Colmenar Viejo appears, as it did in ‘El Cid’, as the church where revolutionary leader Fernando Rey meets his followers and is captured by the Federale Colonel.

At nearby La Pedriza a lot of scenes with large boulders were shot, including the Mexican member of the Seven’s meeting with paunchy bandit El Lobero and the mine where Cassie joins the Seven (incidentally, wouldn’t it be better to call them ‘The Superfluous Four’, as they seem to lose that number with each adventure!)

At La Pedriza we also meet a young boy, who we are led to believe will one day become Emiliano Zapata, the revolutionary leader who will later bear a remarkable resemblance to Marlon Brando.

We see him with his father there, and then return  when the Seven rescue father and friends later on.

The Seven’s first run in with the Federales takes place at the village of Fresno de Torote just north of Alacalá de Henares, where the 16th century church of Asunción can be clearly seen behind the soldiers.

Inevitably  Dehesa de Navalvillar provides a lot of prairie backdrop.

For riverside scenes, American producers knew by now that the sandy banks of the Alberche River at Aldea del Fresno were ideal, and it is here that Chris and co have their first contact with the Mexican who is seeking his people’s knight in shining armour.

The film must have been made in springtime, judging by the proliferation of trampled green wheat and poppies so prolific in central Spain at that time of year.

The Desperados (1969)

Any film with the manic Jack Palance in it is a treat for me. This western was filmed largely at the home of Spanish westerns near Madrid, using the Dehesa de Navalvillar, La Pedriza and the western township Lega y Michelena, all supposedly in Kansas.

Hard Contract (1969)

James Coburn stars as a contract killer who discovers his heart of gold (or wimpishness if you prefer) with Lee Remick as he attempts to fulfil contracts in Torremolinos in Málaga province, Brussels and in Madrid.

Burgess Meredith and Sterling Hayden are luxuries as supporting actors, with Hayden hanging around on his Spanish farm and Meredith, a nostalgic assassins’ pimp who misses his youth spent in Madrid’s El Prado Museum during the Civil War.

Filming took place at the Hotel Al-Andalus in Torremolinos, where Remick and Coburn are both staying; on the Pez Espada Beach, where Remick confesses her sexual exploits to a friend as uniformed Spanish students are led away by a nun, and the Bajondillo, where Coburn and Remick discuss flying to Tangiers.

Coburn is in Torremolinos killing time before killing his first victim of the ‘hard contract,’ and takes part in a guided tour of Mijas and its old castle, now a small park, while being stalked by fun-loving Remick, who ignores the spectacular views of the sea to propose renumerated sex with Coburn.

As their relationship develops, they go for a ride in a horse and carriage, stopping in front of Málaga cathedral to philosophise a little and argue about buying a tiny car.

Coburn’s last victim is in Madrid, and he meets Remick at the airport there.

Meredith and Coburn discuss the contract as they stroll in front of the El Prado Museum. Inside the Museum the producers paid the stately sum of 225,000 pesetas for the privilege of filming according to documentation kindly provided to us by Javier Docampo Capilla and Lorena Casas Pessino from the museum.

El Prado

Goya’s ‘3rd of May’ features as philosophy and death are once more contemplated.

The Land Raiders (1969)

Telly Savalas plays the hard man in a film shot around Manzanares el Real near Madrid and at the often used ‘Ermita de Los Remedios’, which serves as the church where Luisa is buried, and whose priest is none other than Fernando Rey.

Also used were La Pedriza, the Alberche River and the Golden City township at Hoyo de Manzanares, also known as El Poblado del Oeste.

The train station was at Guadix in Granada province.

The film is a fable in which bad blood is stirred and victims abound so that one man’s fortune can be amassed upon the ruins of homes and the piles of corpses. Thank God such things no longer happen!

It’s the eternal conflict between cowboys and Indians, each taking an eye for an eye and a scalp for a scalp until in the country of the blind……

More (1969)

German boy meets American girl in Paris and so inevitably they search for freedom in Ibiza. The ensuing sex and drugs and rock and roll (provided by Pink Floyd) eventually lead to the boy’s downfall and (to give you a clue) it isn’t due to the sex or the rock and roll.

Paradise is found in the glorious scenery of Ibiza, but lost in white dust to dust. Ibiza’s castle, looming over town and harbour is the location of the end for the beautiful friend, specifically in the tunnel nearby.

The castle is seen from various angles, as are the lighthouse and the ferry.

At the boy and girl’s villa on the other side of the island, with its starkly beautiful coves, we see towards the end of the film the magical island of Es Vedra.

The idyllic nudism scene takes place on the beach at Punta Galera, with Cap es Nonó in the background. The idyllicer sunset is seen at Cala d’Hort.

The legendary ‘El Corsario’ restaurant was one of the locations, where Doctor Wolf practises with his knives and deals heroin while reminiscing about Der Fatherland.

A depressing story in which simply beautiful scenery suggests a beautifully simple lifestyle, incomprehensible to the ugly, twisted characters who infest the island.

If this is ‘More’, then I’m looking forward to ‘Less’.

Some Girls Do (1969)

British spies and evil robot beauties go to prove that there’s nothing like a bit of British ingenuity to create a truly entertaining secret service.

Filming took place in the same Catalan village where the climax of ‘Suddenly last Summer’ was shot, and particularly at the Cap Sa Sal Hotel in Begur, Girona, now known as the Vintage Lounge.

It is here that the villain has his headquarters and meets his well deserved end, surrounded by android beauties who cannot resist the charms of a vintage Englishman.

The water skiing scene was shot at Calella de Palafrugell, and Drummond drinks poolside at the famous Hostal de la Gavina.

In another scene, Pandora visits Kruger’s boathouse at the harbour of Palamós, where the church Santa Maria del Mar can be seen in the background.

Palamós Harbour

The film is perhaps most memorable for Robert Morley’s portrayal of a character called Miss Mary, bedecked with earrings.

Palamós Church

Island of Despair (1969)

Spanish director Jess Franco returned to Alicante, and to the castle of Santa Bárbara to recreate a Brazilian prison for ninety nine women on a tropical island.

A group of inappropriately dressed women are rowed ashore to the prison camp known as the Castle of Death, built by the Spanish we are told.

And it’s not surprising as we are in fact in Alicante.

The first few minutes show us the castle from various viewpoints before the mistreatment and slapping begin.

As director Jess Franco indulges his taste in soft porn with a minimum of plot, we see views of the castle periodically, both within and without, until three girls escape and plunge into the Brazilian jungle.

After a ration of sex and violence they are recaptured, and in the last scene we see them lined up, back again in the castle. The work camp was located at the Salinas of Santa Pola.

Herbert Lom plays the warden amongst shameless scenes of depravity that are the bread and butter of every adolescent boy.

The jungle scenes were in fact shot in Brazil, a country lacking in castles posing as prisons, and some studio scenes were shot in Madrid.

Honeymoon with a Stranger (1969)

A woman wakes up to find that her husband is missing, and then returns as somebody else. Many wives know the feeling.

Filmed near Madrid, in fact we are given a heads up as the Rolls Royce, driven by bridegroom Ernesto enters signposted Batres, a small village south of the capital.

It is here that Sandra the blushing bride discovers her honeymoon castle, which is indeed the 16th century castle of Batres, near the border with Toledo province.

Before that, and to situate us well, they drive through the cinematic square of Chinchón, where the castle is briefly visible beforehand, and then happily elude a road building explosion.

Sandra returns there in the morning and visits the police station with its hand painted sign on the main square, to denounce the disappearance of her husband.

As an imposter takes over from her husband, the action moves backwards and forwards between Chinchón’s square and the castle, which is seen from all angles and in all shades of light, frequently with views of the wide plains of Castilla.

Janet Leigh, she of the shower in ‘Psycho,’ plays Sandra, just as twisted a character this time.

The Looking Glass War (1969)

The Cuerda del Pozo reservoir and its surrounding pine forests once more come into their own for a few scenes for this John Le Carré Cold War thriller with Anthony Hopkins. In fact it seems to be the sea at one point (or at least we can hear seagulls squarking when a lorry taxis into the water).

No doubt the presence of John Box as producer was the reason for choosing Soria, which had worked so well in ‘Doctor Zhivago.’ Once again we can see the endless Soviet wheatfields, although this time they represent Russian occupied East Germany.

The area chosen was around the village of Aldealafuente. The cyclists (who seem to be heading for a cricket match) were 200 extras from the area, chosen for their Germanic physique (and providing their own bicycles) to cycle between Soria and Cidones.

Future Women/ The Girl From Rio (1969)

Feminism gone crazy, and quite right too. Spanish director Jesse Franco stirs his usual recipe of sex and sex, with just a soupçon of sex, using locations, if anyone can be bothered to look, such as Barcelona, where the scenes of the hold up of a bank truck were shot but removed from some versions of the film, and La Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia, where the helicopter attack at the end takes place, making use of the San Javier airfield, as would Matt Damon years later in ‘Green Zone.’

The House that Screamed (1969)

Although set in southern France, we are informed by Javier, son of the film’s producer, Javier Armet of Anabel Films, the school for mischievous girls was the Palacio del Marqués de Comillas in Cantabria, an imposing Gothic building designed by Juan Martorell.

The building appears at the beginning of the film, when an unsuspecting father delivers his daughter there, riding through the grounds up to the building.

Naughty goings on at a girls’ school, and apparently featuring the first ever close-up, slow-motion murder in Spanish cinema history.

The first thing we see inside the school is a teacher giving a dictation and punishing a recalcitrant student with solitary confinement.

German-born actress Lilli Palmer stars, towards the end of a long career.

A Candidate for a Killing (1969)

Directed by Spanish director José María Elorietta, it was an early version of the formula of using international actors (John Richardson, Anita Ekberg, Margaret Lee), supplemented by Spanish actors such as the omnipresent Fernando Rey.

This thriller about identity theft was shot in Madrid and Málaga.

Our surly ‘hero’ Nick spends the first 40 minutes being prepared for his task in the south of France, before taking a train to Madrid. Immediately we get some shots of the Puerta de Alcalá and suitable guitar music to confirm the fact.

Puerta de Alcalá

When they are walking near but not in the Plaza Mayor a car tries to run Nick down.

After a bar fight they go to Madrid airport and fly to Málaga, this time for a fight in the airport toilet. They then drive to the port, pursued of course, and then drive into Marbella’s Hotel Skol, a location also used in The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967).

The last call is Gibraltar, which we see from the distance, but then the rest of the action takes place in the dark.