Movie History

By Mike Peters. Originally published in the Greeley Tribune

From the silent “A Water War in Spudville,” to the 26-part, $30 million
“Centennial;” from “Die Hard 2” to “Dumb and Dumber,” Weld County and
Greeley have provided the sites of many movies in the past 87 years.


Some of the flicks were good and many were very bad, but the movie business
in northern Colorado has brought some famous stars, film crews, producers
and directors, and their money, to this area.


1913: Probably the first movie filmed in Greeley was “A Water War in
Spudville,” was written by a Greeley woman, Mrs. Charles Tew, and starred
only local actors. Said a Greeley Tribune reviewer: There is something doing
every second; there is love and combat running through the play with a happy
wedding at the end of a strenuous day.”


1974: A film crew from Quinn-Martin Productions was in Johnstown and
Windsor to film a sequence for a new action series, “The Manhunter,”
starring Ken Howard.  The series was set in the 1930s, and they used a steam
locomotive from the Great Western Sugar Co. for some action scenes. The
theme of the TV series involved Howard as an ex-marine who returned home to
save the family farm. The filming in Weld County involved The Manhunter
tracking down a gang of bank robbers that killed his best friend.


1978: The biggest movie ever filmed in the county, “Centennial” made a
huge impact in this area. Film crews and stars stayed in Greeley and Evans
hotels while filming various scene of the movie in this area. Stars in town
included Raymond Burr, Richard Crenna, Robert Conrad, Richard Chamberlain,
Sally Kellerman, Barbara Carrerra, Chief Dan George, Brian Keith, David
Janssen and Michael Ansara. Many residents signed on as extras, making $25
for an 8-hour day. Film sites included Greeley, the Kuner area, northeast of
Kersey, at Pawnee Buttes, and other areas. On one day, bad weather forced
the crews inside the Ramada Inn in Evans, where they set up a tepee and shot
interior scenes. While the film crews brought much money into Greeley, there
were few problems. One of the leading actors, James Conrad (“The Wild, Wild
West,” “Baa, Baa Black Sheep”) was arrested for assault on a 19-year-old
Greeley man who was shouting at Conrad’s motor home as it was driven through
Greeley. Conrad pleaded no contest to third-degree assault charge and
received a six-month deferred sentence. A $150,000 civil suit filed by the
victim was settled out of court. After several months of filming, the
26-part series began with great hoopla from NBC, but then the network
started moving the various episode to different time slots and different
days, and the audience fell off. For a time, it coined a phrase in Hollywood
for networks that would kill the audience ratings by changing the time
schedule for movies. Directors would say “Please don’t Centennialize my
movie.”


1978: Billed as “an explosive commentary on the restlessness of today’s
youth,” a movie named “Over the Edge,” was filmed in Greeley, mainly using
John Evans Junior High for the school scenes. In the final sequences, the
school is blown up, using special effects. Minor damage to the school was
repaired before the film crew left. The film, which starred a new young
actor named Matt Dillon, was shelved after some violent youth films were
blamed for creating real violence in the streets, However, when Dillon
became more popular, the film was released on video.

1979: Harrison Ford and Gene Wilder were in rural areas of Weld County
filming “No Knife,” which was later changed to “The Frisco Kid.” The story
was of an outlaw (Ford) and a rabbi (Wilder) making their way across the
wild west to San Francisco. The comedy can still be seen on late night
movies, and got good reviews when it first ran in theaters.

1979: A basketball movie, “One-On-One,” was filmed in Ault and Fort
Collins, starring Robby Benson and Annette O’Toole. It was the story of a
high school basketball star who was recruited heavily by a big-time college.
The high school basketball scenes were filmed at Highland High School in
Ault, with Moby Gym at Colorado State used for the college scenes. As one
reviewer said, “The harsh world of big-time college athletics is brought
into clearer focus in this unheralded little film. The reviewer gave it four
out of five stars.

1985: Although none of this movie, “The Mean Season” was filmed in
Greeley, the city and newspaper are discussed in this thriller. The plot
involves a Miami reporter (Kurt Russell) who becomes entangled with a serial
killer who vowed that unless Russell would keep daily stories about him on
the front page of the paper, he would continue to kill. It’s an
above-average story about responsibilities and control of the press.
However, the big moment comes at the end, when Russell, worn out from
finally winning the war against the serial killer, talks about his next job:
the editor of a weekly newspaper in Colorado, The Greeley Tribune. He refers
to Greeley as a “town of pickup trucks” and the last scene of the movie
shows him writing his story with the by-line as editor of the paper.

1985: Greeley was abuzz during most of the year with the filming of the
National Sports Laugh in town. An idea of local comedian Dave Parsons,
numerous investors put money into the show they hoped would become a hit ,a
sports comedy show. Some of the sports stars who came to Greeley to film the
pilot included Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor and Dallas running back
Duane Thomas. Although the idea seemed promising, and Parsons had promises
from ESPN to pick up the series, another sports comedy show was produced by
the network. “National Sports Laugh” never made it on the air, and several
local investors lost money.


1989: A movie that held great promise but fell apart was entirely filmed
in Greeley and Weld County, using North Colorado Medical Center, Greeley
Central High School, rural Platteville and Ault. It was called “Curse of the
Corn People,” and produced by Aaron Spelling, who already had some hit
shows, including “The Love Boat” and “Charlie’s Angels.” But problems
abounded for the Corn movie: The story was about a group of bored,
small-town high school students who decided to make a film of a feminist
zombie stalking farmers; the main characters included people with strained
friendships, broken families, a farm crisis, and dead-end jobs in a
spaghetti-sauce factory. In addition, they weren’t very likable. The
director’s lack of agricultural knowledge was evident in one scene that
showed a crop duster spraying a field of corn stubble in the winter.
Although the producers said they would open an office in Greeley if the
series was picked up by the networks, the networks rejected the story. Only
the pilot was shown, which received universally bad reviews.

1989: Probably the most successful movie ever filmed in Weld County was
the second series in the Die Hard movies: “Die Hard 2: Die Harder.” The
goofy name of this flick couldn’t keep it from being a huge success. It even
drew higher box office sales and ratings than the original “Die Hard.” Only
a portion of the movie was filmed in Weld County and at Stapleton Airport in
Denver. In the movie, terrorists take over an airport, and the headquarters
for their operation is a small rural church. For that scene, the movie crew
rented the Highland Community Church in Mead. They built an extra steeple
for the church and remodeled it so it was in better shape than before they
came. In the movie, Bruce Willis tracks the terrorist to their lair, the
church, and a gun battle ensues, in addition to lots of explosions. The bad
guys plant bombs in the church, but luckily they don’t get the chance to
blow it up. The Mead portion of the filming ends with Willis chasing the
villains across frozen Highland Lake on snowmobiles.


1993: One of the stupidest movies in history, and consequently, one of
the most successful, “Dumb and Dumber” had some brief scenes filmed in Weld
County. While several scenes were shot in Morgan County, there was an
on-the-road scene filmed between Keenesburg and Roggen on I-76. The two
stars, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, were shown driving west toward Aspen in
their car, which looked like a giant, fuzzy dog. Pretty dumb.

1993: “America’s Most Wanted” cop series began producing two-hour TV
movies about some of their most interesting cases. A film crew working on
“Escape From Terror, The Theresa Stamper Story,” came to Weld County to
scout for filming sites. The story involved a woman who’s ex-husband was
stalking her across the United States. Filming took place Farley’s Machine
Shop in Platteville, with several Platteville residents playing extras. The
film can still be seen occasionally on late-night movies.

1995: Comedian Bill Murray brought an Elephant to Weld County for the
filming of “Larger Than Life.” The story line was about a sleazy
motivational speaker (Murray) who inherits a trained elephant named “Vera”
from his father, who was a circus clown. He must bring the elephant cross
country in order to sell it, and the adventures occur on the trip. In
Colorado, the filming took place at Roggen on Interstate-76, and on I-25 at
Johnson’s Corner.


Contact

Patti Russell
Email:prussell@co.weld.co.us
Phone:(970) 356-4000 ext. 4230
Jennifer Finch
Email:jfinch@co.weld.co.us
Phone:(970) 356-4000 ext. 4232