In July 2020 Thelma and I will undertake our second road trip, leaving Valencia on the 9th and visiting a number of important cinema locations.
Our first stop will be Cuenca, one of my favourite cities, making sure we visit the cathedral, which appears in a totally mad little gem of a film called The Valley of Gwangi (1969), in which a dinosaur pursued by some cowboys enters the cathedral, which then burns down. I kid you not!
Cuenca’s famous Ciudad Encantada with its toadstool-like giant rock formations also appear, as they did in Conan the Barbarian and Sergio Leones Colossus of Rhodes to name but two.
Before we get there we will take a look at MOTILLAR DE PALANCA, whose windmills rival those of Consuegra, although they haven’t appeared in any film as far as I know.
Although our route is still in the air and subject to change, I hope to pay a visit to the Monasterio de Piedra, which is a spa and park built around a 12th century monastery, whose waterfall has appeared in a host of films, most recently Terry Gilliam’s The Man who Killed Don Quijote, but also in The Hit starring Terence Stamp, Tim Roth and John Hurt, a classic road trip movie shot all over Spain.
Hopefully we can also stop off at Candilichera, Soria, and gaze across the wide expanses that represented Russia in David Lean’s classic Doctor Zhivago. A strange village that doesn’t even have a bar, so we probably won’t stay long, just have a quick look at the abandoned railway line.
La Rioja is more famous for its wine than film making, but there is a wonderful little village called Sajazarra, which reminds me of Oxfordshire with its quaint sandstone houses, and also its castle, which belongs to an important vineyard.
The owner of the vineyard decided to make a film to promote his product, a kind of Falcon Crest starring none other than Stewart Granger in his twilight years.
In the same province, as a great fan of the film The Way, and of Martin Sheen, we hope to visit the vineyard where Sheen gets arrested for drunkenness in the film, which is the CVNE vineyard in Haro.
Navarra is a province that forms the border between dry and green Spain, and in the tiny village of Marcilla, American actor Bruce Dern recently made a film called Remember Me, where the Villa Marcilla Hotel represented a sanatorium where his wife was staying suffering from Alzheimer’s. Staying there is a must for any film buff or fan of Bruce, and I am both.
For me there is no better place to travel from dry to green Spain than by crossing the Sierra de Urbasa in Navarra. Its green meadows, replete with roaming horses, cattle and pigs have seen many a great film battle, including those in the films Robin and Marian, Patton and Cromwell. In fact there is a wonderful anecdote about how Patton and Cromwell’s armies came face to face during filming.
We will next travel north to Euskadi, hopefully visiting Mundaka, scene of at least two films, Open Graves and Thunderstorm, and nearby we can try to get close to Game of Thrones’ Dragonstone, better known locally as San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an islet with a small medieval chapel. Unfortunately, the success of the series has turned this beautiful location into an example of tourist massification.
From there we will head east, into Cantabria, chasing ghosts, in particular those of The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, and we will take a look at the haunted Palacio de los Hornillos at Las Fraguas.
Llanes is a small seaside town where many films have been made, including Rowing in the Wind (1988), where Hugh Grant played Lord Byron before he found his milieu.
The Town Hall has even created a cinema route, with a series of information boards showing where different films were shot.
The House of the Damned (1974) and Talk of Angels (1998) are two films that took advantage of the sailors’ cemetery of Niembro, set on an inlet on the coast.
Marrowbone (2017) features the Palacio de Arango in the Valle de Arango near Pravia, and very recently, Mickey Rourke was to be found the mountains, lakes and valleys of the Natural Park of Somiedo making Legionnaire’s Trail (2018), a tale of Romans.
The crew’s lodgings were at Pola de Somiedo, and hopefully ours will be too.
At this point we will turn around and start heading back to Valencia, stopping off at Ampudia, Palencia, whose castle is one of four that appear in El Cid, and, an old ambition of mine, to visit the Sad Hill Cemetery near Covarrubias, Burgos, which has been renovated by local enthusiasts since Clint Eastwood faced off with Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach there at the end of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Also in Covarrubias I hope to revisit the Torreón de Ferran Gonzalez, one of the locations for an El Cid spin off called The Castilian.
We have offered to give conferences at most of these locations, and so hopefully we will get a chance to meet some of the local people who participated in the films.