At a special Halloween-themed event held at Tuesday evening, local authors Harry Medved (Location Filming in Los Angeles) and Brian Rooney (Three Magical Miles: An Appreciation of the Past & Present of Malibou Lake & Vicinity) presented the program "Scary Agoura," a look at the history, lore and filming locations of Agoura Hills and its surrounding environs.
Medved showed clips from famous horror films shot in the region, from the 1930 original Frankenstein (with scenes shot at Malibou Lake) to Spielberg's 1982 film Poltergeist (with an opening sequence shot in the Fountainwood, Morrison Ranch area).
"I grew up on the Westside of Los Angeles and didn't think anything existed beyond Calabasas," said Medved, best known for his book The Golden Turkey Award, which he co-wrote in 1987 with older brother, film critic Michael Medved. In 2006, he wrote Hollywood Escapes: The Moviegoer's Guide to Exploring Southern California's Great Outdoors.
When Medved, director of public relations for Fandango, and his wife, Michele, began looking for a new home for themselves and their two daughters, ages 7 and 9, they discovered the Agoura-Oak Park area and fell in love. They've been living in Oak Park for two years.
Medved was soon thereafter contacted by his publisher to write about the history of Agoura Hills, but Medved said he wanted to write a book about famous shooting locations, including those in Agoura, as part of the centennial celebration of filming in Los Angeles.
"Agoura has a rich history of movie production," he said.
The Agoura Hills Library hosted a book-signing for Location Filming in Los Angeles in the spring of 2010 and raised $700 for the library. Medved and Rooney wanted to do the same at Tuesday's event.
"Agoura Hills Library is the beneficiary of the Las Virgenes Historical Society collection," said Medved. "There are a lot of photos that are not in the greatest shape. They're frayed and decaying and need to be scanned."
Medved is donating all of the proceeds from Tuesday's event to the library. His next book is about the history of Oak Park, and he has requested that anyone with historical photos of the area contact him directly at email@example.com.
Just for Patch, Medved listed his five favorite scary movie locations in the Agoura area:
- Malibou Lake: Frankenstein, I Married a Monster From Outer Space, The Ring and The Bad Seed were all partially shot here.
- : The opening of Van Helsing was shot here, along with scenes from Munster, Go Home!, The Outing, Bwana Devil and HBO's spooky series Carnivale.
- The Hanging Tree near the intersection of Kanan and Agoura roads (as seen in Phantasm and Phantasm: Oblivion); nearby is , which appeared briefly in 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice.
- The Rock Store: Legend has it that it's haunted by Steve McQueen's ghost. Films such as 1962's Panic in Year Zero! and John Landis' Schlock were shot here. Down the road on Mulholland is The Old Place, where serial Killer Owen Wilson picks up Sheryl Crow in the 1999 thriller The Minus Man.
- Medea Creek: The Morrison Ranch region, near Shadycreek Drive, can be seen in the opening of Poltergeist (along with areas in Fountainwood). Medea Creek and its rolling hills in nearby Oak Park provided a motorcycle chase scene location for 1972's The Thing With Two Heads.
Brian Rooney, who gave a Power-Point presentation illustrating historical stills and maps from Malibou Lake, said he began researching Three Magical Miles: An Appreciation of the Past & Present of Malibou Lake & Vicinity back in 1999, when he discovered the rich history of the area, where he lives part time.
"There are so many great stories and never-before-seen photos that were going to be lost," Rooney told Patch, describing his inspiration for the book, which is now going into its third printing.
"The concentration of history in that tiny, 3-mile area between Mulholland Drive and Cornell Road is unbelievable," he said.
According to Rooney, from the 1920s through the 1940s, the region was a hotbed for thousands of vacationers and that Seminole Springs, now a trailer park, was called the Palm Springs of Los Angeles.
Once Rooney began digging further into the area's history, he discovered that parts of hundreds of films and television shows were shot here, including 1968's Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, 1967's Dr. Dolittle, starring Rex Harrison, and MASH, the TV show.
"My biggest 'wow moment' was the discovery that the scene in the 1930 version of Frankenstein, with the litte girl and the daisies, was shot at the lake," he said.
It is the versatile terrain that attracts filmmakers, said Rooney. And he adds that new discoveries keep coming. He has added 50 never-before-seen photos to his latest edition, which will be released in the next few weeks.
Those interested in pre-ordering the new book can go to R7media.com/3mm.html.
For 25-year Agoura residents Doreen and Joel Bernknopf, the evening's presentation was a real eye-opener. "We've always been interested in the history of Agoura, and we were amazed at what we learned," said Doreen.
"There were so many things I suspected about certain films, and they were confirmed here tonight," said Joel.