A few months ago, my family took the Monterey Movie Tour — a three-hour bus tour of the Monterey Peninsula. The driver points out the locations where movies were filmed, while the passengers watch the actual scenes on video screens above their seats.
We saw a video clip from “Play Misty for Me” (1971) of Clint Eastwood walking down the steps outside the Sardine Factory bar as we drove past those steps in Pacific Grove.
We watched Troy Donahue kissing Sandra Dee on a beach, supposedly in Maine, in “A Summer Place” (1959) as we passed that beach on the 17-Mile Drive.
We watched a scene from “National Velvet” (1944) of young Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney walking along a path in England, with Carmel Beach clearly in the background, as we drove by the 14th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Links. And much more.
It was such fun that now I’m thinking of starting a Fresno Movie Tour. Why not? We’ve had plenty of movies made here. And some of them have actually been made in the last 15 years, unlike in Monterey.
Our tour will start at the Old Fresno Water Tower — made famous in the “Fresno” miniseries (1986), when hitman Michael Richards tries to push Charles Grodin off the balcony.
Then we’ll go by City Hall, which is the Des Moines City Hall in “The Puppet Masters” (1994), with Donald Sutherland battling mind-controlling aliens in Iowa.
Of course, we’ll see Chukchansi Park, where Billy Crystal is the play-by-play announcer for the Fresno Grizzlies in “Parental Guidance” (2012) — until he gets fired in the first five minutes of the movie.
Next, we’ll drive down Kearney Boulevard to Chandler Executive Airport, which was disguised as the Mexico City airport during the filming of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008). Unfortunately, the Fresno scenes were cut from the actual movie.
We will then proceed south to Hanford, to a new neighborhood on the north side of town. Back in 1995, it was a cornfield. Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” was filmed mainly in Las Vegas, but the scene in which Joe Pesci is beaten with a baseball bat and buried alive (in Indiana) was filmed right here.
Next we’ll drive to Reedley, to the corner of G and 11th streets — clearly visible at the beginning of “Road House” (1989), as bouncer Patrick Swayze drives into a small Missouri town to clean up a dangerous roadside bar.
North of Reedley, we’ll take Trimmer Springs Road to see where a villainous Ben Gazzara tries to run Patrick Swayze off the road. And we will see Gazzara’s beautiful home, on the banks of the Kings River.
We’ll take Highway 180 up to Sequoia Lake, which was “Camp Chippewa” in “Addams Family Values” (1993). This is where Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) shoots a bald eagle with a bow and arrow.
Next, it’s back down Highway 180 and north on Highway 41 to the hills outside of North Fork, where scenes from two movies were filmed: the Old Town area was featured in “The Giant of Thunder Mountain” (1991), as 7-foot-2 hermit Richard Kiel gets humiliated when he tries to make friends in town; and the Bonnie B Ranch was the setting for “Mouse Hunt” (1997), in which Christopher Walken plays an eccentric exterminator named Caesar.
Nearby, Bass Lake was “Deer Lake, Maine” in 1945’s “Leave Her to Heaven,” with an evil Gene Tierney sitting in a rowboat and watching Darryl Hickman drown (“It’s a cramp! Help me!”). In “The Great Outdoors” (1988), Bass Lake is in Wisconsin, and John Candy eats a 96-ounce steak in the old Ducey’s Lodge, which burned down a few months after the film was made.
On Road 406, west of Coarsegold, we’ll see the Knowles Quarry, where granite-drilling architect Gary Cooper and wealthy socialite Patricia Neal make eyes at each other in “The Fountainhead” (1949). And finally, on our return to Fresno, we’ll drive by the Hotel Californian, where real-life lovers Cooper and Neal stayed during the filming.
It will be a long day of movie touring, but well worth it. I’ve done the research. Now all I need is the bus.