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1955 film based on real AV kidnapping

TRUE EVENTS – “The Night Holds Terror,” released in 1955, was

based on the true kidnapping of an Edwards Air Force Base worker and

his family. Above, the marque sign for the second bill is wrong. The movie’s

name is “Case of the Red Monkey,” referring to a tiny Communist spy.

LANCASTER – A real Antelope

Valley kidnapping provided the

plot for a 1955 movie whose tag-

line was “’l‘hree young, empty-eyed

killers, without mercy or morals,

turn a private home into a house

of horror!”

“The Night Holds Terror,” whose

villains included future “Ben Caseyg

M.D.” television series star Vince

Edwards and future three-time

Oscar nominee John Cassavetes,

tells how Edwards Air Force Base

worker Gene Courtier is kidnapped

and held hostage along with his

wife and two children alter he picks

up a hitchhiken

Much of the black-and-white

movie was shot in the Antelope

Valley; with a lot of scenes of desert

roads and Joshua trees, including

one where Courtiefs kidnappers

force him out of his car and shoot

at him.

They decide against killing him

in favor of holding him and his fam-

ily hustage over the weekend to get

cash for his car, then ultimately try

to ransom him for cash from his

fathen ‘

Besides the scenes ‘of Joshua

trees and Antelope Valley desert,

there’s also a quick glimpse of

the Lancaster railroad station at

Sierra Highway and Lancaster


“The Night Holds Terror” was

the first of two family-held-hos<

tage dramas to be released within

months of each other.

After Columbia released “The

Night Holds ‘lerror,” Paramount re-

leased the bigger-budget “The Des-

perate Hours,” which was based on

an earlier book and starred “Casa-

bianca” star Humphrey Bogart as

the lead villain and Fredric March

as the embattled family man.

` Time magazine in August 1955

said of “The Night Holds Terror”:

“Shot in 18 days on a low budget

($78,000), ‘Night’ was produced,

directed, written and edited by the

husband and wife team of Andrew

and Virginia Stone.

None ofthe cast has a Hollywood

‘name’; most of them came from

TV What emerges is a surprisingly


“The Night Holds Terror” used

the kidnapping victims’ real names

and the real Antelope Valley set-


But the movie fabricated the

whole last half involving the ran-

som attempt, frantic efforts to trace

telephone calls and a last-minute

police rescue. ‘

In reality the robbers left Court-

ier after getting his check for the

car at Stranske Motors in Lan-

caster; he told his story about being

held hostage to Lancaster Sheriffs

Station deputies.

Lancaster detectives decided

to believe Courtier’s story in part

because they were able to find the

empty pistol cartridge at the spot

in the desert where Courtier said a

bullet was fired inches away from

his head, according to a May 26,

1953, Los Angeles Times article

about the start of the trio’s trial.

But it was easy to see why mov-

iemakers picked up on the story,

whose title came from newspaper


The three defendants were ac-

cused not only of kidnapping and

robbing Courtier, the Antelope Val-

ley _Press reported, but of “forcing

his wife, Doris, to dine, dance and

play cards with them all through-

out the night in the Courtiers’


In its June 25, 1953, article

about the three being found guilty

the Antelope Valley Press called

them the “ ‘Night of Terror’ trio.”

Courtier, a 26-year-old North

American Aviation technician,

lived with his 24-year-old wife and

two children in a government home

on Ninth Street at Edwards Air

Force Base. While driving home,

he stopped to pick up hitchhiker

James Canigan, 22, of Los Ange-


A few miles down the road,

Carrigan pulled out a gun, robbed

Courtier of $5 and forced him to

drive off the road, where ex-convict

Leonard Mahan, 24, and AWOL

Camp Pendleton Marine Donald

Hall, 18, pulled up in Mahan’s car.

As in the movie, they decided to

force Courtier to sell his car and

give them the money

They went to Courtier’s Ed-

wards home, where Doris Courtier

was held prisoner by Hall while the

other two took Courtier and his car

to Lancaster.

Courtier got $500 in cash for the

car, but for the remaining $1,251.02

he got a check he oouldn’t cash un-

til the next day, so the kidnappers

‘stayed with him and his family


Mahan made the mistake of get-

ting his car an oil change while the

trio was holding Courtier; deputies

went to the shop and got the ser-

vice record, with the car’s license


While the movie showed the

kidnappers being captured when

police oornered them in their car

in a Los Angeles rainstorm, the

real-life kidnappers were arrested

separately: in Inglewood, in a

downtown Los Angeles hotel and in

a LosAngeles bar.

Turner Classic .Movies peri-

odically shows “The Night Holds

Terror,” as well as “The Desperate

Hours.” ~ °

Compiled by Managing Editor

Charles E Bostwick.

March 15, 2011 Posted by | antelope valley commercial production, antelope valley film office, antelope valley film production, antelope valley filming locations, north la county film production | , , , , | Leave a comment

On-location filming jumps 15% in 2010, but L.A. still not out of the woods


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On-location filming jumps 15% in 2010, but L.A. still not out of the woods

2010dataLos Angeles recorded significant gains in on-location filming activity in 2010, powered by economic recovery, a revival in television comedies and state tax credits that helped to lure new business.

But even with the increased activity, feature production remained less than half what it was in 1996, underscoring the long-term challenges L.A. faces as it struggles to keep movies and TV shows from leaving Southern California, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and many unincorporated areas of the county.

FilmL.A. recorded 43,646 total production days in 2010, up 15% from 2009. A production day is defined as a single crew’s permission to film a project at a single location in a 24-hour period. Overall activity rose 26% in the fourth quarter over the same period in 2009.

Though the data do not track filming on major studio lots, it’s viewed as a barometer of overall economic activity in L.A.’s entertainment sector, which employs more than 200,000 people.

The upswing signaled a continued recovery from the pummeling the sector took in 2009, when production posted its steepest annual drop on record as studios cut back the number of films they released, advertisers shot far fewer commercials and filmmakers took their business to other states that offered more attractive tax credits and rebates.

Leading the growth was commercial shoots, which saw a 28% increase in production days last year, the category’s largest year-over-year increase since tracking began in 1993. The year’s total of 6,778 production days was the highest since commercial production reached its peak in 2005.

Though growth slowed in the fourth quarter, climbing only 2.5%, the year was marked by an increase in orders for spots by Chrysler, Verizon and AT&T and other advertisers amid signs of an improving economy.

On-location television shoots also mounted an impressive comeback, increasing 50% in the fourth quarter and 12% for the year for a total of 17,833 production days.

The gains were fueled by a continued growth in reality TV programming, which rose 47% with 7,341 production days, making it the single largest TV category; and sitcoms, which rose 78% for the year, including 227% in the fourth quarter.

TV comedies have been making a comeback, thanks to the popularity of such shows as ABC’s “Modern Family” and FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which are L.A.-based. New sitcoms shooting locally include MTV’s “The Hard Times of RJ Berger,” Showtime’s “Shameless” and NBC’s “The Paul Reiser Show.”

However, TV dramas fell 19% for the year, reflecting the cancelling of such shows as Fox’s “24” and NBC’s “Heroes.”

Feature films rose 8% for the year and 28% for the fourth quarter with the increases attributed to the state’s film tax credit program, which took effect in mid-2009. The program provides a 20% to 25% credit on qualified production expenses and can be used to offset state income or sale tax liabilities.

The state program attracted dozens of movies to L.A. last year, including the upcoming releases“Rampart,” “The Good Doctor,” produced by and starring Orlando Bloom, and Walt Disney’s “The Muppets,” with tax-incentive productions accounting for a quarter of all production days in the year.

Despite the improvement, the number of feature film production days in 2010 — 5,378 —  was still down 62% from its peak in 1996, reflecting L.A.’s  loss of market share, not only to foreign cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, but also to other U.S. locations, notably Detroit, New Orleans and New York.

In response to the migration, city officials and film promoters have been grappling with ways to keep filming at home, including recently launching a marketing campaign touting the industry’s economic benefits to the L.A. economy.

— Richard Verrier

Photo: Ed O’Neill, left, Rico Rodriguez and Sofia Vergara in the L.A.-based “Modern Family.” Credit: Adam Larkey / ABC





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Hard Times bring “Hard Times” to Reseda High

“Rampart” movie kicks into high gear

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February 22, 2011 Posted by | antelope valley commercial production, antelope valley film production, antelope valley filming locations, north la county film production, north la county tv production | , , , , | Leave a comment

L.A. off-lot productions up 15%


L.A. off-lot productions up 15%

Gains in Film, TV while commercial sees surge

Off-lot production in the Los Angeles area increased by 15% last year, thanks largely to unexpected fourth-quarter gains in feature production and TV along with a surge in commercials shooting. 

FilmL.A. said California’s tax credit incentive program was responsible for 26% of local feature production for 2010, or 1,400 permitted days, and noted that feature shooting still remains far below the levels of the mid-1990s.

Year-end stats released Tuesday by nonprofit permitting agency FilmL.A. showed 43,646 permitted days in 2010. Feature shoots for the year were up 8.1% to 5,378 days, TV gained 11.9% to 17,833 days, and commercials increased 28% to 6,778.

“Were it not for these projects, 2010 would have been the worst year on record for on-location feature filming in Los Angeles,” the permitting agency said. “As it stands, that record is held by the year 2009, when the features category finished 64% below its historical peak.”

FilmL.A. prexy Paul Audley expressed hope that California’s 2-year-old tax credit incentive program will continue to play a major role in keeping production from leaving the state.

“On balance, the numbers are positive, and I am cautiously optimistic about 2011,” he added. “Hopefully, with FilmL.A.’s new Film Works marketing campaign and the California Film & Television Tax Credit, our state and region will win back entertainment projects and jobs once taken for granted.”

The five-year state program began in July 2009 and made $200 million a year in tax credits for film and TV productions available over the first year and another $100 million in 2010.

Fourth-quarter Film L.A. stats showed a 28% surge to 1,520 days of feature shooting, following a 6.6% decline in the third quarter. Those projects included two that will receive tax credits — “Drive” and “Rampart” — along with “Jack and Jill,” “For the Love of Money,” “The Artist,” “Now” and “Red State.”

Fourth-quarter TV stats shot up 49.9% to 4,832 following an 8.2% decline in the third quarter. TV dramas gained 22.9% while reality rose 89.4.2%, sitcoms more than tripled from 208 to 680 for a 227% gain, and pilots increased 12.6%.

Agency noted that dramas have been shifting onto studio lots, making them untrackable to FilmL.A., while single-camera sitcoms are being shot on area streets.

Commercials gained 2.5% in the fourth quarter following quarterly increases of 60.7%, 34.5% and 21.9%.

“The uptick in numbers clearly reflects the reality that the advertising industry is rebounding nicely from one of its greatest slumps in history,” said Matt Miller, prexy-CEO of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers. “Along with the growing need for video content for marketing communications, the models to fulfill these needs continue to shape this segment of the media landscape, and illustrate the importance of this sector as an important economic influencer in Southern California.”

Contact Dave McNary at

February 2, 2011 Posted by | antelope valley commercial production, antelope valley film office, antelope valley film production, antelope valley filming locations, north la county film production | , , , , | Leave a comment

Silver screen means jobs for Golden State

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth's picture


Assembly Republican Caucus Chair representing the 38th Assembly District


The California Film and Television Tax Credit has proven to be a wildly successful case of the state working with businesses to keep jobs (and over $2 billion in direct spending) right here in California. But not all critics are impressed.

Prior to the Film and Television Tax Credit, “runaway production” had cost California over 10,600 jobs in film, TV and commercial production, and more than 25,000 related jobs, according to a report by The Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank.

Unfortunately, taking our allies of commerce for granted is not a new attitude. The flight of film production, like so many other industries, is part of a distinctly Californian trend. To illustrate, forty years ago California was the hub of our nation’s aerospace industry. Thousands of Californians—with varying skill sets and education levels—could count on on well-paying, high quality aerospace jobs. Twenty years later, my friends and I grew up believing that we would have similar job opportunities in the entertainment industry.

But as California now struggles to maintain its place as the country’s entertainment capital, history threatens to repeat itself. Businesses and jobs are again chased away by our state’s overly aggressive regulatory environment, high taxes, and growing competition from other states. The promise of both industries remains endangered.

To battle this trend, legislators from across the state came together in 2009 and passed legislation to re-energize the film and television production industry. In fact, it was more successful than any of us imagined.

In the past two years, the California Film Commission has allocated about $300 million in tax credits to 100 projects. These incentives have brought in an estimated $2 billion in direct spending to California communities, including $736 million in wages paid to “below-the-line” crew members (electricians, grips, drivers, costumers), according to data compiled by the Film Commission.

That’s 18,200 crew and 4,000 cast members hired by the approved projects. An additional 113,000 individuals will be employed on a day-to-day basis as background players. This includes dry cleaners, caterers, florists, and construction workers, among many other neighborhood businesses in our communities.

The Los Angeles Times recently hailed aspects of this program as the “model for how the Legislature should approach corporate tax breaks.”

But as any artist knows, critics, by trade, will always find something to criticize.

Dan Morain, editorial writer at the Sacramento Bee, recently suggested that the film and television tax credit remains popular largely due to the “well-orchestrated lobby effort” put forth by “organized labor” and “[e]ntertainment conglomerates.” These subsidies, Mr. Morain continues, move us closer to tax hikes, classrooms and welfare cuts, and—by an argument noteworthy for creativity—a step backwards for the anti-smoking movement (as tax credits may go to films that “glamorize smoking”).

Suggesting that a widespread lobby effort is necessary to convince the lawmakers to maintain a quantifiably successful jobs program is a tough sell. It is equally a stretch to argue that California’s budget woes are gravely worsened by the Film Commission’s measurable and substantial return on investment. And of course, Mr. Morain’s public health criticism is as immaterial as his subtle derision towards the light-hearted films the credits supported. A film job is still a job, regardless of whether its award statue reads “Razzie” or “Oscar.”

Finally, Mr. Morain points out that Iowa and Missouri are both questioning their film credit programs; in the latter case due to the credit serving “too narrow of an industry.” Thankfully, film and TV production is not a narrow industry in California. In this competitive market we should now, more than ever, stay the course and bring the jobs home.

This tax credit is one of many ladders to help our state climb out of the fiscal ditch we have dug for ourselves by pushing away businesses and jobs.

Expanding the breadth and longevity of the Film and Television Tax Credit is a necessary step to ensuring this industry continues to thrive by investing our world-class workforce.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | antelope valley commercial production, antelope valley film production, antelope valley tv production, north la county film production | , , , , | Leave a comment