It has been announced that the only wild west theme park on the island, and believed to be the first ever theme park in Spain, will be closed for the rest of this year. The filming of a new Amazon Prime “Mega-Production”, which looks set to renew and rejuvenate the famous 1920s franchise of Zorro, has begun pre-production and will shoot an exclusive ten-part series around the famous rapier wielding defender of El Pueblo de Los Angeles. There is much history behind this latest location for incoming Hollywood productions, and its great to see the ghost town’s waning fortunes possibly reinvigorated, with the prospects of reaching streaming audiences world wide. There is much to celebrate!
“Gimme two fingers o’ yer finest gulpin’ whisky, and make it snappy!”
Fifty years ago this year, back in 1972, a seemingly incongruous new town arrived on the south of Gran Canaria. As the story goes, the name “Maspalomas” had gained global exposure due to NASA’s International Space Station playing a part in the 1969 moon landings, a Hollywood producer turned up on the island wanting to buy an entire canyon from the noble family of the Counts of Vega Grande de Guadeloupe, who to this day still own most of the touristed south of the island. Legend has it they put a price of $2m US on the leasehold of what is now known as the Cañon del Águila (Eagle Canyon), but refused to sell it outright due to the ancient rules governing their estates, known as a “mayorazgo”, which meant that they can never sell their inherited lands and are only able to make us of or lease them to others.
The producer was looking to cash in on the Spaghetti western boom, that had really been kickstarted with the 1964 production of A Fist Full of Dollars, bringing fortunes and a little LA glamour to southern mainland Spain and Italy, and so he did a deal to not just build a cardboard film set, but to construct a real town, actually based around the history of Sioux City Iowa, in the United States, which he could use for film production, later the noble Del Castillos would start to use the town for their ongoing tourism projects, which had started in 1962, inviting visitors to the island and on to a real life movie set.
According to Gran Canaria Info the town was built in 1972 for the film Take a Hard Ride, directed by Anthony Dawson (known in his native Italy as Antonio Margheritti) and starring Jim Brown, Lee Van Cleef, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly. However, by the time the film was premiered in 1975 the bottom had pretty much already fallen out of the Spaghetti western industry.
The film is an interesting one, introducing a black hero (Brown) and even a mute kung fu fighter (Kelly) to a traditional western theme of one man trying to do the right thing, against insurmountable odds. Well worth a watch. Other than Take a Hard Ride, Sioux city has appeared in numerous television productions, music videos and adverts over the decades, but without any major productions having returned until now.
Nevertheless this film made Sioux City, according to a Pittsburgh Courier news article that year, the set for Hollywood’s first major film production to be shot off the coast of Africa. There were of course other major productions before it, but this has to be the only one that you can still visit and immerse yourself in the fairly authentic, yet imaginary, reproduction of an 1857 Iowa frontier town during the first Sioux War.
As the town developed into a showplace for tourists and residents alike, the famous Italian Ledda family arrived, bringing circus skills with a western theme, and were joined by the astounding acrobatic and equestrian talents of the Salmons family, originally from England, whose combined talents formed the core show, and informed the training of countless cowboys, quick draws, high noons, saloon fights and <man falls off building> stunts and high jinks, with showgirls Can Canning and ruffling their skirts for delighted audiences down through the years; often paying comedic homage to some of the most endearing wild west characters in popular memory.
Together they built this town into once the most visited and popular tourist attraction on the island, particularly throughout the boom years of the 80s and 90s. With huge, wide open performance spaces, Sioux City became the premier venue for major music events on the south of the island, even hosting the likes Gloria Gaynor and James Brown in their own appearances here.
In recent years the park has struggled, though still a lot of fun to visit, a lack of real investment, as well as the rise of other, newer attractions closer to the tourism heartlands of Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, left Sioux City, somewhat, as a shadow of its former self. Nonetheless, those cowgirls and cowboys of this once bustling frontier town managed to valiantly maintain its existence, keeping the name alive and the doors open, fighting for its survival much like in the amazing 2002 Spanish movie “800 Balas”, believing to their last that this town has earned its rightful place in Gran Canaria history and still has a future to look forward to. With luck this new lease of life from such a major production arriving on the island, specifically set around the town and its unique attributes, will once more breathe new energy into one of the island’s most beloved, and most unique, places to visit or work.
For us here at The Canary News their legend will always live on as one of the most exciting and dedicated groups of people its ever been our pleasure to live and work with. Why, without them we would not exist at all.
The reboot series of “Zorro“, from Los Angeles-based Secuoya Studios and John Gertz, will stream exclusively on Amazon’s Prime Video in the U.S., Latin America and in Spain. It will star Miguel Bernardeau (Guzmán in Netflix smash hit “Elite”) and Mexico’s Renata Notni, as Secuoya Studios flagship series offering a modern take on the hero, directed by Javier Quintas, whose credits include episodes of “Money Heist” and “Sky Rojo,” alongside Miguel Angel Vivas, who worked on “Locked Up” and “Unauthorized Living.”
The 10 episode series is written by Carlos Portela (“Hierro,” “Velvet Collection”), and executive produced for Secuoya Studios by David Martínez, David Cotarelo and Angela Agudo, joined by John Gertz, founder of Zorro Productions and a producer on “The Mask of Zorro” and “The Legend of Zorro” movies, working alongside former Sony exec Andy Kaplan at KC Global Media, Sergio Pizzolante for C&T Mobs, and Jesús Torres and Glenda Pacanins at NoStatusQuo Studios.
The series, according to Variety, is set to shoot, what Martínez, Secuoya Studios head of fiction called “the most important Hispano American hero of all times and adapting him for a new generation,” using various locations across The Canary Islands. He added: “To do this, we’ve been lucky to count on Prime Video, the best partners possible for this journey, to form both a cast which is a luxury as well as the best creative and production team in the industry.” Aiming to create an “up-to-date” vision of this legendary character who since the earliest times of film making in the 20th century has long been “a symbol of justice and defender of the oppressed.” The production “perfectly takes in the diversity of an emerging world in which different races try to live together,” Secuoya Studios said at their unveiling on Friday.
It looks like, half a century after its creation, and just over one hundred years since Johnston McCulley’s dashing vigilante Zorro was first imagined and brought to life on the silver screen starring the legendary Douglas Fairbanks, Sioux City will now become the original Pueblo de Los Angeles, endowed with a new, and much deserved, coating of star dust to carry on shining as a beacon to the world from this small sub-tropical island off the coast of Africa. A fantastic newly rising star for Gran Canaria’s film production and tourism industries alike.
The character El Zorro (the fox) is in fact the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega (originally Don Diego Vega), a young man who is the only son of Don Alejandro de la Vega, the richest landowner in California.
These islands of course played a key role in the European discovery and hispanic settlement of the Americas, founding well known places like San Antonio in Texas, among many others in the story of the modern United States.
Sioux City park, and the (Barranco) Cañon del Águila, are owned by the noble Del Castillo family at whose head, until very recently, was the Ninth Count of Vega Grande de Guadalupe, Don Alejandro del Castillo Bravo de Laguna, who died in May of 2020.
It could perhaps be considered, then, that this latest “mega-production” may well be, in some small way, considered a rather fitting tribute to our very own “Don Alejandro de la Vega Grande” who played such an important role, along with his father and brothers and family, in shaping the last 60 years of tourism infrastructure on the south of this island, from the very first hotels and apartments back in 1962, the aeroclub, the Centre for Tourism Initiatives (CIT) and the creation of the Maspalomas Costa Canaria brand, through to countless other projects, including of course the construction of Sioux City itself. But that is a history we will leave to another article.
Funny how the world turns, is it not?
Synopsis Zorro Reboot
It’s a full moon. The vigilante known as Zorro gallops into town with Capitán Monasterio’s men in hot pursuit.
Zorro leaps from his horse, shoos it away and seeks refuge in the San Carlos church. He enters to find a group of women in nocturnal adoration. His appearance causing a stir, he calls for quiet and ascends the bell tower. But his pursuers have seen him enter the church. They go in, throw the women out and, when the Franciscan priest don Antonio refuses to reveal Zorro’s whereabouts, they decide to set fire to the building.
Zorro is trapped. His only choice is to hand himself over or die. And so, from the top of the bell tower, he throws himself into the flames.
|Creator and screenwriter
|David Martínez, SECUOYA STUDIOS
John Gertz, ZORRO PRODUCTIONS
Andy Kaplan, KC GLOBAL MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT
Sergio Pizzolante, C&T MOBS
Jesús Torres – Viera, NSQ STUDIOS