Wednesday, January 27, 2010

At the Movies with the Longmont Sugar Factory

At least two movies, one a documentary and another a thriller, were filmed at the Great Western Sugar Factory in Longmont. A planned science-fiction movie would have been the third but it never got off the ground.

The first movie was a documentary filmed in 1922 by Fox Movietone, showing the end-to-end process of producing sugar from beets, from the time when they were unloaded at the factory. It was intended to advertise both the sugar beet industry and the local Longmont area. You have to wonder if this movie still exists, perhaps archived deep in some dark and dusty Hollywood warehouse.

On to the modern era of 1981 when a movie "Endangered Species" was being filmed in Denver, northern Wyoming, and yes, at the Longmont Sugar Factory. Remember that this is about four years after the factory was shut down with much of the equipment gone by now. Robert Urich (done with being Dan Tanna on the TV Vega$ show by this time and appearing to transition to movies) was the main star of this movie, described as a combination high-tech thriller/mystery about cattle mutilation. The mystery actually plays out in the warehouse part of the factory, which was portrayed to be an empty missile silo. Carolyn Pfeffer, the producer, was quoted:
"We've got good characters, good relationships, a good mystery, and the unraveling of that mystery works dramatically"
This movie, unfortunately, is not on DVD. Comments on IMDB reveal that it was on VHS and that it used to play on late night cable TV. You will find some other movies with the same title on Netflix but they are not related.

A science-fiction movie "Battlefield Earth" was scheduled for filming at the factory two years later, in 1984, but it fell apart before filming started. In this film, based on the 1982 L. Ron Hubbard book of the same name, the factory would have been cast in the year 3000 as a 1,000 year-old building in which the hero of the movie searches for clues about what life was like in the year 2000. The factory was liked because it was already in a deteriorating state, perfect for a science fiction movie. A block of 75 hotel rooms was set to be reserved in February and March of 1985, when the film crew would be arriving in Longmont. Other filming was to have been done in Canon City, Climax, and Colorado Springs and the director was to have been Ken Annakin, who had some impressive credits, including The Longest Day and Swiss Family Robinson. The Canon City portion of the filming would have involved a simulated flying platform hanging from a big crane over the Royal Gorge!

What happened to this movie? An article on wikipedia says it got far as casting auditions in Denver before collapsing due to its low budget.

Battlefield Earth was eventually made in Canada in 2000 with John Travolta (you know the Scientology connection, right?) and is listed right up there in the list of worst movies ever made! Maybe it's a good thing that Longmont was not tied to this movie after all!

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