This photo, taken near Saguaro National Park West and within a stone's throw of Old Tucson, is my homage to a classic bit of desert-centered sci-fi: It Came from Outer Space (1953). The film opens with actor Richard Carlson intoning, "This is Sand Rock, Arizona...," but he's off by a few hundred miles. The film was shot in Santa Clarita, Victorville, and the Mojave Desert, so I can't easily duplicate the eerie Joshua trees and Mojave yucca that populate "Sand Rock." No matter, I'll give Universal this one, as director Jack Arnold and screenwriter Harry Essex do an admirable job of bringing the rock and cactus night terrors to life, with who knows what lurking just past the edges of civilized asphalt. Gila monsters? Aliens? Stuckey's? It's that feeling you get when you're on Interstate 40 midway between Barstow and Needles and there's not a light in the surrounding desert and if you pull off the highway, get out of your car, and step past the guardrail there's a good chance you will step into a mineshaft, leaving nothing behind but the wrapper to a pecan log.
Ray Bradbury wrote four screen treatments for the movie, and though Essex got the screenplay credit, you can hear the noted SF writer when Carlson says of Sand Rock, "...It's a nice town, knowing its past and sure of its future, as it makes ready for the night, and the predictable morning. The desert blankets the earth, cooling, resting for the fight with tomorrow's sun. And in my house near the town, we're also sure of the future. So very sure." Maybe Essex was just channeling Bradbury. Either way, it's very Bradbury-esque, and in it's own way, very Arizona-esque. I just missed meeting Bradbury at a convention, but he took ill and now he is gone. But step out your car west of the Tucson Mountains about 9 pm on a summer night, and you'll absorb that Sand Rock vibe, and a bit of Bradbury to boot.