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REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : Crichton 'Congo' Crew Beats a Path to Simi Ranch : A menagerie helps create the setting of a jungle airstrip. Another thriller is shot at a Potrero Road house.

October 13, 1994|PANCHO DOLL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's been a big week for filming in Ventura County with two feature films completing production here. Most notable was "Congo," a screen adaptation of a Michael Crichton novel.

The film was shooting near Simi Valley at the Hidden Creek Ranch, a piece of Unocal property frequently used as a movie location.

"Congo" is a story of three adventurers traveling through the African rain forest in search of a cache of diamonds that could revolutionize computer technology. The three are accompanied by a linguistically trained gorilla named Amy who acts as an intermediary between the scientists and a band of killer apes guarding the gems.

The group has to overcome several action-packed impediments including cannibals, volcanoes, mutant primates and, not least of all, a Euro-Japanese consortium that's also after the diamonds.

Production crews spent two days there along with six zebras, half a dozen goats, two elephants and a small primate called a bush baby. The scene was of a remote landing strip.

The film is produced by the husband and wife team of Frank and Kathleen Marshall, both of whom used to run Spielberg's production company, Amblin, until last year.

Frank Marshall directs. His directing credits include "Live" and "Arachnophobia"

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The cinematic world is a small one after all.

Another "Arachnophobia" veteran was wrapping up production on a film in Ventura County this week. Wesley Strick, a screenwriter for the spider film, is making his directorial debut in an emotional thriller titled "The Tie That Binds."

The picture stars Daryl Hannah and Keith Carradine. Publicists say it's a drama of a little girl torn between the loving adoptive parents who could give her a stable home and the charismatic but dangerous drifters who give her a life.

The part of the loving home is played by a house on Potrero Road in Thousand Oaks. The production spent two and half weeks there.

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This week's feature at the Ojai Playhouse is "The Wedding Gift," a film from the U.K. that's based on a true story about a couple struggling to cope with the wife's mystery illness. Sounds like a bummer of a film for a Sunday afternoon, but reviewers say the vitality and good humor with which the couple meet their obstacles actually makes this an uplifting picture.

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