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Monday February 6th 2023

The Lost Boys | 1987

The Lost Boys filming location: Hudson’s Bluff Sea Cave, Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles
The Lost Boys location: the entrance to the vampires' underground lair: Hudson’s Bluff Sea Cave, Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles | Photograph: Shutterstock / PJ920

OK, I was a bit sniffy about this film in my book, The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, but I have to admit it stood the test of time as a terrific bit of Eighties fun.

Divorced Lucy (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons Sam (Corey Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric) relocate from Phoenix, Arizona to a sunny California coastal resort. What could go wrong?

Well, the town seems to have more than its share of crazy kids and "missing posters", while the Frog brothers, Edgar and Alan (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) owners of the local comic store, are ominously pushing titles like Vampires Everywhere.

The fictitious town of 'Santa Carla', with its lively boardwalk and funfair is unmistakably Santa Cruz, south of San Francisco between Monterey and San Mateo.

The Lost Boys filming location: The Boardwalk, Santa Cruz
The Lost Boys location: the 'Santa Clara' boardwalk: The Boardwalk, Santa Cruz | Photograph: Shutterstock / BLAZE Pro

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, is California's only surviving traditional seafront funfair, with that wonderful 1911 Carousel from which the Gothy gang is barred at the opening of the film.

Not a great deal seems to have changed since I visited, back in 1998. I was on a tight schedule and the long queue meant I didn't get to try the Giant Dipper rollercoaster seen in the swooping aerial shots of the Boardwalk. Next time, maybe.

A lot of the film’s action naturally centres around the Boardwalk and the Municipal Wharf, with its fishing, boat tours, sea lion viewing, dining and gift shops.

Built in 1914, the Wharf stands near the intersection of Beach Street and Front Street, west of town.

More correctly, it’s a pier rather than a wharf, and the longest pier on the West Coast to boot.

You can see it onscreen also in Sudden Impact, Harold and Maude and Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

The Lost Boys filming location: Bay Company, Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz
The Lost Boys location: Max's video store: Bay Company, Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz | Photograph: Google Maps

On the pier, you’ll find what was the video store (ask your parents if you don’t know what that was) run by Max (Edward Herrmann), where Lucy asks for a job. It’s gift store the Santa Cruz Bay Company, 17D Municipal Wharf.

Further along the pier is the restaurant where Max and Lucy’s dinner is interrupted by a phone call from Sam, which is now Mexican restaurant Olitas Cantina & Grille, 49B Municipal Wharf.

The Lost Boys filming location: Olitas Cantina & Grill, Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz
The Lost Boys location: Max and Lucy's dinner date: Olitas Cantina & Grill, Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz | Photograph: Google Maps

The Frog bros’ comic store is supposed to be on the Boardwalk but that’s a bit of a cheat. It was a real comic book shop, Atlantis Fantasy World, which stood at 707 Pacific Avenue, quite a few blocks inland, until it was seriously damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and demolished. It remains an empty lot.

Don’t worry. Atlantis Fantasy World has relocated to new premises even further north, 1020 Cedar Street at Union Street.

The large rustic house of Grandpa (Barnard Hughes), where Lucy and the kids stay, is Pogonip Clubhouse, Brayshaw Trail on Lower Meadow Trail, a couple of miles north of the Santa Cruz seafront. Currently it seems to be unused and deserted.

Michael is tempted by Star (Jamie Gertz) to hang with the badboy biker gang, who begin to initiate him into their club. This seems to have sinister consequences.

The railroad trestle bridge to which they take Michael to explore his new powers is the Iron Horse Trailhead, at Exit 170 of I-5 in Valencia, just north of Santa Clarita, itself north of LA.

The Lost Boys filming location: Iron Horse Trailhead, Valencia
The Lost Boys location: the railway trestle bridge: Iron Horse Trailhead, Valencia | Photograph: Shutterstock / Ken Wolter

There’s a parking lot at 25311 Magic Mountain Parkway, close to the bridge, which is now part of a park / biking trail where it crosses the Santa Clara River.

Part of the bridge was recreated in the studio for the scene where members of the gang dangle beneath it.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the vampires' subterranean lair, the crumbling lobby of a grand Victorian hotel swallowed up in the 1906 earthquake, is also an extravagant studio set, built at the Warner Bros studio in Burbank.

The entrance, though, is Hudson’s Bluff Sea Cave at Rancho Palos Verdes, southern LA, west of Long Beach. It’s at the foot of a rock ‘spur’ jutting into the sea by Terranea Beach.

You’ll find this on the east of the headland which used to be the old Marineland of the Pacific, a seaside animal theme park which closed in 1987, now replaced by upmarket resort Terranea Resort.

There’s a public pathway – Terranea Trail and then Beach Trail, leading to the beach, from Terranea Way which runs south from Palos Verdes Drive.

And remember that this is a sea cave and be aware of the tides. There’s no longer a wooden staircase up the cliff.