Friday, October 12, 2018

31 Days of Horror 2018: The Beast of Yucca Flats

Directed by Coleman Francis.
1961. Not Rated, 54 minutes.
Tor Johnson
Bing Stafford
Larry Aten
Douglas Mellor
Barbara Francis

Let's start this review with a brag. My movie collection is fairly extensive, and I like to think, widely varied. I have movies from just about every genre and every quality. Browsing the shelves in my home, you'll come across lots of all-time greats next to all-time worsts. I'm not one of these people who just buys a bunch of movies for the sake of having them. I buy them because I'm genuinely interested in watching them. And many of those all-time worsts are movies that I watch, appreciate, and return to. Some of them, I haven't seen before. Every now and again, I'll look up at the collection and say to myself, "I'm in the mood for something rotten." On this particular night, I said, "I'm in the mood for a rotten horror flick that I haven't seen before." And that's how I wound up watching The Beast of Yucca Flats.

The weird thing about this movie, other than everything, is that the setup isn't that bad. Okay, let me backtrack. The setup actually happens after one of the coldest opens I've ever witnessed. A woman just out of the shower is strangled by a mystery man. And we never find out what it has to do with anything. Now, the setup. We're told about Dr. Joseph Javorsky (Johnson), a Russian scientist looking to defect. We get some CIA and KGB involved in trying to protect him and kill him, respectively. It has a decent spy flick feel culminating in a shootout during which Javorsky flees from the gunfire. He runs a bit, though not very quickly, and walks a lot and this is where things get weird. He finds himself near a nuclear testing site when, of course, a bomb goes off. As a result, Javorsky is transformed into what's credited as The Beast, but is just him with some shoddy makeup, an insatiable killing machine stalking the countryside.

In theory, that premise is very similar to that of some much better films. However, the devil is in the details. Let's start with the first kill scene, after that obviously Psycho inspired beginning, but it makes no sense. We see a couple that got a flat tire (I think) on a lonely stretch of highway. The guy gets out and goes to the trunk and while he's back there Javorsky grabs hold of him and strangles him to death with the guy's girlfriend none the wiser. Okay, cool. What happens next is a marvel of bad movie making. A pair of hands, obviously coming from the back seat reaches out and grabs the throat of the still unaware young lady. Then Javorsky comes from outside on the passenger side and drags her out the car. In case you weren't following, that means he somehow got into the car, climbed into the back without her knowing then got out and walked around the car without us seeing it. She doesn't die. Instead, some sort of weird take on King Kong ensues. You can either laugh and enjoy the nuttiness, or you can shut the movie off right then and never speak of it again. Clearly, I chose to laugh.

There are other zany occurrences in the name of horror and none of them are intentional. That's where the charm of this movie lies. It's just so ridiculous it's impossible not to break into laughter. The acting is part of the insanity. Ed Wood cohort Tor Johnson does what Tor Johnson does The rest of the cast is just bad, but in a good way. I've already mentioned some of the crazy directorial decisions. This includes the wife of one character who is only in the movie for one scene just to show the camera as much cleavage as allowable without it becoming a Russ Meyer flick. I'm not even exaggerating. She leans towards the camera in a nighty and yanks on the front of it so often, I could imagine Coleman Francis right off screen saying to her, "That's it, just a little bit more." Anyhoo, the biggest sin this movie commits is that it does drag a bit through the first act. Considering the fact the whole movie only runs a scant 54 minutes, that's easily forgivable. It's especially pardonable because the last ten minutes or so is just bonkers. The Beast of Yucca Flats is the type of movie that's tailor-made for Mystery Science Theater. That means it gave me what I wanted when I strolled over to my movie collection. It gave me a movie that's so bad it's awesome!


  1. This looks like fun. Plus, Tor Johnson of Ed Wood's troupe of actors. I'm sure it's bad but it couldn't be worse than some of the shit that is out there right now.

  2. Coleman Francis makes Edward D. Wood Jr. look like Stanley Kubrick. And just wait until you see one of Francis's bad movies!

    1. Red Zone Cuba makes Beast of Yucca Flats look like Tokyo Story. BUT John Carradine sings the title track Night Train to Mundo Fine, so there's that to look forward to.

      Night Train to Mundo Fine

  3. Flag on the moon. How did it get there?

    I don't know if there's worse films from Coleman Francis, but his other two films (Red Zone Cuba, aka Night Train to Mundo Fine and The Skydivers) are easily as bad and they're both longer, so...

    1. Hmmm...54 minutes seemed perfect. Might have to psyche myself up for the others.

  4. Blimey, this looks like something I'll have to see just for giggles! Great write-up, I love some of this so-bad-it's-good stuff!!

    1. For giggles is the only way anyone should watch this.