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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Older people tell us that as you age, time seems to speed up and fly
quickly bye. Watch "The Beast of Yucca Flats" and you will observe a
paradox you will age rapidly, yet time will slow to a crawl, the 54
minute running time feeling like hours, or even days.
The plot of this movie may be summarized as follows. A scientist is converted into a monster when exposed to a nuclear test. He kills an unlucky (and very unobservant) couple whose car had broken down, and then chases two young boys around while their father is trying to fix a flat tire. Two lawmen on the trail of the beast shoot, first the father of the boys, and then the beast, after which a rabbit stumbles into the scene and nuzzles the beast causing it to grab and kiss the rabbit before succumbing at last to its wounds. Actually, this is not a plot summary, but rather the shooting script, with the exception of the rabbit, which was a wild rabbit that stumbled into the scene entirely by accident, and was left in. There are no outtakes in a Coleman Francis movie.
This was the first effort by then unknown filmmaker Coleman Francis. Francis was thus unexposed when the film was shot, though in a more perfect world, the film would have been unexposed and Coleman Francis shot. In this film, Francis pays homage to Hitchcock with a scene reminiscent of the cropduster sequence in North by Northwest, and to Ed Wood, by intercutting freely between day and night during a chase scene. Francis' talent as a filmmaker really shines, however, in his decision to dispense with synchronized sound as might have been utilized by a lesser filmmaker. He does this in several clever ways, such as having dialog (and gunshots) come from off screen, or by having the actors cover their mouths or turn their faces away from the camera when they speak. In one particularly inspired sequence, he simply frames the top of the camera view to the actors' shoulders, letting the dialog crackle back and forth between the headless bodies.
Kudos must also go to the cast. Conrad Brooks, of Plan 9 fame, appears in this film, which launched him into a long and illustrious career in such beloved classics as "Polish Vampire in Burbank," "Fart: the Movie," and "Zombiegeddon." Tor Johnson, who had similarly appeared in Plan 9, also experienced a career advancement after this film -- he never made another movie. Despite the notable work by these two, as well as several friends and relatives of the director, special mention must be made of the rabbit, which turned in by far the best performance of the movie, displaying great charisma and screen presence, while still seeming natural and unaffected. To achieve all of this while being unexpectedly kissed by Tor Johnson is no mean feat for a first-timer.
This film shames the recently popular movie "The Ring," in which everyone who watches a certain video all die horrible deaths within one week of the viewing. "The Beast of Yucca Flats" effortlessly achieves the same result in just 54 minutes.
There is something very Zen-like about "Beast of Yucca Flats". The vast
lingering views of the desert Southwest. The odd disconnected dialogue
that sounds completely disembodied. The haiku like narration.
It is in the spirit of Coleman Francis' narration that I now give impressions of the film: A clock ticks. A beautiful girl. A hidden killer. The clock stops. There is no connection.
The vast desert. A plane lands. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist. Joseph Javorski, who looks like he could eat whole pigs, has the fate of the world in his briefcase. The Kremlin's best make him a target. The wheels of progress grind on.
A chase. Bullets. Murder. Flag on the Moon...how did it get there? A bomb. More progress. Touch a button, something happens. A scientist becomes a beast.
Figures in a landscape. Who knows how long we really have? Joe and Jim, desert patrolman. They guard freedom and democracy 24/7 in this landscape. A beast is on the loose. Joseph Javorski, once a noted scientist, now...nothing.
There is no progress in the desert. Yet its effects are everywhere. Man's progress. Quench the killer's thirst. A family stops for a rest. The beast appears. A terrible mistake. Policemen with quick guns and the minds of swine. An innocent man dies. Who cares? Two boys feed soda pop to thirsty pigs. It's progress, you know.
Confrontation. A fight that is not a fight. A gun with no bullets fires. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist, becomes rabbit food. The wheels of progress grind on. End.
The viewer's mind becomes nothing. What have we seen? Who believes in flying saucers? Coleman Francis. The name lingers on. The lonely cry of desert winds. I love the movies.
A man. A movie. Mans inhumanity to the movie.
I have watched my share of garbage-amateur-horrible-z-grade horror, but Coleman Francis's: The Beast of Yucca Flats must be the worst ever! I cannot say I wasn't warned by other user comments, but such a warning only sparked my interest. If there ever was a movie, which deserved to be rated 1/10 this must be it.
The Plot: A defecting Russian scientist (Tor Johnson) is chased into atomic testing grounds by KGB agents, and he turns into a monster after he is exposed to a nuclear blast. You can tell he has turned into a monster because his hair is now white! The monster goes on a killing rampage, and two detectives venture out to stop him.
What went wrong: Short answer: Everything!
1. Dubbing. It took a while before I noticed that you never see any of the characters when they speak, so I checked the IMDb trivia section. Apparently the movie was shot without sound and later dubbed and to avoid out of sync problems the characters had their backs to the camera when talking or the camera focused on something else It is hilarious to watch two people talk when the camera constantly shifts to the character that isn't talking. And then trying to get away with it for a whole hour
2. The "score". The score is so over the top dramatic that it adds to the fun. A man walks through the desert/prairie and suddenly he sees a Keep Out sign, and you are blasted backwards in your chair by the music. Judging by the music a Keep Out sign is so much scarier than getting stabbed while showering I guess it is supposed to compensate for the missing suspense/horror/action on all the other fronts!
3. The Narrator. The funniest thing in the movie is the narrator (Coleman Francis himself), who speaks with a calm and intellectual voice. I don't think one word he spoke made any sense it's pseudo-intellectual dribble from the beginning to the end. We see a man lying in a hammock and the narrator goes: "Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers". I have no idea where he got flying saucers from there are none in the movie nor are they ever mentioned. We see the scientist walking into the testing grounds and the narrator says: "Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast". It's like that during the whole movie.
4. Acting and effects. If the movie was supposed to be scary it would all depend on the monster, but like I already mentioned it consists of Tor Johnson with some white stuff on his face. We see the horrible monster chase a couple of boys, but sadly the monster is so fat it cannot really run, but it can throw rocks and wave a big stick There are a couple of gunfights in the movie, but the bullets don't make holes or draw blood Now, this might all sound like it makes some kind of sense, but let me assure you that it does not! There are so many whys and WTFs in this movie!
I will join the 393 out of 527 who rated this movie 1/10, but the fun factor is a lot higher. I didn't end up hating the movie like I did with Troll 2. And hey it's only 54 minutes!
THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is a classic "good bad movie." Big Tor Johnson
is a Russian scientist who is transformed into a choke-happy maniac
after an A-bomb test. With two of the blandest rangers imaginable hot
on his trail, the "beast" makes caveman noises, takes a nap, chases
after children with a stick and, in an uncontrollable fit of rage,
tosses a rock.
While Tor's indescribable performance is enough to fill one bad movie, there are plenty of other "highlights". For one, the film was shot as a silent, with audio (including some incredibly cheesy "suspense" music) added in post-production. The voice-overs are every bit as unconvincing as the acting. It's impossible to watch the characters interact and not picture someone sitting in front of a microphone, indifferently reading from a script.
Secondly, the film has plot holes so big not even Tor's supper could fill them. The opening scene, for instance, depicts someone (presumably the beast) murdering an innocent woman. But it's prior to Johnson's transformation, and the maniac never leaves Yucca Flats. So who did the deed? And why is it so easy for these characters to get so close to an atomic testing site? And why can't the rangers manage to climb a summit so non-challenging that a couple of young boys have no problem? I guess it helps not to be so inquiring.
The absolute best (or worst?) part of this film is the inane "narration" by director Coleman Francis. With so much silence to fill, it often sounds like Francis is just making things up as he goes along, hoping to sound deep, sophisticated and poetic. An example: "Boys from the city, not yet caught by the whirlwind of progress, feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs." Or: "Touch a button, things happen. A scientist becomes a beast." But just reading such quotes don't do them justice. They really have to be heard, in Coleman's serious-toned voice, to be believed.
And what about the "beast"? Despite the title, Johnson isn't much of one. He looks pretty much like the regular Tor Johnson, save for some "puffy burn" makeup. I was expecting some phony-looking rubber monster. Nor does this beast really do beastly things. He just chokes (or tries to choke) people and makes caveman noises. In the personality department, he makes Frankenstein's monster look like Freddy Krueger.
What's most amazing about THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is that it was a big screen release. People paid money to see this, and in its day, more than a few presumably had to cover their eyes at the sheer horror. The budget was said to be around $34,000, but you'd be hard-pressed to find where even that minute amount went. It looks a group of friends just got together one weekend to have some fun with their new film recorder. Consider the rabbit who hopped onto the set toward the end of filming. Francis just went with the unscripted moment as the rabbit investigated Johnson, who at that point was supposed to be dead but is revived long enough to kiss the animal (what's that about?) before again losing consciousness. It's reminiscent of your family's home videos when the camera suddenly jerks away from little Jimmy roasting marshmallows to an impromptu moment in the background: "Look! A rabbit!"
Love it or hate it, THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is truly unlike anything we've ever seen or will see again. Though it may take more than one viewing to fully appreciate the ineptness, its ridiculousness will stay with you. Recommended for anyone whose gut hurt after PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
I had no idea when I started watching this movie what it was about but
I was very well surprised by the extremely low quality of the movie.
It consists of no on screen dialog, a speaker-voice reads an pretensious load of crap as Tor Johnson staggers around as a confused Russian scientist harmed by a nuclear-test. Even if someone for some bizarre reason would WANT to make such an insane movie they would not have been able to come up with something like this.
Only a truly deranged mind could make such a movie. A genius in its own world of badness, competing with brilliant filmmakers like Ed Wood and others but Coleman Francis outnumbers them all!!
A confusing and mind melting mess of a film. They don't make them like this
anymore! Tor Johnson's chance to star! Tor, as you may know, was a
professional wrestler who went on to fame in Ed Wood, Jr. films like Bride
of the Monster and Plan Nine from Outer Space. His huge build, like a human
wall, and his bald head became famous. They still sell Halloween masks with
In this film atrocity, he plays an atomic scientist on the run! Watch how government agents empty their guns shooting at him at close range, but can't hit his huge 400 pound body! If fact people are repeatedly shot in this film without any effect whatsoever. The film is most famous for its near total lack of dialogue, as an off screen narrator tells the audience what is going on and endlessly babbles cryptic philosophical insights on the modern world. Out of nowhere the narrator says things like "Flag on the Moon, how did get there?" "Young boys feed soda to the thirsty pigs."
The "plot" has Tor accidently stumbling into an atomic bomb test (funny how that happens), getting his clothes ripped up in the process, and then becoming a sort of hermit like desert cave dweller with a big stick. He likes to grab women, carry them around, and lick their hair. There are some other plot elements, but they don't make much sense. In fact, nothing in this movie makes much sense. Perhaps its all meant to be "art" and if so, its a lot more fun than any Andy Warhol film ever was. I would love to make serious film students watch and study Beast of Yucca Flats to learn its cinematic techniques and digest its social commentary.
The long version of the movie contains a nude scene at the beginning. Yes, the film drags in places, but its a unique and unforgettable work.
I don't know what it is, but I find this stupifying excuse for a movie
almost hypnotic in its sheer badness. I am starting to think it is so bad
that it's perhaps the greatest movie ever made! Should I give it a 1 or 10?
It's horrible, but not horrible like 'Manos', 'Wild World of Batwoman' or
'Stroker Ace'. Those are completely unwatchable movies. 'Beast' stands up
to frequent repeated viewings (much like 'Plan 9'). I have to say that
being a BIG Tor Johnson fan may have something to do with it, but I don't
feel the same way about 'The Unearthly' & Tor utters perhaps the most
memorable line in film history in that one.
Perhaps it's the magical touch of Coleman Francis. This is his 'Kane' & it shows frame by frame. The non-sensical narration, the stellar casting, the existence of the first scene in the movie (why??), the sparse landscape, the light aircraft...
All I know is, I just can't get enough of this movie. Good thing Englewood Entertainment has seen fit to release the film on DVD, although I will also keep the copy Conrad Brooks gave me a few years ago why blowing through town showing Plan 9. I only wish Englewood had released it in 'Letterbox' format with director's commentary & a documentary of the making of 'Beast'. Yes, I know Coleman's dead, but somebody somewhere had to be asking Mr. Francis WHY at the time & got it down on film or tape. At the least, I think Conrad is still around to lend some clues.
I feel an idea for a book coming on, but what I'm trying to convey with this overlong comment is that there is excellence and there is amateurish bafoonery, but with the case of this film, the distinction in my brain has been blurred. Perhaps the rating system is not a straight line, but a circle. And '0' & '10' are the same.
By the way, I love the treatment MST3K gave this stinker (along with the rest of the Coleman Francis trilogy), but even that deadens the effect. Watch that one if you must, but for the full effect buy the DVD/VHS of the standard release & watch it. Not once, but about 12 times will do it. Then you will know what I'm talking about. Judging by some of the '10' ratings out there, I may not be alone in this opinion.
Tor Johnson is probably best remembered for his starring in the so-called "worst movie ever made" Plan 9 from Outer Space! Well, the people who voted this obviously never saw The Beast of Yucca Flats! Ed Wood's Plan 9 is an authentic masterpiece compared to Coleman Francis' unendurable work of art. As most of my fellow-reviewers already pointed out: everything that can go possibly wrong in a movie features here times ten! Even though the story only lasts 54 minutes, it's one of the most tedious experiences I ever had to sit through! Johnson plays a devoted scientist (oh yeah, he really looks like one) chased by cops (why? You tell me ) into a radiation test-area. There, he transforms into some sort of Hulky monster that goes on a lame prowl in the desert. What follows is a hilarious attempt by Francis to create tension and confusion, as he shows cops hunting down the wrong person (for 10 minutes!) and Johnson chasing two young boys that got lost in the wastelands. There's as good as no dialogue in the film, only Francis' own voice-over. And I guarantee you'll be wishing him dead after approximately 15 minutes. He talks the biggest nonsense (example: "Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast") and personally introduces you to even the most meaningless side-character! Argh, the humanity!! The spontaneously improvised ending (featuring Johnson kissing a baby rabbit) just stresses how ingeniously awful this production actually is. Oh well, at least it's bad in a fun way. Most of the time, you can't figure out whether to pity or worship everyone involved in this film. Johnson wisely decided to quit his acting career after this but Coleman Francis ambitiously persisted chasing his dreams and delivered the even worse film "Night Train to Munde Fino" in 1966. His cinema career regretfully ended with guest appearances where he got credited as "Fat drunk" or "1st man" What a damn shame! Believe the public opinion on this one, folks! It really is awful
Forget "Plan Nine from Outer Space" and "Bride of the Monster" this Coleman Francis calamity gives Tor Johnson the role of a lifetime. As a scientist turned atomic desert mutant, Tor gets to stumble over rocks, pet a bunny, and scare two ugly kids with a stick, all without a soundtrack! Arguably the worst film ever made.
The towering presence of "Swedish Angel" Tor Johnson and laughable narration that sounds at times like some kind of oriental poetry fail to make this film more than barely watchable. There is no real dialogue (presumably the producers couldn't afford a travelling microphone) -- all the dialogue is postdubbed with the actors conveniently turning their heads away when the speak! -- or story, and the only effects are a guy parachuting off a helicopter and Johnson in pancake makeup. Still, a somehow amusing low-budget film filled with friends and associates of the late great Ed Wood.
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