The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS (1961)
Article #1095 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-14-2004
Posting Date: 8-11-2004
Directed by Coleman Francis
Featuring Tor Johnson, Bing Stafford, Larry Aten

A defecting Russian scientist gets caught in a nuclear explosion while being chased by KGB agents, and is transformed into a mutated murdering beast.

I’ve always believed that Ed Wood’s infamy was at least partially the result of his being spotlighted in the Medveds’ Golden Turkey awards books, and that Andy Milligan’s was the result of a passing comment in Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Movie Guide (“If you’re an Andy Milligan fan, there’s no hope for you.”). In the case of Coleman Francis, it was “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” that first brought his name to light, but unlike the other two directors listed, I have yet to encounter any defenders of the man’s oeuvre. Myself, I’ll give him a little credit for giving us the occasional interesting visual moment in this movie, but that’s where the praise ends. This movie is similar to THE CREEPING TERROR in that the soundtrack consists almost entirely of narration and the occasional post-dubbed voice (almost always with the actor’s back to the camera so the syncing of sound and movement doesn’t become an issue); although it feels that it was handled somewhat more professionally here than it did in the other movie, it isn’t any more successful. The narration is maddening; it’s alternatively pretentious, cliched, repetitive, opaque and useless, either telling you what you already know, pounding its themes into the ground with a sledgehammer (just how many people are caught in the wheels of progress?), and eschewing full sentences in favor of annoying sentence fragments (“Joseph Javorsky…Noted scientist…Caught in the wheels of progress… Flag on the moon… How did it get there?…etc, etc.). The editing is annoyingly bad and repetitive as well (just how many shots do we need to see of the concerned mother waiting in a forbidden wasteland for her children to return?). I don’t know if there’s a real story or any point to this movie, despite the narrator’s parade of messages; the sequence where the police try to shoot down an innocent man should have some impact on the movie, but it doesn’t appear to add anything to the movie as a whole. So what you have here is a movie which, from the opening scene in which a woman in a towel is strangled to the last shot of a dying Tor Johnson fondling a bunny, does nothing but make you aware of the slow march of time which turns this hour-long movie into eternal boredom. I’m afraid Tor was better off with Ed Wood.

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