The Beast of Yucca Flats
Year of Release: 1961
Also Known As: The Atomic Monster: The Beast of Yucca Flats, Girl Madness
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 54 minutes
Director: Coleman Francis
Larry Aten ... Joe Dobson
Bing Stafford ... Jim Archer
Douglas Mellor ... Hank Radcliffe
Barbara Francis ... Lois Radcliffe
Ronald Francis ... Randy Radcliffe
Alan Francis ... Art Radcliffe
Anthony Cardoza ... KGB Driver / Helpful Neighbor
John Morrison ... KGB Passenger
Conrad Brooks ... Man at Airfield
Coleman Francis ... Narrator / Gas Station Attendant / Man Buying Newspaper (uncredited)
Tor Johnson ... Joseph Javorsky / The Beast
A Russian scientist is pursued by unscrupulous KGB agents into an atomic test site, where he is exposed to a massive dose of radiation when an atomic bomb is exploded. His body undergoes horrific changes, transforming him into a rampaging monster that terrorizes the populace.
The Beast of Yucca Flats, remindin' us that 400lb Scandinavian men with skin the color of sheet rock thrive in 110 degree temperatures an can easily eke out a livin' for themselves by usin' their natural grace an cat-like stealth to ambush passing motorists. The secret lies in their unmitigated whiteness, which reflects so much sunlight that they can ignite the windsocks on nearby tool sheds if they're not careful. Matter of fact, if Archimedes had tried usin' Tor Johnsons instead of mirrors to ignite the Romans' ships, his library might still be standin'. An speakin' of guys who got sacked, Cleave Furguson, Billy Hilliard an I all played hooky from work on Monday an headed out to Landfill Springs to bag our Thanksgivin' turkeys so we could celebrate the anniversary of that one time we were nice to the Indians before we turned heel an destroyed 'em for havin' more fashionable hats'n us. Was kind of a nasty day, real windy an cold, the kinda day where your nose runs so much that your nostrils end up drippin' so much that they freeze shut an... oh right, you guys're prolly tryin' to eat, sorry. Anyway, it was pretty miserable, plus I hadda pick up Apollo an deposit 'im back on his bench seat by the stove three times while I was packin' my gear up on account of 'im breakin' his leg last week when he dove into the old outhouse hole an landed on a frozen pile of... crap, there I go bein' gross again, I apologize. At least there was a little snow on the ground, made it real easy to find 'em, an boy did we ever find 'em. Musta been 50 of 'em in the bunch, an the wind was workin' with us just perfect so they couldn't smell us or nothin', so we set up shop there an had Cleave go to work with his horny hen call an pretty quick the Toms were practically trippin' over each others' beards to get in range of our scatterguns. So we each pulled up an brought down a good sized bird an waited for the shots to scare off the rest of 'em so we could go claim our prizes an head for home, cept that ain't what happened. No, what happened was like a scene straight outta Poultrygeist, cause right about then all the Toms started to organize the avian infantry like a grass roots political organization an rush us like the audience at a Who concert.
Cleave dropped his gun an started tossin' his bear traps an coyote snares in a circle around us but that only took out the first wave, an right about that time Billy's gun jammed. So Cleave an I hadda stand back to back an scatter feathers all over the countryside like a down comforter caught in an exhaust fan, an it seemed like we were startin' to get the better of 'em til the hens descended upon us from the trees. Knocked Cleave an I plum to the ground, an pretty quick the P.O.'d poultry'd drawn tic-tac-toe grids all over us with their claws til Billy grabbed up two of 'em an started whippin' 'em around like nunchakus. It was prolly the finest hen-jutsu display I've seen in my entire life, I bet even Bruce Lee was watchin' from up above an cheerin' 'im on as he unleashed the bird-fu in every conceivable direction an some I didn't even know existed before. Eventually Cleave an I were able to get ahold of our guns again an rejoin the fray until we'd finally blasted or battered 78 birds to death (I hadn't seen the hens until they Pearl Harbored us), an naturally we got stopped by Amos Anderson (our local game warden) on the way into town. He confiscated 75 of our birds for the local food bank, but we were at least torn up enough that he believed us when we used the Alfred Hitchcock defense an gave us a pass on the 75 counts of illegally harvestin' a game animal an let us go so we could head over to Walleye's Topless Dancin' and Bait Shop an get Tetnis to suture up all our gashes before they got too fowled up an went septic on us. I don't wanna make a big deal out of it though, sides, I'm real thankful that we got out alive so we could spend the holiday with Sadie Bonebreak, Tetnis (hopefully nobody's deep fryers explode today, cause he closed up shop to have dinner with us), Apollo, an Shankles. Even though we hadda eat in the livin' room so Apollo'd quit bawlin' about bein' left outta the festivities, an even though Shankles popped outta the trash can while Sadie's girlfriend was tryin' to throw the turkey bag instructions in there. I thought she was gonna piddle up my floor til Sadie pulled Shankles outta there an gave 'im a chin scratch to show 'er he wasn't dangerous. I guess the other thing I'm thankful for is that there're very few movies that're as bad as the one I'm about to describe, so let's all take a moment to reconsider whether or not flicks like Ghoulies, Leprechaun, or even Carnosaur really are turkeys, an enjoy The Beast from Yucca Flats.
It really is a Grade A turkey. Butterball could package this movie along with their 20 pounders in the frozen food section an it'd still be more excitin' to just watch the bird thaw out, but often times it's the bad ones that really have the most to teach us about life, because they're workin' from a blueprint that most of your talented directors wouldn't touch with a cup fulla two-day-old coffee hurled at the speed of light. So before we get to the plot (trust me, it won't take long once we're there), I'd like to mention a few doozies you'd never learn watchin' a flick made by anybody but Coleman Francis. First, if you're a defectin' Soviet scientist an your American contacts ask to meet you on a missile testing range at an oddly specific time, it's possible that they may not have your best interests at heart. Second, Commies ain't all bad. Some of 'em will even honor standard playground etiquette if you call time-out durin' a gun fight an pause to let you reload when your clip runs dry. An third, in the '60s people were into some pretty disgustin' stuff. We know this because Tor Johnson strangles no less than three people in this flick an not one of 'em make even the slightest effort to stop 'im. I'm startin' to think that David Carradine was simply a normal product of his time who just happened to get caught with his pants down an his neck tie on a little too snug.
But the thing that I found most interestin' about The Beast of Yucca Flats was how easy it was for the Commies to naturalize themselves right under our noses without anybody noticin'. People tell themselves that there's nothin' to worry about, cause when Ronnie Reagan de-Commifies somebody, they stay de-Commified. But I don't think they're givin' the Commies enough credit when it comes to infiltratin' society an fillin' its people's heads with backwards Soviet propaganda. The Beast of Yucca Flats actually demonstrates just how easily a Soviet assassin can go from wipin' out a defector one day, to a "helpful neighbor" the next, without a single person realizin' what's happened. Sound far-fetched? You don't hafta take my word for it, just look at the credits. Now who's paranoid? I bet when this KGB guy showed up at the end of the flick to help look for the kids, he was prolly fillin' his fellow citizens' heads with all kinda Commie rubbish like; "Een mowdere Rowsha veen young vons go meesink vee luke high und low, but alvays low virst, cose is dangerose up high aftare Vodekah breakvast. Iz eazy to geed deezy up dere, und Stalin deesband healt' care seesdome," an "So vhad, loss of von child eez not maddare, vee make more vor you eef vife eez keenki." Now, you'd think that kinda talk might raise some unkempt, sweaty eyebrows an cause at least a few shotguns to cock defensively, but no. No one suspects a thing, an you know why? Complacency. It's just like these Syrian refugees everyone's lettin' into their countries, I mean, don't they realize what's gonna happen now? They're gonna end up with "A Taste of Damascus" restaurants springin' up on every street corner with little signs in the windows that read; "Not sure if Syrian food is for you? Denascus." Ya know, cute little disarming things like that that fog the mind an make you start to look at 'em like they're people. Now, I don't wanna sound prejudiced or nothin', but is it too much to ask that everybody who moves into our pad act exactly like us? After all, if I can walk into Tijuana Tom's Mexican Cuisine and Custom Pinata Palace an tell Poncho Quesavilla that I'd like a "numero five-o with el Dr. Pepper-o" with minimal Spanish comprehension, the least our immigrants can do is get real fat an talk at 1100 decibels to the person sittin' directly beside 'em to try fittin' in, don'tcha think?
The movie begins with this chick in a towel that's got a dirt bike skid mark on it who wears 'er shoes in the Motel 5 shower cause an she's afraid she might slip on the last guest's happy ending. Only the shoes musta been some kinda mystic security ward that protects 'er from giant radiated fat guys, cause pretty quick she gets strangled with this mildly annoyed expression on 'er face like somebody's been drivin' 'er car an moved the seat forward. Then we get this narration about a Rooskie scientist (Tor Johnson) that escaped Commieland with some rocket ship blueprints who's headin' to a meetin' with some big wigs from the Kennedy administration, cept when he lands at the predetermined meetin' place (Deke's Gas an Grocery just off Interstate 5 past the world's largest coyote pelt tradin' post) Jack's nowhere to be seen, an these two guys who look like they're from Des Moines who're supposed to be KGB agents show up an try to blow off Tor's Bolshedik. Fortunately, Torski an his aides're able to escape, cept then they stop the car for no reason an the Commies end up turnin' his driver an bodyguard into borscht while Tor flees into the desert like a bridal veil clad goat fleein' a Daesh encampment. Unfortunately, that's about the time an A-bomb goes off an splatters a buncha dried Play-Doh onto Tor's face, slightly tears his favorite business casual suit, an turns 'im into The Incredible Sulk. Some time later, a couple pulls off the highway so Fraud Serling can narrate some more about the nuclear boogeyman, an unfortunately, nobody bothered to mention to the couple that the hills have thighs. So Tor uses his ninja-like reflexes to sneak up on the driver an wring his neck like a wounded quail, an then hops into the backseat without the wife noticin' the car practically rollin' over from the sudden shift in weight distribution, an squeezes 'er neck like a ketchup bottle. Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe Dobson of the local tumbleweed defense league finds the dead guy sprawled out on the pavement sunnin' 'imself like a fat broad with a tramp stamp at Panama City Beach, takes one look at the size of the footprints leadin' away from the site, an suddenly remembers he hasta go bust a jack rabbit that looked like it mighta been high on payote. Then Joe goes to get Jim (his partner) even though the camera man pretty much ignores 'em both in favor of the cleavage on Jim's prostitute, while Tor carries the chick he just strangled around under one arm like he's gonna head down to Malibu an try to surf on 'er. Cept then Tor starts gettin' a nasal reaction to the gal's perfume an hasta lay 'er down in his cave while he heads down to the Stuckey's to grab some Claritin, an while he's gone Joe an Jim show up an accidentally finish 'er off when they jostle 'er around too much on the trip back tryin' to make sure that 'er jigglers're still functionin'.
Elsewhere, some white bread middle-American tract house dwellin' family (Hank, Lois, Randy, an Art) is pullin' in to Deke's Desert Oasis gas station an homemade rabbit jerky stand, so the rotten kids can pour Coke all over some pigs an gawk at an emaciated coyote that's chained to a tree like those dogs in the American Humane Society ads that Animal Planet runs at 4 in the mornin'. Then they get back on the road again an run over one of those barbed wire tumbleweed traps from Wrong Turn, an while Hank's changin' the tire, Randy an Art wander out into the desert against Lois' wishes cause it was basically still the 1950s an back then 8-year-old boys outranked their mothers in the chain of command. While that's goin' on, Jim an Joe determine that Tor musta chartered in a Cessna an gotten up on toppa the plateau, so Joe sends Jim up in a little two-seater an instructs 'im to make like the Furguson, Missouri police department an shoot first an ask questions later the moment he sees anything beastly in nature. In the meantime, Hank's gone out to find the boys, only he also happens to be the first thing Jim sees while he's up in the plane with his rifle hangin' out the window like Sarah Palin on a moose hunt, an Jim ends up wingin' Hank an parachutin' down to the spot to star in the 37th remake of The Most Dangerous Game. Fortunately, Hank toughs it out an gets back to his car where he promptly abandons his barely functional wife alone in 110 degree heat not too far from the man who shot him just moments before, to go find help. Meanwhile, Tor catches the kids nappin' under a tree an starts makin' noises like he just bit into a chunka onion on his Whopper an waves his Gandalf staff around in a blind rage shoutin' somethin' along the lines of "dey promise it be Tor's way!" Then Tor patrols the rest of his lawn to make sure no more kids're out there pickin' his flowers or pluggin' up his sprinklers while the kids hide in his cave, an once he makes it back there an finds his cave-lady missin' he's P.O.'d. Course, by the time Tor's done yellin' at the sky like Chuck Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes, all the wind's gone out of his sails/brain an he needs to lay down an drool all over a tarantula for awhile to regroup. Unfortunately, when the kids try to sneak outta there they trip over the picture of Ed Wood that Tor never goes anywhere without, an within minutes Tor's a good twenty feet behind an almost gainin' on 'em as they flee down the mountainside. Gonna cut it off here, but as I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn, this one's in the public domain an can be viewed for free on Youtube. Here's a link:
You wouldn't think that one guy could cram this level of fallacious reasoning into a movie running only 54 minutes long, but then you'd be underestimating Coleman Francis. Normally it'd be unfair to heap all the blame on one guy like this, but normally one guy doesn't try to direct, produce, write, edit, act, and narrate for themselves. So hows about we take a look at some of the things that can go wrong when you think you're Superman and try to handle the entire movie on your own, I think you'll find it most depressing. The first thing that anyone watching this is gonna get hung up on is the idea of Tor Johnson playing a scientist, even though that part of the movie only lasts for about five minutes. You remember Tor, right? Plan 9 from Outer Space, Tor? Bride of the Monster, Tor? Right, you know Tor. Yeah, he's a scientist. Good luck grapplin' with that one. Then you've got the opening scene, which almost makes sense, in that most American horror movies start with an opening jolt before the credits. Only here, it's really just an excuse to show off an actress's nipple (which in 1961 was pretty scandalous), and makes no sense at all because Tor hasn't gone monster on us yet. Something else that wasn't completely unheard of in those days for a low budget movie is the fact that there was no dialog recorded during the shooting, and everything you hear was dubbed in later. Most of which is Coleman Francis' nonsensical narration, which is best described as what I imagine a stupid person believes a smart person sounds like. Here're a few examples of what might pass for depth if you were on the verge of passing out in an opium den: "Flag on the moon. How'd it get there?" "Vacation. Man and wife. Unaware of scientific progress." "Nothing bothers some people. Not even Flying Saucers." I dunno what this beatnik science fiction poetry was supposed to instill in the audience, but I'm reasonably sure it failed. Then there's the classic: "A man murdered, a woman's purse." He seems to be railing against atomic power, as he uses the term "progress" derisively so frequently, but who knows.
Then there're the logistical fallacies, including, but not limited to; the fact that a Russian defector with top secret documents is meeting government officials at a missile testing site, the Commies allowing Tor's bodyguard to reload during their shootout, the fact that Tor's clothes are barely damaged by an atomic blast that melts his skin like a candy bar on a Death Valley patrolman's dashboard, nobody ever struggles when they're being strangled to death, the wife fails to notice a man the size of a water buffalo climbing into her backseat, there're power lines visible behind the two children who're supposed to be lost, the cops chartering a plane to get onto a plateau that you can't reach without either one realizing that the killer would've needed one to get there as well, the fact that the surrounding vegetation is unharmed by the repeated exposure to atomic bombs, the sling on the cop's rifle being completely unaffected by what should be a lot of wind as he fires from a plane's window, no shells eject from the rifle when he utilizes his bolt action to reload, and the father of the missing kids leaves his wife alone in 110 degree temperatures not too far from a man who tried to kill him for no reason moments earlier. Other than that, the writing is airtight. And to reiterate, everything detailed in that list of superior reasoning skills is packed into a movie that's 54 minutes long. Despite not being the worst movie I've ever seen, I think it probably has more script problems than any other I'm familiar with. But what the heck, maybe the fine acting and special effects can bail it out, right? No sale huh? Well, I tried.
Okay, let's try to find somethin' stronger than an A-bomb to nuke this thing with, just to be safe. The plot, I think I pretty well covered. Mr. Francis, I award you zero points, and may God have mercy on your soul. The acting is difficult to gauge due to everything being dubbed, but I can tell you that the dubbing is devoid of even the tiniest shred of excitement. About the only time you even raise an eyebrow slightly is that scene at the cave where Tor screams like he just caught a buncha armpit hairs in his t-shirt. I think the scene where Tor stumbles as slowly as possible through the desert with the KGB guys in tow pretty much sums this one up, it's just abysmal. And did I mention the woman who plays Lois Radcliffe was Coleman's wife, and that the children who play the kids are his kids? I probably should have led with that, cause that's all you really need to know. Here's who matters and why: Douglas Mellor (The Lost Boys), Anthony Cardoza (Bigfoot 1970, Night of the Ghouls), Jim Oliphant (Bigfoot 1970), John Morrison (Unhinged), Eric Tomlin (Bigfoot 1970), Conrad Brooks (Plan 9 from Outer Space, Jan-Gel 1 - 3, Plan 9, Super Hell 1 - 3, Psychotic State, Invasion of the Reptoids, Kelton's Dark Corner: Trilogy One, Zappo: Sinners from Beyond the Moon, Shadows in the Woods, Purvos, Gypsy Vampire 1 - 3, 2020: An American Nightmare, Brain Robbers from Outer Space, Corpses are Forever, Zombiegeddon, Minds of Terror, Bikini Planet, Raising Dead, Max Hell Frog Warrior, The Monster Man, The Atomic Space Bug, Silent Scream 1999, Crimes of the Chupacabra, Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolf, Toad Warrior, Ed Wood, Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000, Puppet Master III, Curse of the Queerwolf, Deathrow Gameshow, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, The Sinister Urge, Night of the Ghouls, Bride of the Monster, The Mad Magician), Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls, The Unearthly), Coleman Francis (The Thrill Killers, This Island Earth, Killers from Space), Marcia Knight (Mako: The Jaws of Death, Impulse 1974, Stanley), Joseph Luis Rubin (Hatchetman, Skeeter).
The special effects are more or less nonexistent. You've got a little dried Play-Doh on Tor to represent the burning caused by the explosion, and while that's laughable on a logistical level, it's not completely terrible to look at in black and white. If the movie had been in color, it would be a complete joke, but instead, it's only mostly a joke. Other than that I can't recall seeing anything that might be considered an effect. The shooting locations, if judged entirely by how they look, are acceptable. Problem is, they shouldn't look the way they do with atomic explosions going off regularly. The vegetation should be either nonexistent or at the least burned to a crisp, and an explosion that radiates Tor into a mutant (yeah, I know) on a location that's only three minutes drive from a gas station would probably cause a little collateral damage to the nearby structures, I'm thinkin'. Plus you've also got neighbors that apparently live pretty close by as well, so no, this is no good either. The soundtrack, by virtue of not being completely awful, wins the burnt biscuit award. It's kinda repetitive, but it isn't entirely without spirit, despite being rather dated. If the rest of the movie weren't a complete turkey it would probably be capable of injecting a little mood and excitement into the mix now and again, but on its own there's really very little it can do. One of the three credited composers (Gene Kauer) did go on to do some other genre flicks, including; The Atomic Brain, Claws, Monster, and all four Faces of Death movies. Overall, this one's pretty rough to get any enjoyment out of even on a camp level. The asininely incoherent narration that attempts to convey depth helps a little in that regard, but The Beast of Yucca Flats is pretty difficult to sit through, with its one saving grace being a very short run time. I wouldn't recommend this one unless you're simply looking for new and original ways to hurt yourself.