The Beast of Yucca Flats

The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

81vru5WAWTL_SL1500_cropTitle:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961)

Directed by:  Coleman Francis

Starring:  Tor Johnson, Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford, Conrad Brooks

Anyone who thinks that Ed Wood was the worst director of all time needs to take a look at the movies of a certain Coleman Francis, a legendary boozer who graduated from acting in bit parts in other bad movies to making his own when nobody would employ him any more.

Between 1961 and 1965, Francis wrote and directed three absolutely abysmal Grade Z movies:  The Beast Of Yucca Flats, The Skydivers, and Night Train To Mundo Fine (also known as Red Zone Cuba). Every one of these makes Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space look like a masterpiece by comparison.

Coincidentally, The Beast of Yucca Flats shares the same star as Plan Nine, 26-stone Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, who famously broke Ed’s toilet just by sitting on it. Tor’s grasp of the English language was even more limited than his acting ability, but if you wanted your toilet trashed he was your man.

Tor is certainly cast against type here as, wait for it… a brilliant Russian scientist. Defecting to the West, this man has the fate of the world in his briefcase, along with a lot of sandwiches and crisps. He arrives at an airport and is met by a government escort, but before his bodyguards have time to say, “We should have brought a bigger car,” some trigger-happy KGB agents turn up, intent on kidnapping Tor and taking him direct to the Kremlin branch of Weight Watchers.

A very low rent car chase ensues, cutting between day and night repeatedly, and from desert to forest, to mountains and back. It ends with a pathetic shootout and Tor making off into the desert as fast as his bulky little legs will carry him. He somehow manages to outdistance his younger and fitter pursuers, but accidentally stumbles into a nuclear bomb testing facility just as there’s a jumpy cut to scratchy stock footage of an A-bomb explosion.

22742_2_cropThe radiation from the blast transforms Tor from an overweight, menacing scientist into an overweight, menacing scientist with what looks like a fried egg on he face. He shambles through the sagebrush in search of victims, and first to cop it are a couple whose car has broken down in the area. Somehow they don’t see this monstrous salad dodger bearing down on them until it’s too late. Then he picks up a stick and chases two young boys around for an interminable amount of time with absolutely no chance of catching them.

Meanwhile, two cops, named Jim and Joe, are on the trail of the monster. The narration reveals all: “Twenty hours without rest and still no enemy. In the blistering desert heat, Jim and Joe plan their next attack. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man.”

When they eventually catch up with Tor they blast him with about fifty bullets without reloading. As The Beast slowly succumbs to his fatal wounds, a rabbit stumbles into the scene and he grabs it and kisses it. The rabbit takes a look at Tor’s frightening fizzog and seems as if it’s going to have a heart attack. Apparently the rabbit just came along while the cameras were running and Coleman didn’t want to waste film reshooting it.

It’s often quite difficult to tell what is going on here, because clumsy old Coleman lost the movie’s soundtrack and had to glue the movie together with his own nonsensical narration.

It doesn’t help that much of this narration bears no relation to the action (if you could call it that) onscreen. Out of nowhere, we get immortal dialogue like: “Flag on the Moon, how did get there?” or “Young boys feed soda to the thirsty pigs.” In one scene a shot of a guy sleeping in a hammock is accompanied by Coleman musing: “Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers.”

The most amazing thing about this movie is it runs just 54 minutes, yet after you’ve watched it you’ll feel you’ve lost hours of your life. Coleman Francis was eventually found dead in the back of a station wagon with a plastic bag on his head, but his legend lives on among bad movie buffs.