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DIRECTOR: Coleman Francis RELEASE DATE: May 2, 1961 RATING: Unrated
CAST: Tor Johnson et al.
// review by Jeff

For every Citizen Kane, there's a Beast Of Yucca Flats!

If there's one type of movie I seem to love watching more than any other, it's lousy black-and-white B-movies, in particular, horror films. They have a strong tendency to be so awful that they morph into something hilarious by the end. Such is the case with what is often deemed one of the worst science-fiction/horror films of all time, "The Beast of Yucca Flats"! Released in 1961 and shown on the legendary Mystery Science Theatre 3000 program, this cheaply-made film (estimated as being produced for only $34,000 USD) takes the worst parts of any movie and combines them here. Of course, nothing could be as horrible as the tagline: "Commies made him an atomic mutant!" Starring a not-so-light Tor Johnson as Russian scientist Joseph Javorsky, who is escaping from KGB assassins. He is soon subject to the after-effects of an atomic blast on Russian missile testing grounds which causes him to become a mutant whose new goal in "life" is to kill solely for the purpose of killing (and supposedly also for the case of achieving pleasure, as his one female victim in this picture is carried back to his cave and presumably defouled, although it is not shown on screen beyond a quick hair-sniffing event). Eventually, members of the police force take him down (but not before falsely mistaking another regular fellow for the killer and opening fire from a plane but with absolutely awful aim).

It's quite a relatively short film, clocking in at only 54 minutes, but it apparently takes less than an hour to create an unintended monstrosity such as this. The film was originally shot without sound, with occasional conversational dubbing taking place later. There is no audio synchronization in this film though; to save time and possibly money, you only hear people talk when they are facing away from the camera, are at a great distance away, or are off-camera. The dialogue is minimal, and also useless anyway, as characters never have anything pertinent to say. The acting is awful as a whole; don't expect much emotion or noteworthy roles to be found here. There is also a primary narrator throughout the film, but he speaks with such a philosophical tone that you become even more confused about the storyline by listening to him. (The narration is, according to popular rumour, only there because the soundtrack mysteriously disappeared somewhere during the production process!) Frequently referred to during the narration is the fact that certain characters are caught in "progress". What does this mean, exactly? Perhaps the nuclear explosion was progress in itself, and the mutant Russian fellow represents... um... taking down the weak to advance civilization... um... no, I think I'll just say that the director/narrator, Coleman Francis, was on some wacky drug high when he created the narrative script.

There are also numerous smaller flaws that just make this film seem like a joke instead of a serious horror picture. For example, there is a lot of gunfighting occurring, but it seems that whenever someone gets shot, they become instantly healed in the very next shot as though nothing happened. It's hard to know who's alive and who's dead, unless you see them actually getting strangled by the Javorsky mutation. There is also the confusing opening scene, in which a woman exiting the shower in her apartment is strangled by a large man assumed to be Javorsky, but she is not seen again in the entire film nor is she even referred to. The purpose remains a mystery, and just adds to the confusion surrounding this movie's plotline. As a final example of the film's odd ways, there is a scene where a man is strangled while fixing a flat tire while his wife has a cigarette in the car. Atomic Javorsky strangles the man (how he could not notice a 350-pound freak coming towards him is beyond me), but then manages to get into the car and strangle the woman to death from behind without her noticing that there's a heavy mutant entering the vehicle. Furthermore, the car was a two-door small Volkswagen car, and so he could not enter from the back of the vehicle. How did he get in? It's anybody's guess. Either way, it's things like this that put me in disbelief that this movie was made.

The bottom line is this: the movie is funny, not scary as it was initially intended. The only reason why I can possibly recommend this to any viewer, living or otherwise, is for its pure hilarity. You'll laugh when KGB assassins wait while an enemy agent reloads his gun before they begin firing again. You'll chortle when there's a man shooting from a flying plane, noticing that his hair isn't moving, indicating just how fast the wind ISN'T moving. And you'll simply guffaw until you bleed when you hear the manic roaring of Javorsky (as well as his makeup job, created in part with wadded tissues). It's a horrendously flawed film that may bore people with its generally bland nature, yet you won't be able to turn away!

(Title attained from shillPages)


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