The Beast of Yucca Flats – USA, 1961

The Beast of Yucca Flats – also known as Atomic Monster: The Beast of Yucca Flats  is a 1961 American science fiction horror film written, edited and directed by Coleman Francis. It stars Swedish former wrestler Tor Johnson, Douglas Mellor, and Barbara Francis.

The film was distributed by fledgling independent Crown International Pictures and is now in the public domain so free to watch online

Many critics have characterized it as one of the worst science fiction horror films made, and one of the all-time worst.

The movie was filmed without a soundtrack. Narration, voiceovers and some sound effects were added in post-production. To avoid having to synchronize the audio to the picture, characters only speak when their faces are either off-screen or not clearly visible due to darkness or distance.

In 2010, a belated sequel was released, Return to Yucca Flats: Desert Man-Beast.

A documentary, No Dialogue Necessary: Making the Beast of Yucca Flats was released in 2011.

Having taken a shower, a woman (Lanell Cado) is strangled by a mysterious man. It is implied that the killer molests her corpse. The identity of the murderer is never revealed and the killing is never discussed after that scene.

Elsewhere in Yucca Flats, Soviet scientist Joseph Javorsky (Tor Johnson) defects to the West. Javorsky is carrying a briefcase with various military secrets, including details of a Soviet moon landing.

Javorsky and his American contacts are attacked by a pair of KGB assassins (Anthony Cardoza and John Morrison). Javorsky flees into the desert, walking for a great distance, and removing much of his clothing. When he wanders in range of an American nuclear test, the bewildered Russian is transformed by radiation into a mindless beast. He proceeds to kill a couple in their car on a nearby road, prompting pursuit from two police officers named Jim Archer (Bing Stafford) and Joe Dobson (Larry Aten).

Meanwhile, a vacationing family ventures along the same road…

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Reviews:

“… there is barely any dialogue. The movie is mostly just explained by the narrator… a very monotone narrator at that. Some of the stuff he says is just nonsense and sounds like rambling. It is kind of like he was voicing over a nature video and accidentally ended up voicing over a bad sci-fi movie.” Basement Rejects

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“Tor Johnson, whose utter inability to emote, heroic resistance to gravity’s pull on corpulence, and seeming unawareness to differentiate between real life and fiction make him utterly irresistible to the human eye. I challenge any film critic to watch this film or any of his other classic B film appearances, and state that he dominates the screen like few cinema stars ever have.” Hack Writers

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“There is a kind of bleak hopelessness in the film that I may even characterize as being postmodern. I think that to characterize Beast as a simple B movie that should have been left behind in the 1960s is an unfair treatment […] It is repetitive and obtuse, but still at its core, there is something poignant and indescribable.” Kings of Horror

“The Beat Poet narration and the off-kilter editing unintentionally provoke comparisons with Dementia. The shocking bad taste of the opening scene … involves something from the steamy 1950s underground.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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” …shot with virtually no dialogue and overlaid with hilariously pretentious and obtuse narration… the phrase “a flag on the moon” pops up so often it could be used in a drinking game. The most enjoyable aspect of this movie is its remarkably short running time.” Cavett Binion, AllMovie.com

“A really cheap, quasi-nuclear protest film […] Droning voice-over narration is used in lieu of dialogue as that process proved too expensive. Tor doesn’t have much to do but wander around; his fellow Wood crony Conrad Brooks shows up as a federal agent. Characters spend lots and lots of time climbing up and down the hills.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

 

Alternate versions:

According to the film’s producer Anthony Cardoza (in an interview by film historian Tom Weaver), the opening shower and murder scene were added after the film was completed because director Coleman Francis liked the risqué material.

Some prints are edited to show the woman clothed for the duration of the scene (running 00:01:21), with the only forbidden flesh shown being a very brief topless flash as she towels herself in front of a mirror. Other prints have a slightly longer version of the scene (running 00:01:33) with more fleeting nudity.

Cast and characters:

  • Tor Johnson … Joseph Javorsky/The Beast – Plan 9 from Outer Space; The Unearthly; The Black Sleep; Bride of the Monster; et al
  • Bing Stafford … Jim Archer
  • Larry Aten … Joe Dobson
  • Douglas Mellor … Hank Radcliffe
  • Barbara Francis … Lois Radcliffe
  • Ronald Francis … Randy Radcliffe
  • Alan Francis … Art Radcliffe
  • Jim Oliphant … Vacationing Husband
  • Linda Bielema … Vacationing Wife
  • Anthony Cardoza … KGB Driver/Helpful Neighbor
  • Bob Labansat … Javorsky’s Bodyguard
  • John Morrison … KGB Passenger
  • Jim Miles … Javorsky’s Driver
  • Eric Tomlin … Motorist Run Off Road
  • George Prince … Man Who Reports Murder
  • Conrad Brooks … Man at Airfield – Plan 9 from Outer Space; Bride of the Monster
  • Graham Stafford … News Boy
  • Lanell Cado … Strangled Woman
  • Coleman Francis … Gas Station Attendant/Newspaper Patron
  • Marcia Knight … Jim’s Woman
  • Joseph Luis Rubin … Police Officer

Filming locations:

Although fictionally based on the real-life Yucca Flat, actual shooting locations for the film were all in California: Santa Clarita (desert scenes), Saugus (airplane scenes) and Van Nuys (opening scene interior).

Trivia:

The film’s total budget was estimated at $34,000.

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