The Best Movie Critic + review

The Beast of Yucca Flats

Justin heard about "Monster Week" at The Movie Advocate and knew right away what he wanted to write about:

In the spirit of monster week here at The Movie Advocate, I wanted to contribute a note about one of the most unique monster movies I have ever seen, The Beast of Yucca Flats. Let me be clear, The Beast of Yucca Flats is not a good movie It is completely derivative, boring, and at times a text book example of how not to make movies – and beyond that how not to tell a story. Now that that’s out of the way, here are some reasons why you should watch The Beast of Yucca Flats.

This was the first of a trilogy of movies by auteur of awful, Coleman Francis. From a conventional standpoint, it is also the best. Francis was a bit actor who decided to direct. His films have the cold seriousness of Orson Wells (who is clearly a big influence) married to the filmic incompetency of Ed Wood. The other two movies, The Sky Divers, and Red Zone Cuba (AKA Night Train to Mundo Fine), concern themselves with man’s inhumanity, murder, the Bay of Pigs, coffee, and an inexplicable beach party in the middle of the desert with an over enthusiastic Scottish man…

The Beast of Yucca Flats follows the typical 1950’s sci-fi movie formula: a nuclear experiment creates an unstoppable freak of nature. In this case, the monster is wrestler, Tor Johnson, who wanders around the desert bothering motorists. The only line of defense is the sheriff and his deputy who look like they can’t be arsed to pull someone over, much less stop the mini-man-mountain, the titular “beast.” But this is all making the movie sound way more exciting than it actually is…

Like many B-Movies, The Beast Of Yucca Flats was shot without on-site sound. For some reason lost to history, there are only scant overdubs, and whenever an actor is talking, their back is usually facing the camera. To make up for the confusion this causes, Coleman Francis narrates almost the whole movie – note: the only other movie I can think of that has narration by the director is Mean Streets, and that was Martin Scorcese. Proof that Francis was ahead of the curve? I’m not sure, I’m just asking questions. Francis’ narration is ridiculously excessive and leaves absolutely no ambiguity to the movie. My favorite scene has two newlyweds traveling to their honeymoon. Their car gets a flat and the husband gets out to change the tire. Meanwhile the beast walks up behind him. The narration goes, “A man and women, on their honeymoon, unaware of scientific progress.”

It’s totally mad. The first time I watched this movie, I had it on as background noise while I played video games. It became really obvious really quickly that this wasn’t your typical Laughing Skull or Giant Shrew type B-Movie. No, this was special. The ridiculous narration, the inept filming, the non-menace that is the monster, and all the off-screen dialogue make this movie more detached and nihilistic feeling than Eraserhead could pull off. This might be the perfect existentialist monster movie. Capital M Man created this scientific monstrosity that stalks the barren desert of Nowheresville and murders characters that are completely unrelatable while some godhead somewhere waxes philosophical about nuclear power – it’s absurdist theater at its best.

So check out The Beast of Yucca Flats, it’s such a unique experience that you will never forget it. I’d caution against the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version just so you can experience Coleman Francis’ magnum opus in all its unadulterated weirdness. It’s public domain, so you should be able to find it on the web easily and legally, or in any of those 50 horror movie box set things you see around. If you’re like me and find yourself enjoying The Beast of Yucca Flats a little too much, then you must also seek out Sky Divers and Red Zone Cuba. They are even stranger and more painful to watch – but I’m not trying to rip on these movies, there’s no way that any movies like these will ever be made again.

Magic Moment: When the kids feed Coca-Cola to a pig, this seemed really strange to me.

See also: The Giant Gila Monster, The Fiend Without A Face


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The Beast of Yucca Flats + review