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Tor Johnson is The Beast of Yucca Flats, 1961

From the DVD case: Fans of The Incredible Hulk will love this early sixties horror film. After accidentally being exposed to a dose of atomic radiation, a Russian scientist’s body undergoes massive transformation. With this ill-tempered monster out to reek havoc on the world, is anyone safe? (1961, b&w)

Mark says: The Beast of Yucca Flats is as close as you can get to an Ed Wood movie without actually being an Ed Wood movie. It has a ridiculous plot line, cheesy narration, wooden acting, and features Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space) in a starring role. Still, Beast of Yucca Flats fails to capture that certain Ed Woodian charm.

The movie’s most obvious flaw is its lack of dialog. The entire story is told through the narration of writer/director Coleman Francis. What little dialog we do hear was obviously dubbed in later, and not very well at that. It seems the most creative efforts were devoted to obscuring the characters’ faces as they spoke.

There is amusement value to be found in the narration, though. Incredibly silly lines are expressed with deadly seriousness. For example, as a man relaxes on a cot: “Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers.” This might make sense if the movie had anything to do with flying saucers, but it doesn’t.

The storyline is fairly standard, but silly. Tor Johnson plays brilliant Russian scientist, Joseph Javorsky. So right away our suspension of disbelief is stretched to its limits.

After one of the most boring car chases in cinematic history, Javorsky is transformed into a mindless, killing beast via a nuclear explosion. He still looks like Tor Johnson, but his shirt is ripped and he has some goop on his face. He then strangles a husband and wife and is pursued through the desert by a pair of dedicated patrolmen.

I’m actually making it sound more exciting than it is. For a film of merely 54 minutes, it feels much longer. Much, much longer.

The Beast of Yucca Flats desperately tries to impart a message to us, but we’re never sure what that message is. It seems to take an anti-progress stand (and the filming technique reinforces this theme), but its hard to tell what to make of lines like: “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.” Everything is said as if it is very important, but nothing fits together.

Speaking of things not fitting together, the opening scene is a complete mystery. A woman towels off after a bath (there’s actually some very brief and awkward nudity), and then Tor appears and strangles her.

What’s so perplexing is that this scene takes place before Tor is transformed into the beast. It is also filmed indoors, while the rest of the movie is set in the desert. My guess is that the nudity is a ploy to capture the viewer’s attention, but the overall effect is clumsy and utterly confounding.

I’m giving Beast of Yucca Flats a few points for its amusing narration, but I can only recommend this film to hardcore B-movie enthusiasts. Even then, it’s not a very hearty recommendation.

Despite what the DVD description above says, fans of The Incredible Hulk will not love this film.

Scene to watch for: Never say, “Shoot first and ask questions later,” to Jim Archer unless you mean it.

Line to listen for: “Boys from the city. Not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress. Feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs.”

Bonus: A synopsis of the story, including sound files and images.

Trivia: That cute little bunny scene at the end was completely improvised when a rabbit just happened to hop onto the set. I think it was attracted to the goop on Tor Johnson’s face.

Mark’s Rating: ! ½ out of 5.

IMDB Link

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3 Comments

  1. do you think the nudity was accidental?

  2. John: I think if it was accidental it would have been edited out. But who knows?

  3. you are probably correct! john


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