The Beast of Yucca Flats

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The original trailer for The Beast of Yucca Flats described it as "one of the most exciting films ever made." Never, in any movie released before or after, has falser advertisement been used.

“Flag on the moon... how did it get there?”

~ Coleman Francis on the Soviet moon-landing

The Beast of Yucca Flats is a 1961 American sci-fi horror B-movie directed and written on a casting cot by cinematic auteur Coleman Francis. It stars heavyweight Tor Johnson as Russian scientist Josef Javorsky, who gets caught up in the wheels of Cold War progress and is mutated into a hideous beast, then goes around strangling locals in Yucca Valley; Francis himself provides confusing, oblique narration for the on-screen action. It is considered the worst idea in a movie ever, as well as quite possibly the worst movie ever, due to its rock-bottom production values, meandering plot (if there is one), and bleak-soul crushing depressing aura — these would become recurring motifs in Coleman's next two movies.


“Randy, is that water down there?”

~ Art on Water

“I've seen water before, and I'm pretty sure that's water.”

~ Randy on Water

Even the beginning of the movie is pointless. In this cold opening stinger, a topless half-nude woman (Lanell Cado) who may or may not be the Beast's wife steps out of her shower and is attacked and strangled to death by a mysterious man, who may or may not be the Beast pre- or post-mutation. The mystery man then molests the woman's corpse as a clock ticks, then stops.

The movie proper (if you can call it that) then begins. Josef Javorsky (Tor Johnson), a Russian scientist, defects from the Motherland to the United States since he was tired of hearing those Russian Reversal jokes. He arrives in Yucca Valley, Nevada and is being followed by KGB agents Coffee Guy (Anthony Cardoza, who's in Coleman's other movie The Skydivers) and That Guy (John Morrison). They are in pursuit of Javorsky's briefcase that contains secrets on the Soviet space program, which Javorsky plans to give to the U.S. government. When the KGB agents open fire, Javorsky's bodyguards keep him safe and have him wander off into the desert on a horse with no name. A nuclear bomb is then detonated as part of a government test, and Javorsky is caught up in the blast, thus turning him into a melty-faced beast; the explosion also destroys his briefcase, which contained his lunch in addition to the Soviet documents.

Jim's wife, seen here wearing her Wonder Nightie.

As the Beast wanders off, he sees a guy (Jim Oliphant) who's changing his flat car tire, hence the term "Yucca Flats", while on a honeymoon. The Beast chokes the guy and takes his wife (Linda Bielema) to make out with her before taking a bite out of her, to compensate for losing his lunch. Cherokee "I'm Cherokee Jack" Jack (Cherokee Jack, a guy who's in Coleman's other movie Red Zone Cuba) finds the woman's body on the road while driving, and reports the murder to the authorities. Meanwhile, officer Jim Archer (played by Tintin) is interrupted from getting breakfast at Denny's and has to investigate this murder. Officer Joe Dobson (played by some guy from Shining Time Station) investigates the murder as well on top of Butt Mountain and they take the dead lady who was actually part of a scavenger hunt.

The Beast is betrayed by a bunny in his final moments. The bunny was notable for giving arguably the best performance in a Coleman Francis movie.

Back in the downtown district, a vacationing family gets a Yucca Flat while on the road. They stop at a gas station where they get their new tire pumped by Lassie, while their two boys Art and Randy (played by Coleman's own sons Alan and Ronald) feed Coca-Cola to the thirsty pigs. The boys then wander off into the desert, where they are attacked by the Beast but escape. Their father Hank Radcliffe (Douglas Mellor) searches for them, but is mistaken for the killer by officers Jim and Joe despite looking nothing like Tor Johnson, and is shot at from the officers' tiny plane. While Hank is away, his wife Lois (played by Coleman's ex-wife Barbara) gets tips from a prairie dog on how to find herself and be a better woman, and she meets a guy who's not Hank. In the end, the boys are reunited with their parents, the Beast is shot by the sheriffs, and he also gets eaten by a rabbit who randomly appears on-camera in his dying moments.


For almost ten years by then, Coleman Francis had been making a living doing various bit-parts in Hollywood movies. After watching people make movies for so long, he apparently became convinced he could do it himself, so he cobbled together some ideas stolen from inspired by '50s sci-fi, horror, and Cold War paranoia movies of the day and wove them into his script, then titled The Violent Sun. He contacted Anthony Cardoza, a decorated Korean War veteran and welder by trade who had previously worked with Tor Johnson when he was a producer for Ed Wood; apparently makers of bad movies are all symbiotically connected in some way. Coleman asked Tony if he could get Tor back for his movie, where he would play the titular Beast; Tony agreed, and this was the beginning of a long partnership between him and Señor Francis.

Originally the movie was shot with sound, but Coleman accidentally erased it after spilling coffee on the master tape; thus, he refilmed the entire movie silent and had the actors obscure their mouths or tilt their heads away from the screen, so that they could dub in their dialogue via tin-can walkie-talkies without it seeming too awkward (well, more awkward than usual). Editing was done by scissors and a pair of Elmer's glue, the score was composed by an automated public-domain stock music library, and production is said to have cost $34 dollars. Allegedly, Coleman spent $33 of the budget on coffee and Cherokee Jack-themed cigarettes, while the remaining $1 was used for the movie.


For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia think they have an article about The Beast of Yucca Flats.

“Touch a button. Things happen.”

~ Coleman Francis on watching this movie

The Beast of Yucca Flats was generally panned upon release and was ranked #3 in Leonard Maltin's "Worst-Movies of All-Time" list, behind Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate, because it was just plain bad and it also offended Beasts. However, according to Tony Cardoza, the Navy guys who they premiered the movie to in San Diego apparently loved it, and he and Coleman signed autographs for their adoring crowd. Either the sailors were so work-weary that any diversion seemed good to them, or they just liked the movie for the naked lady at the beginning.

In 1995, movie-mocking TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on The Beast of Yucca Flats, in addition to Coleman's other two "classics", helping to make them be funny and not stupid.

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