Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

The Beast of Yucca Flats is a B horror film released in 1961. The film stars Swedish former wrestler Tor Johnson and was both written and directed by Coleman Francis. Some critics have characterized it as one of the worst science fiction films of all time, and one of the all-time worst, even suggesting that it may be worse than Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space

In the pre-credits sequence, an unnamed woman is strangled by an unidentified man after finishing a shower. Following the credits, Joseph Javorsky (Tor Johnson), a noted Soviet scientist, arrives in Yucca Flat in the United States after defecting. Javorsky is carrying a briefcase with various military secrets; the film's narrator alludes to information about a Soviet moon landing. As Javorsky disembarks from his plane, he and his American contacts are attacked by a pair of KGB assassins (Anthony Cardoza and John Morrison). While the Americans stay to fight off the KGB agents, Javorsky flees into the desert, walking for a great distance, and removing much of his clothing. Wandering in range of an American nuclear test, radiation transforms Javorsky 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. After stopping at a service station, the family's two young sons (Ronald and Alan Francis) wander off into the surrounding desert where they eventually encounter and escape from Javorsky. Their father (Douglas Mellor) searches for them, but is mistaken for the killer by one of the police officers, who is searching for the murderer from the air in a small plane. The officer opens fire with a high-powered rifle on the innocent man, who manages to escape. Eventually the family is reunited and the police shoot and kill Javorsky. A wild rabbit appears and nuzzles his lifeless body.
Production notesThe 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. Likewise, during scenes in which firearms are used, the muzzles of the guns are usually out-of-shot when the weapons are fired. Extensive narration is used in lieu of plot points being conveyed through dialogue.

The film opens with the strangling murder of a woman (Mary Victoria Torres) who has just stepped out of the shower; it is implied that the killer molests her corpse. The identity of the murderer is never revealed and the murder is never discussed after that scene. The murderer is dressed like Javorsky after the blast, but the murder is never mentioned during the actual film, nor is there any apparent place in the narrative where it could be said to occur. According to an interview by film historian Tom Weaver with the film's producer Anthony Cardoza, the scene was added after the film was complete because director Coleman Francis liked nude scenes. Some prints (such as the one used for the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode and the print on YouTube) are edited to show the woman clothed for the duration of the scene (running 00:01:21), with the only nudity being a brief flash of breast as she towels herself in front of a mirror. The 2003 AlphaVideo DVD print has a slightly longer version of the scene (running 00:01:33), where the woman is shown naked as she puts on a pair of underwear, with both breasts visible several times before shown walking out of the room. During scenes of gunplay, many characters appear at first to have suffered life-threatening bullet wounds, only to appear in later scenes with recovered with no visible signs of having been wounded.

54 MIN

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