The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

I really feel sorry for Tor Johnson.

I mean really, really, really sorry.

He looks just terrible in this film:  he’s massively overweight, and he seems to walk with an awkward sort of waddle whenever he does so for any length of time.  And he even has to carry a girl around in several of the shots.  Which he only seems to be able to do by draping her under one arm, with her hair and legs dragging.

Add to that his make-up, which seems to look different in every scene, and the fact that he spends most of the film trying very hard to look menacing while grunting and growling — and pretty much failing at it.

And worst of all, he only got paid 300 dollars.

This is one of the most threadbare films I’ve ever seen:  there’s no synchronized sound (in fact, the actors deliberately turn their heads away from the camera when they talk so dialogue could be dubbed in later); it only seems to have one or two people doing the dubbed-in voices;  it even fails the close-up test, with fewer close-ups than Teenagers Battle the Thing — and most of the ones which are used have a tendency to be badly framed.  Or have other people walking into the set-up.  In fact, we see so little of the actors’ faces that both the Director and Anthony Cardoza play multiple parts without anyone noticing.

Oh, and don’t forget all the strange loose ends at the beginning (and not just that tacked on sequence with the girl in the towel):  the defecting Soviet scientist, the KGB agents out to get him, the mysterious briefcase which is so incredibly important — at least, until it burns up in the nuclear test and never gets mentioned again — and all the talk about there being a flag planted secretly on the Moon, and some sort of Soviet rocket.

Maybe it’s the one shown in First on the Moon.

And then there’s the endless narration, provided by the Director, Coleman Francis, himself, which is mostly…strange.  Almost surreal.  Some of it repeats over and over again like a zen mantra.

Now, we come into all this thinking there’s going to be a nuclear mutant — and we do get the expected atom bomb explosion.  But instead, all it does is burn Tor’s face a little and change him from a genius Russian scientist to a murdering fiend.  We get a few references to the blast releasing his inner primitive, and destroying the civilized part of his mind.

Mind you, unlike, say, developing super strength, or growing to huge size, that is something that real radiation might almost do.  But that doesn’t change the fact that, even if he does strangle a few people, he is sad, rather than scary.

Hmmm…just like Tor, when you think about it.

But the truly sad part about all this is that somehow Coleman Francis actually managed to make two other movies after this one!

Let’s face it:  this one was made for MST3K.

And they’re  welcome to it.



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