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  Beast of Yucca Flats, The Radiation Rubbish
Year: 1961
Director: Coleman Francis
Stars: Tor Johnson, Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Monica Knight, Bing Stafford, Larry Aten, Tony Cardoza, Coleman Francis, Conrad Brooks
Genre: Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 3 votes)
Review: Russian nuclear scientist Joseph Javorsky (Tor Johnson) defects to the United States with a briefcase full of top secret documents, and he is met at an isolated army airstrip by the Americans. However, the Kremlin have sent two agents to retrieve the briefcase and kill Javorsky, and a car chase begins with the Soviets shooting all the while as the defector is driven away. The two cars end up at the Yucca Flats atomic bomb test site, and after killing the American agents, the Soviets close in on Javorsky just as an A bomb is detonated. The Soviets perish, but Javorsky survives the blast as a scarred beast of a man with one thing on his mind: to kill - and kill again!

There are some movie actors who get the chance to star in their own film all too rarely, but Tor Johnson, the lumbering heavy of a number of low budget horrors and science fiction movies, seized his opportunity with two enormous hands when The Beast of Yucca Flats came his way. Written (and narrated) by director Coleman Francis, the film sees Tor honing his massive, bald, brainless brute act to perfection; well, I say perfection, it's the peformance he always gives, really. Still, in all honesty you couldn't imagine anyone else in the role, and it's something of a swan song for the cult figure.

The Beast of Yucca Flats is one of those films with a budget so low (it looks like it was shot on weekend trips to the desert) that apparently no dialogue was written for the actors to speak, and the onus of explaining what is going on is placed on the narration. And what narration it is! Francis obviously has something important to say with his opus, and the voiceover poses such questions as "Flag on the Moon - how did it get there?", apropos of nothing. He has a problem with progress, or the wheels of progress anyway, and is sceptical that such modern creations as weapons of mass destruction are the way forward.

You could call it pretentious, and it is, but this is basically a monster movie, and even at just under an hour it seems padded. Tor, dressed in rags and with a blank look on his face, claims his first victims when he stumbles upon a couple in a broken down car: he strangles the man and renders the woman unconscious (no, not by making her watch this film) before picking her up with great difficulty and setting off for the nearest cave, all the while kissing her hair. Or is he sucking her hair? Whatever, he likes her hair. The police are quickly involved, and a huge team of two men are sent to catch the crazed killer.

Early on in the film, a topless woman is seen in her bathroom, and is murdered by an unseen assailant. What does this have to do with the rest of the film? Who knows? It's never referred to again; maybe it was to keep you watching to see if any more naked women showed up. They would certainly be more interesting than the interminable chase sequence that features lost two boys being hunted by their father, who in turn gets mistaken for the Beast, and shot at (the narrator takes this moment to muse on man's inhumanity to man). Despite being hit pretty squarely twice, the father gets up and rushes back to his car.

There may be a little entertainment value in watching how Francis manages to avoid showing anyone talking, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and the excitement levels are virtually zero, especially as the easiest way to avoid the Beast is to break into a brisk walk. A tender moment with a bunny aside, there's not much reason to watch this film to the end, except to marvel at the home movie ineptitude of the whole project (for example, the Soviets' bullets missing towering Tor from about ten feet away). It's unbelievable it was ever released, but as I say, it did reward Tor with a starring role, so maybe it can hold a special place in your hearts? No? I can't blame you. Non-stop music by Irwin Nafshun and Al Remington.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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