The Beast of Yucca Flats is a B-movie horror film released in 1961. It was produced by Anthony Cardoza, Coleman Francis, Roland Morin, Jim Oliphant, Larry Aten and Bing Stafford. The film was directed and written by Francis.
The film stars Swedish former wrestler Tor Johnson. The plot concerns a Soviet scientist (Johnson), who defects and flees to a Nevada Test Site called Yucca Flats, only to be turned into a monster by radiation, stalking the desert. The film has very little dialogue and most of the speech is done by omniscient narration provided by writer/director Francis.
Some critics have characterized the film as one of the worst science fiction horror films made, and one of the all-time worst films of any kind, even suggesting that it may be worse than Ed Wood's legendarily bad Plan 9 from Outer Space. In 1995, the television comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured The Beast of Yucca Flats, helping the film develop a cult status.
A woman (Lanell Cado) steps out of a shower and is attacked and strangled to death by a mysterious man as a clock ticks then stops.
Later (or possibly before) in Yucca Flats, Nevada, Soviet scientist Joseph Javorsky (Johnson) has defected from Russia and arrives in America with a briefcase carrying various military secrets, including the Soviet moon landing. Javorsky and his American contacts are suddenly attacked by a pair of KGB assassins (Cardoza and John Morrison) killing Javorsky's contacts and bodyguards. Javorsky flees into the desert, walking for a great distance, and the searing heat causes him to discard much of his clothing. When he wanders in range of an American nuclear test, the bewildered Russian is transformed by it into a mindless beast with an uncontrollable urge to kill. He proceeds to murder a couple in their car on a nearby road, prompting pursuit from police officers Jim Archer (Stafford) and Joe Dobson (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 the mutated 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 mortally wound Javorsky. A jackrabbit later nuzzles his dying body, and using the last of his strength, he caresses it before dying.Tor Johnson as Joseph Javorsky/The Beast
Bing Stafford as Jim Archer
Larry Aten as Joe Dobson
Douglas Mellor as Hank Radcliffe
Barbara Francis as Lois Radcliffe
Ronald Francis as Randy Radcliffe
Alan Francis as Art Radcliffe
Jim Oliphant as Vacationing Husband
Linda Bielema as Vacationing Wife
Anthony Cardoza as KGB Driver/Helpful Neighbor
Bob Labansat as Javorsky's Bodyguard
John Morrison as KGB Passenger
Jim Miles as Javorsky's Driver
Eric Tomlin as Motorist Run Off Road
George Prince as Man Who Reports Murder
Conrad Brooks as Man at Airfield
Graham Stafford as News Boy
Lanell Cado as Strangled Woman
Coleman Francis as Narrator/Gas Station Attendant/Newspaper Patron
Marcia Knight as Jim's Woman
Joseph Luis Rubin as Police Officer
The setting for the film, "Yucca Flats," was based on the real-life Yucca Flat, which has been called "the most irradiated, nuclear-blasted spot on the face of the earth". In 1970, nine years after the film was made, 86 workers were exposed to radiation during the Yucca Flat Baneberry Test. In March 2009, Time identified the accident as one of the world's worst nuclear disasters. Actual shooting locations for the film were all in California: Santa Clarita (desert scenes), Saugus (airplane scenes) and Van Nuys (opening scene interior).
The movie was filmed without a soundtrack. Narration, voice-overs and some sound effects were added in post-production. To avoid having to synchronize the audio to the picture, characters speak only 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. During scenes of gunplay, many characters appear at first to have suffered life-threatening bullet wounds, only to appear in later scenes fully recovered with no visible signs of having been wounded. Extensive narration is used in lieu of plot points being conveyed through dialogue.
The film's total budget was estimated at $34,000.
The first scene in the film is the strangulation murder of a woman (played by Cado) who has just stepped out of a shower, by a man whose face is never shown; it is implied that the killer molests her corpse. 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. (Javorsky as The Beast has burns on the backs of his hands, but the pre-credits strangler does not.)
According to an interview with producer Cardoza by film historian Tom Weaver, the scene was added after the film was complete because director Francis liked nude scenes. Some prints (such as the one used for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode and the print on YouTube) were edited to show the woman clothed for the duration of the scene (running 81 seconds), with the only nudity being a brief flash of breast as she towels herself in front of a mirror. The 2003 Alpha Video DVD print has a slightly longer version of the scene (running 93 seconds), where the woman is shown naked as she puts on a pair of underwear, with both breasts visible several times before she is shown walking out of the room.
Cado had a more substantial role in a later Francis film, Red Zone Cuba (1966), also released as Night Train to Mundo Fine.
The film was panned by critics at the time of its release and is considered one of the worst films of all time. AllMovie panned the film, criticizing the film's "pretentious and obtuse narration" and further stating, "The most enjoyable aspect of this movie is its remarkably short running time".
TV Guide awarded the film 1.5 out of 4 stars.
The film holds a 2.4 out of 10 rating at the Internet Movie Database.