Public Domain Movie: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

The Beast of Yucca Flats: Review

The Beast of Yucca Flats is not the greatest film ever made. It doesn’t even come close, but on a positive note, this is one sci-fi/horror film that shouldn’t give the kiddies too many nightmares. This is more the kind of a film that you might watch on a Saturday afternoon when you have got a few friends around (and there is nothing better on the box) than a film that you would watch on a Friday night from behind the sofa.

At the beginning of the film a young lady is murdered in her bedroom. The murderer is not shown, but his muscular-looking forearms hint that it must be The Beast, which is odd because the beast has yet to become a beast. Why this sequence was added to the film is anyone’s guess because it has no relevance to the rest of the film whatsoever.

Not long after this the viewer is treated to a car chase followed by a quick shoot out. Then no sooner have the bullets stopped flying when someone detonates a nuclear bomb. So I don’t suppose anyone can say the beginning of the film is short of action. What it is short of is dialogue. No one seems to speak much and whenever they do the camera is never on the face of the speaker. Or, occasionally, the viewer may see a conversation taking place, but will not hear it. Instead the viewer has to rely on an unseen narrator to tell them the story. In that respect it is similar to Daughter of Horror, but that is a much better film.

The story is about a scientist called Joseph Javorsky. He is a defector from behind the iron curtain, who arrives at a remote, desert airfield near Yucca Flats on his way to a meeting with the top brass at the Avon Testing Ground. Javorsky’s briefcase is full of secret documents about the Russian moonshot.

When his plane touches down though, Javorsky finds Russian agents waiting for him and the poor guy has barely got his feet back on terra firma when the shooting starts. Fortunately for Javorsky some agents from the testing ground are also there to meet him and it is at this point that the car chase begins.

After the car chase there is another shoot out and Javorsky lumbers off into the desert, while the boys from the testing ground do their best to cover his fat ass and delay the trigger-happy Russians. Unfortunately for all concerned, someone at the testing ground chooses that moment to do a bit of testing and a big, dusty mushroom cloud rises above the desert. The Russian’s are killed instantly and Javorsky is treated to a few radiation burns, gets a sudden desire to go around strangling people and becomes…

The Beast of Yucca Flats!

Strangely enough, the nuclear bomb is quickly forgotten. In fact, it rather seems that none of the local residents are even aware that one has been detonated because the fact is never mentioned and everyone appears to be immune to radiation anyway; which is handy, if not entirely believable.

When The Beast’s first victim is found out on a desert road and it becomes apparent that the dead guy’s wife has been abducted Joe Dobson of the Desert Patrol gets on the trail immediately, taking his trusty sidekick Jim Archer with him. According to the narrator, Jim is an ex-paratrooper and this proves handy later on in the film when he has to go airborne and look for The Beast on top of a high plateau. As Jim climbs into the plane Jo’s last instructions to him are to shoot first and ask questions later. Jim takes this rather reckless advice to heart and is soon blasting away at someone walking in the desert below him. Sadly it isn’t The Beast though. It is just a guy called Hank Radcliffe who is out looking for his two sons. So while Jim Dobson does his Rambo act Hank Radcliffe if forced to do a runner while dodging all of the bullets that the ex-paratrooper just can’t seem to shoot straight. And while all this is happening Hank’s boys Art and Randy are lost in the desert, drinking dodgy water out of a lake and playing a deadly game of hide and seek with The Beast.

There are a lot of unlikely scenarios in The Beast of Yucca Flats. The first one is when the H-bomb goes off so close to civilian dwellings, leaving the town intact and the local populace oblivious. Then there is the ex-paratrooper who tries to gun down innocent civilians. How likely is this? And what about that innocent civilian, Hank? What does he do when he gets back to his car? He tells Mrs Hank to wait where she is, and then drives away and leaves her in the middle of the desert. Mrs Hank might not be a contender for any beauty contests, but no one should treat their wife like that. Especially when they know that there is a madman with a gun around, taking potshots at anything that moves.

The Beast of Yucca Flats is an unbelievably bad film. Even the soundtrack is bad—backing music, the voice of the narrator, and plenty of gunshots (pee-owww, pee-owwww), but whenever anyone walks or runs not a footstep is heard. Even during the final fight scene between The Beast and the lawmen the tussle takes place in silence. This is a strange film, but if strange is your thing, you are in luck because you can watch it at the top of the page.

Additional Information

Director: Directed by Coleman Francis

Cast

Bing Stafford … Jim Archer
Larry Aten … Joe Dobson
Anthony Cardoza … KGB Driver / Helpful Neighbor
Bob Labansat … Javorsky’s Bodyguard
Jim Oliphant … Husband on Vacation (Beast fodder)
Linda Bielema … Wife on Vacation (more Beast fodder)
Douglas Mellor … Hank Radcliffe
Barbara Francis … Lois Radcliffe
Ronald Francis … Randy Radcliffe (prospective Beast fodder)
Alan Francis … Art Radcliffe (prospective Beast fodder)
John Morrison … KGB Passenger
Eric Tomlin … Driver Run off Road
Jim Miles … Javorsky’s Driver
George Prince … Man who Reports Murder
Conrad Brooks … Man at Airfield
Graham Stafford … Newsboy
Tor Johnson … Joseph Javorsky / The Beast

Lanell Cado … Woman Strangled in Opening Scene (uncredited)
Coleman Francis … Narrator / Gas Station Attendant / Man Buying Newspaper (uncredited)
Marcia Knight … Jim’s Woman (uncredited)

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