Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Poster for The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) by #ColemanFrancis

Communists chase a defecting scientist into an atomic-bomb test area where he is transformed into a beast.

“Commies made him an atomic mutant!”
“Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers.”

#Horror #SciFi

Last week, I talked about the fact that I went from watching one of the great monster movies from the golden age – The Fly (1958) – to a fairly bad one – Reptilicus (1961). I guess I didn’t feel that Reptilicus was really quite bad enough, because this week I find myself recovering from a movie so bad that it only rates a 1.9 on the IMDb (compared to the 3.6 for Reptilicus), and that movie is the one and only The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961). 

It’s not easy to get a rating under 2.0 on the IMDb. Even some of the worst movies of all time rate higher (Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957), a movie often referred to as “the worst movie ever made”, manages a 3.9, for example). The IMDb’s Bottom 100 List starts at 2.1, in fact. How is it possible for a movie to have a lower rating than the bottom 100 movies on the IMDb?!

If you watch The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), you may find yourself beginning to understand.

I had seen The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) before, but all I could remember about it was Tor Johnson walking around the desert, perhaps carrying a woman at times. I knew it was a bad movie, but I thought it might be so bad it’s good. I also thought it would be interesting to see the details of the story, none of which I could remember. Watching it again last week, I discovered that the reason I couldn’t remember the finer points of the story is that there AREN’T any finer points to the story. It IS just an hour of Tor Johnson wandering around the desert (sometimes carrying a woman).

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little. But there really isn’t much else to it. A family on vacation, that somehow loses their two young boys in the desert, and desperately tries to find them before Tor Johnson does. Some cops who wander around looking for Tor Johnson. And all of this was shot M.O.S. (with no sync sound being recorded), so there are many shots that deliberately frame out the faces of the parents (and other people) as they talk, so you can’t see that the movement of their lips doesn’t match the sound of their dubbed voices.

It all gets old pretty fast, and even with a running time of only 54 minutes, this movie starts to feel long.

I must admit that for the first five minutes or so, I was quite entertained. The movie starts with a woman getting out of the shower, and towelling off. There’s no nudity in the print that I watched, but I’ve since read that there is nudity in some other cuts of the film. But whether she’s naked or not, the woman is suddenly murdered by an unseen assailant. I think the implication is that the killer is Tor Johnson, but that doesn’t make any sense as the movie continues. He is a scientist, and has not yet been transformed into a beast. So, for a moment, I found myself wondering if this scene takes place after he becomes a monster but then we flash back to before he becomes a monster. This doesn’t really make sense either, and there is never a moment when we return to this point in the film.

Basically, this is a scene that was shot later to try to pad out the length of the movie, and to add some nudity (or near nudity) to make it more commercial. Sadly, it is by far the best scene in the movie.

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961) is undeniably #NotQuiteClassicCinema. It’s not really that great (who am I kidding? It’s downright awful), but it should probably be seen by all lovers of trash cinema at least once. Fans of Tor Johnson will also want to add it to their list, as there just aren’t that many Tor Johnson movies out there (unfortunately – the man is always a delight). It’s less than an hour long, so it’s not too much of your life that you won’t be able to get back,. And it truly is so bad that it has to be seen to be believed. I won’t say it’s so bad that it’s good, but it did make me laugh a few times. Consider making it the third or fourth feature of a monster movie marathon on your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.