|OpenFlix > Beast Of Yucca Flats, The|
There are no special effects, sans stock footage of an atomic blast. (The blast is at dusk... while the surrounding action is in bright So Cal daylight :-). The atomic fallout turns Joseph Javorsky, "noted scientist," into a mutant zombie Beast. The rest of the story is... unpredictable. The Beast lives in a cave, amidst a vast distance... yet kids happen to bump into him, and posse pursuers go straight to him. At first glance, they know he must be a killer because a) he's big, b)he has a torn shirt, c) he has some white stuff on the side of his face, d) he moves stiffly. ( a) and d) were also true *before* the atomic blast:-). So the posse shoots this Beast, this casualty of scientific "progress." But then the atomic "Beast" comes back to life (sort of, it's hard to tell:-) to choke the life out of us... and to metaphorically choke our dreams of a brave new world! "The Beast of Yucca Flats" is a reflection of our nuclear age... and a haunting premonition of the future!!
The look of "Yucca" is black and white minimalist. There is no dialogue, minimal "action," and minimal story to get in the way of the awkward images. I really liked it, as a relaxing counterweight to all the overkill in movies since the blockbuster age (Jaws, Star Wars, late 70's and forward). And there is some kind of Ed Wood-esque grasping for larger themes; science and progress are dangerous, cold war paranoia, stamping out someone "different," decline of rugged individualism. "Yucca" is a slapdash "project" and/or odd visionary genius.... or just a blank 50's canvas that you can read a lot into....
And my favorite part was the (hilarious!) narrator -- with his Dragnet serious style voice and philosophical bent. Of the few lines the narrator says (usually to tell us what we already know, or what we just saw for ourselves!), he introduces three or four times: "Joseph Javorsky, noted scientist." Regarding a man standing by his car, he narrates, "caught in the gears of progress." (?!) Adding a twist for a badged posse guy, he states, "caught in the gears of justice." (?!) And for two posse guys climbing a (mild!) hill, "One slip, and it's a thousand feet to *nowhere*."
What does it all mean? I have no idea! But this is a very interesting and entertaining movie!
A Russian scientist, played by Tor Johnson, is chased into A-Bomb test area by agents when he defects to America. As a result of exposure to radiation, Johnson is turned into a fiend and goes on a rampage. After kidnapping and killing several residents, he is eventually killed.
Most of the movie is in narration which is an indication of the film's low, low budget.
Government security sure has gotten lax at nuclear test sites. It seems like any old defecting Russian nuclear physicist fleeing Soviet agents (who are oddly indistinguishable from American gangsters) can stumble into an A-bomb detonation by accident and turn into a bloodthirsty monster. (You think Stan Lee watched this film before creating the Incredible Hulk?) Meanwhile a vacationing family wanders through the desert as the cops hunt the atomic beast. Tor Johnson (an Ed Wood Jr. fixture) makes a superbly cheesy rampaging mutant, but the film really enters the Twilight Zone when the investigating cops mistake an innocent dad looking for his sons lost in the desert for their target ("Shoot first, ask questions later" is their motto). Supercheap cult director Coleman Francis shot this without sound, dubbing it all in later, and he clumsily cuts away from every actor as they start to speak to hide his handiwork. He hardly had to worry: the flat dialogue and wooden narration is almost absurd enough to distract viewers from his cinematic incompetence. In short, a masterpiece of zero-budget camp with an unbelievably surreal edge.--Sean Axmaker
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