I have renewed respect for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 troupe. Because not only did they have to watch The Beast of Yucca Flats without wacky commentary (because they had to write the wacky commentary), they had to watch it several times.
There are few examples of cinematic ineptitude as mind-boggling as this movie – it does nothing right, and its only saving grace is a direct result of its ineptitude.
The movie starts with the (very loud) sound of a ticking clock. We see a wan, drab young woman dry herself off after a shower, complete with a quick (and wholly unappealing) glimpse of her breasts. As the woman sits on her bed, she's grabbed by the neck and strangled most unconvincingly by a pair of meaty hands belonging, it's implied, to the titular beast. Said beast also molests the strangled woman in a vague, off-camera way.
This scene is a trifle surreal because the "beast" technically doesn't exist yet. He's Joseph Javorski (Tor Johnson in his last screen role), a Soviet scientist who's defected with some valuable information about the Russian space program. For some reason Javorski meets with U.S. contacts near the Yucca Flats nuclear testing range. But before Javorski can hand over his information, two Soviet agents appear on the scene and a lackadaisical gunfight ensues, followed by an even more lackadaisical car chase. Javorski flees (actually, slowly lumbers) into the wilderness but unfortunately, he wanders into Yucca Flats on the day they're testing an A-bomb. I suppose this sort of thing could happen to anyone.
The A-bomb's radiation (and some yucko pancake makeup) transform Javorski into "the beast". Said beast holes up in a cave, strangles random people, abducts women, and grunts and flails a lot. Eventually local law enforcement sits up and takes notice, and a lengthy manhunt ensues, most of which is spent with the lawmen shooting from an airplane at an innocent man who's trying to find his lost kids. After a bit of rasslin' and some gunfire, Tor keels over and has a bizarre encounter with a bunny rabbit that's supposed to be a statement about something, I think.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that nothing in this movie works. The direction is nonexistent, the acting is beyond nonexistent, the story is ludicrous, the effects more so, and thank God above that the movie is less than an hour long – just on the far side of bearable.
What does work? (And what lets me award this movie its one skull?) The narration. There's almost no dialogue in the movie – whether the soundtrack was lost a la The Creeping Terror or whether the lack of dialogue was deliberate is unclear. I suspect the latter, because even when characters have dialogue their faces are out of the frame – perhaps director Coleman Francis didn't want to spend the money on synched sound. The movie's loss is our gain, though, because the narration (provided by Francis himself) is a joy. It's flat and pretentious and weirdly poetical – he comes off as Ed Wood's older, grumpier brother.
Some choice samples of this narration include:
"A man runs, someone shoots at him."
"Nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers."
"Boys from the city. Not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress. Feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs."
"Always on the prowl. Looking for something or somebody to kill. Quench the killer's thirst."
And my all-time favorite: "Flag on the moon. How did it get there?"
You've got to love narration like that. Especially when there's no extras on the DVD at all. Anyway, watch if you dare, and particularly brave souls may try to out-MST Mike and the 'bots.