The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Tor Johnson is one of those actors who was a special effect without any help. Just by showing up on screen, he’s thrilling. In this one, he’s Joseph Jaworsky, a Russian scientist who runs from the Iron Curtain and finds his way to Yucca Flats, where radiation turns him into a mute beast. All he wanted to do was give the Americans the secrets to the Russian moon landing!

American actor, writer, producer and director Coleman Francis made this, casting his sons and himself in the movie. His oeuvre, as it were, is made up of films like The Skydivers and Red Zone Cuba. People don’t just smoke in his movies. The smoking becomes central to the entire film. Kevin Murphy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 said that the themes of his movies are ” death, hatefulness, death, pain, and death.”

The police, for no real reason or trial, shoot the irradiated Tor Johnson over and over, but he lives just enough to hug a jackalope* before he dies. The police officers in Francis’ films, which often end his stories by brutally blowing away the bad guys, may be the most realistic ones in the history of movies.

Everything in this movie is dubbed. Nobody speaks on camera. Even guns are fired off-camera and then b-roll of guns being shot is cut in. The editing is such that some characters appear to have been shot to death and then arise and come back in later scenes. There’s also a murder scene in the beginning with a naked woman in the shower being choked. That scene is only in this because Francis likes shooting nude scenes.

What’s funny is that this movie predates The Incredible Hulk and seems very much like the same  origin story. Maybe that’s a coincidence. As for Tor Johnson, he would only make one more movie, appearing without credit in Head.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*The jackalope wandered on set and Tor Johnson improvised caressing it. Man, life is awesome, isn’t it?

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