Mystery Science Theater 3000: THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS
March 15, 2017 10:37 PM - Season 6, Episode 21 - Subscribe

"Special Guest Star playing a double Role TOR JOHNSON as the Beast" A Soviet scientist wanders the titular flats after getting subjected to moviedom's favorite evil-causing MacGuffin, radiation. Coleman Francis narrates most of his misadventures as he strangles his way through the wasteland while chased by policemen. At the end, dying, he caresses a rabbit. With two shorts: Money Talks, Because there's not a lot to do in the afterlife, the silhouetted ghost of Benjamin Franklin lectures a kid about saving and spending money wisely; and Progress Island U.S.A., Have you considered Puerto Rico? Because this short really, really thinks you should consider Puerto Rico. The last of the Coleman Francis trilogy. Although Paste Magazine's recent list (Metafilter) put this one near the bottom, both Satellite News and Mighty Jack think this is one of the best episodes. YouTube (1h32m) Premiered January 21, 1995.

Satellite News - Mighty Jack's Episode Review - War of the Colossal Fan Guide

Short: Money Talks!
Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt
IMDB (1951, 2.1 stars)
Starring Humphrey Davis.

Short: Progress Island U.S.A.
Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt
"The film presents a description of Puerto Rico of the late 1960s and early 1970s." - Wikipedia
IMDB (1973, 2.0 stars)
Directed by Jorge Delgado. Narrated by John Facenda.

Movie: The Beast of Yucca Flats
Daddy-O's Drive-In Dirt - Rotten Tomatoes (Critics N/A, Viewers 7%) - Wikipedia
IMDB (1961, 2.4 stars)
"A defecting Soviet scientist is hit by a nuclear explosion near Yucca Flats and roams around as a beast."
Directed, written and narrated by Coleman Francis. Starring Douglas, Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford and Tor Johnson as The Beast.

Unexpected association! Turns out that the producer of all of the Coleman Francis movies (and actor in Red Zone Cuba), Anthony Cardoza, also produced The Sidehackers!
posted by JHarris (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When it was announced that a bundle of past MST3K episodes were about to hit Netflix a month ahead of the new shows, I decided I wanted to bring it up in the next MST3K Club post, identifying which of the "20 Classics" have already been screened by the Club, and which were from later seasons...

Catalina Caper
Future War (Season 10, episode 4)
The Giant Gila Monster
Hercules Against the Moon Men
Horrors of Spider Island (Season 10, episode 11)
I Accuse My Parents
Jack Frost (Season 8, episode 13)
Laserblast (Season 7, episode 6)
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (Season 10, episode 3)
Pod People
Puma Man (Season 9, episode 3)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Space Mutiny (Season 8, episode 20)
Teenagers from Outer Space
Time Chasers (Season 8, episode 21)
Werewolf (Season 9, episode 4)
Zombie Nightmare

So it's 9 weeks until the next one on this list ("Lazerblast"), which may or may not mean anything to anyone.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:22 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

This may be my very favorite episode. The only reason I hesitate is that the host segments, while mostly fine, lack the rewatchability of others.

But in all other respects, as I mentioned in the other thread, it's definitely deserving of a high spot on any ranked list. It contains not one but TWO great shorts with great riffing (IIRC only one, maybe two, other MST episodes had multiple shorts).

And the film? Despite its bleak emptiness, the riffing is fantastic. And AS a film, I find this one fascinating for some reason. Yes, it resembles the unwatchable Creeping Terror insofar as it's clearly a barely-scripted collection of editing mistakes and bad footage, like a student film that somebody half-assed—at least, on the surface.

But, this being Coleman, there's an extra psychological layer to it. People tend to focus on Red Zone Cuba when they talk Coleman, but I feel like this one might be a purer distillation of his essence (don't say essence!); if Skydivers was his attempt at a marketable film, and Red Zone Cuba his attempt at an epic road movie, Yucca Flats was his deeply personal meditation on the randomness and meaninglessness of existence. Like, somehow I could see David Fincher doing a cold and forbidding remake of it. With Tilda Swinton as the wife. I don't mean to imply there's a good movie lying underneath the badness, as is sometimes said of Manos—more that Coleman tapped into something here (to some degree accidentally), something primal and raw and of course disturbing. Not even because of the narration, which deserves all the mockery it gets, and is obviously tacked-on and of roughly high-school-level profundity; I refer to the flow, the story, the pacing, the lack of dialogue—all these awkward and crappy elements that somehow fall together in just the right fashion to prop each other up. It seems to take place in a realm that feels real and familiar, but wrong, like a bad parallel universe, or Hell. Compare that with the other really bad MSTed movies, where you generally can't get past the surface-level incompetencies to perceive the substance (if any) beneath. Maybe I've just seen it too many times, and I put too much stock in the amazing (and apparently unplanned, serendipitous) bunny scene. That bunny scene is seriously something right outta Werner Herzog.

But as you mentioned in the other thread, JHarris, "Experienced MSTies tend to like the hardcore stuff, but try to show a newbie Manos, Monster A-Go-Go or Red Zone Cuba and you might chase them off." That's probably what's going on here with me, and I definitely think this is not for newbs. I've made it through most of the really hardcore ones several times (except Fu Manchu, which I think I've only seen two or three times and probably never will again—really nothing at all redeeming in that one), and I can find something to hold my interest even through the likes of Monster A-Go-Go, but Yucca Flats is a film I actually weirdly enjoy.

posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:51 AM on March 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's the KGB, Mr. Benny!
posted by wittgenstein at 5:01 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Paste magazine's rankings do not match my personal ones AT ALL.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:01 AM on March 16, 2017

"Come on up here where it's really obscene!"
posted by Servo5678 at 8:11 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This movie...this movie. This is a true Deep Hurting film.

I love me some Progress Island U.S.A., though.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:16 AM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

At the end, dying, he caresses a rabbit.

Okay, now I want to see Tor Johnson doing Roy Batty's death scene from Blade Runner.
posted by Naberius at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

" rain. Time for go to die."
posted by Chrysostom at 2:30 PM on March 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

I wish I could favorite things more than once, Chrysostom.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:31 PM on March 16, 2017

Create a sock puppet account and favorite it again!
posted by Chrysostom at 5:39 PM on March 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just checked the Wikia and it does the whole movie synopsis as Coleman Francis narration.
posted by ckape at 8:04 PM on March 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

One of the things that came up during last night's viewing is the idea of putting the narration from the movie into a Markov generator. It'd probably be indistinguishable from the original.
posted by JHarris at 3:15 PM on March 17, 2017

I have done that thing I said. Put the narration of Beast of Yucca Flats into a Markov generator:

Joseph Javorsky. Noted Scientist. Dedicated his life to the betterment of mankind. Young Joe Dobson. Caught in the wheels of justice. A man murdered. A scientist becomes a beast.

Jim Archer. Wounded parachuting on Korea. Jim and Joe pick their way upward to the thirsty pigs. Coyotes. Once a menace to travelers. Missile bases run them off their hunting ground.

These men are also from behind the iron curtain. Wife and children killed in Hungary. His aide carries a briefcase. Secret data. Never before outside the Kremlin. Man's inhumanity to man.

Joe Dobson. Desert patrolman. Joe Dobson. Caught in the wheels of progress. Feed soda pop to the plateau. Hours in the frantic race for the betterment of mankind.

Young Joe Dobson moves north, Hank will be caught in the nuclear age. Killing. Killing. Killing. Killing. Killing just to be killing. The pilot dropped his man and destroy him. Kill or be killed. Man's inhumanity to man.

Joe Dobson. Desert Patrolman. Joe Dobson. Desert Patrolman. Joe Dobson. Caught in the nuclear age. Killing. Killing. Killing just to be killing. The hunter and the enemy, Jim closes in for the betterment of mankind. Progress.

Jim and Joe try to keep the desert road safe for travelers seven days a week. Shockwaves of an a-bomb. Vacation time. Man and wife. Unaware of scientific progress. Feed soda pop to hungry pigs.

Coyotes. Once a menace to travelers. Missile bases run them off of their hunting ground. A prehistoric beast in the shade, and no shade.
posted by JHarris at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

(Paragraph breaks are my own, to help readability.)
posted by JHarris at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2017

OK, so you've pasted the training data for the generator, now give us the Markov output.
posted by ckape at 12:07 AM on March 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm thinking about doing the same thing with other movies with omnipresent narrations, like Monster A-Go-Go and Blood Waters of Dr. Z. And then, hope of hopes, give them all a home on the web.
posted by JHarris at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2017

It occurred to me late yesterday that you could probably expand Yucca Flats Markov into a general Coleman Francis Markov without much loss of intended effect. You could get references to tungsten and broken cigarettes that way.

Then again, you'd have to input coffee like five thousand times, so maybe that'd mess it up.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:24 AM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Repeated words are generally good for sequences with a limited amount of training. They're like junction points where the track can go off in one of several directions.

I should note that the Markov implementation I wrote treats punctuation marks as words, and I'm using a two-word preceding sequence. I've improved it a little more since the above, and now paragraph breaks are also considered words, which helps vary things a little more.
posted by JHarris at 11:28 AM on March 22, 2017

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