621. The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

In my teens taping Mystery Science episodes off of Comedy Central, this one felt perfect. Two shorts (Money Talks! and Progress Island U.S.A.), one terrible movie, and that Comedy Central flavor in every bite. Choice skits like Crow’s Anti-Film Preservation Society, the wait for 11:30, and the victory and concession speeches shove this into higher territory. The riffs, energy, and pace mark Beast as the best of the Mike era. There’s very little negative I can say. This typifies why I fell for the show. Upbeat, dismal, and addicting, all in one. You feel the same? Any memories or takeaway?

7 Likes

I just happened to watch this episode on Tubi last night.

I assume that was Coleman Francis’ sons as the boys in the film. That made me wonder if either of them are still alive and if they had expressed any opinions about the MST3K treatment of their father’s legacy. Hopefully, if they are still with us, they have a sense of humor about it and perhaps might even consent to appear as a very special guest on a future Gizmoplex program.

6 Likes

I love the two shorts, but I have never managed to make it far into the movie. Tor strangling the first woman and then appearing to kneel between her legs just made me shut it off right there. I’ll just go watch Skydivers again.

4 Likes

This saddens me. But I understand. I respect your reasons. The show is one of my favorites. I can’t fathom my MST youth without it. Like Mr. Han says in Enter The Dragon (1973), “There is a point you won’t go beyond.” And this is true for all of us.

3 Likes

I totally get it, and I definitely don’t judge you for enjoying it. Each person is different, and the answer to “what is YOUR deal?” is totally different. One of my favorites is Castle of Fu Manchu, which most seem to hate, and is definitely racist garbage. So, yeah, I’m glad you have such great memories of it. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

The section you dislike isn’t one I care for either. The movie after that where Mike and the Bots grapple digesting and dealing with Coleman Francis and his nonsense is what stays with me. Their riffs of the narrator and the nonsensical voiceover by Francis reminds me of Manos (1966) and the bafflement and the film’s mystique persist as one of the more memorable experiments.

4 Likes

If you get the chance, can you give me a rough time stamp? I might try watching again when that scene is clearly over.

1 Like

Not that long ago, I finally viewed The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969). It rocks you to your core. Among the absolute worst films ever screened on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The riffing is exquisite and the Host Segments and the crew breaking down and the Mads gloating throw much into the episode. I even started a thread inspired by watching it.

2 Likes

Checking on the Gizmoplex, the main titles start at 32:14 and no reference to that earlier killing is made once it’s over. It was almost as if it was thrown in to make the movie more exciting or something. “Welcome to the World of B Movies…”

1 Like

As I recall, this is literally the only justification given for the scene. It makes no sense in the rest of the story, but it was a cheap way to offend/titillate people into watching the rest of the movie. I wish I could remember where I read this. Constant information grazing isn’t great for citations.

I love this movie because it touches on my interest in atomic weapons testing in Nevada. I keep calling this movie “The Beast of Yucca Flat” though because that’s what the place is actually called. It’s where most of the tests were carried out (a notable test was the “Sedan” test for Project Plowshare which created the largest man made crater on Earth).

As for the episode, it appears you and I really enjoyed the same things about it. The final scene with Clay and Frank facing the smell of de feet cracks me up every time, in particular the awkward mic feedback when Clay gives his concession speech.

5 Likes

That feedback is AMAZING. A late Election Day defeat where even the equipment is failing. The success of Mike and the Bots over Deep 13 hands it a distinct atmosphere. Almost like a companion piece to The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969) strangely enough.

2 Likes

Progress Island U.S.A is my favourite short.

8 Likes

I should poke my head in on that thread! I would argue that it is a worse movie than Manos, which has a pretty straightforward plot, even if everything else is terrible.

3 Likes

That movie is a headcracker. I’m amazed (but not surprised) that the gang could spin comedy gold out of such a nothing of a film.

It’s a weird conundrum where the worst Coleman Francis movie ends up being my favorite episode of the Francis troika. The inexplicable narration and across-the-board technical ineptitude gave them so much to work with. Plus, it’s so absurdly dark that they can’t help but pull something hilarious out of it all. (Granted, that’s not always a 100% certainty, a darker movie leading to a better episode experience, but that was the case here.)

The two shorts are something purely magical, ESPECIALLY Progress Island, U.S.A. There’s such a crackling live wire of energy in Progress Island, U.S.A. that makes the short irresistible. Gotta love those complete-the-line riffs like:

Narrator: “A wealth of historic grandeur and beauty…”
Servo: “… does not exist here.”

5 Likes

Also:

Mike: “I’m not speaking to you.

Bless that moment forever.

9 Likes

It was in an interview with Anthony Cardoza about the movie. He said that Coleman just wanted to put it in there and it wasn’t Tor. It was actually Coleman himself.

I love this episode. It’s one of my absolute favorites. The two shorts are hilarious and the movie itself is so bizarre and out there that they can riff away on anything and everything without interrupting the flow of the story… because there is no flow. No one speaks on camera. The two boys are Coleman Francis’ kids. The wife is his ex-wife. You get brief shots of Tony Cardoza and Eric Tomlin (the coffee guy).

I just love it.

5 Likes

Mine too. Back to back to back hilarious riffs. And honestly the Money Talks short is decent financial planning advice for teens.

6 Likes

I may have mentioned this before. But it should come as no surprise that the actress in that scene has no other screen credits. Not much kills visions of Hollywood glamor more effectively than having to appear on set stark naked while surrounded by a bunch of leering middle-aged guys.

3 Likes

And yet countless aspiring actresses continue to be drawn to Hollywood. Despite the umpteen stories to the contrary and how the community looks the other way, new talent persistently find themselves in the exact same predicament and the cycle repeats. The industry is very unkind in a multitude of behaviors. Chewing talent in and spitting them out, typecasting, forgetting people exist if they haven’t been popular for a year or two, the casting couch, and hiring fresh meat into unpleasant situations like the one mentioned. The business as a whole never learned from its mistakes and so this keeps cropping up. Unfortunately.

Between that and Monster A Go Go’s Circus On Ice, if the main feature is egregiously bad, the short’s gonna pay for it. :slight_smile:

4 Likes