The poetry of the Beast of Yucca Flats

Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast.

There is about four hundred times as much narration as dialog in The Beast of Yucca Flats and yet there’s very little narration either, just lots of very slow action footage, with random atmospheric moments, all of it shot silently, with sound dubbed in later. Characters talk with their back to the camera so you won’t notice. Cars run. Sometimes you can hear them. Sometimes you don’t. A man runs. Someone shoots at him. The utter lack of continuity gives it the same sense of time as the aliens in The Arrival, a thought that actually occurred to me while watching The Beast of Yucca Flats, I am embarrassed to admit. I mentioned it to my wife and she just stared at me. As the narrator says, nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers (not that there are any flying saucers in The Beast of Yucca Flats). The result is that each dollop of narration stands out like a random snip of a 1950’s pulp murder mystery intoned like bad beat poetry, always on the prowl, looking for something or somebody to kill. Quench the killer’s thirst. Instead of bongos and saxophones we get Tor Johnson’s occasional growls and wails (he is the noted scientist turned into a beast by an unexpected atomic blast), plus a weirdly musical score (they must have spent the budget for sound on the score.) The words themselves become addicting. There is a theme: Yucca Flats. The A-bomb. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist. Progress. Especially Progress. It’s pops up at random times, like a cop trapped in the wheels of Progress, or as boys from the city, not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress, feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs. Or even metaphorically: flag on the moon. How did it get there? It’s what gives this film its intellectual cachet above and beyond, say, Attack of the Giant Leaches, with which this shares a DVD. It’s what turns this from being merely an incredibly bad science fiction movie into an appallingly bad use of the English language, those pseudo deep hard boiled snippets of narration full of meaning and heaviness. You have to resist dropping them into your own writing, it’s so easy. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man. Reading this review it’s hard to tell what I wrote and what I copped from the script. I am ruined.

Stephen King

Fyl’s watching yet another Stephen King movie. Apparently that is all IFC shows anymore, Stephen King movies. Or is this Sundance. Or whatever channel this endless series of commercials punctuated by monsters, violence and really bad acting is on. After an afternoon of this, as I rush about from one household crisis to the next (refrigerator is dying, which is actually a lot more of a hassle than a dead cat, let me tell you), I’ve a genuine appreciation for the old studio system, in which these two howling babes, possessed of the devil or whatever, would have been left spinning on their stools at Schwabs. Oh Lord, what hath Brando wrought. Method acting for dummies.

If only King hadn’t let his characters talk so much. Nobody ever mumbles in a Stephen King story. No one ever just shuts up. He’s from Maine, I know, but in Maine they appreciate silence. Yup. Nope. That’s a whole conversation right there. There are more words spoken in a single Stephen King movie than in the entire state of Maine in an entire year.

Another half hour of commercials and then back to the movie. One of the principles–a bad guy, I think–is talking and talking and talking. I could be watching a hockey game and instead someone is putting a curse on someone in ten thousand words.

Ohhh…the guy exploded. I think exploded. Something. I thought he was going to make it with the hot blonde but he exploded or glooped or turned inside out or something. Then this tentacle thing shows up and it’s the blonde’s turn.  This all makes sense to Stephen King fans, of course. They never seem the least bit confused by his stories. It’s like trying to listen to Alan Watts lectures on KPFK and thinking they’re complete nonsense while all around me people are omming. I say I don’t get it. This is just babble. They look at me and shush. I ask my wife where the tentacle thing came from. She looks at me and shushes. I want to ask about the hot blonde but decide against it. But does anyone ever get laid in a Stephen King movie? Without getting schlorped into the other world, I mean.

More commercials. Zombies this time. Funny ones.

Om.