How long did it take to shoot Beast of Yucca Flats?

ANTHONY: We shot over a period of probably a year, or something like that. We shot weekends, 'cause I was working.

Q: But not every weekend.

ANTHONY: No, no, no. But for about a year, in '59. In fact, that's a funny story: Besides playing the Kremlin agent, there's another scene I'm in in the picture. At the end, when you see all the people chasing the Beast and looking for the kids, one of them is me -- a big fat guy. A year went by and I was hangin' around with Tor Johnson, and I gained all that weight!

Q: So you play the skinny Kremlin agent at the beginning of the picture ...

ANTHONY: And a big fat guy at the end [laughs]!

Q: Who did Tor Johnson's makeup?

ANTHONY: Larry Aten, who played the sheriff. The "scars" were toilet tissue that we wrinkled up and then pasted onto Tor. Then powder was put on, to make it look like he was really burned from the atomic blast. That atomic blast was, of course, the real thing -- stock footage. And it was hard to get at that time -- that was government footage. I forget where we acquired it, but we got it! The big flash that Tor Johnson reacts to -- we did that with the lens. We just flashed it open real quick.

Q: You only had two interiors in the movie -- a bedroom scene, with Larry Aten and the women in bed ...

ANTHONY: That was shot in Saugus, in a house almost diagonally across from the cave. Marcia Knight played the wife. And, actually, I played her husband in that scene. The actor who was supposed to come never showed up, so I played it. That's why the shot's so brief. So I played three parts in the movie.

Q: The other interior is that very strange pre-credits sequence of a nude girl walking around her apartment and then being killed by the Beast. Why was that shot?

ANTHONY: Uh ... Coley liked nudity. That's it! [Laughs] Her name escapes me; she was an Italian girl from New York. I saw her that one time there, and that was it. She was choked by a guy who doubled for Tor Johnson. (That was obvious, right?) That scene was shot in an apartment in Van Nuys.

Q: Having the Beast rape the women -- didn't you worry that that was a little "much" for the time?

ANTHONY: No. Nah. Even though I know the [Production Code people] were down on stuff like that. It was kind of mild, because we didn't really show anything.

Q: Probably the most "ambitious" shot in the movie is the moving camera shot of the airplane chasing Douglas Mellor.

ANTHONY: We did that at the Saugus Airport. We put a camera in the back of a little tiny Ford pickup truck.

Q: In a 1964 interview, Coleman Francis said the picture cost $34,000.

ANTHONY: To be honest with you, I forget how much I spent. (Remember, it was my money, and a few other people that I got involved with it.) But it was probably about $34,000 -- that's pretty damn close. Because we had to make prints up -- I had 75 or 77 prints made of it. But back then, you could buy 'em cheap.

Q: Who taught you how to edit?

ANTHONY: I started learning how to edit and everything through a couple of editors, Lee Strosnider and Austin McKinney -- they were the two editors of Beast of Yucca Flats.

Q: According to the Beast of Yucca Flats credits, the editors are Lee Strosnider and "C. Francis."

ANTHONY: Coleman Francis? Why, he never edited one bit, he was off when I was toiling with these guys! I worked with them -- every bit of time that I had, I would go right over there from my job and work with them. They edited it in a house in Hollywood, on Fountain Avenue. We finished the picture, edited it at that house, and then we booked it ourselves in San Diego, at a couple of theaters there. The Navy guys just loved that thing over there -- San Diego is a Navy town. We packed the house with sailors, and they just loved it. Well, I think they liked the gal in it, Marcia Knight. They just went crazy. Coley and I made personal appearances with the picture and signed autographs and everything. It went over good!

Q: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tor Johnson was going to be there in person too.

ANTHONY: He never showed up! Tor did no touring. But Coley and I did.

Q: So you got those bookings yourself. Did you ever try to get an established film company to distribute it for you?

ANTHONY: I showed it to Mr. [Spyros] Skouras at 20th Century-Fox. And his favorite scene was the scene at the end when the rabbit comes up to Tor Johnson during his death scene. And do you know that that was a wild rabbit that came up to Tor? That wasn't a trained rabbit, it was a baby jack rabbit that came out of nowhere, a bunny. It was like a miracle -- he came over to Tor while we were shooting, and he was lying on the ground dying. Tor opened his eyes and saw it and kissed it. Can you imagine that? Isn't that an amazing scene? And that was Spyros Skouras' favorite scene in the movie. He said it reminded him of All Quiet on the Western Front! [Laughs]

Q: You showed him the movie in hopes of getting a Fox releasing deal?

ANTHONY: Right. We had a lot of guts!

Q: I wasn't gonna say that, but that's just what I was thinking!

ANTHONY: Of course, they turned it down. Later I showed it to AIP -- I showed it to Sam Arkoff at the Charlie Chaplin Studios on LaBrea Avenue. He got halfway through it and he said, "Oh! I forgot! I have to catch a plane." You know what that meant! [Laughs]

Yucca Flats got better reviews than it deserved. You really lucked out!

ANTHONY: A guy by the name of Tube reviewed it for Variety. He was a very nice guy. He used to rake the majors over, but he liked independents. He should have been an actor himself -- he looked kind of like Tyrone Power. The Hollywood Reporter liked it, too. There was something in it that they liked.

Q: What kind of a guy was Coleman Francis?

ANTHONY: Basically, he was a nice person. People said he drank, but I never saw him drink a drop. Not even a beer, in all our years together. He liked aspirins and Coca-Cola -- he said it gave him a lift! [Laughs]

Q: Aspirins and Coca-Cola together?

ANTHONY: Yeah. He said it kept him going, kept him awake.

Q: And you had a good partnership?

ANTHONY: Yeah. After Beast of Yucca Flats, we made The Skydivers [1963] and then we made another one, Night Train to Mundo Fine [1966].

Q: Why did you break up?

ANTHONY: Well, it got to be a little too much. I was doing most of the work of editing and trying to sell the pictures; he just wanted to write and direct, and that's IT. It was just too much on me. I had a wife and two kids, and still working in a factory. Doing pictures and working in a factory -- I said, "Wait a minute! Something's wrong here!" So I said that's it and I got out of [the picture business] for about two, three years. Then I saw these biker pictures coming out in '66, '67, and I had a story treatment called The Hellcats that James Gordon White had written -- it was about this lesbian gang on motorcycles. I changed it around and made them undercover motorcycle gals, I wrote with a couple other guys on it, and I produced it. The Hellcats [1967] was my first real hit after getting away from Coleman. It became a smash hit -- it made about $12 million the first year for Crown International. And that's when tickets were a buck, buck and a quarter, buck and a half.

Q: When did you retire as a welder?

ANTHONY: The doctor made me quit welding in 1963. I had to get out because of my eyes. I was welding and making movies at the same time, and [from the welding] I got chalazia -- little bumps under your eyelids. A doctor on Van Nuys Avenue cured it for me, but he said, "Don't go back to welding. You've had too many 'flashes.' " When somebody else is welding, and you get a flash of it in your eye -- well, that takes all the fluid out of your eye. So I had to quit.

Q: Just seeing someone welding takes the fluid out of a person's eye?

ANTHONY: If you're welding, and you lift your hood, and then another guy's welding a booth over and you catch his flash in the corner of your eye, that takes the fluid out of your eye. And that causes chalazia.

Q: When was your last encounter with Coleman Francis?

ANTHONY: The last time I saw him, he was about Tor's weight. After being only like 200 pounds, he went up to about 350. He was on a bus bench with an overcoat, and he looked like he was gone ... three sheets to the wind. I don't know what happened to him. I was driving by and I saw him on the bench and I couldn't believe my eyes. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time ... you know ... you gotta take care of yourself and your family.

Q: I was told that he later died under strange circumstances.

ANTHONY: Coleman Francis' body was found in the back of a station wagon at the Vine Street Ranch Market.

Q: Was it natural causes, or...?

ANTHONY: Nobody knows. I don't know, he doesn't know -- he's dead! [Laughs] Nobody seems to know. There was a plastic bag over his head and a tube going into his mouth or around his throat. I don't know if he committed suicide, or ... I have no idea. Never looked it up because we were on the outs at the time.

Q: What parting shots do you want to give me on Beast of Yucca Flats?

ANTHONY: Well, for a cheap movie, and considering how we did it, I think it stands up. It's played on Mystery Science Theater and people pirate it, so SOMEbody's got to like it! I think it holds up pretty good. We worked hard on it. Mostly my money! I did all the raising of money and all the paying. I paid and paid and paid [laughs], using my welding salary. It was a learning process, and it became a cult classic. I think it was a little bit better quality-wise than Ed Wood's movies! Laughs] But I don't knock Ed Wood and I don't knock Coleman. When I started, I didn't know beans about movies. So I have to praise them. If Ed Wood had the money and backing behind him, he would have been a top-notch producer-director.

Q: And how about Coleman Francis?

ANTHONY: Would you say the same thing about him? Yeah. If he had the money behind him and everything, sure.


Tom Weaver is the author of I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers, Science Fiction Confidential: Interviews with 23 Monster Stars and Filmmakers and many others available from McFarland & Co

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