Recommended site: Thebes Reviews/Commentary

It’s rare these days for me to come across a new film review site that’s worth the time it takes to load it up in a browser, and doubly rare that I find a fellow reviewer with an appreciation for the work of the one-of-a-kind Coleman Francis.  So without further delay, I present you with Kalle Räisänen’s Thebes Reviews/Commentary.

A permanent link can be found on the side menu.  Happy reading!

Night Train to Mundo Fine

a.k.a. RED ZONE CUBA
Hollywood Star Pictures [ 1961 ] 85′
country: United States
director: COLEMAN FRANCIS
cast: COLEMAN FRANCIS, ANTHONY CARDOZA,
cast: HAROLD SAUNDERS, JOHN CARRADINE

“Griffin . . . ran all the way to hell with a penny and a broken cigarette . . .”

Coleman Francis never directed a happy film – I suspect that this has a lot to do with the fact that the director, who spent his most formative years in the midst of the Great Depression and is purported to have been an alcoholic, was never quite happy himself. All three of his bizarre films focus on the very worst aspects of human nature – greed, corruption, and the desire to harm others. NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNDO FINE [better known as RED ZONE CUBA] is no exception. Produced in 1961 and released in 1966, the film is a catalog of man’s inhumanity towards man.

The thin yet convoluted plot [a trademark of all three of the films Francis directed] follows Landis [producer Cardoza] and Cook, two down and out ex cons just trying to make right by themselves and the law in the desert southwest. Enter Griffin [Francis himself], a career criminal on the run from the law. Motivated by greed alone, Francis convinces the other two to sign up with the army, currently offering $1000 for troops to mount an invasion of Cuba [given that the film is set in 1961, this is obviously a stab at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April of that year]. The plan is to take the money and run, but things go bad and the poorly trained troops are sent off to Cuba just the same.

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The Beast of Yucca Flats

Cinema Associates [1961] 54′
country: United States
director: COLEMAN FRANCIS
cast: TOR JOHNSON, LARRY ATEN,
cast: BING STAFFORD, DOUGLAS MELLOR

“Touch a button . . . Things happen . . . A man becomes a beast . . . ”

THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS is a terrible film on a technical level – that needs to be gotten out of the way to begin with. The first of three films conceived by producer Anthony Cardoza and writer/director Coleman Francis shows the novice nature of its creators at every turn and that it stars Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson as the titular beast has certainly done it no favors in the forty seven years since it was made. BEAST has been bashed regularly and universally since being unleashed upon the public at large, most famously by cable show Mystery Science Theater 3000 – one would be mad to say that said bashing was entirely unwarranted.

But as a reviewer who’s interests have been growing more and more focused on subtext, the technical aspects of this 54 minute oddity are of no concern. The question then remains, is there enough subtext to THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS to warrant a serious critical appraisal of it?

That answer, at least as far as I am concerned, is an emphatic yes! By the end of this article [one of a series I am working on covering the directorial endeavors of Francis] I hope that at least a few of my readers will agree.

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