Flag on the Moon: The Dark, Depressing, and Dreadful Films of Coleman Francis – Part 1: Introduction


“Coleman Francis uses edits like blunt instruments. He uses blunt instruments like blunt instruments. His major themes are death, hatefulness, death, pain, and death.”

-Kevin Murphy, writer: Mystery Science Theater 3000



The man, the myth, legend: Coleman Francis

The man, the myth, the legend: Coleman Francis

For many schlock movie fans, the cult television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 is often incorrectly seen as the ultimate barometer of what is or is not a bad movie. This is unfortunate for fans of really bad, z-grade cinema because, while there are many excellent reasons the series is so well-regarded, most of the films the show aired weren’t really all that bad when compared to the countless films the show’s writers rejected as not being suitable for their purposes. Because watchability was such a big concern for the show, most absolutely wretched films were dismissed in favor of better, goofier, and more watchable fare. The show’s former head writer, Michael J. Nelson, has said in several interviews that his little puppet show really only scratched the surface of the truly horrible films which are lurking out there.

However, there were several occasions during the show’s ten-year run where exceptions were made. A few episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 did feature some of the most awful films ever made, such as Monster A Go-Go (this critic’s official pick as the worst theatrically-released film of all time), Manos: The Hands of Fate, and all three films produced and directed by an obscure character actor-turned-director by the name of Coleman Francis.

Born in Oklahoma on January 24, 1919, Coleman Francis’ road to b-movie infamy was as plodding and painful as the very films for which he would eventually become (in)famous. Arriving in Hollywood sometime in the 1940s, Francis found work in the film industry doing mostly uncredited bit parts in films such as Killers From Space, This Island Earth, and Twilight for the Gods, and the occasional TV role on shows like Highway Patrol, and Dragnet.

Eventually deciding to take a chance and make movies of his own, Francis set out to find a financial backer for his unique creative vision. Eager to get Tor Johnson on board for his first film, he contacted welder, part-time film producer, and former Ed Wood associate, Anthony “Tony” Cardoza. Cardoza, who had become friends with the former pro wrestler after financing the ill-fated (as in, not to see official release until twenty-three years after filming!) Ed Wood production, Night of the Ghouls, secured Mr. Johnson’s services and formed a partnership with Coleman Francis which would ultimately produce three of the most bleak, depressing, and unwatchable films ever made. In 1961, the team of Francis-Cardoza would release their first, and arguably worst, effort, The Beast of Yucca Flats.


Part 2: The Beast of Yucca Flats

Part 3: The Skydivers

Part 4: Night Train to Mundo Fine, aka. Red Zone Cuba

Part 5: Conclusion


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