Creator / Coleman Francis

"Coleman Francis had a dark, muddy vision. With some cars."

Imagine the worst possible film you can. Pretty awful, right? Now imagine that film is just the best film in an achingly bad film trilogy linked only by the director (who also happens to be writer, producer and star), and a bizarre emphasis on coffee, light aircraft and soul-crushing tragedy. You now have an inkling of what the Coleman Francis trilogy is like.

Francis was a struggling actor, who had bit roles in films like This Island Earth, but couldn't even score a film credit til appearing as a detective in Roger Corman's Stakeout on Dope Street. At some point, he met up with a highly decorated artillery gunner named Anthony Cordoza, who had the money to finance Francis' films. Both would appear in the films as well.

Each of Coleman Francis' films easily fall alongside such "gems" as Baby Geniuses, Monster A-Go Go, or Battlefield Earth, but what makes them really notable is that he managed to produce three of them, each utterly terrible, but in completely different ways. All three films have been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, elevating Francis into that elite circle of bad movie directors that also includes Uwe Boll, Hal P. Warren, Ed Wood, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Tommy Wiseau, James Nyugen, Seltzer and Friedberg, and many more.

His death was as dark and murky as his films: according to co-producer Anthony Cardoza, he was found one day dead in the back of a station wagon, with a plastic bag around his bag and tube going into his throat (or around his neck, Cardoza never bothered to find out which because they were on the outs at the time.)

The Coleman Francis Trilogy:

Coleman Francis' films contain examples of:

  • Bookends: Almost certainly unintentional, but his first film, The Beast of Yucca Flats starts with Lanell Cado's character being killed by the mutated Dr. Javorsky, and his last film, Red Zone Cuba ends with another character played by Cado being wounded (and possibly killed; it's not very clear) in a shoot-out.
  • The Cameo:
    • Anthony Cardoza, Coleman's financier and producer, appears in every one of his films. Additionally, quite a few of the extras in The Skydivers are all members of Coleman's and Cardoza's extended families.
    • Francis himself narrates Beast, appears as a gunman at the end of Skydivers, is the gas station attendant and newspaper buyer in Beast, and plays the lead in Cuba—a performance only enjoyable due to his physical resemblance to Curly Howard.
    • Francis appeared in a bit part in This Island Earth.
  • Dull Surprise: A disease endemic among Coleman Francis' casts.
  • Fanservice: Coleman Francis makes sure large breasts are thrust into the camera Once per Episode. Not that the male viewers object, mind you.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration:
    • The narrator from Beast of Yucca Flats.
    • Red Zone Cuba also experiences this at the very end when, out of nowhere, a voiceover suddenly says "Griffin. Ran all the way to hell with a penny, and a broken cigarette."
    • Reportedly, "Beast" ended up this way because all the audio was accidentally erased after filming. It is more likely that it was filmed without dialog, however.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Used far too many times to count - the scene where Griffin tries to put up the roof of the convertible in Red Zone Cuba comes to mind.
    Servo: "OK, I'm just a bush, you can pan away from me now."
  • Motifs: Coffee, death, cigarettes, terrible depressing tragedy, light aircraft, Tony Cardoza, people getting shot from light aircraft, a mountain somewhere in Kern County, women getting brutalized and vigilante justice.
  • Never Suicide: Francis died in 1973, allegedly of arteriosclerosis, but his body was found in the back of a station wagon with a plastic bag over his head and a tube going into his mouth or around his throat.
    Anthony Cardoza: 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.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: All three films. Red Zone Cuba goes one step further and Shoots The Shaggy Dog. Not a very sympathetic one, though.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Only four female characters survive to the end of a Coleman Francis movie. One a blind/deaf girl who is raped and left without any means of support; the second is widowed and lives the rest of her life as a depressed hermit. Another is shot and wounded by Coleman's character. The last one is left with a husband who's been winged with a bullet by a gun-crazy policeman and two sons who were nearly killed by the Beast.