Coleman C. Francis (January 24, 1919 – January 15, 1973) was an American actor, writer, producer, and director perhaps best known for his film trilogy consisting of The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), The Skydivers (1963), Red Zone Cuba (1966), all three of which were filmed in the general Santa Clarita, California area and used preoccupation with light aircraft and parachuting, coffee orcigarettes serving as a prop or a center of conversation, and a vigilante-style gunning down of suspects without a trial to conclude the film as frequent motifs.
All three films have gained notoriety as a result of their appearances on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and have been often criticized for their abysmal production values, repetitive plot devices, murky picture quality, and stilted acting. Some critics have characterized Francis' films among the all-time worst, even suggesting that he may surpass Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space in terms of ineptitude.
Life and career
Francis was born in Greer County, Oklahoma in 1919. He was the son of William C. Francis and Scytha Estes.
Sometime around the Great Depression he moved to Texas, then in the 1940s headed for Hollywood. He worked on several films during the late 1940s and 1950s without credit: Blondie's Reward, Scarlet Angel, The Girl in White, This Island Earth, She Couldn't Say No, Twilight for the Gods, and P. J. In 1958 came his first break in a credited role, Stakeout on Dope Street, where he played a detective. He went on to play minor parts in dozens of other films.
In 1961, he began writing, producing, and directing films, with the help of his friend, Anthony "Tony" Cardoza, a welder by trade. Francis started with The Beast of Yucca Flats. He went on to direct, write, and produce two other movies: The Skydivers, and finally Red Zone Cuba (Night Train to Mundo Fine). He appeared in Russ Meyer's 1965 film Motorpsycho, and his last work in the film industry was in 1970, when he played a drunk in Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
He married Barbara Francis and had two sons, Alan Francis and Ronald Francis, both of whom appeared in the films he directed. In addition, he was the uncle of Rebecca Marlow as well as the great uncle of Stephanie Francis Lee.
Francis died in California in 1973. Though arteriosclerosis is listed as the official cause of death, Cardoza says Francis' body was found in the back of a station wagon at the Vine Street Ranch Market with "a plastic bag over his head and a tube going into his mouth or around his throat".
Francis is interred at the Columbarium of Remembrance in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Instead of fading into the annals of cinema history, in 1994 his films gained cult status after being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. All three films that he directed, wrote and produced have been featured on the show.
- Blondie's Reward (uncredited, 1948)
- The Girl in White (1952)
- Scarlet Angel (uncredited, 1952)
- Killers from Space (uncredited, 1954)
- She Couldn't Say No (uncredited, 1954)
- This Island Earth (uncredited, 1955)
- The Phantom Stagecoach (uncredited, 1957)
- Stakeout on Dope Street (1958)
- Twilight for the Gods (uncredited, 1958)
- T-Bird Gang (1959)
- The Jailbreakers (1960)
- Spring Affair (1960)
- Cimarron (uncredited, 1960)
- The Beast of Yucca Flats (uncredited, 1961)
- The Skydivers (uncredited, 1963)
- The Thrill Killers (uncredited, 1964)
- Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1965)
- Motorpsycho (1965)
- Red Zone Cuba (1966)
- The Last American Hobo (1967)
- P.J. (uncredited, 1968)
- Body Fever (1969)
- The Dirtiest Game (1970)
- Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1971)
- Sergeant Preston of the Yukon (4 episodes, 1955–1957)
- Highway Patrol (1 episode, 1959)
- Dragnet (3 episodes, 1957–1959)
- M Squad (1 episode, 1960)
- Tales of Wells Fargo (1 episode, 1961)
- The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
- The Skydivers (1963)
- Night Train to Mundo Fine (aka Red Zone Cuba) (1966)