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Monster on the Campus

Monster on the Campus (1958) starring Arthur Franz

Synopsis of Monster on the Campus

An amazing scientific discovery turns deadly in Monster on the Campus, a classic sci-fi horror film set in the backdrop of a 1950’s college campus. Professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) has made an amazing discovery – a fossilized coelacanth, a rare, primitive fish. When the researching professor comes in contact with the fish’s irradiated blood, he transforms into a vicious, prehistoric creature, thirsty for blood. Suddenly, things get really scary when he starts raising havoc on the unsuspecting community of coeds!

Review

Monster on the Campus is a cheesy, enjoyable, monster movie from the 1950’s. The basic premise has the gamma-irradiated blood (no relation to The Hulk) devolve organisms millions of years. Giving us a prehistoric wolf-dog, caveman, and gigantic dragonfly. The science is silly, of course. Where does the dragonfly get the additional mass to grow to a two-foot wingspan? From the magic of cinema, of course. It’s really an excuse to do a werewolf-style story.

The mask of the Monster on the Campus. Yes, it looks this bad.

Our protagonist doesn’t initially even understand that he’s been transforming. Each transformation, initially, is an accident. But 80% of the way through the movie, he thinks he knows. And decides to deliberately trigger the transformation. For science! To test his hypothesis at a distant cabin, where nobody can possibly get hurt. Although he’s responsible for several deaths already. And, of course, his fiancée follows him there.

After the monster murders a forest ranger, he’s shot and killed by the detectives investigating the murder. And, true to the werewolf movie cliché, reverts to his human form as he dies.

Cast

  • Arthur Franz (Abbott And Costello Meet the Invisible Man) … Professor Donald Blake. Handsome young scientist, working at the university. He receives a coelacanth for study. And the irradiated blood of it devolves a dog into a prehistoric canine. Then, he gets “bitten” by the fossil. And then, he himself devolves into the Monster on the Campus.
  • Joanna Moore (Touch of Evil) … Madeline Howard. Donald’s fiancée and daughter of the president of the university.
  • Judson Pratt (Futureworld) … Police Lt. Mike Stevens
  • Nancy Walters (Blue Hawaii) … Sylvia Lockwood
  • Troy Donahue (A Summer Place) … Jimmy Flanders. Owner of the dog that gets temporarily devolved. He, Donald, Madeline, and Sylvia survive an attack by a prehistoric dragonfly.
  • Phil Harvey (The Land Unknown) … Police Sgt. Powell
  • Helen Westcott (Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) … Nurse Molly Riordan. Dr. Oliver’s assistant. When Donald feels ill after the coelacanth incident, she drives him home. He passes out, and she goes to get the first aid kit from her car. And, she’s attacked … And murdered.
  • Alexander Lockwood (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) … Professor Gilbert Howard. President of the university. After Donald’s obsession with his crazy theory, he offers him time off. And, his remote cabin.
  • Whit Bissell (Creature from the Black Lagoon) … Dr. Oliver Cole. Doctor at the university. He treats Donald for his bite, and ridicules the devolution theory.
  • Ross Elliott (Tarantula, The Beast from 20000 Fathoms) … Police Sgt. Eddie Daniels. Murdered by the monster, on his second transformation.

Trivia

  • When Professor Blake calls Madagascar he speaks to Dr Moreau, a reference to the H.G. Wells novel, “The Island of Doctor Moreau“. In the book, Dr. Moreau tries to evolve various animals, with limited success.
  • Professor Donald Blake has a collection of facial reconstructions, allegedly depicting the ascent of man from the early hominids to modern man. One of them is The Piltdown Man. A hoax exposed in 1953. This is five years before the movie was released.
  • The first ‘face’ in the gallery of supposed evolution is unlabeled. It looks suspiciously like the ‘gill-man’ in ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon‘, also directed by Arnold.
  • The name “Dr. Donald Blake” is also the name of the alter ego of the Marvel Comics hero “The Mighty Thor“.

Editorial review of Monster on the Campus courtesy of Amazon.com

More Fifties sci-fi fun from auteur Jack Arnold (director of Creature from the Black Lagoon). The body of a celocanth, long thought to be extinct, is brought to a university for study. This particular prehistoric fish, though, was exposed to gamma radiation; contact with its blood turns a German Shepherd into a slavering, snarling wolf-dog. The fish juice makes a dragonfly roughly the size of a radio-controlled model plane; when Professor Franz gets the stuff in his pipe (go figure) and smokes it, he turns into a hairy, cranky wolfman who wants to kill everyone and break everything in sight.

The effects wear off, though, and Franz is compelled to try it again, in the interest of science, of course. When the Neanderthal version of Franz gets ahold of an axe, all bets are off. So …you’ve got coeds, an antediluvian dragonfly, a primitive, irritable dog, a snarling, ugly troglodyte in a plaid work shirt, all owed to that ever-popular plot device, Gamma Radiation. What more could you ask from a Fifties drive-in feature? –Jerry Renshaw

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