Monster on the Campus (1958)

“Man is not only capable of change, but man alone — among all living creatures — can change the direction in which that will take place.”

Synopsis:
A professor (Arthur Franz) who receives a rare prehistoric fish is puzzled when the dog owned by his research assistant (Troy Donahue) suddenly becomes wild after drinking the fish’s water, and his colleague’s assistant (Helen Westcott) turns up murdered after spending time with Franz. His concerned girlfriend (Joanna Moore) tries to protect Franz from suspicion, but he himself is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Genres:

Review:
Director Jack Arnold is best known for a handful of sci-fi classics, including It Came from Outer Space (1953), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Unfortunately, this Jekyll-and-Hyde-inspired flick isn’t in the same league by a long shot; the storyline is of the type where audience members figure out the “mystery” long before the rest of the characters do, despite obvious hints. Meanwhile, Franz isn’t a particularly likable hero — while we admire his tenacity and self-sacrifice, he’s also a bombastic womanizer who won’t stop lecturing. (His opening line as he’s removing a plaster cast from his girlfriend’s face is, “Ah, the human female in the perfect state — helpless and silent.”) Clearly this is meant to show his — I mean mankind’s — more primitive side, but it comes across as simply dated and obnoxious. The makeup of the titular monster is pretty silly-looking, too.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Russell Metty’s cinematography

Must See?
Nope; you can definitely skip this one.

Links:

2 Responses to “Monster on the Campus (1958)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must for ’50s horror fans – who know what to expect. It also holds a bit of appeal for camp / cult fans.

    Quite a few ’50s and ’60s monster-genre films are of such low quality that they can be more easily dismissed. But ‘MOTC’ is bolstered by a bit of pedigree. Produced by Joseph Gershenson (a prolific music supervisor who was also a film producer for 20 years), it’s shot by a respectable DP (Metty) and helmed by a sturdy-enough director (Arnold). It’s particularly to his credit that Arnold was able to guide his cast through taking the material completely seriously – without laughing. Though obviously low-budget, the film has a nice to feel to it (considering what it is) and it moves quickly-enough.

    It also features yet another bland performance by Troy Donahue – so what’s not for cult / camp film fans to love? 😉 And the giant dragonfly is hilarious.

    Re: Franz’s character… Although he does have a tendency to pontificate – in the manner of the absent-minded professor, I don’t see any evidence that he’s a womanizer. Yes, he does make that unfortunate remark about women early on but, since he makes no other such statement in the film and judging from his tone, I think that’s meant as a joke. Overall, he’s not depicted as a primitive type – at least not on the surface – so we’re to presume (I think) that he sees himself as too advanced to succumb to such tendencies. When he’s with another woman (Westcott), *she’s* the aggressor in the situation and he backs off; it’s rather clear he’s in love with Moore and is a one-woman guy.

  2. A fun if silly monster mash but not must see. A minor film from the sci-fi / horror movement from the time and worth a look for those so inclined.

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