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Ah yes! The good old days when Sci-Fi was simple. All you needed was a little radiation and most anything was possible. This movie was one of the last 50's Sci-Fi movies from Universal coming out in 1959-same year I did. Audiences then were not as sophisticated as they are now and quicker to give a movie the benefit of the doubt. This was the day of the Drive-In movie. Anyone my age or older should enjoy the simplicity of this film and the nostalgic quality of it. Good solid performances by Arthur Franz and especially Joanna Moore (whom would later become notable as one of Andy Taylor's girlfriends on TV). Plenty of the good old character actors from Universal's other Sci-Fi films give it a familiar feel. This movie doesn't ask you to think too much; when I was a kid watching Shock Theatre on a Saturday afternoon I didn't want to. Sure, the make-up could have been much better but from a distance the monster is quite scary.You don't have to look close to find a few blunders: lace-up shoe or loafer? You'll hear music from practically all of Universal's Sci-Fi and horrors movies: Tarantula, Frankenstein, the Mummy movies.This movie is probably not very entertaining to the younger generations of viewers other than finding it quite campy. How far we've come as an audience. But this movie tries hard and with its budget I've got to give it credit. It holds a warm spot in my heart and a solid place in my video library.
I've always enjoyed this film that turned out to be Jack Arnolds last horror film and I really do not understand why some people think this is awful. There are some flicks that you don't have to take seriously and all you have to do is sit back and have fun watching. Sure, its silly but most 50's sci-fi is. Why is this worse than others? The music that is used is from other Arnold films most notably "Tarantula" and I'm sure Universal used the same score for countless other movies. A lot of Arnold regulars pop up like Whit Bissell, Phil Harvey, Ross Elliott, Richard Cutting and of course Mr. Ziffel, Hank Patterson! Eddie Parker plays the monster here in make-up, not Arthur Franz and Parker was also in "Tarantula" in two roles. Both as lab assistance who die of that deforming disease. Troy Donahue in one of his early roles is Jimmy and he's especially wooden. But Arnold knows exactly how to tell a story no matter how silly and the scene with the giant dragonfly is fun, so is the whole movie.
If you're a 50's "B" movie fan like I am, this is a gem. I saw this film back when i was a kid, something like 1962 or so, and it hasn't been on T.V. in years. I have a VHS copy of it but would love to find it on DVD sometime in the future. When a caveman throws a hatchet and it hits a cop square in the face, it leaves an impression on you when you're 10 years old. Of course, by today's standards, it looks kinda hokey, but you have to keep in mind that movies like this one "pioneered" this type of movie. I wouldn't trade a 50's "B" flick for all the new garbage in the world. Like, what could measure up to movies such as the transparency of "The Amazing Colossal Man" and "War Of The Colossal Beast?" Ah yes, those were the days. Back when sci-fi movies didn't have to be VULGAR to be entertaining. The special effects didn't even have to be good - we STILL loved it! I sure wish the Time Tunnel was a reality - I'd go back there in a new york second!
Although this film reportedly wasn't one of director Jack Arnold's favorites, I personally have enjoyed it very much through many viewings. The story is a Jekyll-Hyde variation, but it offers real suspense and some genuine scares from a director that knows how. The only (minor) disappointment is the creature's makeup (not seen 'til near the end), which unfortunately is revealed to us in a brightly-lit room; makeups like this are more effective when glimpsed fleetingly in the dark. That small quibble aside, this film offers lots of scary fun for those in the mood. (The same can be said of Arnold's earlier films for the same studio, "It Came From Outer Space" (1953) and "Tarantula" (1955).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was Jack Arnold's last monster movie and I rather enjoyed it. It is a
typical 50's monster movie.
Blood from a dead Coelacanth turns Arthur Franz (Invaders From Mars) into a murderous prehistoric ape man. It also turns a dragon fly into a giant and a friendly German Shepard dog into a savage sabre tooth wolf. This happens each time something or someone comes into contact with the fish's blood. Franz is killed by police at the end in the ape man suit. He finished up killing 3 people.
As well as Arthur Franz, this movie stars another 50's sci fi regular Whit Bissell (The Lost Continent, I was A Teenage Frankenstein) and Troy Donahue. All play good parts.
As a college student myself, I have not yet seen this sort of thing happen at my college! This movie is a must for 50's sci fi fans. Great stuff.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
A previous commentator writes that: "The story is totally ludicrous and
a feeble, shameless attempt to promote evolution. Only a leftist loony
would believe this stuff."
Just to set the record straight, the concept of "evolution" promoted by the film is a gross distortion of actual evolutionary theory, suggesting as it does that evolution involves some sort of mystical forces and that certain so-called "living fossils" contain some sort of substance which somehow counteracts these forces. None of this actually makes in any sense, however, in terms of the actual science.
To sum up, evolutionary theory is perfectly valid science, and there's nothing particularly shameful about promoting it as science, contrary to what the above poster might think. OTOH, the movie's conception of what evolution actually means is just plain silly.
Monster on the Campus (1958)
*** (out of 4)
Entertaining Universal Sci-Fi about a college scientist who turns into a monster after his blood is mixed with that of a prehistoric fish. I've been wanting to see this for quite some time but never got around to buying the VHS since it was released just as I was jumping on the DVD format. The wait was certainly worth it even though the film isn't really anything other than your typical Jekyll and Hyde story. The film goes by at a very quick pace and the monster looks great, although it's a shame we only get to see him twice. I was somewhat shocked at the rather violent third death scene. The film also contains one of the dumbest girlfriends in sci-fi history.
Blood of an ancient fish transforms those infected with it into a vicious dog, giant dragonfly or monstrous Neanderthal entity. Arthur Franz is convincing as an archaeological college professor, teaching Troy Donahue and Nancy Walters, while romancing the lovely Joanna Moore. Jack Arnold ably directed this somewhat maligned film; it's actually creepy and well-shot, succeeding in delivering the shocks, especially in the last act, where we finally see the title creation and it's a startling effect. Helen Westcott is memorable in only two scenes, as the school nurse, conveying some romantic attraction to Franz, all with a dose of humor. It was recently released to DVD as part of the "Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection", which includes "Tarantula" (1955), "The Mole People" (1956), "The Monothith Monsters" (1957), and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957), all on par: great title sequence, fine musical score (some patchwork), beautiful monochrome photography, well-scripted, capably acted, always intriguing, with "Man" the jewel of the crown.
Jack Arnold's last sci-fi horror for Universal isn't as good or as much fun
as most of his previous efforts (including the oft-overlooked "Tarantula")
but it has its own virtues to recommend it. The story is a clone of "I Was
a Teenage Werewolf" -- except that in this case, we have a college professor
who keeps accidentally coming into contact with chemical agents which
transform him into an aboriginal "throwback."
Not much killing, or action at all for that matter, and in retrospect the film's manner in general is too straight and serious for its flimsy materials. Not much sympathy or interest is generated before the film runs its course, but an audience may get a few laughs from some of the stilted dialogue and from the oversized "throwback" creatures that appear from time to time to terrorize unsuspecting coeds and jocks.
The female lead was written to have a very unappealing personality -- for one thing, when the scientist she supposedly loves is getting really interested in his work, she goes over his head to his boss (who "happens" to be her father) to have him investigated for insanity! Maybe he just wasn't paying enough attention to her.... anyway, I don't think many in the audience would have minded if she HAD gotten hers from the monster in the end....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the five-year period 1953-'57, director Jack Arnold brought forth
five sci-fi/horror classics that are still beloved by psychotronic-film
fans today: "It Came From Outer Space" ('53), "Creature From the Black
Lagoon" ('54), "Revenge of the Creature" ('55), "Tarantula" (also '55)
and one of the all-time champs, "The Incredible Shrinking Man" ('57).
Following up Arnold's string of crowd-pleasing entertainments came the
lesser-known "Monster on the Campus" in 1958, a picture that, as it
turns out, is just as much fun as the others. In the film, we meet a
likable and soft-spoken professor at fictitious Dunsfield University,
in California; a biologist named Donald Blake (a name that perhaps
influenced Stan Lee four years later when selecting a moniker for
Thor's alter ego!). When we first encounter Blake, he is very excited
about the arrival of the school's latest prize acquisition, a preserved
coelacanth from the seas off Madagascar. (It should be remembered that
the coelacanth, a fish believed to have gone extinct 65 million years
ago, was initially caught off the coast of South Africa 20 years
previous to this film, in 1938.) But problems arise when it turns out
that this fish had been preserved with pesky gamma radiation, and that
its blood has a tendency to revert those who touch it or drink it (or,
as happens in the film, even smoke it!) to their earlier evolutionary
form. Thus, before long, a prehistoric dog, a giant dragonfly and a
decidedly simian maniac are all terrorizing the area around Dunsfield
"Monster on the Campus," cheaply made as it is, is an efficient little thriller, compactly told (the whole thing clocks in at 77 minutes) and often fairly exciting. Arthur Franz is very ingratiating as Blake, and the creature that he turns into both looks and sounds pretty frightening. While some have complained about Blake's overly slow realization of his own transformations, this fact did not bother this viewer as much as the film's ending; without giving anything away, let me just say that I wish the picture could have concluded otherwise. Joanna Moore, future mother of Tatum O'Neal, is quite good as Blake's fiancée here, and displays convincingly real terror when confronted by the titular killer. The picture boasts any number of memorable scenes, my favorite being the initial appearance of that giant dragonfly as it beats against a windowpane; somehow, this sequence brought to mind the scene with the giant bugs on the supermarket windows in Frank Darabont's 2007 horror masterpiece "The Mist." Director Arnold keeps his film moving along nicely, and if the picture's FX don't match those in some of his earlier sci-fi films (especially those to be found in "The Incredible Shrinking Man"), they are nonetheless cheesily endearing; I love the look of that dragonfly in repose! In all, a wholly likable '50s sci-fi/horror outing, surely deserving of a greater renown. I would like to add here that 1958 also saw the release of another Jack Arnold sci-fi film, "The Space Children," which I have never seen, as well as the Arthur Franz sci-fi picture "The Flame Barrier," which I haven't seen since the early '60s on NYC television. Both have never appeared on either VHS or DVD and both are films that really ought to see the light of the digital day soon. Studio heads, please take note!
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