Directed by: Jack Arnold
Starring: Arthur Franz, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt, Nancy Walters, Troy Donahue
Jack Arnold’s Monter on the Campus (1958) marked the end of the era as far as Universal horror pictures were concerned. For that matter, it was something of a throwback at the time since the 1950s had been more a science-fiction product than anything else. Presumably the idea here was the campus setting would lure in the teenagers. If it did, it didn’t do it well enough to generate more movies like it. The story is basically a variant on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — and with the advantage of hindsight, it now seems a little like Altered States for Dummies. The blood of a Coelacanth fish first turns a dog into a canine version of a saber-toothed tiger. Then, it gets into a cut on our scientist hero’s (Arthur Fraz) hand, turning him into some kind of prehistoric man, which, of course, runs amok as prehistoric men will. Later on, a dragonfly gets a nibble of the fish and becomes a winged monster, only to be stabbed by the scientist, who inadvertently gets some of its blood into his pipe (“Does your tobacco taste different lately?”), setting off prehistoric man runs amok part two. Honestly, all of this is handled pretty skillfully by direcror Arnold, who manages to keep us from getting a gander at the dopey-looking monster for most of the film’s snappy running time. (Not that it mattered much since the ad campaign showed him very clearly.) Then again, part of the charm of this little movie is that the monster is so hokey. No, it’s not classic horror, but it’s a good bit of fun.
In Brief: The end of the line for anything that could even remotely be called a Universal horror picture, Monster on the Campus is a brisk and entertaining little B-picture with a so-so screenplay, better direction than it deserved and a lovably goofy-looking monster. A far cry from the days of Karloff and Lugosi, but fun.