By Steve D. Stones
Director Jack Arnold is best known for two great 1950s masterpieces – The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).
While Monster On The Campus (1958) may not be highly regarded by film critics and sci-fi fans, it is still a worthy effort that is fun to watch on a Friday night with a large soda and buttered popcorn. Professor Donald Blake, played by veteran actor Arthur Franz, is a paleontology professor at Dunsfield University who receives a frozen prehistoric fish – a coelacanth.
The frozen fish thaws as it’s delivered to Blake’s laboratory. A student’s dog drinks some of the water from the fish’s tank, which turns him into a fierce canine beast. While examining the fish in his lab, Professor Blake cuts his hand on the teeth of the coelacanth. The cut causes him to experience blackouts while students on the campus are being attacked and murdered by some unknown beast.
The cut has caused Blake to transform into a prehistoric Neanderthal man. Blake and two students observe a dragonfly transform into a giant insect after it bites the coelacanth in Blake’s lab. Blake soon realizes that anything that comes in contact with the fish reverts back to its prehistoric origins – a sort of evolution in reverse.
He also observes that his blackouts are a result of his own devolution – evolving
backwards to a prehistoric man. He tests this theory by isolating himself in a mountain cabin while movie cameras record his transformation.
On the surface, Monster On The Campus appears to be a homage or rip off of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Curt Siodmak’s The Werewolf tale. Sources claim that director Jack Arnold was not happy with Monster On The Campus. In comparison to his other efforts, Monster is a bit tacky in content, and not as technically competent as his other classics. However, it is still a very fun movie to view.
Star Arthur Franz appeared in a number of sci-fi films of the 1950s, including: Flight To Mars, Invaders From Mars, The Atomic Submarine and the car racing classic – The Devil’s Hairpin. Happy viewing!