Monster on the Campus (1958) – Film Review
Director: Jack Arnold
Cast: Arthur Franz, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt
By Roger Crow
For as long as there are colleges and monsters there will be the ‘monster at college’ movie. The location is ideal for providing swathes of information about the creature in question, or have obligatory scenes of said beast stalking innocent students or teachers.
The set-up here is a boffin has a prehistoric fish delivered to his campus, and also gets the chance to dispense vast amounts of exposition while a lovable dog licks at the obviously dangerous run-off from said fish. Before long, the hound has grown huge canines and is barking like a crazy thing. Hmm, do you reckon it has something to do with the ancient fish?
Obviously as this was made decades ago, we’re a far more sophisticated band of movie lovers, (though you’d think Moonfall was written with the same 1950s audience in mind).
The dialogue here is pretty pedestrian, linking scene A to B with chunks of humdrum science stuff.
Remarkably the head boffin has no first aid kit, which is a shocking state of affairs when dealing with million-year-old fish. And when he scrapes his hand and gets the wound infected with ancient fish juice, there’s no prizes for guessing what Donald Blake will turn into. (Whether by coincidence or design, four years later the hero’s name was used as the Mighty Thor’s alter ego, trivia fans).
Thrills are predictable, and probably were even in 1958; just wait for that scary hand creeping round the door moment and inevitable screaming heroine scene.
The moral of the story: “Really old fish from Madagascar are bad, okay?” America’s fear of anywhere foreign during the era is a reminder that those pesky overseas fish (aka Commies) were ready to transform upstanding members of society into brutish creatures.
Director Jack Arnold helmed some of the best genre movies of the 1950s, and although less memorable than It Came From Out of Space, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, this is still an intriguing curio. Just a pity the science stuff gets in the way of some decent thrills.
Extras include an exhaustive yack track by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, who spend a lot of time trying to outdo each other with their vast knowledge about the movie, which of course is just what you need to get the most of the creature feature.
Clocking in at around 76 minutes, Monster on the Campus still needed 10 minutes trimming, but for all its faults, it’s still worth at least one look. And if this leaves you hungry for another movie in the same vein, check out Ken Russell’s bonkers Altered States, which was no doubt inspired by this, or a very bad acid trip. Probably both.
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
• 1080p presentations on Blu-ray
• Disc One – Man-Made Monster and The Monolith Monsters
• Disc Two – Monster on the Campus (available in both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios) • Man-Made Monster – Brand new audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author / critic Kim Newman
• The Monolith Monsters – Brand new audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Monster on the Campus – Brand new audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author / critic Kim Newman
• Optional SDH subtitles
• A Limited-Edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films included in this set by film scholar Craig Ian Mann
Monster on the Campus is included on 'Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror', released on Blu-ray by Eureka, £29.99