From Man to Beast – Monster on the Campus (1958)

When a person thinks of Universal horror, it is often Frankenstein, Dracula or The Wolf Man that often come to mind. It is the classic monster movie, being more to the point, that is associated with the studio and more so than any mad doctor or haunted house or whatever it may be. With Monster on the Campus, there was no breaking the mould and in a way, that is a good thing. There are things that are sureties in life, things that people come to depend upon and a Universal monster movie is one of them. Sure, director Jack Arnold could have innovated and tried something different, but sometimes all a person wants is a good, old-fashioned creature feature.

The story in this film would see Professor Donald Blake come into possession of an ancient, prehistoric fish thought to be extinct. While all seems like it would just be an ordinary day much like any other, things soon spiral out of control when odd happenings start to take place, the first of which is when his dog goes crazy. Soon there are murders, a giant irradiated bug and a mystery about it all that Blake soon realizes all stems from the fish. A plan is formed not long after, but it might be too little, too late.

Starring Arthur Franz as the tortured professor who discovers that he is the monster in question who has been committing the murders that take place, he makes the best with the material given, but there are some failings in the story that tends to drag it down a little and his performance is not exactly revelatory. The worst part happens to be the finale, with an ending that simply does not make sense. Essentially, Drake makes a decision, that while noble in spirit, was unneeded if he simply stayed quiet. While it might have been guilt that drove him to it, the man could have atoned for it by expanding his research or giving back to the community or a million other things. That being said, it was a given as to what would happen, the familiarity of it not lost on anyone who might enjoy classic monster movies.

By the time this film came out, there was no oil left in the gears of the Universal Monster Machine. One can easily see everything grinding to a halt with this outing and yet, there was still enough juice to make it quite an enjoyable B picture. There might have been a couple of flaws such as the movie’s length and a little of the acting being stiff, but it was atmospheric and suspenseful, had a good dose of action and was even a wee bit scary, especially if watching late at night. As clichéd as Monster on the Campus turned out to be, it still managed to hit all the right notes and never failed to entertain.

3 out of 5

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