Monster on the Campus (1958)

Professor Blake has a new toy. It seems that his university has just purchased a coelacanthe–a primordial fish species that was discovered to still be alive in the 20th century. Unfortunately for the Doc, he doesn’t realize that the fish was preserved using Gamma rays!! This combination causes the fish to have horrible properties–if anyone touches the blood of this dead creature, they, too, become primordial–and dangerous! First, a dog licks the water that the fish came in when it arrived on campus. Because there was blood in it, the dog became vicious and its teeth elongated–almost like sabre-teeth. Later, the professor scrapes his hand on the teeth of this dead fish and he becomes….well, we really don’t see exactly what he becomes until later in the film–but we do know he’s mean and looks a bit like Lancelot the Missing Link.

Oddly, while this professor is supposed to be super-smart, it took him a long time to figure out what was happening. You see, after becoming a monkey-man, he would later turn back to himself–with no memory of his bestial transformation. Later, when he did seem to understand what was happening, he actually deliberately injected himself to see if it was true–without really providing much in the way of safety of others. Sure, he went to a lonely mountain cabin to conduct this experiment, but sure enough, someone was nearby and ready to be killed. And, by the way, the killing was a dandy (pretty cool stuff) but sadly the makeup job wasn’t. The monster we’d been waiting so long to actually see consisted of a cheap rubber mask and rubber gloves and lots of hair. It was very disappointing and showed that the budget for makeup must have been about $9.99–which is sad because the basic story idea and much of the acting was actually very good. Oddly, while the mask was cheap and crappy, the transformation process at the very end of the film was excellent–who’d have figured?

Overall, a decent story idea as far as 50s horror films go. It’s very creative and unusual. It’s just too bad the creature looked so stupid and the professor behaved, well, like an idiot on multiple occasions.

By the way, in a clever bit of writing, the Professor makes a phone call to a “Dr. Moreau” who lives on an island. This is obviously a reference to the H.G. Wells story about a crazy doctor who dabbles in making primitive creates very human-like (and vice-versa).