Monster on the Campus - 1958

Monster on the Campus - Released Dec 17, 1958. Directed by Jack Arnold.

College Professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) has a huge problem on his hands, or even more literally, with his hands. A misshapen hand print was left at the murder scene of university nurse Molly Riordan (Helen Westcott). That print doesn't match Blake's print, but all the other evidence points to him as the murderer. When the police interview him, he can't remember anything that happened for a good part of the evening. In fact, his routine as a teacher at Dunsfield University has gone off the rails ever since a coelacanth fish, treated with gamma rays, was delivered to his lab, and he scraped his hand on the teeth of the prehistoric-looking creature while moving it from its shipping-crate. He also dunked his hand into the water that fish was shipped in, the same water his dog Samson was earlier drinking from.

Director Jack Arnold lets the audience know right away what's afoot, but it's Arthur Franz (as the Professor) who has to wonder what's happening as he goes through the 77-minute run-time. Like Larry Talbot from The Wolfman, the Professor has unexplained time periods he can't remember his whereabouts, and too many things around him aren't making sense either. His loyal dog Samson goes through a period of psychotic fury after licking at the dripping ooze from the thawing coelacanth container, and a tiny dragonfly that lands upon the fish soon grows to an enormous and menacing size.

This short film is constructed more like a TV drama detective program, with a rather unsophisticated Lt. Mike Stevens (Judson Pratt) trying to sort out the clues on campus. Joanna Moore is the loyal (and slightly jealous) girlfriend that tries to protect Professor Blake (mostly from himself) as he suffers his way through what looks like a kind of dementia that soon annoys the college administrators who can't understand why Blake's making outrageous claims about evolutionary regression linked to the gamma radiation of the coelacanth.

Once Prof. Blake has put together the pieces, he is left with few alternatives (well, Hollywood-style alternatives) in putting a stop to the madness and mayhem on campus.

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