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Monster on the Campus (1958).

May 23, 2008

The Scoop:
Looked at the right way, this mishmash from director Jack Arnold can be seen as a template for early Marvel Comics. College science professor Dr. Donald Blake (a name that was later used as the secret identity of the Mighty Thor) gets injured while examining a gamma-irradiated coelocanth and turns into a creature on a kill-crazy rampage (just one step away from the Hulk’s backstory).

Trying to picture the film that way is just about the only way to get through it, because you certainly can’t take it seriously. Besides Arthur Franz (who plays Blake), the cast includes Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt, Nancy Walters, teen heartthrob Troy Donahue and the ubiquitous Whit Bissell.

“Monster on the Campus” was produced by Universal in an attempt to compete at the drive-ins with AIP and the other teen-centric B-grade studios. And when a major tries to stoop to compete with the little guys on their own terms, the results are almost never good. In this case, the effects are bad, the monster is more hilarious than terrifying and the plot holes are enormous — which is enough to make this a campy B-movie delight.

Best Bit:
This wonderfully witty exchange:
“Did you know your dog’s a throwback?”
“A throwback? He’s a German Shepherd!”

Side Note:
The silly looking monster makeup was designed by Bud Westmore, who had a long career in Hollywood working on much better fare, including “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957), “The Andromeda Strain” (1971), “Soylent Green” (1973) and the “Dragnet” television series.

Companion Viewing:
“I Was a Teenage Werewolf” (1957), which gets this formula right.

Hollywood Teen Movies.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

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