Three movies in one week from the Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection makes this a good week of movie watching for me. I had honestly never heard of this movie before I bought this set. It kind of surprised me that when this movie first came out, it would be the last sci-fi monster movie that Universal would do for 8 years. Makes you wonder how bad it is for a major studio to not take another chance on that format. Anyways, let’s see just how good or bad today’s movie, Monster On The Campus, really is.
The plot: Professor Donald Blake is making a plaster mold of his girlfriend’s (Madeline Howard) face when he hears a car honking outside, Looking outside, he sees Jimmy arriving with the coelacanth he ordered from Madagascar but Jimmy tells him that the fish is starting to thaw out. Jimmy chases off his dog Samson from drinking some of the water leaking from the crate and he and Donald examine the fish. Madeline starts to come outside when Samson starts growling and goes to attack her, causing her to shut the door. Jimmy and Donald go to grab the dog and Jimmy is bit before Donald manages to cover Samson with a blanket and they take him inside Donald’s lab before taking Jimmy to see Dr. Oliver Cole. Dr. Cole tends to Jimmy’s wound and says it doesn’t sound like Samson has rabies but asks Donald to get a saliva sample from Samson and his nurse, Molly, says she will be by to pick it up around 7:30. Later that night, Molly goes to pick up the sample and Donald points out something odd about Samson’s teeth, commenting that it is something that hasn’t been seen in canines for thousands of years. Donald then has Molly get the freezer door so he can put the coelacanth up but he winds up getting bit when the fish’s mouth closes on his hand. As he is putting the crate away, his hand slips into the bloody water and Molly takes Donald home when he starts feeling woozy. Arriving at his home, Molly tries to wake Donald but when she is unable to, she heads inside to call Dr. Cole but while she is on the phone, she is attacked. At her house, Madeline is talking with her father, Professor Gilbert Howard, while waiting for Donald to pick her up and decides to go see if he is still working in his lab. Approaching the lab, she is surprised by Townsend, the night watchman, and they check the lab but find no sign of Donald and Samson seems to be back to normal. Madeline heads to Donald’s house and sees Molly’s car still in the drive way and the furniture inside has been smashed. Madeline calls the police then, hearing a groan, checks outside and finds Donald on the ground and Molly hanging from a nearby tree. The police arrive and question Donald but he has no memory after getting to Molly’s car. When Donald’s tie clasp is found in Molly’s hand, the police take him to the station for further questioning. Madeline pleads with the lead detective, Lt. Mike Stevens, but he is unsure of Donald’s innocence until another detective shows him a hand print on the glass door that shows someone else was in the house, and tells Madeline that Donald is free to go. The next day, Donald is teaching his class about the coelacanth and evolution. Jimmy and his girlfriend Sylvia speak with Donald after class about Samson and he takes them into his office, where Dr. Cole is examining Samson and concludes that it is not rabies. When Donald mentions Samson’s teeth, he examines them with Dr. Cole but finds that they are normal dog teeth, causing Donald to doubt what he saw. As everyone leaves, Lt. Stevens comes by to speak with Donald some more and tells him that he will be assigning him a bodyguard until they catch whoever killed Molly. Later, Donald is examining some blood from the coelacanth when he notices something in the slide and heads over to show Dr. Cole. As Donald and his bodyguard, Sgt. Eddie Daniels, leave, they run into Jimmy and Sylvia, and Donald tells them to wait in his lab. As they head towards the lab, Jimmy and Sylvia hear a buzzing sound but can’t see what is making it. At Dr. Cole’s office, Donald shows him the slide, saying there were crystallized bacteria in it but when Dr. Cole examines it, he only sees normal bacteria. Donald is irritated that Dr. Cole doesn’t believe him and goes to leave but Dr. Cole stops him and gets a sample from the bite on Donald’s hand, saying it is infected. Back at the lab, Eddie goes to check in and Donald lets Jimmy and Sylvia in so they can take Samson home. When they hear the buzzing and tapping on the window, they are shocked to see a large dragonfly at the window. Donald opens the window to let the creature in, then manages to trap and kill it. Donald says the dragonfly is a species thought extinct and believes there is a connection to the coelacanth as he had chased off a normal dragonfly that was feeding on it earlier. When Jimmy tells him that Samson had drank the water from the crate before the attack, Donald tells the kids to take Samson and go home but not to tell anyone what happened. Donald places the dragonfly on his desk while he puts the coelacanth back in the freezer but unknown to him, some of the blood drips into his pipe. As Donald starts to smoke his pipe, he begins to feel funny and his vision gets blurry. As the dragonfly starts to shrink back to normal size, a misshapen hand covered in hair smashes it. Eddie returns to the lab and hears the sounds of someone smashing things and makes it inside but finds that the lab is trashed and Donald is missing. Heading outside, he sees a strange figure running through the bushes and gives chase but winds up losing him. Using a security box to call Lt. Stevens, Eddie reports what happened but as he is speaking with Lt. Stevens, he is attacked and killed. When the police arrive, the have Eddie’s body taken away and Sgt. Powell discovers strange footprints leading away. Meanwhile, Donald comes to in the grass with his clothing in tatters and returns to the lab to find it in shambles. When newspapers report the footprints, Lt. Stevens believe the footprints were faked to implicate Donald as the killer, just like the tie clip, but the fingerprints prove someone else is the murderer but since there is no record of the man, they are having a hard time finding him. A few days later, Madeline goes to Donald’s lab to talk to him as he has been cancelling his classes but Donald ignores her as he accepts a phone call from Madagascar concerning the coelacanth. Madeline goes and tells her father, who is upset about how much money Donald is charging with the call and has Dr. Cole meet him at the lab, where he plans to have Donald take a leave of absence. When they arrive, Donald had just finished his call and he tells them about his theory involving the killer. Telling them that the coelacanth had been treated by gamma radiation during the shipping process as a new method to preserve it, he theorizes that someone had wound up exposed to the blood and been regressed to a primitive state. As he continues his explanation, Donald realizes that the killer is himself, though the others don’t seem to realize it yet. When the police arrive, Donald clams up and Gilbert places Donald on a leave of absence, believing the stress of everything has gotten to him. Donald heads up to Gilbert’s cabin in the woods, and speaks into a tape recorder, saying that he believes that he is the murder and plans on proving it. Back at the college, Jimmy and Sylvia go to see Madeline and tell her that they were there and saw the giant dragonfly, prompting Madeline to head to the cabin. At the cabin, Donald has several cameras placed around the room and is about to inject himself when he is interrupted by a forest ranger, who noticed the lights on in the cabin and stopped to check on it. After he leaves, Donald injects himself with coelacanth plasma and transforms into Neanderthal and proceeds to trash the cabin, with the cameras snapping pictures of it, before he exits through a window. Madeline is on the road up to the cabin when she spies the transformed Donald and runs off the road. As Donald approaches her, the park ranger runs up to check on them and Donald chases him off before grabbing Madeline and carrying her away. The ranger calls the police to report what happened and then goes off after Donald and Madeline. Finding the car empty, the ranger heads to the cabin and finds it empty and wrecked and begins calling out for Donald. Madeline comes too and seeing the transformed Donald, starts screaming and Donald tries to carry her off again when the ranger shoots at him. Donald kills the ranger then chases after Madeline but he suddenly collapses. Madeline makes it to the cabin and finds it empty but Donald shows up and she embraces him. Donald realizes one of the cameras was undamaged and quickly develops the film, showing his transformation. When the police and Gilbert arrive, Madeline tries to tell them that Donald killed the creature but Donald says that it isn’t dead but he can show them where it is. Kissing Madeline goodbye, Donald fills a syringe with the plasma and heads out with the police. When they reach a nearby hill, Donald tells the police to wait a few minutes and follow, then goes ahead with Gilbert. At the top, he injects himself with the plasma, then transforms in front of Gilbert’s eyes. Gilber tries to tell the police not to shoot but they kill the transformed Donald and watch as he changes back to normal.
To be honest, while there was some suspense to this movie, it wound up being a pretty slow and predictable film. The acting was decent though some of the minor characters just seemed to stiff in their acting. The plot was pretty good and I liked how Arthur Franz (Donald) theorized what happened only to realize he was describing exactly what happened to himself. The ending honestly felt rushed as they spent almost an hour giving the set-up and then tried to squeeze in a dramatic finale in the remaining 20 minutes. The makeup for the transformed Donald did look pretty good but the “shimmer effect” to indicate the change was a little overkill. I know that this movie is a somewhat typical example of the sci-fi genre back in the day but to be honest, there are a lot better examples to have placed in this collection.
Rating: 2 out of 5