Monster on the Campus (1958)

This movie about a big, dead, smelly fish has the kind of pedigree that would make you think it was one of those big, dead, smelly fish movies from the 1950s that was really good. Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man) directed from a script by Daniel Duncan who also scripted The Time Machine. And Joanna Moore is the female lead. She was Tatum O’Neal’s mother!

Instead of an interesting rampaging monster epic though, you have a movie hampered by its silly premise. Even worse, the monster hardly rampaged at all, making only a few off screen appearances until the very end when a guy in caveman make up starting running around the woods, chucking axes at park rangers and causing pretty gals to faint dead away.

Dunsfield University is one of those decent types of colleges where people like the clean cut and handsome Troy Donahue go to school and help out their professors unloading giant fish, while walking their dogs.

Professor Donald Blake has somehow managed to get Dunsfield U to purchase a big, prehistoric fish from Madagascar. This fish is the coelacanth and is famous for being a “living fossil” because it is thought to have not really evolved over the course of its 400 million year history. In fact it was thought extinct until some yokel caught one with his Zebco back in 1938!

The fish is packed in ice and some of it melts leaving a bloody mess on the ground which Troy’s dog Sampson promptly licks up. The next thing you know, Sampson is going after Blake’s girlfriend so Troy and Blake tackle the dog with a blanket and haul it off to the vet. In the process, the dog also bites Blake.


Sampson is kept in the lab for observation and Blake observes that Sampson has grown really big teeth. He thinks this is odd, but he never stops to wonder if he himself will soon be growing those really bitching fangs.

Blake also cuts his hand on the fish’s teeth. Then he puts his wounded hand into the bloody water that still remains in the tub he’s hauling this thing around in. Now, instead of acting like a disinfectant as you might expect bloody fish water to do, it actually has a different effect. It makes Blake a little warm, a little weak, and a whole lot primitive!

Every scientist who studies old time fish knows what happens next: monster rampage ending with the death of a hot chick! Blake’s girlfriend then brings the law down on his place when she finds him out back with the corpse of Nurse Molly. You know how jealous broads can get!

The cops suspect Blake, but the physical evidence is confusing because instead of the business card with Blake’s name laying across the dead girl, they find large fingerprints and big nasty footprints. They also find Blake’s tie clasp, but no one pays that too much mind and immediately settle on the whole “someone is trying to kill Blake and/or frame him for murder” gag.


Back on campus Troy and his girlfriend are making out behind a tree when suddenly, they get chased by a gigantic dragonfly!

The dragonfly pursues them across campus right to Donnie’s lab. Donnie realizes what’s going on and he opens the window to let the dragonfly in. (He wants to study it you know.)

No one notices that some blood from the dragonfly drips into this his pipe. One murdered cop later and the movie really begins to reek like the fish it’s obsessed with. How else to explain the sequence involving Donnie calling Madagascar and the head of the university being outraged that he has spent all this department money on a long distance phone call?

The Dean stomps over to see Donnie and there’s a big pow wow where Donnie goes on and on about how something in the plasma of the fish causes evolutionary regression and that it affects the person doing all the killing because the fish was treated with gamma rays to preserve it.


The idea that something in the blood of this fish could make another species regress makes absolutely no sense, but since gamma rays were mentioned who knows what could happen, right?

Dubious scientific analysis aside, the movie completely tanks at the end (though I did like that dude getting an ax in the face) when Donnie goes up to the mountains to study the effects of the fish blood.

He injects himself once, goes on a rampage killing the park ranger and harassing his girlfriend, then when the cops show up, he’s back to normal and injects himself again so that the monster can be destroyed.

Here’s a idea, Donnie: if you never inject yourself again with this slop, you won’t ever turn into the monster again.

A completely ludicrous ending that one suspects was done merely because all these monster on the loose movies end like that. Laughable science and consistently dimwitted behavior of the main character prevent this movie from being much of anything other than a very brief and not too accurate educational lesson about ancient bugs and fish.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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