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18 June 2014 @ 10:10 pm
Movie Reviewed: "Monster on the Campus" part II  
monster_splash


Scene 37: Uh... that morning... afternoon... next day....

Students, including Sylvia and movie ex-boyfriend show up to class in the formerly trashed classroom to find Donald working over the Coelacanth some more. He's so into his work that he doesn't notice twenty kids gathered around him muttering until Jimmy interrupts. Donald dismisses the class for the day as he's too busy with his work to be interrupted with his job.

[And holy crap, is he actually wearing gloves!?!]

Jimmy loiters behind. He pulls out Don's pipe and reveals he found it out on the campus grounds near where Sgt. Eddie Daniels was killed. He thanks him and dismisses the young man.


Commentary: Okay, the longer this movie goes on the more ridiculous it is getting, unfortunately. This really did start out as an adequate B-Movie that looked like it would be kinda fun. But, c'mon... the police are suspecting that Donald is being set up as a murderer, and one of their own has been killed in the line of duty. HOW IS CLASS GOING ON AS NORMAL??

WHERE ARE THESE KIDS' PARENTS? HOW HAVE THEY NOT SHOWN UP TO GET THEIR KIDS OUT OF HARM'S WAY?  

How is Donald not in protective custody? How many more times are we going to see that Coelacanth or have its name mentioned? How is it that Jimmy finds a piece of evidence at a crime scene that the police miss and don't contact them? How is it Donald takes said evidence and puts it in his pocket, instead of mentioning that it should go to the police in case his attacker left prints on it?

Ugh.



Scene 38: Out in the hallway, Sylvia waits for Jimmy.

[I stab her in the back, but all it does is damage my monitor screen. Don't try to attack hussies in 1958 from 2014, kids.]

As Jimmy joins her, they're also met by the dropping in Maddie. She quickly joins Donald when she finds out from Jimmy about class being cancelled for the second day in a row [Again, class?? With everything going on?]. Don doesn't recognize her voice and insists that he already said no class today. Madeline points out she isn't there for class [and not only does Don's voice recognition system seem to be on the fritz, but he also has the usual absence of peripheral vision].

They proceed to get into a tiff over Donald's growing obsession with finding this "subhuman" he believes in, while she's worried over both her father's reaction and the fact that Donald has blacked out twice so far and that they have two murdered people on campus, apparently tied to him. She suggests he needs to take a respite. He counters he can rest after he helps track down the killer... and makes history by disproving current evolutionary theory.

They're interrupted by the phone -- that call from Madagascar. He dismisses Maddie, to her disbelief.


Commentary: One of the more interesting things I'm seeing in this movie is an undercurrent between Donald and Madeline. For all of their scenes, they don't seem to have much of a connection in keeping with their status as fiances. In fact, it seems like Donald is more ambivalent about this relationship than Madeline has recognized, at least consciously. One has to wonder if maybe her irritation with Molly was a sign that at least in the back of her mind, she's seeing the same lack of real passion that I'm seeing between her and Don.

At first I put it down to the 1950's aesthetic in regards to couples' affection on screen, but the thread seems much too consistent for that explanation. Maddie has been much more invested in their relationship than Donald in nearly every single scene we've seen of them interacting.

It'd be very interesting (which is probably why it won't occur) if Madeline tries the whole "I love you, I know you're in there, come back to me" scene only to have it utterly fail because Donald was never really "there" with her to begin with.



Scene 39: Donald questions the scientist about the preservation methods used on the Coelacanth, but the scientist on the other end has to get back to him.


Scene 40: Meanwhile, Maddie has gone straight to daddy to complain about Don's calling Africa. He gets on the phone with the operator to find out that Don is still on the line with Madagascar [uh... wait... why is Don still on this call; is this later after scientist calls back with more details??]. The expense drives him crazy. He immediately calls Dr. Cole for medical advice about Don's possible state of mind and tells the good doctor he needs to come over right away so they can go talk to Dr. Blake.

Gilbert tells Maddie that she's right and obviously Donald needs a leave of absence. She asks him not to say that she was the one to bring it up to him. He seems less concerned about his future son-in-law's mental health, and more concerned with the phone call expense.


Scene 41: In his office, Donald is in fact on the line again with Africa getting details about the fish's recovery. Donald finds the clue he was looking for in some radiation readings upon the inspection of the Coelacanth before its shipment.

As he's returning from his office to the lab, he's interrupted by the arrival of Gilbert and Oliver. Donald is happy to see them as he'd like to share some news about his experiments, but even though he offers to pay the phone call to Madagascar himself, Gilbert can't let it go. Gil brings up the leave of absence, but Donald won't have it.

To Doctor Cole's obvious objections, Gilbert gives Donald's wild theory of a human throwback/metamorphosis a listening to.

Don also asks that Gilbert call in Mike for his presentation.


Scene 42: Donald goes through the explanations of how the Coelacanth's plasma has been reverting Samson, the dragon fly and the bacteria to an earlier, more primitive state through ingestion. He offers it is obvious to him, that it would do the same to a human being. What's more, he believes that the gamma rays the Coelacanth was subjected to for preservation is the catalyst for this remarkable alteration.

As discussion continues, the probable mode of infection of the mysterious stranger on campus leads Donald to begin recognizing that he may be the creature himself, due to the tooth punctures he suffered handling the fish carcass. As Cole continues to examine Don's theory, Donald pulls his pipe out and realizes the odd scent matches the smell of the distilled Coelacanth plasma.

With this realization, when the police arrive, Donald starts pulling back on his claims stating that his saying that he could produce a primitive man with his distillation is a gross exaggeration. Donald changes him mind about the leave of absence and Gilbert offers his summer cabin as a place where Don can get some rest.


Commentary: Which, of course, Mike Stevens is suddenly very keen on stating the police would love to work this case without Don Blake's assistance/interference appropo of nothing. He also, despite thinking earlier that Don was being set up as a patsy for their murderer thinks nothing of continuing the policy of not assigning a replacement for Detective Bodyguard.

And NOBODY links Donald's observation that the "subhuman" could be a result of infection by the Coelacanth through a cut by fish scale or accidental bite with Don's own injury from that very cause despite their all knowing of the incident.

Ugh... *rolls eyes*

And just how long is that fish carcass going to sit out like that?



Scene 43: The following day, Donald Blake has relocated to his future father-in-law's cabin. He's brought along some test tubes and fish blood samples. He dictates into a tape recorder about his suspicions.

He tells the recorder that in all likelihood he is the murderer of Molly and Detective Bodyguard. He goes on to state that he intends to perform an experiment. He admits to being both terrified and scientifically fascinated by the possibilities and hopes that if he does transform,that he'll have the courage to destroy the monster within.


Scene 44: Back at the college campus, Jimmy and Sylvia show up at Maddie's. They've come to admit to the truth about the dragon fly, despite their promise to the professor because they don't like the talk about his being crazy. With this new information, Madeline gets on the phone to her father. She reports her intention to drive up to the cabin to see Donald.


Commentary: I don't like this scene for the acting. For whatever reason, Joanna Moore barely bats an eye about a giant dragon fly being real, and thereby indicating that a subhuman could also be running around. As per all movie, nobody seems overly worried about murders on campus and they keep giving emotive dialog to Nancy Walters who is... unconvincing... as Sylvia Lockwood.

The scene is really damaged though by Joanna's underacting to this revelation... not to mention the fact that her character's reaction seems wrong too -- she doesn't even suggest that the students could be lying in order to save a teacher they care about.

It's just a bad scene designed completely to put Maddie back on Don's side and to get her into danger, but this wasn't needed. Madeline already had all of the motivation she needed to go to Don. Considering the acting in this scene, it really should've been left on the cutting room floor.



Scene 45: Back in the cabin, Don has rigged strings from a chair where he'll take the serum to a pair of camera shutters to capture photo evidence of whatever occurs to him.

Don is dictating his intentions when he's interrupted by a knock. It's a forestry ranger checking on the lights on in the cabin. There are introductions and then Don gets back to what he's doing.

Donald gives himself the injection of Coelacanth plasma distillate.


sc_45


Scene 46: We cut away from Donald in the midst of his transformation to join Madeline as she races her car toward her father's cabin.


Commentary: Which was completely unneeded, pointless and not even a good use of a transitional scene.


Scene 47: Back in the cabin, the transformation is settling toward completion.


sc_47


The Subhuman finds the tape recorder annoying and attacks its spinning reels, which causes enough commotion for the cameras to go off. The flashes only enrage it.


Commentary: Yikey. Okay, so this scene by itself isn't bad at all. But, the close up on the monster face was a real mistake. The effects around the torso of Donald are really good. He's hairy shouldered with torn sleeves and his body looks more muscular and 'wedged-shape' with his torso obviously having broadened - that is all good work.

The face though is obviously a rubber mask and while the effect can be hidden by pulling the camera view out a just a little bit, the director instead chose to focus closely on Arthur Franz' face. The movement of his face under the mask only points out how fake the "monster face" actually is. If Jack Arnold just hadn't been so enthused with his several seconds close up of the monster, we wouldn't have been able to see past the illusion so easily and the monster would've been much more convincing for us.



Scene 48: Meanwhile, Madeline is still driving toward doom.


Scene 49: In the cabin, Subhuman!Donald has found a small hand axe. He gets annoyed at being seemingly trapped in a small room, until he discovers how easily the windows shatter, allowing egress to the wide expanse of outdoors.


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He goes off into the night.


Scene 50: Down at the ranger station, Tom Edwards is startled by Madeline racing by in her convertible.

Maddie continues to race at high speeds for her fiance.


Commentary: And she's accompanied by action music, which is totally non-sensicle! Why is Maddie driving like a mad woman along this winding, wooded, dark road [well, "Hollywood dark" road]? Why is the music indicating that Maddie is rushing to save Don, when she has no idea that he's doing anything other than being bored with himself at the cabin?

This entire sequence, in addition to giving us information we don't need since we already know where Madeline is headed, hasn't been set up for her to be in a rush. She's just being reckless for no reason than that she likes driving fast, which isn't justifying the excited-trumpets-treatment.



Scene 51: Madeline's ridiculous speeding nearly gets herself and Don!Beast killed as she almost runs him down. With a scream, she turns her wheel and sends her car over and down an embankment. Her scream as the car hits the road below her is heard (somehow) by Ranger Edwards.

At the crash site, Subhuman has joined the car heap. Madeline is lying outside of the drivers seat, knocked out. As she shifts around in semi-consciousness, Subhuman raises the axe.

[Yeah... I'm sure he's really going to axe her. Whatever.]

Maddie subsides and the Beast strokes the Beauty's face. Meanwhile, above the crash site, the Ranger arrives. He's confronted by the Subhuman!Don and rushes off with a look of revulsion to call in for help. Subhuman lifts up Maddie and rushes away from the accident site.


Scene 52: In the Ranger's station, Edwards calls in the sighting to Mike, collects his gun and rushes back for the accident site.


Scene 53: Meanwhile, Subhuman is rushing Maddie through the Day-for-Night woods. At the same time, Ranger is arriving back at the accident site and Mike is rushing to the scene of the Ranger station.

Mike is retrieved Madeline's father to bring with.


Scene 54: In the Day-for-Night Hills above town, Madeline remains unconscious in the Subhuman's arms.

He finally sets her down near a log and pats at her face [with his horrible, Halloween-costume, oversized rubber gloves -- they look awful and obvious].


Scene 55: Ranger arrives at the Howard cabin. He seeks help from the professor.

As he's doing so, Mike is continuing to drive up the BackProjection Canyon road toward the Day-For-Night Woods.


Commentary: Can you tell that I'm getting bored with this incidental back-and-forth and am ready for the wrap up, now?

No, the excitment-horns are not helping me get into these scenes. Let's get to Maddie screaming and the good guys confronting the monster, already. Pacing is starting to suffer because we already know how all of these leading-up scenes are going to go and there is nothing that we need to see here, including Ranger discovering the damage in the cabin and the cameras of Don. We could've easily saved the mention of the photos and tapes proving conclusively Don's discovery as the wrap-up explanation scene, rather than interrupting the momentum of Madeline confronting Don!Beast that we should be getting right now.

We really needed these wasted "insert" scenes trimmed or cut out altogether.



Scene 56: Up on the Day-For-Night Hills, Subhuman hears Ranger calling for Dr. Drake. The sounds of his calling bring Maddie around. She screams and tries to run further up the hill, but Subhuman easily catches her.

Ranger hears Maddie's feminine screaming and calls out Drake's name...[uh??]

Maddie beats ineffectively at Subhuman's arms while he pulls the caveman-on-woman hair pull. Ranger tracks up into the hills for the source of the yells he hears.


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He sees Subhuman wrestling Madeline and seemingly trying to break her spine. She falls unconscious again and Subhuman lifts her to march her back to the fallen log as Ranger crouches nearby.

Ranger Edwards tries to sneak up behind Subhuman, but a twigs foils this. Instead he shoots Subhuman!Don in the shoulder. For this, and not for killing the creature when he had the chance, he gets an axe to the head.

Maddie comes around again, and she takes off further up Day-for-Night Hill again. Subhuman follows along, grunting, howling and lurching.

But something is happening to the Subhuman!Don as he falters. Hitting at a tree in frustration, he collapses on the ground with a whine.


Scene 57: Meanwhile, Maddie has followed a path down the Day-for-Night Hills and found her family's cabin. She rushes inside. There she finds signs of struggle and when Donald doesn't answer her frantic calls, she turns... right into Donald's arms.

She cries with relief that Donald isn't hurt, despite his ripped clothing, but he's more interested in the camera.


Scene 58: Below, Mike and company arrive at the empty Ranger station. Confirming that he hasn't returned, Mike next rushes everyone toward the cabin.


Scene 59: At the cabin, Don is developing the film from the surviving camera. There the photo clearly shows the Subhuman in Donald's clothes. Maddie fails to understand the significance, but Donald gets it. When Mike arrives with Maddie's father in tow, she reports that Donald killed the monster but Don tells them that the creature isn't dead, only hiding.

He offers to show the cops where it hides, and prepares another syringe. He tells Maddie that her living proves that the monster must have loved her at least a little, to her confusion. He tells her to stay in the cabin.


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Scene 60: Donald leads the men to where he has vague memories being and to the Ranger's body. Don basically sets up a suicide by cop by telling them that he needs to go ahead alone and flush the creature out to their waiting guns, though Professor Howard puts a small kink in the plan by insisting that Don isn't going to confront the monster alone. He and Blake go up into the hills, while Mike readies his gun and Companion Detective stands around with a blank look on his face.

Don blah-blahs to Howard's irritation about the primitive in man. Donald then stalks off a few feet and injects himself again.

Subhuman confronts Gilbert, who chooses to retreat rather than kill his future son-in-law. Gil tries to tell the police not to fire, but Mike fills Subhuman with lead. He rolls down the hill and dies.


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Mike and Companion Detective don't wonder why the Subhuman is wearing Blake's clothing. Gilbert points out the two are the same as Subhuman reverts to Don.

[Weirdly, Don dies with his eyes open and they remain open throughout his reverse transformation. Then his eyes are suddenly closed as the camera viewpoint pulls out. Do dead bodies spontaneously eye-close?]


Commentary: We get The End over the three men standing over Donald Blake's dead body with Madeline still not understanding the significance of the creature being in Don's clothes. It feels weird that she wasn't there for a last, dramatic declaration of love/anguished wail.



The Good: The animal acting by the dog playing Samson was really good. I know, that's a weird thing to focus on, but the animal really did well at scaring me a little when he was being vicious.

Molly's death and the finding of such was really well handled.

Though I have issues with her some of her scenes, Joanna Moore really does a great job during her confrontation scenes/escape from the Subhuman. It's really the only scene where I feel like Maddie is a real person and reacting realistically to a traumatic set of events.

I also liked the way that Ranger's death was handled with the thrown axe.



The Bad: The entire way that Don's infection is handled is supremely awkward and dumb when it didn't need to be so obviously, clumsily set up and utterly ridiculous.

Also, the way that Molly's murder is handled by everyone who actually knew her is just bizarre! She's not memorialized in any way, but we're also not given any in-universe explanation for why nobody seems all that broken up by her death.

The slavish devotion to working 'Coelacanth' into as many conversations as possible was getting ridiculous.

The handling of the police is also a real logic issue. If Don was important enough to protect with a bodyguard before that officer's murder, than why wouldn't he be important enough to protect after someone went to the trouble of killing his guarding detective? With such inconsistency, they shouldn't have broached the bodyguard idea at all, or had it brought up with Donald refusing police protection.

I generally hate commenting on the actors outside of their roles, but I just hated the performance of Nancy Walters as Sylvia throughout. She never once felt like a young college student dealing with something mysterious and deadly happening on her campus.

The rubber mask and gloves of the monster were disappointing, but what makes it bad is the way the director didn't seem to notice that close-ups were the exact opposite way to allow us to overlook them.



Other Thoughts: There are a lot of scenes, especially near the wrap-up, that just aren't necessary - but not exactly badly done or acted. They're just padding and could've easily been done without in order to place a 4th murder in there somewhere. Due to this, pacing that started well in the beginning starts to take a real hit near the ending. Not bad enough to list there, but it is problematic.

There is also a real missed opportunity in the Don/Maddie relationship on commenting about their seeming lack of passion - especially on his part. It feels more like a combination of a lack of chemistry between the leads and the movie not being focused on their relationship, but the director could've turned that to an advantage by pointing it up in-universe that she seems far more invested than he does. It would've been a real bonus, if this caused his alter-ego to target Maddie rather than having her being threatened the result of random happenstance.

I wanted to like the ending more with Donald choosing suicide by cop, rather than live with what his alter ego did, but his motivations aren't explained well at all. We don't actually see Don suffering any sort of emotional breakdown over any of the deaths he has caused that would lead us to see him choosing this path. It feels more like he's doing it because he became a monster -- but that isn't necessary, because he's only becoming a Subhuman because of his continued exposure to the corrupted Coelacanth fluid. The only way that his suicide makes sense is his guilt over killing people, and that isn't brought up by him -- even to himself.

I also wanted to get more emotionally involved with these characters, but except as mentioned above in The Good or The Bad, everyone was just bland and adequate. None of the actors gave us a charasmatic performance to draw us in, nor did they provide the sort of bad, OTT acting that could've made the story fun.



The Score: It's really too bad that this started off as a pretty adequate B-Monster Movie, but the solid wallowing in stupid and the lackluster acting combined to really drag things down. The director did his share as well to keep things from getting surprising or exciting so that ultimately I ended up disappointed.


2.50 out of 5 stars



Next Review: BTVS, Season 9, Issue 24

Next Best Of/Worst Of post: BTVS, Season 8, Issue 11

Next TV review: The Walking Dead "TS-19"

Next Movie review: "Daughter of the Tong"




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lycomingstlycomingst on June 19th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm thinking that fish would be smelling something terrible.
harsens_robharsens_rob on June 19th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
I know, right??
I kept being distracted by the same thoughts... not to mention how this supposedly valuable sample was being completely ruined by being allowed to thaw/re-freeze/thaw/re-freeze....


Obvs, Don fails sample care.