Monster on the Campus
Writer: David Duncan
DIR: Jack Arnold
Starring: Arthur Franz, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt
Blurb (IMDB): The blood of a primitive fish exposed to gamma rays causes a benign research professor to regress to an ape-like, bloodthirsty prehistoric hominid.
Scene 01: We start with our credits over the typical 1950's blaring horn-based theme, thus assuring us that this will be the most exciting picture our eyes have ever witnessed. Uh-huh.
Our real first scene is a blond stud pulling up to a curb in a truck. Over peppy-happy music, he calls out to a dog that is currently being watched over by a college fraternity. The dog, Samson, seems to recognize him because he jogs to the truck as the guys on the porch smile.
Scene 02: The truck guy, the fraternity and the dog are associated with Dunsfield University.
Scene 03: We cut from truck guy arriving to an office/classroom with busts on the wall of the progression of earliest man to modern.
[Uh... it includes the Piltdown Man which was known to be a fraud in 1953. This movie was made 5 years later. Ooopsie. Also it includes the Peking Man, but they've misspelled it Pekin Man. I'm quickly losing confidence in the educational opportunities at this school. Perhaps it's fridge logic? It would, perhaps, explain the series of events that we're about to play witness to.]
In the classroom is our obvious professor, Donald Blake. He's currently making a plaster mold of the modern woman for his wall display in the guise of Madeline Howard. He jokes with her a bit first on her being perfect... silent, and then on tickling her instead of removing her plaster casting, but finally he gets the thing off of her carefully.
They have a philosophical discussion about the state of mankind and his future. It becomes quite clear that our twosome are a couple looking forward to their future together.
Thankfully a horn bleats and interrupts the sap. The horn is from our truck and driver. He's Jimmy by the way. The professor is pleased to see Jimmy back, as he's carrying something in back that is of interest. Jimmy warns that the specimen is starting to thaw. [I feel the need to point out that is only the case because of the detour you just had to make to pick up the dog, which could've waited Jimmy. Jimmy is played by the hunkage of Troy Donahue and will be my on-screen boyfriend for this production.]
The delivery is a frozen Coelacanth.
Scene 04: Outdoors, when Jimmy opens the back of the truck, bloody thaw-water runs out of the back. Samson gets to drinking at it, until Jimmy pulls him away.
Donald and Jimmy take a moment to admire the quickly thawing specimen and to give us some background on how old the species is believed to be. Don explains how the fish's fins are the precursor to legs.
Scene 05: Having gotten the plaster bits off of her face and touched up her makeup, Maddie comes out to call for Donald to see what the hold up is on getting his specimen inside. She confronted at the door by Samson, who begins to growl at her.
Samson barks at her and snarls [and note the serious vampire-fang he's sporting] despite her obvious familiarity between them. He chases her back inside and throws himself against the door.
Scene 06: At the truck, Jimmy hears the racket and runs to get Samson under control. The dog turns on him and attacks.
Don grabs up the tarp that had been covering the fish container and rushes to Jimmy's aid. They're able to get the dog wrapped up in the tarp. They rush Samson into the lab.
Scene 07: A bit later, and we're in the campus doctor's office where Jimmy is having his bit wound tended. Jimmy brings up rabies, but Dr. Cole tells him it sounds like his rage came on too quickly for that to explain the dog's behavior.
He asks Don to keep the animal for observation in his lab and to collect a saliva sample that his nurse, Molly, will pick up that evening.
My movie-boyfriend gets his arm wrapped up [and Troy apparently had no idea what to do in this scene, so he just holds a stare on Doctor Cole that is really awkward and weird -- oh, Troy -- you should've been more interested in your wound than the doctor's forehead].
Scene 08: Later that evening, the fish is being left out to continue to degrade while Don works over the samples he's already taken. Across the room, Samson is acting relatively normal, if extremely thirsty, in his cage.
That is until Don comes closer to take a look at him, at which time Samson reverts to snarling.
A knock on the door interrupts. It's Molly for the saliva sample. They discuss Samson's condition and Don opines it definitely isn't rabies as there is no fear of water and no excess drooling from the suddenly violent animal.
Don provokes Samson a little to point out to Molly the condition of his canines, which are very long. Molly also manages some flirting with Don before he provokes Samson and he flirts back, setting up our triangle with Maddie.
The professor describes the fangs as out of time and the dog as a throwback. He apologizes to Molly for startling her with the dog's provocation, but then smiles and tells her that she kinda scares him, too.
They're interrupted by Madeline calling to check up on Don as they're to meet up at a college dance that evening. When he returns, Molly asks about the specimen fish, which reminds him to get the thing to the freezer before it spoils.
Commentary: There hasn't been too much to comment on to this point, but things are moving along nicely so it appears that pacing won't be an issue. The setup has been good with Samson being our first indicator that there is something wrong with the specimen and our actors have been likeable. The dog is one who is actually acting [i.e. he's not happily wagging his tail during his violent fits and he doesn't look like he'd much rather play and lick the actors than attack]. It's all good so far, except possibly the fish prop which seems a bit too rubbery but it's easy to overlook that.
That, and the way that Don is carrying it is pretty stupid with his hand in its mouth pressing his fingers against its obvs sharp, little teeth. I don't think that a scientists used to working with specimens would carry it like this, and I question his lack of gloves. But again, we can shrug this off and move on pretty easily since the actors are good.
Scene 09: In the freezer, Dipshit drops the fish onto a counter top with his hand still in its mouth. This results in what you'd expect. With his now sporting a wounded hand, he and Molly drag the crate of meltwater out of the lab. Doctor Dumbass manages to completely submerge his wound into the icky, melted fish-water.
Then, to Molly's complaint, he sucks on his bloody, fishy-water soaked hand. Molly insists on some first aid, but Don's lab doesn't have a kit -- she keeps one in her car and rushes him out to tend to his hand.
Commentary: Okay, first - EW & GROSSSS. But second, that series of contrivances was a little too much to just shrug off. I simply refuse to believe anyone would stick their wounded hand into dirty water, and even if you somehow slipped it in, I refuse to believe you'd put such a grody hand into your mouth.
There had to be a better way to get Donald Blake infected.
Scene 10: By the time Don gets to Molly's car, he's moaning, groaning and sweating with discomfort. Molly takes him home, but when they're parked in the driveway, he's unconscious. Molly leaves him in the car to go inside his home [1950's - locking your door was optional] for the phone. As she's dialing [1950's - no quick 911 call], the door handle at the front door starts to quietly turn.
We hear Molly waiting for Doctor Cole with his service, as around the open door we have a brutish, hairy hand.
Molly hears the door squeak and when she turns around, calling for Donald, she finds a sinister shadow instead. She gives a short scream as the shadow artfully sways itself over her face.
Scene 11: Elsewhere, we follow somebody we don't know. It turns out this is Professor Gilbert Howard, father to Maddie.
He expresses surprise that she's home, as she was supposed to be chaperoning that dance [1950's - no wild par... no, no, I don't buy there is no wild partying going on somewhere on that campus]. She tells him she's waiting for her fiance to come pick her up.
Gil is also a fan of the Coelacanth that Donald acquired, as it has brought good press, despite Dr. Cole's apparent bitching about the costs. This diversion is interrupted by a call looking for Madeline as couples are starting to arrive. Gilbert mentions Donald's habit of getting wrapped up in his lab work and suggests that she swing by there to see if he's forgotten. At first she isn't going to, but then she remembers Samson and tells her father about how the campus mascot [I presuming -- EVERYONE seems to know the dog] turned suddenly viscious for unexplained reasons. She guesses maybe Don could be busy with him.
Scene 12: When she arrives, she's startled by Mr. Townsend who had stopped by because he found the campus truck sitting with its back doors wide open. He joins Maddie to see about Dr. Blake.
[You just can't imagine the struggle not to nickname Donald, Thor throughout this review.]
Scene 13: They find the lab doors locked, but Townsend is the property manager and has spare keys. He lets them in, where they naturally enough find the lab without its occupant. Townsend takes a closer look at Samson, who has reverted to his normal behavior, going so far as to welcome being patted to Madeline's surprise.
Commentary: This scene goes on too long for what it is accomplishing. We first got the startle-meet, then the long walk to the lab, then Townsend letting them in through the side door, then Maddie's looking around, then Townsend spending some time talking about Samson sweet disposition, then Maddie finally leaving, then Townsend spending another few moments playing with the caged animal... eh! We get it, the dog isn't wanting to face-chew anymore.
Plus, how has Samson been caged all day and not gone potty? That is one disciplined pooch, but it's no wonder that he's desperate to be released.
Scene 14: Madd's next stop is Don's home, where things seem a little too quiet - especially with that bitch Molly's car sitting in the driveway [believe me, Madeline's irritation with Molly being there is very apparent].
Things gets ominous when she finds the front door still left open. We can see a chair on the left has been displaced as in a struggle. When Maddie enters further, she sees all kinds of furniture overturned.
After a few calls for Donald [and none for Molly], she phones the operator to ask for the police. After hanging up, she hears an inarticulate groaning.
Scene 15: Madeline makes her way to the bedroom, where she finds a similar mess she just left. She finds a photo of herself, signed with love to Don, ripped in half. More moaning draws her to the door that leads from the bedroom to the back patio.
Scene 16: Outside, she continues to hear odd groaning noises. She panics a bit as she finds Donald on the back lawn, struggling to gain his wits. In the background, waiting to be spotted is Molly -- completely stilled and with her eyes frozen open.
It isn't long before Molly's corpse is found in a tree. [Yeah, I bet you're feeling a bit guilty now about that irritation, huh Madds?]
Commentary: At first, I thought that they were trying to suggest that Molly had been speared through the back of the neck on the tree, due to some strategic blood smeared around her throat. That seemed really gruesome for 1950's standards and I was ready to compliment them on going there within their era-constraints. But we're about to see that she was actually strung up by her hair. Whether that is more or less savage, I'll leave to the individual to decide.
I still want to compliment the depiction of Molly's corpse being discovered though, and Helen Westcott did a really good job with staying still and keeping her open eyes from moving about as everyone acted around her.
Scene 17: The police have arrived, and hear Maddie's cry of horror. They rush around back. There, Don is telling Maddie that he can't remember anything about what happened. The police quickly unstring Molly [CSI is throwing a fit, again].
Scene 18: A short time later, an entire detective crew is on premises. In the shattered mirror we can see Don struggling to remember what happened in his destroyed house, while Maddie comforts him. The lead detective is on the phone, more than likely reporting in to his boss.
After hanging up, Don recalls Molly's visit to the lab for the saliva sample and his cutting himself on the fish's teeth.
Don's last memory is heading for Molly's car for the first aid kit she had. Another detective comes into the room with a tie clasp that Molly had in her hand. It's Don's.
Molly claims that it isn't Don's and she's never seen him wear it, but he immediately sees that she's trying to protect him and doesn't allow it. Lead Detective is obvs suspicious of his tie clasp being in Molly's dead hand while he's claiming he was unconscious throughout her dying moments. He's taken into custody, with Madd's telling him not to say anything until she gets him a lawyer.
Another detective calls for Lt. Stevens [our lead detective on this case] into the bedroom as Molly's body is being carted out past the confused Maddie.
Scene 19: In the bedroom, junior detective reports that he dusted the photo that was torn in half [which both detectives continue to manhandle without gloves] and found a thumb print. It's compared on site with one taken from Don and shows that there had to be a third person in the room, after all.
Next Mike is shown a hand print on the doors leading to the patio. It's huge... and obvs far larger than Don's. Both the detectives describe the hand that made it as 'deformed'.
Scene 20: Mike is left to consider that Don's story of being knocked out while Molly was killed appears to be a fact.
He returns to ask Maddie about any enemies that Blake may have and tells her about the third-party print they found. This makes her gleeful that Don has been freed by this evidence [again... that bitch, Molly, gets nothing from Madeline... uh, maybe Madds is the bitch, here].
Commentary: I don't really like this because Madeline's entire demeanor regarding Molly is obviously so inappropriate and we're not given any information whatsoever about personal problems between the two women. We know that Molly was flirting with Don, but it was never shown or stated [other than Madd's obvious annoyance at her car in the driveway] Madeline was even aware of this. It could've worked so much better if Madeline had commented to Mike Stevens cattily about Molly's wandering eye on other people's men before she is told about the obviously male hand ... or consequently, if she'd taken this opportunity to slyly suggest that the Detective look into any other taken men that Molly may have had her eye on.
This would've helped sell that Madeline was aware of Molly's flirting with her fiance, that she didn't really like the woman because of it, and that there would be other motives for her murder that had nothing to do with Donald being the perpetrator.
It also would've helped A LOT if Joanna Moore had downplayed her relief at Don's apparent exoneration here. Between her utter lack of regard for Molly and her outright glee in this scene, she really comes off poorly without things being far more clear that she and Molly had a severe dislike for one another before this incident.
Scene 21: One would hope that at least days later, Don is teaching in class about that Coelacanth which is again sitting out and thawing on his desk. His course seems to include not just evolutionary history, but also pompous, hackneyed philosophy.
As Blake dismisses his class for the day, we discover that movie-boyfriend Jimmy is in this class. He tells Sylvia that he wants to discuss something. Jimmy's concern is for Samson and after dealing with the fish to the freezer issue, they check in on him.
Commentary: Oh, honestly. The obsession with hauling out this fish prop is getting embarassing. It's starting to become a fetish like the radar dishes in "The Deadly Mantis".
Scene 22: In the office, Doctor Cole is checking on Samson as well, with Madeline having shared that he seemed to be perfectly normal again. Jimmy wants to reclaim him as the fraternity dog, but Don hadn't had a chance to check on the dog's samples. Just because it wasn't rabies doesn't mean he's fully healthy.
Blake tells everyone about his observations regarding Samson's set of wolfish canine teeth, but when he goes to show these to Oliver Cole, they find Samson's teeth just like any other German Shepherds. At first Don tries to insist that there was a physical change in the canine, but on his mentioning that Molly was there and noticed as well, things get awkward. He agrees with Oliver that he must have imagined it and Cole puts it down to a stress reaction after the horrors of the murder.
After everyone else clears out, Don tries again to insist that he did see physical changes in Samson to Maddie but she wants to forget the whole thing. We find out in the course of their discussion that it has been one night since Molly's murder. They still have school and nobody seems particularly broken up about her fate.
Commentary: Seriously - NOBODY seems to be traumatized about Molly's murder at Don's house at all. It's hilarious in a really dark way how casual everybody is acting that she was left hanging in a tree in Donald's back yard.
Scene 23: Maddie turns the subject away from Samson by asking about her mask. Don shows it to her, sitting conveniently next to Java Man on his desk. He talks about how civilization is only a learned response and that she's much closer to the savage than she thinks.
This mildly upsets her as thinking of mankind's savage instincts makes her think of Molly. Madeline next asks if he was having something with Molly, which he denies. This makes her day and she again breaks out into a huge smile despite Molly's body being in Don's back yard only an evening ago.
She leaves with lovestruck grinning, and passes Mike Stevens dropping in to talk to Don.
Commentary: Wow. Just how horrible was Molly that no one is grieving her loss a day after her murder?! Even the doctor, for whom she was nurse, is just shrugging the whole thing off. The more they keep talking about her with a shrug the funnier I'm finding it, in a really gallows way.
Scene 24: Stevens is there to insist that Don try to think of someone with a grudge against him. He points out that no one could've forseen that Molly would be at his home, the killer wrecked his house and he destroyed the photo of Maddie. Whoever was there last night was after Don, but other than the mysterious prints they don't have any leads and so far the prints have come up a bust.
Mike decides to assign an officer to Don for his protection until they have something to work with. Donald insists that he can take care of himself, but Mike points out he didn't take care of Molly. In addition, just as an aside, he tells Don about their having received the cause of death. It turns out Molly hadn't been too injured, but had died of massive fright.
Scene 25: Later, after hours, Don is working in the lab on... no, guess... the thawing fish. A detective is watching over him and they chat about how dull science can be in the nuts and bolts of it. As detective brings up the Coelacanth, again, both men note that a dragon fly has gotten into the room and is snacking on the specimen or sipping its melt water or whatever. Donald shoos it away.
When he looks into his microscope at slides of the fish, he notes something extraordinary enough to exclaim in surprise and rush to the phone. He calls up Doctor Cole and insists that he has something to show him right away.
Scene 26: On their way to walk over to Cole's, Blake and the detective pass by movie-boyfriend Jimmy and Sylvia on their way to find out about Samson. Donald directs them to the lab and tells them he'll be right back.
Jimmy and Syliva briefly discuss the possibility that the killer might still be around, when they're interrupted by a loud buzzing sound. It sounds like a model airplane, according to Jimmy, but he dismisses that as silly. They continue on their way but the buzzing sound seems to be following them.
Sylvia spots the insect buzzing past the streetlamp and it is of sufficient fascination that she and movie-boyfriend Jimmy have to duck behind a tree so he can spot check it... because... um... it's loud?
When the bug apparently flies off, movie-ex-boyfriend Jimmy takes the opportunity to mack on Sylvia a bit. A hand creepers over a wall behind them, but they don't notice. Jimmy breaks the kiss to say they'd better go, while Sylvia grins happily.
Sylvia mentions they don't have to rush off and how safe she feels with him... just as the creeper hand starts stroking the top of her head. [And that is what she gets for mocking me about movie-ex-boyfriend Jimmy!]
She short screams, but it turns out creeper hand was just another couple making out on the other side of the tree with boy's hand, um, confusing where his girlfriend's head was located??
Commentary: Okay, that was an utterly lame and ridiculous a false scare with the entire scene being ultimately pointless! WTH.
Scene 27: Over with our plot, Don is showing off the fish slides to Oliver. He claims that he's found the first crystalized bacteria that he's ever heard about. However when Doctor Cole looks, he finds only live bacteria swimming around. Once again, Donald looks like he's seeing things.
Don gets annoyed at not being believed, while Oliver takes the opportunity of his visit to swab his hand injury that now appears infected. When Don tells him the Coelacanth bit him, Oliver makes a joke about it sneaking up on him when he wasn't looking which turns Don's annoyance into irritation and he leaves in a huff with the detective-bodyguard trailing behind.
Scene 28: Back at the lab, he lets Jimmy in to collect Samson since "we only imagined that he became vicious". Even Jimmy is starting to wonder if they overreacted as clearly Samson is his loveable self.
Detective Bodyguard goes off to the callbox to check in.
Scene 29: Before Jimmy can retrieve the dog, the room is filled with the same buzzing that he and Sylvia heard outside. The buzzing is joined by something knocking against the window. When the blind is lifted, they find a now giant dragonfly at the glass. Don opens the window to lure the bug inside.
Don determines to catch the insect and rolls out the fish for bait as Sylvia screams a bit. Jimmy helps by grabbing netting to secure the giant bug. The insect is quickly pinned to Sylvia's looks of disgust.
Don calls is the Meganeura, an ancient type of dragonfly that is supposed to be extinct... just like the... you know. Donald draws the obvious conclusion of a connection between his fish and this dragonfly and Jimmy confirms that Samson drank bloody fish-water the day he grew his fangs out.
Don impresses on them to remain quiet about what has happened until he has the opportunity to announce the discovery.
As they leave, Don carries the speared dragonfly over to his desk. He manages [OH, C'MON ON!!] to drip bug juice into his pipe.
Commentary: I was doing alright with this movie, really. But now we're about 36 min in and I see that it's length on IMDB is listed as 77 minutes. I'm starting to get bored with Don not running around in a rampage. Plus, I'm so sick of the Coelacanth prop I'm about to reach into the movie and take it away from them.
Scene 30: Donald carries the bug into his office to start researching in the books he has there. He manages to light his now-wet tobacco and huffs on his pipe. He tastes something strange about the tobacco, but shrugs it off and continues smoking his bug-laced pipe.
It doesn't take long for Donald to start feeling sick and getting woozy-vision. Even as Donald's blurry vision continues, the bug reverts to a more reasonable size. But what's more, Don is suddenly compelled to squash it... with his newly hairy hand.
Commentary: Oh, my. This is the most ridiculous set up to get Don into another transformation that they could've come up with. I feel so insulted, like they're not even trying!
Scene 31: Detective Bodyguard finally returns from his trip to the callbox, only to hear the sounds of the lab being trashed.
When he makes his way in, he finds the window smashed out and Donald missing. He spots Primiti-Don rushing off into the night and gives chase. Detective Bodyguard chases Primiti-Don nearby another police callbox. As he's requesting immediate backup, he spots a large shadow creeping its way up on him. Alas for Detective Bodyguard, he's too slow on the draw and Primiti-Don grabs him by the face. He gives a short scream and then it's all over for him.
Scene 32: On the other end of the line, Mike calls Eddie's name several times, but gets no response [probably because he didn't call him 'Detective Bodyguard'] and mobilizes the force.
Scene 33: On the scene, Detective Bodyguard's body is strewn out on the road. Signs point to a hell of a struggle in the bushes nearby [which, actually, we and Mike should've heard and from an audience viewpoint - we really should've seen instead of that short scream-jump cut we got].
Mike complains about the footprints found, which don't match any type of human foot. He doesn't mention how Detective Bodyguard seemingly managed to get into a hell of a fight, without his shoes scuffing up the soil [there is only one set of perfectly indented monster tracks]. He compares these tracks to the occurance of the weird fingerprints at Don's house.
Scene 34: Elsewhere, a shoeless Don groans in the grass. He wonders what the hell happened as he wanders back to the trashed lab.
Outside, he hears sirens roaring to life...
Scene 35: ... which brings us to a newpaper headline, where Don Blake has apparently offered that the "monster footprints" found point to a "subhuman".
Donald is currently arguing with Professor Howard over this at the latter's residence with Madeline and Mike in attendance. Gil insists that Don's theory about a subhuman being extant around campus is utterly ridiculous. Detective Stevens goes on to suggest he agrees with Gilbert, and that someone is targeting Don and leaving clues around at murder scenes specifically to implicate him.
Blake can't deal with all of this and retreats back to his lab at the school.
Commentary: And ridiculously, Mike doesn't order two officers to stick to him like glue. Honestly, movie....
Scene 36: In his office, Donald puts in a call to the scientist who shipped him the fish specimen with the operator and waits to hear back [1950's -- no instant communications to Madagascar... and operators who actually help track down people].