Hello, again!� Here I've interred a few articles I've written.� These horror and monster film articles were fun to write and through publication, I've found lots of folks who share my interest in fright films.� I hope you enjoy my review of House on Haunted Hill (below). � Please click the following links to read a couple of other articles entombed herein:�
Heres a review that I wrote about four years ago. Most film fans have at least a few guilty pleasures, and Monster on the Campus is one of mine. Looking back on it, this review isnt terribly well crafted, which is probably why the magazine I submitted it to never used it.
MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS (1959) Directed by Jack Arnold. With Arthur Franz, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt, Nancy Walters, Troy Donahue. B&W. 77 min. MCA/Universal Home Video. $9.99. (SP mode)
Most film reference books, if they bother to mention Monster on the Campus at all, dismiss the picture out of hand, usually after labeling it "one of director Jack Arnolds lesser efforts."
In my estimation, thats hardly scathing criticism. So what if Monster on the Campus isnt in the same league as The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon or It Came from Outer Space? Few films are. Ill go a step further and put Monster on the Campus behind Tarantula and Revenge of the Creature, as well, ranking it ahead of only The Space Children among Arnolds sci fi output. Even then, Monster on the Campus remains in good company.
It boasts a lightning pace, an imaginative twist on a classic storyline and enough action for two B-unit programmers.
The plot updates Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with Dr. Donald Blake (Arthur Franz) as the researcher obsessed with probing humankinds "primitive impulses." Blake plans a series of experiments involving primitive fish, known as a coelacanth, which he has imported from East Africa. When a German shepherd drinks water contaminated by the coelacanths blood, the dog grows fangs four inches long and begins snapping at passers by. Blake restrains the dog and stashes the fish, but in the process cuts his hand on a tooth in the coelacanths mouth.
His pretty assistant, Molly (Nancy Walters) offers to help with Blakes injury -- and to attend to whatever other needs Blake may have -- but Blake, who is engaged to Madeline Howard (Joanna Moore) nobly declines. When he suddenly becomes woozy, however, he asks Molly to give him a lift home. Shortly after they arrive, Blake is transformed into a slobbering caveman. He ravages Molly and leaves her corpse hanging from a tree branch by the hair of her head(!).
Most of the Jekyll/Hyde transformations take place off camera, which lightens the load for effects specialist Clifford Stine. The monster itself is gruesome enough. Makeup wizard Bud Westmore lends the creature a simian visage and lots of mottled hair, like a mangy dog.
Blake agrees to help police track down the lunatic who killed his assistant and wrecked his home, not realizing he himself is the perpetrator. A dragonfly drinks coelacanth blood and is transformed into a two-foot-long giant. Blake accidentally ingests the blood again (this time by smoking a drop of it, which has fallen into his pipe) and kills the police officer assigned to protect him. (The cops think someone is out to kill the kindly paleontologist.)
Finally Blake discerns that animals which ingest blood from his primitive fish are somehow reverting to their prehistoric counterparts, and that the murders are being committed by a human regressed to become "a primitive anthropoid." Needless to say, his superiors at the university remain skeptical. Once Blake guesses he, himself, may be to blame for the campus carnage, he retreats to a cabin in the woods to test his theory (by injecting himself with the coelacanths blood).
His fianc�e (Joanna Moore) pays an untimely visit on Blake at his retreat, and discovers him in "anthropoid" form. Before Blake can slake his homicidal desires with the girl, a nosy park ranger interrupts him. The caveman disposes of the interloper by hurling a hatchet, which sticks in the rangers forehead!
Blake reverts to human form as the police arrive. Realizing now he is to blame for three murders, Blake volunteers to lead the cops to the monster, provided that they shoot the beast on sight. Then Blake injects himself with the blood a final time, and allows the lawmen to gun him down.
The storys fatalistic conclusion is remarkable for a Universal picture of this era, as is its unusually graphic violence. Two of the films three murders are much more brutal than expected. The monsters hatchet job on the park ranger is especially jolting. Arnolds approach to this material is frank and unvarnished, maybe to play up the shock value or perhaps because Arnold had few other options, given the limitations of unimaginative cinematographer Russell Metty.
Arnolds cast is passable at best. Franz is too wooden to make a truly sympathetic protagonist, but he is impressive in comparison with his amateurish costars. He enjoyed a long career, which also included roles in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Flight to Mars (1952), Invaders from Mars (1953) and Sisters of Death (1976).
Second-billed Joanna Moores only other genre credit is The Dunwhich Horror (1970), but she appeared with Elvis Presley in Follow that Dream (1961) and in Orson Welles noire classic Touch of Evil (1958).
While best known for his Fifties sci fi pictures, Arnolds credits also include the seminal teen exploitation flick High School Confidential and brilliant political satire The Mouse That Roared. He contributed the original story for The Monolith Monsters, which was directed by John Sherwood. And producer William Alland called on Arnold (not credited director Joseph M. Newman) to oversee the thrilling Metaluna sequences of This Island Earth in 1955.
An interesting addendum: This is purely speculation on my part, but Im willing to wager that Marvel comics editor Stan Lee modeled the alter-ego of his superhero, The Mighty Thor, after the protagonist in this picture. Lee freely admits he and co-creator Jack Kirby freely, um, borrowed from various Fifties sci fi pictures during their early years. It is at least a striking coincidence that Monster on the Campus dotty paleontologist and Lees meek archeologist are both named Dr. Donald Blake.
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