Monster On The Campus (1958) [REVIEW] | Coelacanth Jekyll & Hyde

Since today it’s Coelacanth Day, it’s the only time of the year when it’s “proper” to review the only b-movie about the coelacanth, you know, that primitive/living fossile fish that was thought to be extinct for decades, most likely you know it because it’s also the basis for the pokemon Relicanth.

And even that it’s quite tenous, because this isn’t the late 50s version of Bloody Waters of Doctor Z you might expect, even though we’re still going into psychotronic territory and a coelacanth fish it’s involved, with a college professor that acquires a newly discovered specimen of said fish, and an accidental exposition to its blood, which of course it’s radioactive due to gamma rays and the 50s.

Though this is really a triviality, given that this detail comes very late in the movie, i guess it had to be made a radioactive thing by the studio for marketing reasons, maybe not, but it’s indeed very 50s.

This somehow results in the college professor mutating back into a monstruous hominid-troglodyte that wreaks havoc on the campus, like a inner city Eegah minus the Arch Hall Jr.

I guess even by the late 50s the barrel had been scraped a lot if they had to fuckin go for a radioactive fossil fish, at least i think at the time people weren’t really aware of this animal being real, so there probably was novelty factor to it, small as it may have been.

Maybe.

The movie handles the premise in a Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde way, given that is the blood of the coelacanth that makes him revert to a violent troglodyte ape-man, and it also works on dogs and dragonflies… as in, they put big fake canines on the dog’s mouth because this is a cheap movie and i’m surprised the giant dragonfly prop doesn’t look as bad you’d think.

The “blood of the coelacanth” thing it’s still stupid as heck conceptually, and it has to be said that this is not exactly a fast moving film, despite being under 80 minutes, but this is actually a better movie than anticipated, given the title and cheap budget it’s quite effective, and director Jack Arnold (Tarantula, It Came From Outer Space, Creature From The Black Lagoon) manages to make a decent movie out of the material.

I expected the movie to kinda barely stumble its way through because budget constraints would have forced the creature reveal at the very end… but it’s surprisingly solid, acting is decent.

Shame the limited budget results in the crew having to make a Wolfman-style transformation sequences properly at the very end, it’s clear by the editing they wanted to do it more and in full before, and i wish they had more funds, instead of having to resort to the monkey-werewolf rubber mask (not even that well attached to the actor’s face) and some other far from stellar effects.

But honestly, it’s a lot more competent of a movie you would expect, not even that cliched, it has some dignity and quality to it, sure it’s a cheap b movie from the 50s, there’s no denying that, but it’s not downright shlock, despite what the title and premise might let you to – sensibly – assume.

Monster On The Campus it’s ultimately no major (or minor) classic, nor it’s an underrated gem from the era, but when searching through middle-to-late 50s obscure and/or forgotten B-movies, you can get SO much worse than this, in every single way.

Not a bad effort, at all.

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