Saturday, December 26, 2020

Monster on the Campus, Ape Man on Campus

No, not a story about the University of Virginia lacrosse team. Something a bit more campy and less bloody, 1958's "Monster on the Campus," directed by Jack Arnold.  Made decades ago, but still a biting commentary on the viciousness of America's higher education system. The misogyny that emanates on college campuses, from the administration to athletes, may be seen in this old B movie in the form of metaphor. Unfortunately for mad-scientists, they do not get the pass that football or basketball players get when they shred nubile babes.

As the film begins, Professor Donald Blake (Arthur Franz), mad-scientist extraordinaire, is sexually harassing his fiancé, Madeline (Joanna Moore). She forgives him. Then a delivery arrives. A perfectly preserved prehistoric fish from Madagascar. He must be mad as he will now pay more attention to the fish than his nubile blonde girlfriend. Donald cuts himself on the fish's teeth while sultry Nurse Molly (Helen Westcott) makes some moves on him. He'll turn into a monster and murder her. By the time the cops arrive, he has changed back into Professor Blake and the fingerprints and footprints suggest an ape-man is the culprit. Despite the corpse of a beautiful dead nurse in his backyard, Madeline is a forgiving sort and really doesn't make a big deal of it.

Okay, back to the plot. More experiments and careless laboratory protocol sees the creation of a monster dragonfly. Donald still doesn't put two and two together (which in modern American universities, this equals five) and the carnage will continue. When he finally does suspect something in the fish is causing evolution to reverse, no one believes him. The cops keep investigating and Donald, as an ape-man, will continue his murderous ways. Now the college suspends him for...get this...making unauthorized telephone calls to Madagascar. He will now continue his experiments unfettered. Oblivious to Donald's shortcomings, Madeline rushes to be with the man she loves. This might not turn out well as he is ready to inject prehistoric fish blood into himself.

If Professor Donald Blake were a football player, would the university have overlooked his long distance calls to Madagascar? Is some sexual harassment permissible if it is in the sake of groundbreaking experiments and discoveries on evolution? Can we really study prehistoric ape-men without a certain amount of groping and fondling? This is a classic B movie from the 1950s, but much more intelligent than anything Christopher Nolan has done. For some great entertainment, see "Monster on the Campus."


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