Monster on the Campus (1958) by #JackArnold
The blood of a primitive fish causes a professor to regress to an ape-like, bloodthirsty Neanderthal.
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) September 4, 2021
Quite some time ago, I wrote about a TV show that I discovered when I was young. It aired late on Saturday nights and was called Not Quite Classic Theatre. As I said back then, “perhaps ‘show’ isn’t the right word for it. It was a time slot during which the TV station would air old B-movies.” I wrote that “watching those old monster movies inspired and excited me in a way that no other movies had. I loved them, and I loved that they gave me ideas and made me want to write.” Basically, watching movies on Not Quite Classic Theatre helped to make me into the person that I am today (for better or for worse).
I had already grown up watching back and white classics like Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931) – and I loved them. But the movies on Not Quite Classic Theatre were different. They were black and white, and they were (mostly) monster movies, but they tended to be less famous and respected. Many of them were from the late fifties and early sixties (so a whole other era of horror and sci-fi movies). These included the giant bug movies – some of which I’d heard of, but never seen (like Tarantula (1955)) – as well as some lesser known sequels involving classic monsters like the Wolfman (don’t ask me which ones, because it’s all a bit of a blur now).
The very first movie that I ever watched on Not Quite Classic Theatre was Monster on the Campus (1958). I had never heard of it, but I loved it. Over the years I would remember it fondly, but I never knew what it was called. I mean, I’m sure I saw the title that first time I watched it on Not Quite Classic Theatre, but I had quickly forgotten it. And somehow I never saw it again, or read about it, or saw any mention of it in articles talking about old monster movies. It was like I was the only one on the planet who remembered this thing. Somehow, that made it seem even more special to me. Many years later, I finally saw it again – and it was pretty much as I remembered. When Universal released The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection I was thrilled to see that it included Monster on the Campus and nine other awesome movies (if you buy Volumes 1 & 2) from the same era. I knew I had to have it.
Thinking about it later, I realized that these 10 movies were likely part of the package that Not Quite Classic Theatre had licensed for broadcast all those years ago. So, in a way, it’s like I just bought season one of Not Quite Classic Theatre. How cool is that?
What can I say about Monster on the Campus that hasn’t been implied by everything I’ve already written? It’s still a lot of fun, and I still love it (nostalgia may play a role in that, what can I do?). It’s not a giant bug movie, but it feels pretty much at home among those movies. It involves a prehistoric fish, so that’s almost as good.
That fish is probably the clearest image that I remember from watching the movie back in the 1980s. I thought it was pretty cool and creepy (and maybe just a little bit campy – although I had no idea what that word meant back then). It’s still a highlight of the movie in my opinion.
It’s safe to say that Monster on the Campus (1958) was a seminal viewing experience for me. As far as I am concerned, it is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic. I can never truly repeat the experience of watching it for the first time (either with this movie or any other). But that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to try on many a future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.