Plot: A landmark new arrival just entered the lab of Dr. Blake (Arthur Franz), as an intact coelacanth is now at his disposal and Blake couldn’t be more excited to see what he can discover with the specimen. But soon after it shows up, some odd things begin to happen that baffle both Blake and those around him. His assistant’s always friendly dog tries to attack Blake’s fiancee and even after a full examination of the dog, the cause remains unknown. After the attempted attack, the dog is back to his usual friendly self, a most unusual turn of events. But soon Blake starts to suspect that the prehistoric fish is involved, after a common dragonfly feeds on the corpse and turns into a giant, old world version of itself. When Blake cuts his own hand on one of the fish’s teeth however, he realizes that even humans are susceptible to whatever genetic chaos the ancient fish’s DNA is capable of. Can Blake figure out a solution, even as he starts to lose control and revert to a neanderthal?
Entertainment Value: Monster on the Campus might not be a genre classic, but it has a goofiness that is infectious and for a low rent b movie, delivers some more than solid entertainment. The premise is of course ludicrous, as contact with an ancient fish causes man and animal to devolve into prehistoric forms, but the concept is so silly, it ends up being a lot of fun. I do wish we could have seen some cavegirls at some point, but we do get some outlandish, cheap special effects to marvel at. The dragonfly is hilarious, as it looks like a dollar store novelty piece but is treated with a sincere approach, so it is beyond ridiculous. The lack of awareness is a highlight, as no one seems to pick up on obvious clues to chaos being unleashed, the most obvious instance of which is when no one notices the dog’s massive fangs, until the scientist points them out. Of course, if you don’t appreciate cheap, silly b movie elements, then you won’t find as much fun in this material as I did.
The cast isn’t good in the traditional sense, but their sincere approach bolsters the silly nature of the material and by turn, adds to the fun. Arthur Franz is dead serious, even as he battles a big, rubber dragonfly and struggles to deduce even simple conclusions, so he is an ideal lead here. A serious, sincere performance from Franz anchors the movie and ensures the b movie vibes and unintentional humor shine through. Joanna Moore is also dialed in, giving us another serious performance that makes sure this ridiculous premise is treated with the utmost respect. The cast also includes Troy Donahue, Nancy Walters, Helen Wescott, and Judson Pratt. As I said, the effects here are cheap and ineffective, but fun to watch. The prehistoric caveman makeup is better than the rest of the effects, but still looks silly, of course. Monster on the Campus has a casual sexist vibe as well, with some cringe inducing scenes where the ladies are subjected to some outlandish antics from the boys. This is a bad movie by most standards, but fans of silly b movies should find some fun in Monster on the Campus.