Animal Attack Movies: Monster on the Campus

In 1938, a coelacanth was brought up from the depths near South Africa. That was a startling development because scientists were aware of the coelacanth only from the fossil record and assumed it had been extinct since the days of the T. rex. It’s an interesting fish because, as the characters in the movie mention, it’s more closely related to four-footed land animals than other fish are.

In Monster on the Campus, a scientist gets a frozen coelacanth for study. A dog laps up its melting juices; a dragonfly nibbles at the carcass; the scientist himself cuts his hand on its teeth. All these critters end up reverting to primitive forms: the dog becomes a wolf with massive fangs, the dragonfly grows to massive proportions and zooms around the lab, and the man develops a very poor attitude. The science is, as you may have gathered, a bit shaky. The drama, however, is rather good, and it surprised me in several ways. One was its humor. The scientist works at “Dunsfield University.” Get it? “Dunce Field”? When he phones up another scientist to ask for some info, the other guy turns out to be named “Dr. Moreau.” There’s some depth to the movie, too, as the characters make various references to our race’s primitive and civilized characteristics. It’s clear the filmmakers had nuclear anxiety in mind.

As a side note, I feel certain Stan Lee (or Jack Kirby?) must have loved this movie. The main character is named Dr. Donald Blake. About four years later, Lee recycled that name for Thor’s mortal alter ego in Marvel Comics. He also borrowed the movie’s gimmick of using gamma rays to turn a man into a primitive monster for the Hulk comic. 



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