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For summer, a focus on shaky classics in Bolton

Patrons of Bolton Public Library’s Cheesy Movie Festival take in 1953’s “On the Mesa of Lost Women.”

Ellen Harasimowicz for The Boston Globe

Patrons of Bolton Public Library’s Cheesy Movie Festival take in 1953’s “On the Mesa of Lost Women.”

The Bolton Public Library is hosting an irreverent summertime film series that aims to satirize bad special effects and poor moviemaking through the lens of old science fiction movies.

In its fifth year, the Cheesy Movie Festival started on June 24 with “The Amazing Transparent Man” (1960), and on July 8 screened “On the Mesa of Lost Women,” a 1953 tale about a rogue scientist who creates humans from animals.

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The next installment is at 7 p.m. July 29, with a screening of “The Giant Behemoth,” from 1959; the festival continues Aug. 12 with “Teenagers from Outer Space,” and wraps up Aug. 26 with “Fire Maidens from Outer Space.”

The tongue-in-cheek series mainly highlights early forays into science fiction films in the 1950s and ’60s, which are worlds away from today’s glitzy productions featuring realistic computer-generated images.

Eating popcorn and sitting around wooden tables in the library’s common room, the audiences at the screenings often break out giggling as clearly faked flying saucers or unimpressively simulated monsters flicker onto the screen.

Some participants even wear costumes, like alien and monster outfits, to add to the effect of the event.

Library director Kelly Collins said the festival isn’t about the genre’s critically acclaimed movies, even if their special effects aren’t so good.

‘We’re not doing art-house movies here.’

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“War of the Worlds,” a special-effects Oscar winner in 1953, and the groundbreaking 1927 film “Metropolis” are examples of early science fiction movies that featured primitive special effects but were nevertheless able to capture accolades.

But the festival’s anti-enthusiasts, who number between 10 and 30 at each screening, poke casual fun at what some consider to be the worst sci-fi films, departing from the often more educationally oriented tenor of events at the public library.

“We’re not doing art-house movies here,” said Collins, who says the festival is unique in the state as far as she knows. “There’s just a lot of low-grade special effects, like a filmmaker taking a silver paper plate and calling it a flying saucer.”

Collins said library staff began the lampoon-style film series as a way to attract more patrons to the library in the summer months, when interest in reading sometimes wanes.

“The only rule is that no one can throw anything at the screen,” Collins quipped.

Susanne and Jack Bushman, both 77, have been regular patrons of the festival, often attending in costumes, since its beginning.

Jack said the movies are at least partly nostalgic in that they usher him and his wife back to the 1950s and 1960s when science-fiction filmmaking was still new on the scene. For both, the event is a light-hearted diversion from their day-to-day concerns.

“They’re fun,” Jack Bushman said of the old flicks. “There’s plenty of serious things we watch all week.”

Suzanne Bushman said the festival, in highlighting the “classically awful,” offers an amusing time, and pulls folks of all age ranges who wouldn’t normally come together.

“The scenery in some of the movies is so corny,” she said. “I mean, you can almost see the wires on the flying saucers as they fly along.”

While the festival may seem light-hearted, most of the movies selected by the library can lean toward the macabre and involve plots in which an evil and corrupt character attempts to threaten humankind.

One movie featured last year was “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” (1969), about an attempt by surviving officials of the Third Reich to resurrect their leader using his still-alive head. Collins said one couple showed up with a brain-sized cauliflower, and draped a Nazi flag over it to lampoon the movie and Adolf Hitler himself as part of their costume.

This season’s opener, “The Amazing Transparent Man,” is a black-and-white 57-minute film about a US Army major, Paul Krenner, who attempts to take over the world by creating invisible soldiers.

Both films suffered poor ratings during their release and have been relegated to the back bins of filmmaking ever since. “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” received a zero percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes, a film-review magazine and website that often opts to highlight the worst, and not the best, that came out in a given year. (If a consensus of reviews fall below 60 percent, then the movie receives a designation of “rotten.”)

According to Wikipedia, “The Amazing Transparent Man” was panned by science fiction author David Wingrove, who wrote that “its cheap-budget origins show throughout. ‘Amazing’ claims too much for what is essentially a thriller involving an escaped criminal.”

Matt Gunderson can be reached at mpgunderson@ gmail.com.
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