There's a mad scientist loose in Columbus, but his scheme is rather benign: screening the cheesiest movies he can find.
"Dr. Bob Tesla's Midnight Monster Movies" is a monthly series produced and performed on the second Saturday of each month at the Grandview Theatre. The show is free.
"We feature both monster and sci-fi movies," said Bob Gilbert, a Columbus resident who serves as host in the guise of Dr. Bob, the "younger, smarter brother" of famed (real-life) scientist Nikola Tesla.
"I like the older-style movies, like those produced by William Castle," Gilbert said. "I grew up watching Double Chiller Theater and I go every year to the 24-hour sci-fi movie marathon. I love those kind of movies."
As a participant in the Midnight Shift shadow-cast shows the Grandview Theatre hosts each month, "I've always been the one pushing for the cheesier-type movies," he said.
When a weekend midnight-movie slot opened up at the Grandview Theatre, Gilbert offered his concept for a combination movie and live show.
Castle was known for incorporating gimmicks and stunts while his movies were being shown in theaters, and Gilbert has done much the same with his shows.
In one movie, when bats appeared on screen, "we sent fake bats we had placed on lines over the audience," he said. "Some people were scared and startled at first, but once they realized what was going on, they started laughing. That kind of reaction is great."
Dr. Bob's midnight movies include an introduction to the movie and live sketches, featuring his assistants Nurse Feratu and an "Igor" or "She-Gor" who is portrayed by a different person each month.
"The Igor or She-Gor almost always end up buying it before the end of the night," Gilbert said. "That's kind of a Dr. Bob tradition."
There's also a villain -- Rick Edison, nephew of Thomas Edison -- who tries each month to thwart Dr. Bob's plans.
"In one of our early shows, we had sound problems and we blamed it on an unnamed villain," Gilbert said. "We continued the premise that there was a villain until we revealed he was Rick Edison."
During one recent show, Nurse Feratu had to decide whether to join forces with Rick or to stay loyal to Dr. Bob.
She chose to stay with Dr. Bob, which is fitting, since the nurse is played by Gilbert's wife, Melanie.
The sketches have a planned beginning and end, but what comes in between is largely improvised, Gilbert said.
"It's fun to play off the audience and the mood that they are in," he said. "Sometimes they're pretty rowdy and sometimes they're really into the movie."
Gilbert would like to make a DVD of the Dr. Bob show that would be filmed in a studio. It would include movies surrounded by new introductions and sketches.
"It would allow us to do more elaborate stunts then we can safely do in a movie theater before a live audience," he said.
Gilbert has created a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1,000 in pledges for the DVD project.
"All of the money would go to pay for the sets and the pressing of the first run of DVDs," he said. "We have to get $1,000 in pledges by April 18 for the project to be funded."
Pledges can be made by searching for "Dr. Bob" at kickstarter.com.
For more information about the Dr. Bob shows, visit facebook.com/MidnightMonsterMovies.
The next Dr. Bob show at the Grandview Theatre is set for May 11, where the 1925 Lon Chaney classic Phantom of the Opera will be shown in 3-D with live music.
"There is a color sequence in the movie and that was a pretty expensive thing back in the 1920s," Gilbert said. "In the print we have, the color sequence just looks gorgeous. I'm excited that people will get to see it."
Perhaps the big show of the year will come in October, when a 1916 silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is screened with a live band performing.
"The movie has underwater scenes, and this was long before they invented underwater camera," Gilbert said. "Some of the technical things they were able to do in those early days are still amazing after all these years."