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USF professor takes part in Tampa Theatres Science on Screen

The crackle of electricity awed the audience as USF physics professor Robert Criss demonstrated a sparking Jacob’s ladder while cackling manically, in perfect imitation of a mad scientist.

“Now, what I have here is, basically, a device that generates a voltage,” Criss said to the audience. “So, what I’ve got is 15,000 bolts and an electric current going from one of these wires to the other and heating the air. You see these types of things in monster movies all the time and it’s all got to do with electricity.”

On Wednesday, Tampa Theatre kicked off its new Science on Screen series with the film “Young Frankenstein” and a 20-minute lecture from Criss.

In July, Tampa Theatre became one of only eight independent theaters across the country selected to receive the Science on Screen grant. As part of the grant, each theater was given $7,000 to launch a series that pairs classic films with relevant scientific presentations given by experts in the field.

Criss focused his lecture on the mechanics behind electricity and how it is used in films. His talk, while highly scientific and informative, was often interjected with humor and audience participation.

“Young Frankenstein,” originally released in 1974, was filmed in black and white in order to parody the classic horror genre. Directed by Mel Brooks, the comedic film tells the story of the mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, who inherits his family estate in Transylvania and begins to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, finding plenty of misadventure on the way.