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to july 6

Those who shrink at the sight of any critter with more than four legs are advised to stay clear of “Summer Camp: PEST FEST,” the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s film series celebrating the rich subgenre of Cold War–era, giant-irradiated-insect flicks. Upon its release, Kurt Neumann’s 1958 version of The Fly (at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8) fit easily enough into the don’t-mess-with–Mother Nature ethos of monster movies from Frankenstein on, but decades later, the film plays more as a dramatization of the right-to-die debate, with the wife of a scientist who accidentally switches heads with a housefly deliberating whether to end his suffering. Not so concerned about the socio-political ramifications of prematurely extinguishing human life, however, are the 20-foot-tall, massively-mandibled atomic ants that descend upon Los Angeles in Gordon Douglas’ 1954 nailbiter, Them! (at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 15). Perhaps it’s all the worshipping the natives of her Polynesian-island home have put in, but the titular winged beastie of Godzilla writer-director Ishiro Honda’s Mothra (at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29) is actually less a threat to mankind than to her Toho Studio giant-monster-film cohorts Godzilla and Rodan. (And really, it’s hard to argue that her attack on a typically unconvincing miniature Tokyo at the film’s climax is unprovoked.) On occasion, the old gal even goes so far as to protect the people of Japan during one of her many guest-appearances in other monster flicks. Saving the campiest for last, PEST FEST closes with Bert Gordon’s The Beginning of the End (at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 6), in which the windy city of Chicago is invaded by a swarm of merciless, monstrous, completely unstoppable…uh, grasshoppers. University of Maryland film scholar David Wilt introduces each movie in the series, which runs through Thursday, July 6, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th St. & Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 633-1000. (Chris Klimek)