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Zaat (also known as The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, Hydra, and Attack of the Swamp Creatures) is a 1971 American science fiction-horror film that was written, produced, and directed by Don Barton. It gained significant exposure when it was used in an episode of movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in May 1999.
Zaat has been cited as one of the worst films ever made.
The film begins with mad scientist Dr. Kurt Leopold in his lab, where he has lived alone for about 20 years (it is revealed later in the film that he graduated cum laude from MIT in 1934). He is contemplating his former colleagues' derision for his "formula", which is described as "ZaAt" (read Z-sub-A, A-sub-T, but which he simply calls "Zaat"). This compound, it is later explained, can transform humans into sea creature hybrids and "mutate all sea life". He injects himself with the serum and immerses himself in a tank connected to an array of equipment, emerging as a fish-like monster.
His first act of revenge on the society that he feels has wronged him is to release several smaller walking catfish around the town's lakes and river (filmed in the St. Johns River near Green Cove Springs, Florida), an annoyance to the townspeople, and releases Zaat into the local water supply, rendering many of the townspeople ill.
Sheriff Lou Krantz and marine biologist Rex Baker investigate the strange happenings with the local catfish and the waterways.
Leopold decides to kill the colleagues that scoffed at his work. He begins with a man named Maxson. In a lake where Maxson is fishing with his family, Leopold swims under their boat, overturns it, and proceeds to kill Maxson and his family.
After killing Maxson, Leopold discovers a girl who is camping out alone on the shore of the lake. He approaches her, only to be deterred by her barking dog. The girl carries on with her business, unconcerned about the barking dog. Leopold retreats. Later, Leopold kills another colleague, Ewing.
With his two colleagues now deceased, Leopold returns to the lake where the girl is still camping, and waits for an opportunity to abduct her. His perseverance pays off when she strips down to a yellow bikini to go swimming. She dives into the lake, swimming carefree until Leopold catches her underwater. He swims with her to his lab as she struggles in vain to escape.
Baffled by the deaths, Rex contacts an organization known as INPIT, which sends scientists Martha Walsh and Walker Stevens to the town.
At the lab, the bikini-clad girl is lying strapped down in a mesh basket next to the large tank of water. She is unconscious, and Leopold reveals his intentions to make her his mate. Leopold injects Zaat into her. As she is immersed into a tank, the girl wakes up and struggles against the ropes holding her. The equipment malfunctions and her corpse, partially transformed, is pulled from the tank.
While out searching for Leopold, Lou comes across a small group of youths playing religious folk music. After one of the youths finishes leading the group in a song, Lou places them all in the town's jail, for their own protection.
Leopold attempts to kidnap another mate, Martha. Leopold grabs her while the others are out hunting for him. Leopold heads towards his lab, followed by Walker, who has picked up Leopold's radioactive trail. Walker gets bitten by a snake while in pursuit, but pushes on. Leopold arrives at the lab with Martha, where Rex and Lou happen to be searching. A fight ensues and Leopold kills them. He injects Martha with Zaat, readies her to be dunked into the tank and makes his getaway with canisters of Zaat. Martha's transformation does not go as planned, and she is saved from the tank by a dying Rex, although she appears to be in a trance and immediately follows Leopold into the sea.
- Marshall Grauer as Dr. Kurt Leopold
- Wade Popwell as The Monster
- Paul Galloway as Sheriff Lou Krantz
- Gerald Cruse as Marine Biologist Rex Baker
- Sanna Ringhaver as INPIT Agent Martha Walsh
- Dave Dickerson as INPIT Agent Walker Stevens
- Archie Valliere as Deputy Sheriff
- Nancy Lien as Girl Camper
- Jamie DeFrates as Acoustic Guitarist
Jacksonville, Florida resident Barton co-wrote, directed and produced the film, which was shot during one month in 1970 on a $75,000 budget. Scenes were filmed at various locales in Florida, including Rainbow Springs, Green Cove Springs, Switzerland and Marineland.
Jamie DeFrates, who performed acoustic guitar as one of the youths, also wrote the songs for the film.
The film was shown in Jacksonville as well as in theaters in mostly southern states during its original theatrical release. It was shown on July 11, 2009 in Atlanta, then in Jacksonville on October 28, 2009, reviving interest in the film. The movie was shown in Statesboro, Georgia on November 1, 2009, but received a poor response.
In February 2012, it was later issued on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time by Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics. Digitally restored in HD and transferred from original 35mm elements, the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack also contained a feature-length audio commentary by cast and crew, the original 35mm trailer, television spots, outtakes, a radio interview, a before-and-after restoration demo and an original movie art postcard.
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Critical reception for Zaat has been predominantly negative, with critics panning the film's script, acting, and poor monster design. Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews, grading the film on an A+ to F scale, awarded the film a "C". In his review, Schwartz called the film "[an] Overlong and boring mad scientist monster film", criticizing the film's acting, direction, excessive use of filler scenes, and an unimaginative climax. Dave Sindelar on his Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings wrote, "The concept is ridiculous (let’s face it – catfish just aren’t scary), the plot is primitive, the acting is very weak, and the direction isn’t good. Nonetheless, the film is full of unintentionally funny dialogue, the use of sound and music is unique (if wrongheaded), and it’s more charmingly primitive than excruciatingly dull." Horror Talk.com awarded the film two and a half out of five stars, while criticizing the film's acting, special effects, tedious running time, pacing, and action scenes. However, the reviewer also stated that the film came across as "oddly charming and slightly offensive, yet innocent".
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Cult television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Zaat in a season 10 episode under the title Blood Waters of Dr. Z. The episode, which originally aired May 2, 1999, mocked the film's low-budget effects and general tepidity. Director Don Barton was reportedly annoyed with MST3K for mocking his movie, but later clarified that the only reason he was annoyed was because Syfy (then known as the Sci-Fi Channel) had failed to secure the proper rights to the film. Barton issued a cease and desist and a lawsuit, so Syfy pulled the episode, and only reran it twice two years later, when they had cleared the issue with Barton out of court.
Shout! Factory released the MST3K episode on DVD, along with three others, on March 16, 2010 as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Volume XVII, after managing to properly secure the rights.
- Attack of the Swamp Creatures at AllMovie
- TV Guide (2005). TV Guide: The Ultimate Resource to Television Programs on DVD. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 171. ISBN 0-312-35150-X.
A human and two robots poke fun at egregiously B-rate sci-fi movies in this underground comedy series.
- "Don Barton, creator of cult classic 'Zaat,' dies at 83".
- "The Gist (Zaat)".
- "Zaat". 1 January 1971 – via IMDb.
- Lyons, Mike. "Longtime Local Horror Movie Still A Hit"First Coast News (October 28, 2009)
- "Zaat" Creative Loafing Atlanta
- ZAAT Press Release (February 1, 2012)
- Shwartz, Dennis. "zaat". Sover.net. Dennis Schwartz. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- Sindelar, Dave. "Attack of the Swamp Creatures (1975)". Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings.com. Dave Sindelar. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- "Zaat - HorrorTalk". Horror Talk.com. Horror Talk. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
- MST3K: Blood Waters of Dr. Z episode review. Mighty Jack's MST Temple
- "Episode guide: 1005- Blood Waters of Dr. Z « Satellite News".
- "Don Barton, RIP « Satellite News".
- Official website
- Zaat on IMDb
- Zaat at the TCM Movie Database
- Attack of the Swamp Creatures at AllMovie
- ZAAT Press Release