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Blood waters.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byDon Barton
Produced byDon Barton
Written byDon Barton
Ron Kivett
Lee O. Larew
StarringMarshall Grauer
Music byJamie DeFrates
Barry Hodgin
Jack Tamul (electronic)
CinematographyJack McGowan
Edited byGeorge Yarbrough
Barton Films
Distributed byClark Distributors
Release date
January 1971
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States

Zaat (also known as Blood Waters of Dr. Z, Hydra, and Attack of the Swamp Creatures) is a 1971[2] American science fiction-horror film written, produced, and directed by Don Barton.

Critical reception for Zaat has been predominantly negative, with criticism directed at the film's script, acting, and poor monster design. It has been cited as one of the worst films ever made. It gained significant exposure when it was used in an episode of movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in May 1999.[3]


In his laboratory, mad scientist Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer) contemplates his former colleagues' derision for his "formula", "ZaAt", a compound that can transform humans into sea creature hybrids. He injects himself with the serum and immerses himself in a tank connected to an array of equipment, emerging as a catfish-like monster (Wade Popwell). In his new form, Leopold releases walking catfish around the town's lakes and river and releases "Zaat" into the local water supply, rendering many of the townspeople ill. All the while Sheriff Lou Krantz (Paul Galloway) and marine biologist Rex Baker (Gerald Cruse) investigate the strange happenings with the local catfish and the waterways.

Leopold later turns his attention to killing the colleagues that scoffed at his work. He first kills former colleague Maxson and his family while fishing on a boat. He then kills his associate Ewing in his home. With his two former partners deceased, Leopold returns to the lake where a girl is camping and kidnaps her. Taking her back to his lab, the doctor straps her down in a mesh basket next to the large tank of water, with the intentional to make her his mate. He repeats the process he administered to himself on the girl. However, in her struggle, the equipment malfunctions and her corpse, partially transformed, is pulled from the tank.

Baffled by the deaths, Rex contacts an organization known as INPIT, which sends scientists Martha Walsh (Sanna Ringhaver) and Walker Stevens (Dave Dickerson) to the town. 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. While in pursuit Walker gets bitten by a snake. The doctor 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 the compound. 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 Don Barton co-wrote, directed and produced the film,[4] which was shot during one month in 1970 on a $75,000 budget,[5] with $50,000 went to making the movie while $25,000 went to making the film prints and advertising.[1]

Scenes were filmed at various locales in Florida, including Rainbow Springs, Green Cove Springs, and Marineland.[6] It was co-written by Lee O. Larew and Ron Kivett.[7]


The film was originally distributed by Horizon Films.[7] It was shown in Jacksonville as well as in theaters in mostly southern states during its original theatrical release.[8] It was also shown in a theater in Manhattan's 42nd Street through Aquarius Releasing, known for distributing exploitation films. It was shown in the theater for one day before being pulled, with the movie only making $200.[9] In 1983, the movie was re-released by Capitol Productions.[10] In 1985, it was released under the title Attack of the Swamp Creatures, which had new cast and production credits added to it.[11] Zaat was originally released on video by ThrillerVideo under the Attack of the Swamp Creature title, with popular horror hostess Elvira hosting and spoofing the film throughout.[12] In 2001, the film was released on video for its thirtieth anniversary under the Zaat title. Limited to five hundred copies, the videotapes were autographed by Don Barton and co-writer Ron Kivett.[13]

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.[14]


Critical reception for Zaat has been predominantly negative, with criticism directed at 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.[15] 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."[16] Robert L. Jerome from Cinefantastique, while noting the movie had the right ideas in it, called it a "fiasco" for its implementation.[17] VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever by Jim Craddock gave it zero stars.[18] Keith Phipps for The A.V. Club described the film as being simultaneously "Awful" and "Awfully charming".[19]

Critic Jeffrey Kauffman said, "this is the sort of film Ed Wood, Jr. might have made—on a bad day" and added, "Lovers of fantastically bad films rate Zaat one of the worst".[20] Patrick Naugle of DVD Verdict stated, "The acting in Zaat is below subpar. Actors seem to be whispering their lines and trying hard not to fully comprehend that they're in one of the worst films ever made", while Michael Rubino of DVD Verdict also claimed, "Zaat may be one of the worst films ever created".[21][22] NPR called it a "sci-fi fiasco" when it became "the winner — er, loser —" on IMDb's Bottom 100.[23]

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]

Cult television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Zaat in a season 10 episode under the title Blood Waters of Dr. Z.[24] The episode, which originally aired May 2, 1999,[25] 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.[26]

In 2010, Shout! Factory released the MST3K episode as part of the "Volume XVII" DVD collection of the series, along with The Crawling Eye, The Beatniks, and The Final Sacrifice.[27] The boxset was later discontinued and the episode was repackaged with the "The Lost and Found Collection" in 2018.[28]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Soergel, Matt (October 25, 2009). "The monster wore tennis shoes: 'Zaat' lives". The Florida Times-Union. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  2. ^ Attack of the Swamp Creatures at AllMovie
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Don Barton, creator of cult classic 'Zaat,' dies at 83".
  5. ^ "The Gist (Zaat)".
  6. ^ Staff (December 1974). "Monsterscope". Monsters of the Movies. No. 4. p. 60.
  7. ^ a b Staff (August 1975). "Monsterscope". Monsters of the Movies. No. 8. p. 26.
  8. ^ Lyons, Mike. "Longtime Local Horror Movie Still A Hit"First Coast News (October 28, 2009)
  9. ^ Ferrante, Tim (December 1988). "The Rage of Aquarius". Fangoria. No. 52–55, 67.
  10. ^ "Last minute noose". Famous Monsters of Filmland. No. 190. January 1983. p. 9.
  11. ^ Jones 2000, p. 57.
  12. ^ Foywonder (October 20, 2011). "40-Year-Old Cult Catfish-Man Movie Zaat Spawning Blu-ray and a Sequel". Dread Central. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  13. ^ "The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops". Fangoria. No. 208. November 2001. p. 35.
  14. ^ ZAAT Press Release (February 1, 2012)
  15. ^ Shwartz, Dennis. "zaat". Dennis Schwartz. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  16. ^ Sindelar, Dave. "Attack of the Swamp Creatures (1975)". Fantastic Movie Musings and Dave Sindelar. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  17. ^ Jerome, Robert L. (Summer 1973). "Short Notices". Cinefantastique. Vol. 2 no. 4. p. 35.
  18. ^ Craddock 2006, p. 82.
  19. ^ Phipps, Keith (March 21, 2012). "Zaat". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Kauffman, Jeffrey (February 21, 2012). "Zaat Blu Ray". Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  21. ^ Naugle, Patrick (February 12, 2012). "DVD Verdict Review – Zaat (Blu Ray)". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  22. ^ Rubino, Michael (February 22, 2010). "DVD Verdict Review – Mystery Science Theater 3000". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  23. ^ Weeks, Linton (February 24, 2009). "10 Reasons Why We Love Making Lists". NPR. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  24. ^ MST3K: Blood Waters of Dr. Z episode review. Mighty Jack's MST Temple
  25. ^ "Episode guide: 1005- Blood Waters of Dr. Z « Satellite News".
  26. ^ "Don Barton, RIP « Satellite News".
  27. ^ Wallis, J. Doyle (March 16, 2010). "Mystery Science Theater 3000: XVII". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  28. ^ Sheehan, Gavin (December 4, 2018). "Review: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents: The Lost and Found Collection". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved February 20, 2019.


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