Zaat (1971)

No matter what title you know this movie by — Blood Waters of Dr. Z, Hydra, Attack of the Swamp Creatures or this one — this movie lives and breathes (well, gills kind of breath water) Jacksonville, Florida. That’s where its co-writer, director and producer Don Barton came from and that’s where this was film, using real locations like Rainbow Springs, Green Cove Springs and Marineland.

It mostly played Jacksonville drive-ins and some southern states before our friends at Aquarius Releasing got a copy and played it in New York City for all of a day, with former employee Ron Harvey telling Fangoria, “One of the all-time worst releases was Blood Waters of Dr. Z. We played it on 42nd Street, where it lasted until about 4:00 on a Friday afternoon before the theater pulled the picture! It had done like S200 business all day long.”

Capitol Productions re-released the movie in 1983 and two years later, it was re-released again as Attack of the Swamp Creatues with new cast and crew names.

Zaat is the tale of scientist Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer, in his one and done role), who takes his formula ZaAT and transforms human beings into sea creatures, starting with recreating himself as a catfish human. Yes, a catfish. He’s now played by Wade Popwell, who also only made this film, and is a creature that occasionally still wears athletic shoes despite being a merman.

He also makes catfish that can walk and starts poisoning the town’s water, forcing a cop and a scientist to engage in the kind of relationship that you may have seen in a movie called Jaws as they try to stop the world from being zaat-ed.

There’s also a government organization called INPIT, which sends two of their scientists to track down Leopold and bring him in, except they mostly are concerned with the welfare of some kids playing folk music.

That said, unlike nearly every amphibian on the loose movie I’ve ever seen — like Creature from the Black Lagoon and its sequels*, SlithisHumanoids from the DeepEncounters in the DeepDemon of Paradise — this one has the creature pretty much end the film in triumph, wiping out nearly every human and even transforming the female scientist into a willing slave. Also worth noting is that one of the scientists is bit by a snake and in a moment of reverse-Cannibal Holocaust, it was totally real. As he was wading through the water, that little snake just swam up and took a chunk out of his arm.

That said, he does not have his own fan club like Slithis. I carry my card in my wallet so that Slithis knows where I live and that he should let me live.

*Revenge of the Creature was also shot at Marineland, but it’s an incalculable number of times better than this film. I also own a limited edition blu ray of Zaat because, well, I like junk.

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