What the Hell Is ZAAT (1971)???
Enjoyment of the film ZAAT depends on one’s states of mind, sobriety, and consciousness. There is no question that this 1970s cult favorite, also known as The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, has all the earmarks of a corny cult classic: awful sound recording, terrible acting, horrible sets, rotten narration, hokey creature costume, disturbing lack of continuity, nauseating cinematography…need I go on? (In its favor, one must admit it does have a surprise ending.)
Up until now, its cult had to resort to bootleg copies that went by the title Attack of the Swamp Creatures (Hydra in Canada), which is slightly misleading. What’s changed? ZAAT is now available in Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack on the Cultra and HD Cinema Classics Labels from Film Chest. Transferred from 35mm, ZAAT has been digitally restored in HD and comes with a treasure trove of bonus features, including audio commentary, original 35mm trailer, television spots, outtakes, radio interview, before-and-after restoration demo, and “an original movie art postcard.”
Okay, enough with the technical stuff; what is ZAAT? A Nazi scientist (Marshall Grauer), sans accent, living in Florida is convinced he can turn human beings into walking catfish (as if there aren’t already enough walking catfish to go around). For some strange reason, mainstream scientific researchers scoffed at the idea, causing the Nazi to go Nuzi and vow revenge (“I'll cause underwater life to triumph over all other living creatures. I will adapt myself to a permanent underwater environment. All other humans will be conquered. I cannot - i will not be stopped! I will select a mate with utmost care, and together we will create a whole new aquatic race.”) against them all. So he turns himself into a fish/man hybrid (Wade Popwell) that looks nothing like a catfish (maybe more like a healthy serving of canned spinach) so he can seek revenge. He acknowledges that he doesn’t look like a catfish, but finds himself “beautiful,” nevertheless.
Here’s where it gets weird. The two scientists he goes after, he just kills them—like he could have done if he wasn’t a huge monstrosity. Maybe turning yourself into a fish will get you a special deal if you get caught, I’m not sure. His plan is to mutate all the fish in the sea into monsters that will wipe out the human race (don’t ask). In order to put his plan into action, he swims underwater equipped with a pump-spray bottle and sprays the content at various stock footage of undersea life (Ed Wood would be impressed by director Don Barton’s use of stock footage).Continued on the next page