Friday, August 7, 2015

Zaat (1971)



Easily one of the dullest creature features ever made, the awful Floridian indie Zaat concerns a mad scientist who contrives a formula that transforms him into a giant walking catfish, even as he unleashes a plague of actual walking catfish onto unsuspecting residents of the Sunshine State. Not giant walking catfish, mind you, just normal-sized critters that skitter across the ground during the brief intervals when they can survive outside of water. As for the man-monster, he’s not very threatening, either. Picture a facsimile of the Gill-Man costume from The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1955) made with papier-mâché by five-year-olds, and you get a sense of how realistic the aquatic atrocity in this picture looks. Produced, cowritten, and codirected by Don Barton, who wisely never made another movie, Zaat begins drably. While mad-doctor voiceover explains a plan to gain revenge on skeptics through the transformation of man into fish, Barton presents stock footage of fish in captivity. Then, once slovenly everyman Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer) appears onscreen to tinker with knobs and levers in a hidden laboratory, the dreary voiceover continues all the way through to the transformation scene, which is abrupt and flat: Kurt straps himself into a stretcher, lowers the stretcher into a vat of electrified water, and steps out in the fish suit, after which he walks over to his paper-covered wall and makes notes. The movie doesn’t even feature synchronized dialogue until about 20 minutes into the painfully overlong 100-minute running time. Scenes of the monster attacking people are tedious, especially since actor Wade Popwell can barely move while wearing the creature suit, and the peripheral scenes of folks living their lives unaware of the monster in their midst are beyond vapid. Unsurprisingly, Zaat’s best claim to fame is that it was ridiculed on a 1999 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Oh, and if you care—which you don’t—the title Zaat refers to the formula the mad scientist uses to transform himself.

Zaat: SQUARE

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