Directed by Don Barton, Zaat (1971) is probably best known to genre fans by its alternative title, The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, which was the name used when the film played to the heckling crew of the Satellite of Love for an episode of the much beloved TV series, Mystery Science Theater 3000. I've never been fortunate enough to see the episode for myself, so I was going into the film completely fresh. However, knowing that it made an appearance on MST3K gave me a good clue as to what I was in for. Well, that and the fact that Zaat has also been granted the extremely low score of 1.7 on IMDB, something that, in all honesty, tickles my fanny in the most joyous of ways.
Zaat's story follows the exploits of an ex-Nazi mad scientist, Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer), who has spent much of his career trying to create a catfish/human hybrid, and he has finally resorted to using himself as a human guinea pig. The goal: to create a catfish with the size and intelligence of a man and a man with the predatory prowess of… a catfish. All wrapped up in one, badass human/catfish package. Though, maybe using the word catfish is a tad deceiving, as apparently the ex-Nazi mad scientist dude's plan worked, in theory, but for some reason he has not taken on the physical appearance of a catfish. Something that he explains at some point during his 20 minute long summary of his plan… to himself, which we can thankfully hear because without such exposition we would have no clue as to what is going on in the film.
"Time for my eardrops"
Regardless, the lack of catfish resemblance does not affect Dr. Leopold's strength or intelligence in any way, but I can imagine the disappointment on his non-catfish-face when he came to the realization that the Charles Bronson look was completely out the window. Thankfully, this does not impair the directive of this ex-Nazi, mad scientist walking catfish that doesn't look like a catfish, as the show must go on, and he must remain focused on his efforts in finding himself a dime piece to turn into his very own catfish that doesn't look like a catfish wife. Or something to that effect.
Along the way to find himself a bride, many people feel the clawing wrath of Dr. Leopold. He unleashes vengeance on all those who have ever wronged him in the past and anyone who dares to stand in his path in the present. As victims pileup due to Leopold's vicious claw thing that has the ability to dismantle a human being with what appears to be no more than a paper cut, the authorities take notice. Though, I guess they took notice when there were multiple reports of a human sized walking fish, but they sort of brushed it off not knowing that they were actually dealing with an ex-Nazi, mad scientist walking catfish that doesn't look like a catfish. That's a completely different level of trouble right there, folks, especially in a small Florida town with a high hot blond ratio.
I'll be ready, forever and always, I'm always here!
Moving along, although Dr. Leopold is making mincemeat out of many of the area residents, he has a much deeper level to him than being a simple "murderer." Let's remember, even though it isn't at all mentioned in the 20 minutes of expository projected thoughts that Dr. Leopold shares with the audience earlier in the film, he is on the hunt for a woman to call his own. He's looking for love, but I wouldn't say in all the wrong places, as there are plenty of girls that are fly like Brundle in this small town, but he is certainly going about things the wrong way. Kidnapping and attempting to turn your date into a walking catfish is not the smoothest of moves when trying to make a love connection. Trust me.
Still, as much as Dr. Leopold stumbles in his adventures of the heart, he does mean well, and this is all the more prevalent from his skills as an artist. Leopold spends some of his downtime drawing heartfelt portraits of the women he is trying to swoon, showing that, in all reality, he's just a misunderstood artist trying to obtain what many of us would want to achieve. Dr. Leopold is more than just a monster; he's an artist. He's an artistic, ex-Nazi, mad scientist walking-catfish that doesn't look like a catfish that only wants to find somebody to love, something that all artistic, ex-Nazi, mad scientist walking-catfish that don't look like catfish are truly looking for, deep-down. Something that we are all truly looking for, deep down.
Dr. Kurt Leopold: Proving that Science and Crayola art can go hand-in-hand
We can judge Dr. Leopold for being an ex-Nazi. We can judge Dr. Leopold for being a mad scientist. We can even judge Dr. Leopold for being a walking catfish that doesn't look like a catfish. But what we cannot do is judge Dr. Leopold for wanting to love.
*Awkward transition into final paragraph where I go on to recommend the film*
All jokes aside (as in this entire review), if you are truly a fan of super corny B-Movies, I fully endorse grabbing up a copy of Zaat on BD. It looks great, considering the film's budget, age and a little DNR. More so, it's incredibly rare that a true B-Movie is given such respectful treatment on home video, something that all films like Zaat should receive, in my opinion. Not only that, but the movie is fun as hell (I only barely touched the surface here… ), and will play perfectly to a drunken crowd of nerds or to someone like me, an ex-Nazi, mad scientist walking catfish that doesn't look like a catfish who loves the pants off of bad movies.