There’s just something about Florida-made horror/sci-fi flicks that you can’t resist. In 1965, the great William Grefé brought us bad movie lovers the immortal Sting of Death, which depicted a man scientist’s foray into mania by turning himself into a giant walking jellyfish with a desire to kill. In 1971, another an aspiring auteur by the name of Don Barton made a film just as ridiculous and just as enjoyable: Zaat — the tale of an entirely different mad scientist (and former Nazi, naturally) who transforms himself into a giant walking catfish with a desire to kill. Big difference.
While Zaat may not benefit from several Neil Sedaka musical numbers like Sting of Death does (seriously, it does), Zaat also finds time amid the (ahem) “horror” of it all to interject a hippie musical sequence; a surrealistic moment (with some fine singin’ to boot) that is so out of place and bizarre that it even scares the film’s monster away once it comes across the traveling commune! The songwriter of the aforementioned performers’ ballad (Jamie DeFrates, who also co-wrote the incidental score) also contributed to the movie’s opening credits theme about sargassum (!) — which is just as epic in its awfulness (and thus, good).
Zaat opens with a lengthy look at (stock footage) aquatic predators, to wit the movie’s mad scientist in question rants deliriously about them, and how he will soon join them. Portrayed by one of the greatest performers to ever awkwardly shuffle across the screen (most of the cast and crew in this cult classic never went on to do anything else, and it’s easy to see why), Dr. Leopold (Marshall Grauer) soon tinkers with some equipment in his abandoned Florida marine lab, padding out the beginning of the film tremendously before changing into a monster.
From there, the bulky creation (played by Wade Popwell) of a minuscule budget lumbers through land and sea in order to execute those who called him crazy (um, I think they had just cause for such accusations) and anyone else who might get in his way or tick him off for whatever reason. He also attempts to turn a kidnapped sunbather into a mate, but fails. Meanwhile, a white backwoods sheriff (Paul Galloway), a black marine biologist (Gerald Cruse), and two “Inter-Nations Phenomena Investigations Team” (INPIT) agents in red jumpsuits (Dave Dickerson and Sanna Ringhaver, the latter of whom has an almost-nude shower scene) search frantically for the movie’s creature (not to mention plot).