1975 Horror Movie, also known as:
Zaat (original release title)
Attack of the Swamp Creatures (bootleg release title)
Hydra (Canadian release title and video title)
Legend of the Zaat Monster
also a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode (show number 1005) (1999)
"This looks like the kind of film you would find in a condemned apartment building."—My best friend Suzi, upon first seeing this movie
WARNING: The review contains spoilers (not that you will be likely to care ... it is quite a horrible movie)
To say that Blood Waters of Dr. Z is a bad movie doesn't really begin to cover it. Plan 9 from Outer Space is a bad movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is one too, but this film takes bad to an entirely different level. On the other hand, if the filmmakers were trying to illustrate what it might be like if an inept, unwashed and pathetic supervillain concocted a half-baked plan to conquer the world, they succeeded admirably—well done, guys!
The film starts out with an oddly disquieting title shot (and no music) then goes directly into a montage of underwater clips of strange aquatic animals with a bizarre, rambling voiceover monologue...
"Sargassum—weed of deceit..."
From this opening line, the viewer is in a lot of trouble.
The speaker goes on the reveal that he is about to set into motion his catastrophic scheme for revenge on those who scoffed at him and called him mad.
"They think I am insane, but it is they who are insane!"
Then, he professes his love to a scorpionfish. No, really.
We are then treated to a peppy, folky opening title song, featuring such unforgettable lines as "Sashay, sashay through the sargassum." Meanwhile a grimy fellow with a curiously misshapen-seeming head wanders about on a squalid beach. This is our titular Dr. Z, a man who has discovered "two new elements" (oookay ... riiight), named ZA and AT—he can combine these two substances to create ZaAt, a powerful super-mutagen.
Dr. Z's (the Z is for ZaAt, we assume, as the character is actually named Dr. Leopold) evil scheme unfolds as he retires to a grimy lab full of blinky "science stuff" (Ed Wood would be so proud) and we lucky viewers get to enjoy a seemingly interminable sequence where he turns himself into a hideous fish-man. Well, anyway, there are tubes and fluids and syringes and the puffy, pasty doctor in his undies and the whole rather sordid mess turns out with him as a "kind of a dumpy seahorse," as Mike Nelson of MST3K says. Or perhaps he is an aquatic warthog. Or a marine relative of ALF. Oh, yeah, and he appears to be wearing a kicky little capelet made of moss. I couldn't even make something like this up!
So, Dr. Z proceeds to conquer the world. No, only kidding! He conquers Florida—well, okay, he really doesn't accomplish very much except killing off a few thinly-realized characters and stirring up the fish by spritzing them with a tiny bottle of ZaAt. This brings our human characters poking around: a likeable wildlife specialist, a redneck sheriff and two red-jumpsuited "scientist" types, including the obligatory blonde actress who seems to have been cast because of her pretty nose and willingness to show off her underwear—not for her acting (I used to make Super-8 films in the 8th grade and most of my little friends could out act most of these clowns!).
The film lumbers to a predictably inconclusive conclusion as the mad doctor abducts the pretty lady scientist to make her his fish bride. All of our "heroes" try to rescue her and every one of them winds up either dead or severely injured—especially her dorky partner, who takes enough abuse to qualify for a role in the Evil Dead films! Let's just say, the sight of a poofy-haired chap in one of those tiny six-wheeled ATVs that look like clown cars is unlikely to fill one with the sort of awe that I think the filmmakers hoped for.
The whole mess grinds to a halt as our would-be gillman wanders into the surf, carrying a supply of ZaAt with which to infect the ocean. The blonde scientist, despite not receiving the full fishification treatment, wanders in after him. It is bewildering.
Thoughts and Reactions
Wow ... where to start? It isn't the worst movie ever made: it is lit and in focus most of the time, it lacks the frightful ineptitude of, say Manos, the Hands of Fate or the works of Coleman Francis. It has a comprehensible (if laughable) storyline, unlike, say, Monster A-Go Go—but it is every bit as bad as you might expect.
Blood Waters of Dr. Z is a very ugly film. The lighting, the sets, even most of the actors are kind of unwholesome and unpleasant to look at. In this way, it kind of reminds me of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, although that movie was a hateful, spiteful little piece of cheese. Blood Waters is not nearly as unhealthy as that latter movie, but you will still likely need to shower and brush your teeth after you see it!
Despite it all, this film has some minimal level of competancy. Some of the actors can actually act—particularly the redneck sheriff, and Dr. Z himself seems to at least be able to chew scenery with a nearly Lugosian fervor. A few of the underwater shots are kind of cool and you may forget that you are not watching a real movie for a second, at least until you work them into the ridiculous plot.
One word of caution: if you choose to see Blood Waters of Dr. Z, I would strongly advise against trying to locate it without Mystery Science's brilliant riffing. This is a boring, dreadfully stupid and hideously grubby little film that would be a serious neuron-killer for even the most hardened aficionado of bad movies. With Mike and the robots making fun of it, Blood Waters becomes hilarious (we've seen it before, but still had to pause it to let a bad set of the giggles pass). If you do seek out the unvarnished Blood Waters experience, you may have to actually pay real money for a movie that has long stretches of nothing—there are times that staring at static on the tube would be as entertaining—you have been warned!
The Satellite News, MST3K's official fansite (and the associated Daddy-O's Drive-in Dirt) at http://www.mst3kinfo.com/
Dr. Forrester's MST reviews: http://satellite-of-love.home.mindspring.com/reviews_s10_ep1005.html
Watching the movie again ... pity poor Junkill!