Boy Meets Monster: A 30 Year Journey
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Once we got to the theater it became apparent my mother had drawn the short straw and would be taking me to see ZAAT.† My father had other plans as a new James Bond picture, Live and Let Die, was playing in the Springs' other theater.†My memories of watching the film itself are a little vague.† I remember being impressed, and honestly frightened, when the monster turned up in the first few minutes of the film.† Like most six year old kids, the scary part of a film to me was any time the monster was on the screen. During most films this was usually only the last ten or fifteen minutes of the picture.† The ZAAT monster showed up on screen almost immediately and no more than five minutes ever went by before he popped up again.† This meant, for me at least, that the film was best viewed from a position as far down in the theater seat as I could crouch.† I remember, after the film, being disappointed that there was no giant catfish in the movie and my mother saying she hoped I did not have nightmares.
There is more to the story of Ed and the monster, but before I get into that, let me tell you a bit about the monster film that made a life long impression on that small boy in that dark theater.
Thirty years ago, I was part of a small band of†enthusiastic filmmakers set out to make a feature film that would bring us wealth and fame,and write our names in film history books forever; and we did. Well, Kinda Sorta. The wealth and fame part is still proving a bit elusive. However, our names do appear in almost all of the movie books, as well as the name of our film. And the name of that film is ZAAT. ďA Barton Film Production.Ē The film was shot on location in Florida using some of the stateís best known tourist spots as backgrounds and locations. The most noticeable of these locations was Marine Land Of Florida. The folks at Marine Land were great! They gave our team full run of the laboratory and tank room to be used as sets. Here in these before and after shots you can see how our set designer transformed the huge tank†room into Dr. Leopoldís make shift transformation vat.
It seemed our crew received a warm welcome most everywhere we went; from Crystal Springs, where the deep underwater filming was done to Greencove Springs where all of the in-town scenes where filmed. Everyone got excited by the thought of making a movie. I I think that was one of the advantages of our being a small film company. People had fun and liked us. They liked the finished film as well.
In the summer of 1971, the movie opened in the southeast. It did well, even against such blockbuster films as The Poseidon Adventure, and the unforgettable Kansas City Bomber, staring Raquel Welch. When the caged Monster made a live appearance at any local theater, the film would always play to a packed house. That was thirty years ago and since then ZAAT has played in movie houses and drive-ins all over the world. Not long ago, a friend told me that the film was playing somewhere in the far east and still drawing crowds. And, hopefully still scaring little boys like Ed. †††††††††††††
By 1987, Ed had moved to Jacksonville to finish his college days at the University of North Florida. He had no idea that the monster was about to rear its ugly head once more. As fate would have it, Edís new college roommate, Phil, had a passing interest in monster films too. He told Ed that when he was a kid they had filmed a monster movie in the small town where he lived. That was Greencove Springs, which was not that far from Jacksonville. Phil said it had caused quite a stir among the locals and that it was a big deal to the folks who had a part in it. He said he thought the film was called The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, and that it may also have gone by the title of ZAAT. Neither name struck a spark with Ed at the time, but he was none the less fascinated by the fact that a monster film had been done so close to the place where he now lived and that he had never heard of it. Now Ed was on a hunt to find out more about this local production. That was easier said than done. However, after an extensive search through his collection of Famous Monster magazines, he managed to find one lone reference to the film, and the sketchy credits helped little in his desire to meet any of the film's makers. Ed concluded that the film's makers must have all gone off to Hollywood to seek their fortunes there. This did not deter him, however, from seeking out what remains of promotional materials that might be floating about for his collection. It took nine years of searching and the advent of the internet for Ed to gain his first treasure; a ZAAT one sheet poster. A mere six months passed before the next find came in the form of another poster; this one was for the other movie.... The Blood Waters of Dr. Z. It now appeared that there were two films. But the clincher came when Ed got ahold of a ZAAT press book on eBay. Now the pieces of this puzzle began to come together for him. When he started comparing the names and credits on the various items he had gathered, he found that the film he had seen as a frightened boy all those years ago was indeed ZAAT. It was also The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, and Hydra, and The Attack of the Swamp Creature, as well. In Edís words ďIt was then I discovered that for all those years I had been looking for people that were apparently the fictitious creations of some misinformed film junkie or second rate video company trying to get out of paying royalties.†I also found out, to my delight, that even after the passage of so much time, many of the people involved in the production are still my neighbors right here in Jacksonville.† Now a new quest is underway for me as I try to find out as much as I can about this local horror film and preserve as much of itís history as possible for future film fans like myself.Ē †††††††††††††††
His search eventually brought him to me, Ron Kivett the writer, and Don Barton the producer and Wade Popwell, the Monster himself. Edís quest for the once thought lost film may be over, but his enthusiasm for it remains strong. So much so that he has now breathed new life into the Monster. This month ZAAT will be released on video. The thirtieth anniversary edition of the tape will be struck from the original unedited 35mm color negative. It will also contain never before seen out takes from the film, as well as new interviews with Don Barton, the film's producer and other members of the ZAAT family. The first five hundred tapes will come in a special case, autographed and numbered. Itís a true collector's edition. ††††††††††††††
Well, there you have it..... the story of Ed Tucker; the boy who met the monster, and proved again that one person still can make a difference. And ZAATís the truth.
††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††† †by Ron Kivett
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