Don Barton/Arnold Stevens; screenwriters: Don Barton/story by Ron Kivett and Lee O. Larew; cinematographer: Jack McGowan; editor: George Yarbrough; music: Jamie DeFrates/Barry Hodgin; cast: Marshall Grauer (Dr. Kurt Leopold/voice-over narrator), Wade Popwell (The Monster), Paul Galloway (Sheriff Lou Krantz), Gerald Cruse (Marine Biologist Rex), Sanna Ringhaver (INPIT Agent Martha Walsh), Dave Dickerson (INPIT Agent Walker Stevens), Archie Valliere (Deputy Sheriff), Nancy Lien (Girl Camper); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Don Barton; Mad Monster Video; 1972)
“A minor cult classic for those who like their films to be mindless.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Overlong and boring mad scientist monster film. There’s too much unneeded filler scenes of a hippie singalong, marine life footage and the uninteresting tracking shots of the monster on the prowl. Don Barton (noted for filming documentaries, training films and TV commercials) directs his only feature movie, with uncredited help from Arnold Stevens. It’s done on a shoestring budget (shot for $50,000 in 30 days, and with a mostly nonprofessional cast) and turns out so bad that it’s actually bad. It’s based on a story by Ron Kivett and Lee O. Larew, as Kivett mentions he was inspired by a National Geographic article about the emergence of hybrid “walking catfish” in Florida. It’s set in the rural town of Cypress Grove, Florida, and filmed in Northeast Florida around the Jacksonville area.
For the last 25 years an unbalanced misanthropic scientist named Dr. Kurt Leopold (Marshall Grauer), who annoyingly throughout the film provides us with an inner monologue voice-over, is obsessed with mutating a fish with a human in order to create a new underwater race to conquer the world. After five years working in a secret wartime government lab, he’s fired for his unorthodox experiments and his mental problems. His lifetime work is dissed by his scientist superiors. For the last twenty years the mad scientist has lived as a hermit in a remote shack in Cypress Grove, where he built an innovative lab, created walking catfish in a pool and a formula called ZaAt for mutating fish and humans (it’s a radioactive element known as ZsubA, AsubT, which can transform a man into a man-catfish hybrid). Leopold injects himself with the formula and turns into a large, shaggy green amphibian catfish monster with claws, a bulbous head and human characteristics. The monster suit was primarily designed and built by author Kivett, and the 6’5” Wade Popwell played the monster.
Black marine biologist Rex (Gerald Cruse) is called in to investigate reports of walking catfish and discovers the lake is contaminated with radiation and that there are racists in Florida. With that he calls for help from INTER-NATIONS PHENOMENON INVESTIGATIONS TEAM (INPIT) government agents Martha Walsh (Sanna Ringhaver) and Walker Stevens (Dave Dickerson), who show up in a high-tech van filled with science equipment and orange jumpsuits. A skeptical redneck sheriff, Lou Krantz (Paul Galloway), aids the outsider scientists, as a series of bizarre murders occurs that are attributed to the walking catfish. The vics were former supervisors of Leopold, and are found strangled with unidentifiable claw marks around their neck.
It leads to an unimaginative and bleak climax, whereby the monster kidnaps the attractive blonde agent Walsh with the intention of making her his mate to start the new aquatic race as they do it in the ocean.
The film underwent many different ad campaigns with different titles upon release and even got lost in due time. It’s an entertainment only mad scientist flick, with no intention to create art here. It has been recovered and became a minor cult classic for those who like their films to be mindless, acted in a wooden manner and just plain bad.
REVIEWED ON 11/5/2009 GRADE: C