(1975, Horror-Mad Science, color)
Sargassum: the weed of deceit!
In a nutshell:
A Mad Scientist seeks revenge and world domination by turning himself into a catfish.
A mad scientist voiceover giggles over underwater wildlife footage, professing his love for subaquatic predators while announcing his plans to lead them in a bloody catfish uprising that will grant him total domination of the entire universe. [Insert crazed laughter here.] Later, a sad, paunchy man spends the opening credits wandering his unkempt Florida estate and his basement laboratory while an earnest folk singer invites him to “sachet through the sarcasm” and “[plan] revenge on his friends.” After more feverish monologuing, he injects himself with a viscous yellow-green liquid, straps himself into a metal Coast Guard rescue stretcher, and lowers himself into a large concrete Jacuzzi. He emerges a few minutes later as a furry, snout-nosed fish-man.
Fish-man’s first order of business is to wander the waterways of the Everglades, squirting his special giant fish sauce at the aquatic fauna. (The film features no giant fish besides himself and never mentions the spray bottle again, so I guess it doesn’t work.) His second order of business is to murder the goofy, spectacled former colleagues who denied him funding. He finds the first out fishing with his family and overturns their boat to drown them all. He finds the second adjusting his fishing rod at home, and claws him to death in his easy chair. His third order of business is to make himself a mate. He snares a bathing beauty from her campsite and drags her back to his laboratory. He straps her into his metal stretcher and injects her with viscous fish-woman juice, but something goes wrong when he dips her in the concrete Jacuzzi. She comes out only half-transformed, and dead. Fish-man goes wild, breaks his equipment, and vandalizes his giant, homemade job wheel.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Krantz reclines at the riverside to watch an African-American marine biologist named Rex investigate something to do with catfish. They leave off exchanging racial barbs when Rex discovers radioactivity in the water. Later, Krantz drags him to crime scenes to offer his official marine biologist opinion on the corpses of Fish-man’s former colleagues. Rex declines definitive comment and summons Walter and Martha, a pair of jumpsuited killer fish experts from the government. The four of them team up and wander the countryside in a Winnebago, stringing nets across waterways to catch the murderous fiend.
Fish-man wanders through the nets in the middle of the night and tears them to shreds. Rex and the jumpsuit squad rush out to investigate, only to get jumped by the angry Fish-man. Walter gets his butt thoroughly kicked while Martha watches rather unhelpfully. As the only halfway competent member of the cast, Rex pulls a revolver and opens fire, driving Fish-man away. Fish-man wanders into the night and breaks into a drug store for medicine. Later, he kills a libidinous teen and drinks his blood. Even laterer, he skulks behind Rex’s laboratory to peep while Martha locks lips with Walter.
The next day, Walter rises from his sickbed to help Rex and Sheriff Krantz investigate the murder and the drug store break-in. Walter discovers that he can simply follow Fish-man’s trail with a Geiger counter. They drive and wade and wander until the trail leads them back to Rex’s laboratory. Unfortunately, Fish-man broke in while they were gone to abduct Martha in a second attempt to make himself a mate. Just then, Sheriff Krantz remembers that there’s this crackpot scientist living out in the Everglades, who was dismissed from his university of origin for his militant fish-supremacist proclivities. Walter wonders (along with the rest of us) why he didn’t bother to mention this sooner, but no matter. Walter takes off cross-country to follow Fish-man’s trail in an aquatic dune buggy, while Rex and the Sheriff drive directly to Fish-man’s hideout.
Rex and the Sheriff arrive at the laboratory before Fish-man, so they’re allowed ample time to stare at the blinking lights and play with the giant, homemade job wheel. Sheriff Krantz goes to call for backup, but Fish-man intercepts him before he can make it back to his vehicle. Krantz draws his gun and, for some reason, tries to pistol-whip Fish-man instead of shooting him; Fish-man kills him rather easily. He carts Martha (who predictably fainted during the abduction and remained comatose throughout the hour-plus trip across the swamp) down into the laboratory and straps her into the metal stretcher. He injects her with viscous fish-woman juice, but before he can dip her in the concrete Jacuzzi, Rex arrives for a rescue attempt. Rex dies, but his heroic efforts prevent her from getting dipped.
Meanwhile, Walter’s aquatic dune buggy has broken down, forcing him to continue the pursuit on foot. A venomous snake bites him, forcing him to limp most of the way with a tourniquet on one leg. By the time he arrives at the laboratory hideout, Fish-man has inexplicably lost interest in Rex and Martha and is now dragging a pair of oblong canisters towards the beach. Walter puts several bullets in him, but fails prevent him from reaches the water. Walter falls into the sand, overcome by the snake venom. Before he dies, he sees a vacant-eyed Martha wander past. (This is not explained; I think the viscous fish-woman juice compels her to follow Fish-man into the ocean.) The camera pulls back, and the movie ends.
Crow enjoys the rich flavor of chewing tobacco, but his aim leaves something to be desired. Mike comes in and sets down his Pepsi One can among several dozen other spittle-spattered cans, and then abandons it when he can’t remember which one was his. Crow’s next tobacco-laden snag lands on Mike’s shoe.
Host Segment One:
At Mike’s urging, Crow has labeled all his tobacco juice cans to avoid any disgusting confusion. Just then, Tom enters to declare, “Have you tried Crow’s Tobacco Juice brand pop? It isn’t very good.” Mike leaves to vomit while Crow advises him that the best part is at the bottom. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl has decided to do a love-deprivation experiment on the Satellite dwellers. “Withholding love...now!” she says, and waits to see the results. After a few moments, Brain Guy tentatively explains that she must express love before she can withhold it. She sends up a box labeled “Love Stuff,” containing a staple remover, a pawn shop receipt for a shotgun, lemon-flavored gin, several hot pads, and an alternator. Crow revels in Pearl’s love, and goes into serious withdrawal when she takes it back a minute later.
Host Segment Two:
Crow hides in the rafters and narrates as Mike polishes his shoes. “Saddle soap,” he cries, “the cleaning compound of deceit. Shoe-polishing human, soon you will pay!” Mike knocks him out of the rafters with a squeegee.
Host Segment Three:
Mike and the ‘Bots don outdoor gear and go fishing from orbit. Mike catches one, but it goes through explosive decompression when he reels it above the earth’s atmosphere. He throws it back.
Host Segment Four:
Still appreciative of the bikini-clad camper’s performance, Tom and Crow try to convince Mike that any scene is better when the actors are nude. They call Bobo and Brain Guy, who agree to illustrate their point by stripping down to perform a short scene from Glengarry Glenn Ross. This makes Tom and Crow doubt their earlier position; Mike suggests that maybe, just maybe, what they want to see is more nude women. The ‘Bots consider this and call for Pearl. Mike wrestles them back into the theater before they can get her attention.
Host Segment Five:
Inspired by Fish-man’s unconventional canisters, Tom and Crow have created various other form-fitted carrying cases for such food items as honeydew melons, bunt cakes, crown roasts, and submarine sandwiches. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl’s next experiment has transformed Bobo into a fearsome mer-ape, complete with lyre, blond wig, and seashell brassiere. His dulcet melodies attract the amorous attentions of a lonely, rugged sailor, inspiring Pearl to fire up her saws-all and become a mer-person herself.
Sargassum: the weed of deceit!
According to one or two references in the film, Fish-man’s name is Dr. Kurt Leopold. As far as mad scientist names go, doesn’t exactly have the same villainous weight as Alex Zorka, Eric Varnoff, Vitus Werdegast, or even Ludwig Bemelmans*, but it’s vaguely Germanic, and I guess that’s good enough. There’s just one major problem with it. Can you tell what it is? (Well, granted, Kurt is usually the name of the Friendly Movie German—the one who’ll hide you in his secret attic compartment and then pretend he’s never heard of you when the Nazis come looking. I meant the other major problem.) That’s right! His name has no Z’s in it, anywhere. Not a single one.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if they hadn’t named their film Blood Waters of Dr. Z, but they did, and so here we are. I’d write it off as a localization error, but according to online sources (IMDb.com and Daddy-O) this film was not only made in America, but by Americans, something I would not have known from watching it. (I assume it was in the credits, but I found it difficult to concentrate on reading them while Ur-Dylan warbled “planning reveeeeeeeeenge on his friends” ad nauseum.) American monster movies stink, but at least they’re usually enthusiastic about it. This one is slow, incomprehensible, alienated from its subject matter, and contemptuous of its audience—all hallmarks of foreign B-Movies. Then again, it was originally made in Florida, so maybe it counts as foreign anyway. Dr. Leopold’s name is probably pronounced “Z” on the original Southern soundtrack.
My favorite part of the host segments involves Pearl’s confusion regarding the concept of love. (Quoth she, “Is that where you find the least common denominator and add the numerators?”) Crow’s immediate addiction to her hot pad tokens of affection works too. My other favorite host segment has to do with Crow spewing shoe-centric threats from the bulkhead, a la Fish-man. The fishing and Glengarry Glen Ross sketches are quite clever. I liked Bobo as a mer-ape as well, but not in quite the same way as the rugged sailor. My least favorite is Crow’s vomitous chewing tobacco adventure, followed closely by the oddly flat “carrying case” sketch.
Sometimes the Satellite crew manages to lift a movie from the bottom of the barrel to make it far, far funnier than it deserves to be. I’m glad to say this is one of those times. Shortly after Fish-Man’s transformation, Crow describes him as, “An amphibious warthog.” Later, when Rex and Sheriff Krantz meet in Rex’s laboratory/shack, Mike notes, “This’d be a good place for a stand-off with the FBI.” At the very end, Tom sums up the film’s nonsensical ending and foreign feeling by saying, “Winner of the Cannes Palm D’Huh? Award.” By itself, this movie is slow and non sequitur enough to make you want to claw your own eyes out. Fortunately, Mike and the ‘Bots manage to fill the empty spaces well enough to make it worth multiple viewings.
*One of these is not a B-Movie scientist played by Bela Lugosi. Guess which one!
(1975, Horror-Mad Science, color)