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Author Topic: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83  (Read 1042 times)

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Offline Henry88

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ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« on: June 10, 2013, 11:45:07 AM »



http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-06-10/story/don-barton-creator-zaat-cult-classic-northeast-florida-dies-83

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Don Barton brought “Zaat” to life in the early 1970s, and while the giant radioactive walking catfish-human monster was quiet for decades after playing at drive-ins across the Southeast, it never really went away. The movie about the killer creature found new life as a cult classic, and even played again Saturday night at the 75th-anniversary celebrations at Marineland, where scenes were filmed.

Mr. Barton was scheduled to speak at the screening: He loved to talk about his monster. However, he died that morning of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said his son, John Barton. He was 83.

Mr. Barton, a Jacksonville native, accomplished many things in his life, including raising nine children with his wife, Shirley, to whom he had been married for 57 years. But many knew him best as director of “Zaat,” a modestly budgeted horror movie filmed over one month in Northeast Florida, where a terrible aquatic creature wreaked havoc among good old boys, hippies and bikini-clad young women alike.

In 1970, Mr. Barton owned a company, Barton Films, which was doing well with commercials and training films. But he got an itch to make a full-length feature and, after reading a National Geographic article about walking catfish, “Zaat” was born.

An employee, Ron Kivett, started on a screenplay and helped design the giant monster suit, a combination of fake fur and fake scales that lived for many years in Mr. Barton’s garage. The suit traveled to Marineland for the weekend screening and will now take up residence in the offices of Barton Productions, a film company run by Mr. Barton’s sons John and Michael.

The 1971 film, known by several other names as well, dropped largely out of sight for decades. In later years, though, it had a renaissance after being mocked on TV’s “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” in 1999. In June 2001, it made it to theaters again, playing to a packed house at the now-gone St. Johns 8 Theater on the Westside.

That came after horror fan Ed Tucker, a “Zaat” lover since he was 6 years old, reached out to Mr. Barton and eventually helped him re-release the film on DVD. “There’s no other movie like it,” said Tucker. “Just the fact that you’ve got so much monster on screen, and the fact that it’s a 1950s movie done, in color, in 1970.”

The film went on to numerous other screenings attended by Mr. Barton and fans of his 7-foot tall killer catfish-human, as well as two appearances nationally on Turner Classic Movies.

Mr. Barton, in a 2009 interview, said that after “Zaat’s” initial run, he thought it would never be talked about again. He was, happily, wrong. And in recent years he had been trying to put together a sequel to introduce the watery monster to a whole new generation.

“He enjoyed the limelight — he never turned down a microphone, as far as I remember,” said John Barton. “He enjoyed the people who enjoyed the movie. It gave him great joy.”

In 2009, artist R. Land, a Jacksonville native and lifelong fan of “Zaat,” invited Barton to a screening of his movie at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre, where a neighboring restaurant served catfish dinners for all who attended. “It was just a beautiful thing when Don got up and talked.” Land said. “The crowd was really into it, the theater was full, the print looked great, and afterward he was signing autographs and DVDs. Don had fun.”

Mr. Barton was a co-founder of the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association and won several awards for documentaries. In 1984, he became vice president of marketing at what’s now St. Vincent’s HealthCare, and later served on the hospital’s executive board.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Barton is survived by sons John, Michael, Mark and Paul, all of Jacksonville; daughters Elizabeth Till, Anne Petty and Catherine Sanneman of Jacksonville, Mary Ellen Sanchez of Savannah, Ga., and Teresa Campbell of Oregon; 23 grandchildren; his brothers Quinn, James and Thomas; and sister Beverly Kolodinski.

Plans for a memorial service for Mr. Barton are still being arranged,

« Last Edit: June 10, 2013, 11:47:28 AM by Henry88 »


Offline Bob

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2013, 12:02:39 PM »
Okay, I never would have guessed that the ZAAT guy did all that in his life and career........that is cool.


Offline Mrs. Dick Courier

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 05:52:40 PM »
Sargassum.....

Seriously though, I enjoy that movie on its own.

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Offline Bob

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2013, 06:16:05 PM »
And the song that started the movie.......I liked it!


Offline Mrs. Dick Courier

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2013, 06:30:15 PM »
Gonna go sashay through the sargassum right now.  Been a while. 
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Offline Johnny Unusual

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2013, 03:19:56 AM »
There are a lot of MST3k songs that are technically weak but I still love them unironically.  That is one of them (also the song from the beginning of Red Zone Cuba).

Anyway, it's always kind of sad when an MST director goes.  And it seemed that while he didn't have much of a feature film career, he had a long career of making commercials and special films for Florida.

EDIT: Oh and the "Italian Neo-Realist" ending to ZAAT is kind of neat.


Offline Mrs. Dick Courier

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Re: ZAAT director Don Barton dead at 83
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2013, 09:29:55 AM »
I love the songs from Girl in Gold Boots, they're quite groovy.

And always thought the music in Project Moonbase was nice.
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