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Don Barton, RIP

barton JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — Don Barton, the mad genius behind the movie “Zaat” — better known to MSTies as the movie in episode 1005- THE BLOOD WATERS OF DR. Z, died here June 8 of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.

His hometown paper has his obit here.

Mr. Barton took a dim view of MST3k mocking his masterwork. I got an email from him a number of years ago, in which he insisted — as he has on many occasions — that Sci-Fi Channel, and later Shout!Factory, never had the proper rights secured to allow MST3K to do the movie and, later, sell the DVD. Everyone else I’ve spoken to who was knowledgable about this says he was wrong, but as far as I know he went to his grave convinced otherwise.

Update: I’m being told, by several people who sound like they know what they’re talking about, that I don’t have the facts exactly right, and in fact there were issues with the Scifi Channel getting the rights, which were settled out of court, and that there was not any issue with Shout. That is not what remember Barton telling me in his email to me, but my memory may be faulty and that was at least two hard drive crashes ago and I have long since lost my copy of the email. So, since I can’t prove it, I will give these people the benefit of the doubt.

30 Replies to “Don Barton, RIP”

  1. Goshzilla says:

    Thanks to MST3k thousands of people have watched and enjoyed ZaAt who otherwise would never have even been aware of the film’s existence.
    I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. I hope he understood that at least.


  2. darthservo says:

    A mother will always love her child, no matter how ugly.


  3. Garza says:

    Hopefully he’s not in the afterlife planning reveeeeeeeeeeeenge on his friends.


  4. mst3ktemple says:

    Perhaps he was smoking sargassum, the weed of deceit. All kidding aside though, I agree that MST brought an incredibly higher level of fame to his movie. It would be too bad that he didn’t get any enjoyment out of that.


  5. The Bolem says:

    According to ‘Cult Flicks and Trash Pics’, this movie has at least 4 alternate titles, and “Dr. Z” was the one that saw the most play on late night TV before the Brains got a hold of it. My guess is that the cut we know is public domain, and Don only owned the one titled “Zaat”, which may also be the most complete version.

    One cut without the prologue was given the Elvira treatment, released by Thriller Video. I wonder how he felt about that.


  6. Kenneth Morgan says:

    It’s interesting that, as noted, movies that would’ve otherwise been forgotten received wide exposure via MST3K. It’s also interesting that those movies, which some would consider really bad, will be discovered by those who think that they’re misunderstood, even pretty good. So, in a way, getting featured on MST3K can earn both ridicule and praise, depending on your point of view.

    In any case, my condolences to his family, and it’s nice to know that he knew there were people who enjoyed his film.


  7. Manos Bride says:

    Oh, man, I don’t see how I missed this. My heart goes out to Don Barton’s friends and family. This movie has been a part of my life for a long time now. I grew up just outside of Jacksonville, very close to where part of the movie was shot. My friends and I went to see ZAAT when it first came out at the old Edgewood Theatre in the early 70’s. We were really excited, especially since the mother of a friend of ours actually had a small part in the film (she was the reporter in the “mod pantsuit”). Unfortunately, at the time I found the film confusing and weird. I was too young to really understand why, so my mother had to explain to me that it was just a bad movie. It was disappointing, but I’ve come to appreciate it over the years. I got to see the revival mentioned in the article back in 2001, and I also saw another special showing last October where I got a blu-ray copy of the original film.

    It’s such a shame that Don Barton never came to appreciate the MSTied version of ZAAT (or Blood Waters of Dr. Z). The riffers added a whole new dimension to it, and they certainly introduced it to a new audience. One of the reasons I rediscovered MST3K a few years ago was that Blood Waters of Dr. Z came out on DVD, and when I bought that copy it reminded me of how much fun the show was.

    Now that so many years have passed the Edgewood Theatre is gone, and sadly so is my mother. But the film will live on, thanks in part to MST3K. R.I.P., Don Barton.


  8. dsman71 says:

    Death is never pleasant, and my condolensces to his family, but I have to say the movie Zaat is a terrible movie and MST3K put it on the map bigger than ever


  9. VeryDisturbing says:

    This is sad news.

    I live in Jacksonville, FL.
    Every year, around Halloween-time, the local Sun-Ray Cinema (a.k.a ‘Five-Points Theater’) shows the original un-cut version of ‘ZAAT!’. It’s neat to see it projected on the big screen.


  10. BIG61AL says:

    I hold in my heart for all of the films done on the show in a special place. Surely the film makers and actors knew that the films they made would be persieved as less that great and some of them knowlying were just plain bad. They were made and promoted and most faded from the public. I think that any viewing of these films is good. I myself love watching The Blood Waters Of Dr. Z.
    Don Barton has a special place here to be fondly remembered and never forgotten.


  11. Mr. B(ob) says:

    Such a shame that he didn’t appreciate the film’s appearance on MST3K. In spite of my watching every bad movie of its type for decades on TV every chance I got I had never seen or heard of the film, “Zaat”, till it appeared on MST3K. Without MST3K the movie would still be languishing in obscurity, it’s a terrible film that as far as I can tell was rarely seen anywhere.

    Red Letter Media does amusing reviews and they amazingly actually did a review of Zaat that can be found at this link:


  12. radioman970 says:

    I just watched that one a week or so ago. And was hoping for an excuse to come on here and fawn all over it. Well…this is just all the downer way to get that done. :(

    It’s stuff like this that makes you appreciate the interviews Shout! gets for us on the DVDs. To see people appreciate MST3K for what it is. I have to wonder if I made a movie that took all I had, money and skill, and others poked fun at it how I would feel about it.


  13. snowdog says:

    I grew up in the swamps around Jacksonville as well, and had never heard of this film until it was MSTed. Upon viewing, though, I immediately recognized the mossy trees and sandy landscape. Same as in Revenge of the Creature’s Tribute to the Upper Amazon… with Carrot Top!

    RIP Don. Sorry if we upset you, but I never would have seen it otherwise.


  14. Sugar Magnolia says:

    That’s sad news that he passed away. It’s also sad that the MST treatment bothered him so much. I wish that those involved in the movies that get riffed on realized that while we may laugh, many of us love those films and are grateful that they were made (and that we got to see them).


  15. trickymutha says:

    RIP Don- without your film, we never would have heard one of the best riffs ever- after cracker sheriff calls the black marine biologist “boy” Mike quips- “it’s a good thing my name is Edward Boy.”


  16. JCC says:

    #5, The Bolem – I’m sure he was fine with that form of riffing. Boobs make the pain more tolerable.


  17. trickymutha says:

    @ #16 – Boobs are airbags for directors and producers who see their car crash of a movie riffed or parodied.


  18. Sweep Secondhand says:

    For the record, MST3K did not have the rights to show ZAAT under the Blood Waters title or any other. Barton had always retained those rights and another party apparently sold the producers of MST3K a false bill of sale for the film which they failed to verify prior to using it. That case was settled out of court in Barton’s favor. Shout Factory legally obtained the rights to use the Blood Waters version of the film from Barton and no one with any actual first hand knowledge of the situation has ever claimed otherwise. Likewise, Film Chest legally obtained the rights to ZAAT from Barton for their DVD / Blu-Ray release. Don Barton and most of the people associated with the film thought the MST3K version of the film was funny, it was only the fact that they had not properly obtained the rights to the film prior to using it that he had a problem with. Also, Don Barton passed away on the morning of Saturday, June 8, not June 10.


  19. BIG G BURGER says:

    he was Dr Z,rest in peace papa.


  20. Sampo says:

    Sweep Secondhand: Thanks for the clarifications and corrections. You don’t happen to know what Mr. Barton’s birthday is, do you?


  21. Sweep Secondhand says:

    Don Barton was born May 12, 1930. He had just celebrated his 83rd birthday.


  22. Michael Howe says:

    Only one word comes to mind:



  23. Ann Onnimus says:

    I think it’s disrespectful to claim he went to his grave being sore about a TV show mocking his movie. Maybe he did, but is now the best time to bring that up?


  24. Sampo says:

    Ann — I’m sorry if that was the impression you got. I meant no disrespect.


  25. Captain Cab says:

    Peaceful thoughts to he and his family.

    As said by others, MST3K only brought the movie exposure to more people than he and all involved could have dreamed long past its initial failed release. As a more mainstream example, directors who are grumpy and humorless over their movies being MST’ed kind of remind me of the intense bitterness and disdain that Sir Alec Guinness displayed toward Star Wars in his later years (a great actor but by some accounts pretty arrogant and not too great to be around, Harrison Ford reportedly referred to him as “Mother superior” apparently due to his overall atttiude on set). While I can understand his irritation with the rampant nerd attention he received, other great movies he starred in such as Bridge on the River Kwai no doubt received renewed interest from those same fresh faced fans (especially outside the U.K.) who may not have been turned on to them and his other work otherwise if it weren’t for that entertaining yet cheesy B movie from a Galaxy far far away.

    Well, whatever. At least we know where we’ll stand with Corman in the end: dollar signs.


  26. Brandon says:

    Didn’t “Blood Waters of Dr. Z” only air once, and then get pulled? I remember Sci Fi Channel was able to re-air it sometime in, like 2001, or so, and I remember Satellite News acknowledging that the episode was being re-aired for those who missed it beforehand.


  27. Captain Cab says:

    Oops, missed the additional info from Sweep Secondhand before posting, very interesting.


  28. Creeping-Death says:

    RE: Brandon #26
    According to:
    It aired once after, presumably after all of the rights issues were cleared up.


  29. radioman970 says:

    @ Brandon. I got a satellite in about the middle of Season 9. And Dr. Z was one I got recorded on tape. I believe I lucked out. I missed several and had to buy fan tapes since they weren’t shown anymore. Seems like I recorded over Devil Fish and Terror from the Year 5000 my sister did for me thinking I’d get SP copies instead of her EP (oops!), and never got to see Gorgo on TV but bought a fan copy.

    Several I only got on mono tape since my first vcr was mono only. …man, those were the times, trying to get my favorite show recorded after learning it was actually possible for it to disappear off the TV altogether in the space of about a month (anybody know how we all found out it was leaving the air? I don’t remember, and sure didn’t have internet at the time, I don’t think…). I recorded as many as I could at LP, 2 eps per tape with commercials and all. I still have those so there might be some show related stuff on the tapes. Anyway…

    /shameless rambling


  30. Gorn Captain says:

    @25 Considering how much Sir Alec ultimately made from Star Wars, he must have been scowling all the way to the bank. ;)

    I have read he wasn’t too happy at George’s decision very late in production to kill Obi Wan off in the movie.


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