A Columbia Pictures Production
Directed by William Castle
Based on the novel by Walter Karig
Tom Poston, Julia Meade, Zeme North, Jim Backus,
Fred Clark, Cecil Kellawayk, Margaret Dumont,
Louis Nye, Mike Mazurki
Julia Meade stars as Professor Virginia Fenster in the 1962 Columbia Pictures production of ZOTZ!, directed by William Castle. Like Virginia, Professor Jonathan Jones (Tom Poston) is an ancient language expert. Jonathan discovers that a very old middle eastern coin that his niece, Cynthia, receives in the mail has incredible powers. Whoever has the coin can immobilize a person with pain by pointing at them. It can also slow time or kill by invoking the name of the ancient god ZOTZ.
Jonathan discovers the powers as he first deciphers the inscription on the coin. By reading it aloud, he causes a sudden lightning storm to occur. He runs to close a window and there outside is Virginia, naked, having lost her clothes in a lightning strike (this actually does happen). He holds out his coat and she puts it on and comes in. He gives her some of his niece's clothes to change into, which she does as his back is turned.
Jonathan and Virginia, strangers at first, grow closer as the plot progresses. They teach at the same college. At a dinner for the retirement of the Dean, Jonathan causes havoc by releasing mice for an unsuccessful demonstration of the powers (he makes a mistake by not having the coin with him). Virginia is amused by it all, and puts on her geek glasses (think Buddy Holly) to watch him.
The college has Jonathan examined by a psychiatrist. But, defiant, he tries to give the secret to the U.S. government. The brass is not amused at the Pentagon, even as he manages a demonstration of it. He is dismissed as a lunatic.
But the coin and its powers are observed at the Pentagon by a Soviet spy. The Russians kidnap him, as well as Virginia and his niece. There is a tense scene where Virginia and Cynthia are bound and gagged and at the mercy of 'Igor', played by perennial bad guy Mike Mazurki. They are saved by Jonathan, and as they run out, Julia doesn't forget to grab her mink stole!
Although the ZOTZ coin is lost in the ensuing chase, the Pentagon is happy to congratulate Jonathan and his new wife...Virginia. The movie ends with them at the Lincoln Memorial, focusing on the inscription over the statue. It is an all American ending to a movie in which Julia first appears nude.
Associated Press Movie-TV Writer Bob Thomas visited the set of ZOTZ! and penned this report on December 8, 1961: "Hollywood (AP) - Attention Kitty Carlisle, Johnny Carson, Betty White and others of "To Tell the Truth": I've got news for you about your panel-mate, Tom Poston. He's out here making this movie see. What kind of a movie? I watched one scene, and this may give you a clue.
Tom goes to shut the window in a rainstorm. Standing right outside is Julia Meade, nude. That's rightthe same Julia Meade who gets all dressed up to sell those things on Ed Sullivan's show. Only now she wasn't dressed up. Not at all.
To tell the truth, the whole thing was more innocent than it seemed. I think. Miss Meade was actually covered in a flesh-colored bathing suit ("I'd rather have the fans see me in the nude than in this dreadful outfit," she said with curious logic.)
The movie was not part of Hollywood's nude wave, but a new comedy called "ZOTZ!." What's "Zotz"? "Zotz is the magic word which gives special power when I hold the coin," Poston explained. Misuse of that power had just caused a lightning storm that removed Miss Meade's clothing in the scene I witnessed. That's why she was out in the rain with her clothes off.
The film is a project of William Castle, the man who gave the movie world electrified theater seats, floating skeletons and other scare gimmicks, along with his movies. The agile Castle now is delving into supernatural comedy.
Miss Mede, her red hair dripping with studio-made rain, headed for a warm towel, and Poston paused to discuss his new career. "This is not my first movie in the strict sense of the word," he commented. "I did a movie in Chicago some years ago. It was called 'The City That Never Sleeps' (Republic 1953), but I don't suppose that anybody saw it.""
ZOTZ! employs some ambitious special effects for its day, including a "slow bullet" scene where Jonathan shouts "ZOTZ" and freezes a .45 slug in mid-flight (Matrix fans take note). Additional fun was provided during the film's original run when the theaters handed out plastic ZOTZ coins as souvenirs. Box Office Magazine has more ZOTZ! info in Steve Simels' article, "In This Case, The Bird is Not, In Fact, The Word", in which he describes Julia as, "the 60s icon of elegance."