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ZARDOZ - 3 Slimes
Rated R
Copyright 1973 John Boorman Productions
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 8 June 2010 (updated)

The Characters:  

  • Zed - Sean Connery! He wears a red loincloth, a ponytail, and FMBs. Seeing Sean Connery dressed like that is jarring (to say the least). When he appeared wearing a bridal gown I was certain that I had to be hallucinating. I wasn't; this is just a weird movie.
  • Arthur Frayn - An "Eternal" (more on them in a bit). He imagines himself a fancy-pants magician who can change the world through selective breeding.
  • May - Eternal. Grand canoness of the Holy Order of the Ubiquitous Freckle. She has so many freckles that if you played connect the dots with a black marker it would change her racial profile.
  • Consuella - Eternal. She considers sex a violent debasement of women and hates the penis on general principle, but falls in love with Zed and bears him a son. I guess Sean Connery is just that damn sexy.
  • Friend - Eternal. He a consumate pessimist who has been defeated by a life he cannot escape. I like seeing him mess with people, but I wouldn't want to share an apartment with him.
  • Avalow - Eternal. She likes to meditate, and when she meditates she asks everyone to meditate with her. Know the type? No, of course you don't. They became extinct before 1980, though there are rumors that some survived and moved to California.
  • The Eternals - Humans who never age, and are reincarnated if they die.
  • Apathetics - Eternals who lose their interest in life, the universe, and everything. There might be forty-two of them.
  • The Tabernacle - The magical device that keeps all of the Eternals alive, and thus consigns them to unending life, even if they wish otherwise. It is eternal damnation disguised as a blessing.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

Where can you find Sean Connery dressed in a loincloth, a giant flying stone head that spouts NRA rhetoric from one side of its mouth, and denounces unprotected sex from the other, and a commune filled with people who are so bored with life that they have given up on enjoying anything at all? The Seventies baby, the Seventies.

Where to start? I'd say the beginning, but I am not quite certain where or what that is in this film. I guess that I will go with where the film begins, but that is not actually so much a start as an introduction to a story already in progress. Anyway, a giant flying stone head slowly moves over the landscape. When it lands, a horde of crazy men with guns and masks congregate around the mobile idol. The executioners cry out to their God, Zardoz (that's the head, and the title of the movie). Pretty soon Zardoz speaks, and what he says is a rambling speech about guns, the penis, and shooting either of the previously mentioned objects. Having delivered his message, Zardoz vomits forth a great heap of rifles and ammunition. The savages, including Zed, all cheer.

I am no expert on religions, but Zardoz is pretty far out on the theological fringe.

In return for his favor and wisdom, Zardoz demands a tribute from his chosen ones. Huge baskets of grain are loaded into the stone head. One of the grain containers has a prize inside: Zed. He digs himself out and takes a look around inside of God's head as the massive idol lazily motors its way through the foggy English sky. Eventually, a little man in a blue robe comes out and walks around. Zed shoots him, and then watches as the surprised fellow (it's Arthur Frayn, by the way) falls out of the idol's gaping maw. Arthur disappears into the fog with barely a sound.

In other words, the little man who lives inside of God's head just fell out. I hope that eventually makes it into the gospels, just so that some day a theologian can scratch their head over such an obfuscated tidbit. No doubt the confused scholar will determine that "The little man who lives in God's head fell out" has to be a metaphor. Well, what if it isn't a metaphor? What if it's a euphemism?

Turtle-necked bishop? I don't think so.

Zed continues his journey inside of Zardoz until the Supreme Being (it's just a model) arrives at Vortex 4. That is where Arthur is from, and also the home of the rest of the Eternals that are curious where Arthur disappeared to, and where Zed came from. May is particularly interested in the dangerous barbarian, but is not afraid of Zed because she can stun him with a special stare, a power that only the Homo eternals possess. May, Consuella, Friend, and the other futuristic hippies are an artificially created branch of the human genetic line which is called Homo eternal. What are you giggling about? Why is that term so funny? It is no different than any other species from humanity's evolutionary history, such as Homo erectus. Again, you giggle. Why?

I am joking here, but I also guarantee that the mention of Homo erectus and Homo eternal has more than one reader giggling so hard that their eyes are watering. You know who you are. How old are you? Twelve?

Continuing on...

Intrigued by the violent barbarian suddenly in their midst, the Eternals study Zed. They analyze his genetics, check his health, test his abilities, and use a special machine to watch some of his memories. Now, you have to remember that Zed is an executioner, a religious fanatic who enslaves and kills other people in the name of Zardoz the almighty. Most of Zed's memories involve rape or killing, or both. What a swell guy we are blessed with as our protagonist. Granted, Zed is a product of the world he grew up in, and the world is violent due to the Eternals' meddling in population control. Maybe Zed really is a good guy at heart. It's just that it is difficult for me to ignore that Zed has spent his entire life committing rape and murder. Twenty years of crimes against humanity, and now he's a different person because he turned over a new leaf?

There are a lot of born-again Christians in prison, too.

As it turns out, Zed is physically, mentally, and genetically superior to the Eternals. He is the product of hundreds of years of natural selection and a breeding program guided by Zardoz (Arthur Frayn). While the Eternals were inventing time-consuming social etiquette just to fill the endless days of their lives, Zed's ancestors were fighting tooth and nail, blood and sweat, for the right to survive and reproduce.

The Eternals' society is tortuously rooted in traditions that are PC to the ninth degree. Violence of any sort, even verbal, is a crime. Heck, even thinking antisocial thoughts during the Eternals' "Second Level" group meditation is grounds for punishment. Unfortunately, the Eternal community created a cruel and unusual punishment for those who break their draconian laws. Nobody goes to prison, but they are made old - permanently. It is hard enough to endure perpetual life when you are thirty. Imagine being consigned to forever as a decrepit old man. Granted, they do not worry about dying while sweeping off the walk, but having to drink prune juice every day for eternity or suffering the discomfort of everlasting constipation is not an appetizing prospect.

Another problem with the Eternals is that the male libido is missing in action, and that could be a reason some of the women are so testy (if anyone needs a good shagging to loosen up, it's Consuella). The reason for the ubiquitous erectile dysfunction appears to be the lack of urgency in the Eternals' life. Nobody dies, everyone acts nice to each other, and I doubt any of the men have ever worn boxing gloves or baseball cleats in their uselessly long lives. Life is a bland mixture, served at room temperature, so that nobody is discomforted. Unfortunately, that means that nobody is especially happy, either.

Hopefully you noticed that Zed is a violent male used to life's more physical aspects, including those impossible for men suffering from ED. It's no wonder that May and some of the other frustrated Eternal women want to study him more closely. And he is Sean Connery, after all.

Zed's presence in the commune causes more than just sexual tension. During a social gathering Friend refuses to wiggle fingers with everyone else, so the other Eternals label him a renegade and turn him into a senior citizen. The rest of the Eternals finish their mental hugfest and then stand around with drapes over their heads (yes, I know, it's the '70s). The first to wake up is May, and the first thing on her mind involves Zed and a bed. Her playtime with the sexiest man alive is cut short by Consuella; during the confrontation Zed proves he can overcome the stunning stare power. That freaks Consuella out. She rounds up the other Eternals, who all grab torches and pitchforks to hunt Zed. Buildings are set on fire, freaked out super hippies run back and forth willy-nilly, but Zed has little problem avoiding the mob.

I am glad to see the Eternals taking an energetic interest in something, but why aren't they carrying firearms? So what if they don't know how to shoot; I know that Zardoz spat out some shotguns earlier.

While the Eternals' society disintegrates, Zed searches for a way to destroy the Tabernacle. He ends up inside of the crystal device. The interior of the Tabernacle is a funhouse! Mirrors are everywhere, and Zed dashes about for a while until he starts shooting at his own reflections. Amazingly, a mirror breaks and the Tabernacle is broken. Okay, maybe not so amazingly. Zed is shooting at mirrors with a .455 Webley revolver. Want 7+ years of bad luck? Shoot at a mirror with a Webley. Heck, if you were in a hall of mirrors, just throwing a heavy revolver would probably earn you a lifetime of bad luck.

The Tabernacle destroyed, the Homo eternals all revert to regular Homo sapiens. Zed's executioner friends invade the Vortex and start shooting the surprised (now inappropriately named) Eternals. Paroled from life everlasting, the Eternals' barely have time to consider their newly granted mortality before a mask-wearing barbarian gives them a crash course in the hereafter. Meanwhile, Zed impregnates May and almost a dozen of her friends before the Connery baby-batter-infused ladies flee the ruin of Vortex 4.

Oh, and the giant hydrogen-filled condoms in the Vortex courtyard explode in massive balls of fire. I don't know why a society of everlasting hippies with ED needed huge hydrogen-filled condoms, but I guess it's officially a moot point.

NOTE: I am sick and tired of people saying that I "did not get" this film. I get the film. People are not meant to live forever. I "get it," okay? Your insistence that Boorman's story has more nuances than a bottle of 20-year cognac, and that I am a stupid ground-thumping gorilla needs a reality check. That reality check is the DVD's commentary track. Want to know something? Boorman does not "get it" either. Most of the commentary consists of stuff like, "The head itself is a model." or, "She was really looking forward to being raped by Sean Connery." He also devotes an enormous amount of effort to talking about how little money they had for the production. If you like the movie, that is well and good. If you see more to the story than the director himself expressed, that is also well and good. Just don't expect me to see those same invented meanings.

What I am trying to say is that I am glad that you are friends with the magic elves that only you can see. Don't be angry that I can't see them. It's wonderful that the invisible magic elves are your special friends. Have fun playing with them.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Self-sufficient agriculture requires careful planning, adequate farmland, and rifles.
  • Ammo can be a fashion statement.
  • Memories are stored in third person perspective.
  • The enemy of my enemy is my baker.
  • Fish net looks sexy on a woman.
  • Erections sound like guitars.
  • Human DNA is made up of jellyfish, rotifers, and euglena (stop looking at me like that and find a dictionary, and a microscope, and a prescription sedative to help you deal with the little creatures that are swimming all over your body right now).
  • Guns improve biodiversity (fans of passenger pigeons and bison lovers rejoice).
  • Flowers are an impassable barrier.
  • Viagra is made by mixing Sean Connery's sweat with PAAS Easter Egg Dye.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 1 min - OH YEAH? Well, while you were sleeping we drew an onion on your chin with a permanent marker. Who is laughing now, floating disembodied head man?
  • 6 mins - This would be an awesome scene if it was accompanied by something from Judas Priest.
  • 27 mins - Sean Connery just licked another man's hand!
  • 42 mins - This is...I could watch this for hours.
  • 46 mins - God forbid a squirrel decide to make a nest there.
  • 50 mins - Between the perms and the half-tops, I cannot tell the difference between men and women. I haven't been this confused since Thailand.
  • 68 mins - Do you see that bald kid? He has his own cartoon on Nickelodeon. I think that he has cancer or the power to control wind and air. One of those two things.
  • 70 mins - Wait for it. Wait for it. There, the window finally broke. Slow bullet day.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note zardoz1.wav Arthur Frayn: "I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived three hundred years, and I long to die. But death is no longer possible. I am immortal."
Green Music Note zardoz2.wav Zardoz: "You have been raised up from brutality to kill the brutals who multiply, and are legion. To this end Zardoz, your god, gave you the gift of the gun.The gun is good."
Exterminators: "The gun is good!"
Zardoz: "The penis is evil, the penis shoots seeds."
Exterminators: **Crickets chirping**
Green Music Note zardoz3.wav Consuella: "May is a great scientist, but she also has destructive tendencies."
May: "We have adequate means of controlling it. Surely we are not so vulnerable."
Consuella: "Look at it. It knows its life is at stake. Otherwise it would rape and kill, as it always has. You can see the disrupting effect."
Friend: "Let's keep it. Anything to relieve the boredom."
Green Music Note zardoz4.wav Zed: "So, if you're bad often enough, you'll die."
Friend: "They make you old, but they don't let you die."
Zed: "So what's to stop you from killing yourself?"
Friend: "I do now and again, but the Eternal Tabernacle simply rebuilds me."
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipzardoz1.mpg - 7.4m
Friend introduces Zed to the Apathetics. The eccentric Eternal just walks around screwing with them, while Zed tries to rape one girl. When she fails to respond, it annoys ape boy, and he shot puts her!

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Comments:Write CommentPages: 1 ... 12 13 [14] 15
Re: Zardoz
Reply #105. Posted on July 14, 2010, 05:28:02 PM by John Richardson
Thanks for your response Andrew.
I take your point about other artistic efforts regarding technology-progress-power-evolution-nature-God.
The 'Dune' series centered upon the prospect of artificially accelerated evolution. Then there is 'Blade Runner' obviously.
Though I can certainly understand why someone could regard 'Zardoz' as absurd, perhaps you might see why some (a minority if not an elite:-) do see 'deeper meaning'.
I do think you let the Eternals off a little lightly. Though it's many years since I saw the film ; didn't the Eternals first create the Exterminators to eradicate the small but growing numbers of survivors ? Why would they do that ? The savages could never have threatened those inside the vortex. I recall they were being slaughtered on principle, in case they did increase in number, their utility for food production being a later happy coincidence. This confused & angered the Exterminators. Yep, when I think about it, it seems implicit the Eternals maintain a genocidal attitude to any outside their caste. Regarding them as animals......mind you...if you saw some of the people I have to work with sometimes...where's 'Zed' when you need him ?
Boorman drops loads of hints though...even the Egyptian headdresses are highly significant. The Eternal's crystal's placed in the 'third eye' pineal gland's all there...

Re: Zardoz
Reply #106. Posted on July 15, 2010, 08:46:25 AM by Andrew
I do think you let the Eternals off a little lightly. Though it's many years since I saw the film ; didn't the Eternals first create the Exterminators to eradicate the small but growing numbers of survivors ? Why would they do that ? The savages could never have threatened those inside the vortex. I recall they were being slaughtered on principle, in case they did increase in number, their utility for food production being a later happy coincidence. This confused & angered the Exterminators. Yep, when I think about it, it seems implicit the Eternals maintain a genocidal attitude to any outside their caste. Regarding them as animals......mind you...if you saw some of the people I have to work with sometimes...where's 'Zed' when you need him ?

It appears that Arthur (with possibly Friend as a collaborator) created the whole Zardoz religion and instructed the exterminators to engage in genocide.  They never really give a reason why, besides Arthur's selective breeding program to produce a super human that can defeat the Tabernacle.  At the fountain, Arthur does claim credit for breeding and leading Zed.  It seems that everything Arthur inflicted on the people outside of the vortex is justified, in his mind, by the need to be free of eternal life. 

Otherwise, the rest of the Eternals seem to ignore the people suffering outside of the walls.

Thanks for your response Andrew.
I take your point about other artistic efforts regarding technology-progress-power-evolution-nature-God.
The 'Dune' series centered upon the prospect of artificially accelerated evolution. Then there is 'Blade Runner' obviously.
Though I can certainly understand why someone could regard 'Zardoz' as absurd, perhaps you might see why some (a minority if not an elite:-) do see 'deeper meaning'.

Part of it is the vehemence and air of superiority that is displayed by those who have told me I just don't "get it."  It's not a good way to perk my interest in discussion.  Another part is that I feel the main focus of the film is that people are not meant to live forever; we are not wired for endless days upon days, and doing so could stagnate our journey to what we will become.
Re: Zardoz
Reply #107. Posted on July 15, 2010, 10:15:54 AM by John Richardson
The Eternals certainly do ignore the suffering outside the Vortex. They also ignore the suffering inside the Vortex; their parents & the apathetics. I seem to remember Friend being cruel about an ex-love as well.....Again, for me, they were devoted to the quest for perfection, personal and social. (A la Communism/Nazism. A true 'Master Race' on Earth, a perfect commune sharing everything including consciousness). If perfection is achieved, eternity would be only natural. This is why they hoarded all those art treasures and studied literature, mystic religions & human behaviour and stuff (as opposed to regenerating the lost world). The intrinsic evil that they are given over to is not explicitly spelt out in the film. Hence, for me, the film's subtle brilliance. It gradually dawns on the audience just what the Eternals have become. Who they really are. Though they are seemingly a perfect democracy & all equal; the truth is that they have arrived at a tyrannical and cruel terminus. I wish I could recall what the condemned Eternal says about his fellows, but he hated them deeply. We certainly are not told why the extermination programme was started. I think that we are to work that out ourselves. After all, Zed had to, and the name of the film itself is a riddle, a code. Interesting that Boorman (despite contemporary political concerns) did not use a post-atomic-war scenario. No radiation. No mushroom clouds. Instead, something else caused civilisation's downfall. I remember Zed being shown pages from a child's book. Slowly being educated and given the parts of a puzzle like a novice or detective. That is how I regard this film as intended to 'work'. If a person is interested in the eugenicist* angle, many of the themes will have a direct and frightening relevance. This, allied to the portentous Beethoven at the end, affords the film a dark grandeur. 

Not to hark on...but the French revolutionaries deliberately murdered 20% of their own population to create a perfect society, before they ran out of steam after killing too many fellow revolutionaries. We all know about the Nazis quest for perfection. The Russian & Chinese & Cambodian 'progressives' launched genocidal campaigns against their own people also. All in the quest for perfection here on Earth. They would all understand the Eternals in my view.
Re: Zardoz
Reply #108. Posted on July 25, 2010, 07:20:20 PM by judge death
One point I need to make. People rag on the fact that in the beginning we see Arthur Frayne's talking, floating head with a goatee drawn on with a magic marker.

I think the point was that eternal males were no longer capable of growing facial hair, just like they could not get an erection.

True, the guy playing friend usually sported a 5 oclock shadow and some of the aged eternals had some facial growth, but by and large I think there was a subtle hint that eternal males no longer grew facial hair, and that was the message with frayn's magic marker goatee.
Re: Zardoz
Reply #109. Posted on August 06, 2010, 04:13:15 PM by John Richardson
The Rt. Honourable Judge Death is correct.
I regard everything about this film as being a part of the whole. In other words, the Director and actors knew the beard was false.
I suppose some might'm not sure what they might think. However, if you imagine a total mistake/gaff has been committed ; you may need to take a second look.

In the end not all films are supposed to be immediatly accessible. It depends upon the subject matter. With politics & religion, it makes sense to cloak a message sometimes. Frustrating though that may be for some.   
Re: Zardoz
Reply #110. Posted on August 07, 2010, 12:46:18 AM by judge death
Thanks, JR.

Frayne said that merlin was his hero, and merlin is usually portrayed as bearded, hence the magic marker goatee on his beardless face.
Re: Zardoz
Reply #111. Posted on January 09, 2011, 06:16:33 AM by ballyboy
I just watched this movie on almost no sleep, in the middle of the night, with the sound off so as not to wake my fiance'. That had to be one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in my life. What, on God's green earth, was that? I am 56. I lived through the sixties and early seventies. I know what those times were like. But that was bizarre regardless of what period it came from. I wonder if Sean Connery looks back on that movie with embarassment: running around looking like a kind of sumo wrestler.

Re: Zardoz
Reply #112. Posted on February 01, 2011, 02:00:15 PM by HarlotBug3
Wow, I can't believe there's an argument over this...that isn't going on, live, in front of a bunch of film and communication students, with the two on either side of the writer/director.

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