|Copyright 1973 John Boorman Productions
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 8 June 2010 (updated)
- 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.
|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?
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.
- 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.
- 12 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST SOMETHING!
- 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.
- 65 mins - RANDOM GRATUITOUS BREAST SHOT!
- 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.
- 76 mins - RANDOM GRATUITOUS BREAST SHOTS!
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||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."
||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**
||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."
||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."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|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!
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
Reply #17. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Greg
I helped my then girlfriend, now wife do a paper on the movie when it was newly out, I think 1970. I had to see it about 3 times to get all the varied plot lines running through it and I have to say, each time I saw it something else occurred to me. Some interesting notes: 30 years or more ago this movie touched on a variety of hotly debated issues and technological improvements most had not even come close to thinking about at the time. How about genetic engineering for starters or the fact that we are now using CD-RW drives that create optical storage and I think we are getting close to the type of "crystalline" storage technology that was used in the movie (remember the ring or at the end the crystal that he was supposedly inside of...that part was a bit strange). The concept of nearly infinite storage of data inside crystals was a huge leap in science fiction.
Reply #18. Posted on August 25, 2000, 08:03:39 PM by Mr BaliHai
Pound for pound, Zardoz has more great ideas than a lot of other contemporary films of the 70s. Boorman did a lot of research on the movie's higher concepts and even went so far as to spend some time living in a commune to get ideas about how to flesh out his concepts of the Vortex and the Immortals.
The problems with this film lie mostly with Boorman's uneven execution. At times it seems like performance art or sketch comedy gone horribly awry. Part of this is just the way things were in the 70s, part of it was just Boorman's style, and the rest of it was probably drugs.
Reply #19. Posted on September 01, 2000, 03:25:03 AM by UNITA
I really enjoyed this movie, but it is an elegant warning to those who choose to direct, produce and write movies
Reply #20. Posted on October 23, 2000, 11:39:06 AM by Chris
This movie could have been a great bad movie. It had all the elements that would have made it an interesting scifi flick. Unfortunately, the final product was a disjointed and uninteresting film totally devoid of humor and that illusive element that draws you into the film and makes you want to care about the characters. It had its brief moments, but overall it rates a thumbs down.
Reply #21. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by William S.
I remember seeing this movie when it came out under the influence of a small amount of herbal THC and having absolutely no idea what I was seeing, only that it was really, really DEEP. It made a big splash at the time as having Sean Connery and a bunch of weird s**t, but it disappeared from the theatres after like a month because it was totally...um, indescribable. Like, the Man From Uncle was really futuristic at this time. So, seeing it again, I find pretty much the same thing: What the hell was this about? My e-mail address was Xardox for 10 years because of my memories about this movie. Well, now I've gone to some other obscure allusion.
Reply #22. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Carl Horn
Hmmmm. I finally saw this the other evening. I think it's both true that it was from the great era of stoner science-fiction films and that it at least attempted to be a film of ideas (unlike so many of today's SF films which are basically about space monsters and rayguns). In its surrealistic (Rene Magritte is referenced at one point, on a print in the Vortex room that Zed first explores) and even absurdist approach it was probably meant to reflect some of the New Wave of SF styles that were developed in the 1960s, such as Ballard and Dick. It is also true that cracks about the result resembling a Monty Python sketch or Rennaisance Fair are dead-on. In its own strange way, though, ZARDOZ remains more interesting a SF film than many of today's sterile big-budget spectaculars.
Reply #23. Posted on February 03, 2001, 09:20:25 AM by Anton Zoref
I love the music and wish a proper soundtrack would be released on CD.The ending with Sean Charlotte and the boy aging is one of the greatest movie-scenes ever.
Reply #24. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by CDub
The Classical score has a good feel just like Boarman's _Excalibur_. Basically, this movie went a lot farther into the territory of an inevitably failed utopia than I can ever remember seeing on screen. For that reason alone I give it credit. The way I see it is if you feel the urge to watch _Logan's Run_ try this instead.
I like the freedom available to the director because of the time it was made in, I suppose. This film is a failure of sorts I certainly don't mind pilfering through and exposing others to.
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