Review: Zardoz by Jamie

The 1970s. It was the decade that brought us the Watergate Scandal, the beginning of summer blockbusters and the colour combination of orange and puke green was a viable style for home furnishings. And if the film Zardoz is anything to go by, everyone was batshit insane. That might explain those orange and puke green sofas actually.

Zardoz is set in the distant future of 2293 after some great apocalypse has ruined the world. Most of the world is a pretty desolate wasteland which is inhabited by a race of people known as the Brutals. Some of these Brutals form a class of chosen people called Exterminators who worship the god Zardoz who appears to them in the form of a giant flying stone head and tells them that “The gun is good. The penis is evil.” The exterminators orders are to kill the other Brutals to stop them from spreading over the Earth. In fact, only the Exterminators are given permission from Zardoz to breed.

Yeah, I know. That all seems pretty fucked up. And don’t get me wrong. It is. Especially when you take into consideration just what it is that the Exterminators wear as their uniform. Allow me to show you in the form of Sean Connery, who plays a character called Zed in this film.

This man has a knighthood.

I don’t know exactly how you would describe that outfit so I’ll use the words Channel 4 used. They described it as “a red nappy, knee-high leather boots, pony tail and Zapata moustache” which is a fair description although they failed to mention the red bandolier which really ties the whole thing together. I have decided to dub it the ‘Bondage Bandito’ look.

Anyway, one day Zardoz orders the exterminators to force the other Brutals to farm grain for him which infuriates the Exterminators because they have come to love the thrill of the hunt and the kill. One day, Zed sneaks aboard the giant floating rock head in a bunch of grain and kills the pilot, Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy). Oh, I should probably explain that in the films prologue the floating head of Arthur appeared and told me he could not die and that his occupation was as the false god Zardoz… So yeah, there’s that.

The floating rock head takes Zed to a hidden community known as the Vortex where a bunch of people who call themselves the Eternal live. These people have been alive since the great, yet still unidentified, apocalypse that turned the world from a pre-apocalyptic world to a post-apocalyptic world occurred. They have been kept alive and young by an artificial intelligence called the Tabernacle. They are the guardians of the collective knowledge of human civilisation for the future. However their long lifespan has made them bored, made reproduction pointless and the men impotent and life is pretty much day after day of the same menial task. They cannot even commit suicide because the Tabernacle simply regenerates them. In essence they are protecting the knowledge of mankind for a future that will not come because of their own inactivity.

Some of the Eternals have become so bored with life that they have been struck down with a disease which puts them into a barely conscious state, something akin to a zombie without the ravenous devouring of human flesh. They wander about only ever reacting when a piece of food is given to them and even then just barely. Others have gone completely off the rails, fallen out of sync with the rest of their society and they are dealt the harshest punishment that a deathless society can. They are forcibly aged and sentenced to a life of eternal senility.

So the Eternals read Zed’s mind and find out that he got access to the Vortex when he followed some prey into a library. There he was led to a book about the ABCs and eventually he learned to read. Then one day he found the book ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and learned that this was where Zardoz had gotten his name from. (The Wizard of Oz). When he read the book and found that it was about an all powerful being which turns out to be nothing more than a normal man behind a giant mask, he becomes enraged and suspects the truth behind Zardoz which led him to the whole sneaking into the giant rock head.

The Eternals also find out that due to his genetics, he is more powerful physically and mentally than all of them and could bring about their destruction. the Eternals, led by a woman called Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) decide they must kill Zed but with some help from an Eternal scientist named May (Sara Kestelman) and a half aged Renegade by the name of Friend (John Alderton) Zed escapes destruction and learns all human knowledge that has ever been knowed… No, wait. Known. All human knowledge that has ever been known. Zed then begins to understand the nature of The Tabernacle and manages to destroy it by entering it’s tiny crystal, running around a hall of mirrors and shooting at those mirrors. The hall of mirrors scene last for about five minutes, maybe longer, and is one of the oddest things I’ve seen in a film. And that’s saying something when you’ve already seen Sean Connery dressed up as the Bondage Bandito. I really want you to go right ahead and fuck yourself M. Night. Just go right ahead and fuck yourself…. Oh sorry, that was yesterday’s review.

With the Tabernacle destroyed, the giant invisible wall which surrounds the Vortex disappears and the Eternals become mortal again. Arthur Frayn shows up again and explains that as the person who the Eternals had placed in charge of the lands outside the Vortex, he had begun an extensive breeding program in order to create a specimen who would be able to destroy the Tabernacle and end their pointless eternal existence. At this point the Exterminators show up and kill most of the Eternals which they are really quite happy about.

A small band survives and heads off to live with the Brutals except for Consuella who goes off to live with Zed in the giant rock head which crashed to the ground when the Tabernacle was destroyed. The film ends with a sequence showing Zed and Consuella sitting in the rock head and progressively getting older whilst Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony plays. They also have a son who grows and leaves them upon reaching adolescence. Eventually they die and their skeletons sit there holding hands for a bit. The camera then zooms behind them to show two cave painting style handprints on the wall next to Zed’s rusted pistol. Given the fact that the two had a son I guess the message here is “Fuck you gun. Not so good are you now, eh? Guess the penis is back to rule the fucking roost.”

My god. I can’t believe I managed to write a synopsis for that film. I’ve still left massive chunks of the movie out. There’s just too much bizarre and crazy shit going on here to fit it all in. I didn’t even get to the slide show about erections, Zed’s ability to reverse the destruction of statues or the future porn of 2293. Yet despite it’s insanity and the fact that you see Sean Connery running around in that outfit with his 43 year old man boobs jiggling all over the place, it’s actually quite an enjoyable film.

You literally can’t take your eyes of the screen because a) Sean’s jiggling man boobs are actually slightly hypnotic and b) you have absolutely no idea just what fucking direction the film is going to take next. One minute Zed is being treated like a simple beast of burden, the next he’s the fucking chosen one going mental in a hall of mirrors. It goes so far in the direction of crazy that you just can’t figure out how this movie was written, shot and released without someone at some point just saying “Wait, what the fuck is this meant to be?”

Now, this film was written and directed by John Boorman who also brought us the hillbilly rape and revenge drama ‘Deliverance’ and the tale of King Arthur in ‘Excalibur’ (which I still have to review at some point). Zardoz certainly bears a certain resemblance to Excalibur. In fact they’re kind of similar. They’re the tales of chosen heroes… Alright, that’s kind of where the similarity ends I guess but they certainly have the same feel about them and I think they’d actually make quite a good double feature together with Excalibur being the really good and fun one and Zardoz being the really bizarre but fun one. Not that Excalibur doesn’t have it’s share of eccentricities as well. More on that at a later date.

I would be remiss as an atheist and a sceptic if I didn’t mention what I saw as quite a good sceptical message in there that in order to break free from oppression you must rise up against those who would use imaginary all powerful beings to subjugate you and that an eternal life in paradise would be excruciatingly boring. Of course I could just be reading my own beliefs and philosophies into it but that’s one of the messages I get from the film. I suppose you could also see a bit of anti-scientific message in there as well seeing as the Tabernacle, the pinnacle of human science, has destroyed the balance between life and death, between man and nature and must be destroyed in order to restore that balance. Of course, the Tabernacle does see itself as kind of a god seeing as it is all knowing and all seeing so I suppose you could also see it as the destruction of another god in order to free mankind of it’s enslavement. What I’m saying is that there are a few ways you could take this film.

The film is also very, very clearly made in the 70s. It just has that air about it, so much so that I’m surprised that Zed’s Bondage Bandito outfit isn’t orange and puke-green in colour. I’ve gotta say that with the mention of auras and crystals throughout the film that it must take some influence from the new age and hippy ethos that permeated the late 60s and early 70s. Also there are bare 70s boobs all over the place, If you can’t tell the difference between a 70s boob and a modern boob in film then you need to watch more films from the 70s that feature boobs. Then watch more films with boobs in them because the gun is good, the penis is evil and the boob is awesome.

At the end of the day, I have absolutely no idea how to rate it. I enjoyed it but I’m not sure why and I’m not actually even sure how much. So in honour of my completely confused but entertained state, I give this film moustache out of five. Laterz.

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