Starring: Sean Connery as Zed, Charlotte Rampling as Consuella, Niall Buggy as Arthur Frayn
Coming off of the success of 1972’s Deliverance, John Boorman was preparing to adapt Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for United Artists. However, the company expressed some trepidation about the cost of the project. Boorman decided then to have a crack at creating his own lavish sci-fi world. The result is this 1974 picture. In 2293, the human population is divided among the upper class, immortal “Eternals” and the lower class, mortal “Brutals.” The Eternals live lives of leisure inside of domed communes, the Brutals inhabit the lands outside of the domes and grow food for the the Eternals. Connery’s Zed is a member of a sub-caste of the Brutals known as the Exterminators. The Exterminators collect the food grown for the Eternals by killing the Brutals. This is done at the order of a giant, floating stone head called Zardoz who pays them by regurgitating guns and ammunition. Makes sense, right? After stowing away on board the head, Zed finds himself inside of one of the Eternals’ communes. The action is slow paced and meandering. Nothing makes a whole lot of sense until the very end when the entire plot is arbitrarily explained by one of the Eternals whilst on his death bed. Boorman’s writing is very poor, and the acting performances aren’t much better. Everyone seems stone faced and dead, and every line is delivered in a deadpan monotone. Connery and Rampling’s performances are especially egregious. The set design and lighting is also dreadful, lending an air of artificiality to the whole proceeding that makes Star Wars seem like a documentary by comparison. It is no wonder that Boorman’s output since Zardoz has been, at best, sporadic. If you’ve ever wondered where those stupid Facebook graphics of Sean Connery dressed like Frank Zappa in a Vampirella costume come from, or what inspired the Rick and Morty episode Raising Gazorpazorp, this is it. If these things have ever made you morbidly curious to watch this film, please reconsider. Zardoz is B grade science fiction made on what was, at the time, an A grade budget. There are many great pieces of B grade science fiction, such as Ed Wood’s infamous disaster Plan 9 From Outer Space or Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World. The thing that redeems these films is that they never seem to take themselves too seriously. The problem with Zardoz is that it is awash in pretension. It has a Martin Scorcese attitude, but a Leigh Scott level of quality.