Sunday, January 18, 2015

Zardoz (1974)

Before we begin, I want to give props to the fine folks at Her Majesty's Secret Podcast not only for inspiring me to write about this movie but also the other Connery films I've covered in recent months.  And now, for the third and last entry in this look at the cinematic choices of Sean Connery, prepare to have your mind blown right out the back of your head.

Submitted for your perusal (because approval might be asking a little too much), one of the most bizarre pieces of 70's sci-fi I have ever seen.  Zardoz is one of those movies that makes you just stare at the screen in amazement at what you're seeing.  It's... It's just bizarre on a level that even David Lynch would say "That's frigging weird."

Directed by John Boorman of Deliverance fame, Zardoz is a baffling, utterly bizarre, sort of tedious yet fascinating sci-fi film with some deep, pretentious aspirations which are more or less muffled by simply being too bizarre for words.

The plot, in a nutshell, involves a post-apocalyptic society that has been divided into an upper class of immortals called Eternals; a working class called Brutals and a bunch of Exterminators who... Well, they exterminate.  Connery is an Exterminator named Zed who one day finds out their god Zardoz, personified by a ginormous stone head that flies around is just a sham put on by an Eternal.

Disillusioned, he ends up with the Eternals, led by Charlotte Rampling and the ensuing events are part self-discovery, part fulfilling a prophecy and all incoherent.  The basic gist is that Zed has been allowed to find out the truth about the world and out an end to the lie in the most roundabout, pretentious way possible.  To put it bluntly, a bunch of immortal hippies get tired of being bored in their self-imposed exile and decide to annihilate themselves in the most Rube Golbergian way they can think of.  A word of advice, if you need to resort to genetic manipulation to find a way to off yourselves, you're over thinking things just a wee bit.

John Boorman has gone on record as saying he's not really sure what he was going for and I gotta say, he's not lying.  The film is a mess for the most part with a vague plot, desultory performances (though Connery manages to have one or two decent moments just by being Sean Connery) and a final half hour that would be explainable if the necessary drugs needed to make it coherent were legal anywhere on this planet.

Another issue, and this is just my personal sense of taste here, is the abundance of nudity on display.  I have no problem with the female form, however I do prefer it to not be that skinny, pale, underfed 70's look that was popular in... Well, the 70's.  It's sort of a good news, bad news thing.  Good news is that there are plenty of naked women.  Bad news is that most of them look in dire need of a cheeseburger.  It's rather hard to find a woman attractive when you're worrying she's about to keel over from starvation any minute.

That being said, there are some genuine merits to the movie.  First off, it's quite nice to look at with some really nice locations in Ireland.  Second, and this is really where I get a chuckle from this hunk of strange, is the utterly bizarre way the film throws images at you.

From the giant floating stone head that barfs guns and lectures on the evils of reproduction to Connery turning into a grunting caveman every now and then to the completely odd way the Eternals function and operate, this movie is a smorgasbord of weirdness that will either have you giggling with amusement or staring slack jawed at the screen, wondering how the hell you'll get that 106 minutes of your life back.  The revelation that Sean Connery's sweat is pure concentrated adrenaline is maybe the most amusing twist the film tosses our way.

I sort of fall in the middle on this one.  The first 75 minutes or so are actually pretty damn intriguing but once it gets into the last thirty minutes it just falls apart.  Instead of a satisfying conclusion, we are given a typical 70's "everyone dies" type ending along with a montage of Connery and Rampling as they age and turn into skeletons.  Not exactly 2001, and even in that case I have some issues.

Zardoz is worth seeing at least once, just so you can say you saw that weird film with Sean Connery running around in a red diaper and knee high boots.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.