by: Dr. Boogie
Have you heard of Zardoz? I hadn't, but all that changed when a quick Google search turned up several images of Sean Connery looking like Burt Reynolds dressed in some Robert Mapplethorpe casual wear. I needed to know more.
The movie is about a man named Zardoz. Zardoz is part of an immortal race of people called "Eternals", who rule over the post-apocalyptic world from the safety of shielded communes called "Vortices." Sean Connery plays Zed, a man who made a career out of shooting men, women, and children because Zardoz told him to. One day, Zed hitches a ride with Zardoz, and winds up knee-deep in the problems of the effete, but psychically-gifted, Eternals.
It's not a bad movie, per se; it just comes off as silly at times, especially when the director goes for something artsy and philosophical, while the audience is left to stare at Connery's package. Maybe that was just me...
Anyway, if you're wondering about this movie, but don't want to spend an entire hour and forty minutes on it, I've got just the thing. I've summarized a few of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) aspects of Zardoz:
#1: Zardoz Himself!
Ironically, one of the worst parts of Zardoz is the title character. For starters, he looks like someone took a Sharpie and drew a moustache and beard on Wayne from the Wonder Years. If he really couldn't grow one on his own, surely the technology existed in the seventies to fake it. It seems like it would've been worth a little extra money to have him sporting realistic facial hair, considering his goofy mug is the first thing you see.
The movie opens with Zardoz's disembodied head floating around the screen, explaining that the whole movie is an excerpt from his life, set in the distant future. He also explains that, being an immortal that has lived for 300 years, he longs for death. However, he warns the audience to be careful, "lest you end as I." I can't speak for the other 299 years, but the last year of his life seems pretty sweet (more on that later).
The really annoying bit about Zardoz, though, is the man himself. He describes himself as, "a magician, by inclination," yet whenever you hear him talking with a haughty, affected voice and mugging the camera with exaggerated facial expressions, you think less "magician" and more "high school drama teacher".
Luckily (I guess), he's barely even in the movie that bears his name. He appears briefly in the beginning, only to reappear at the end where he gleefully claims that he was behind everything that happened in the last hour-and-a-half.
#2: The Stone Head!
As a pretend god overseeing a desolate section of the crappy post-apocalyptic world, Zardoz needs to get around in style. Dragon? No. Cloud castle? No. Jetpack? No. When you really want to command the respect of your mindless minions, you need something more. Something like a giant flying stone head.
Zardoz makes periodic stops in his upset-looking aircraft to address his followers, the so-called "Chosen," whom he has tasked with exterminating all non-Eternal humans, which are called "Brutals." His statue explains why with an ironclad argument:
"The penis is evil! The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death and purifies the earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill! Zardoz has spoken."
Guns are great, aren't they? Zardoz thinks so, and he thinks his Chosen should have plenty of them. To wit...
The flying head spews out guns and ammunition by the mouthful, giving the Chosen all they need to put the kibosh on those evil penises. Destroying phalluses with phallic symbols... maybe Zardoz is just a fan of irony.
I know Zardoz complained about how eternal life is a drag, but all this seems pretty sweet. Cruising around in a giant floating head, dumping guns onto his adoring cavemen in their goofy masks, making speeches about the evils of men's seed-shooters, it sounds like a fun retirement to me!
Believe it or not, this is our hero. He's very hairy, and he's wearing a cloth diaper with hooker boots, but rest assured that this man is the one you should be rooting for.
Zed is a real standup guy. When learn through his memories that he's led a long life of killing in the name of Zardoz. We even get to hear him talk of how he loves running down innocent people, and how shooting them in the back brings him great joy. He loves killing so much, in fact, that we eventually learn that his whole reason for sneaking onto Zardoz's hoverhead was to get back at that melodramatic weirdo for telling him and the other Chosen to ease back on the killing.
Seems like kind of a lousy hero, huh? Well don't worry; killing isn't all he does. He's also a big fan of rape! In one notable scene, he encounters the "Apathetics", Eternals who are so bored with immortality that they can't even move to feed themselves. His first instinct: some hardcore groping followed by a roll in the hay. The Apathetic woman, however, isn't into it, and not in the way Zed is accustomed to, either. That really gets under his skin.
He gets so mad at her indifference that he tosses her aside like a rag doll (or a mannequin) and goes on a brief rampage of wrecking shit. That's our hero, ladies and gentlemen: a guy who throws a temper tantrum because his raping didn't go so well.
#4: The "Renegades"!
As immortals, the Eternals do not age with the passage of time. However, there are laws in place in Eternal society. When those laws are broken, the offending Eternal is forcibly aged according to the severity of their crime. They never die of old age, however; they simply become senile, at which point they are dressed in old formalwear and stuffed into what looks like an enclosed festival tent full of old crap. They call these disobedient Eternals "Renegades", though you don't get the impression that a lot of them are being all that rebellious in their current state. They pose a surprising threat to Zed, despite being senile and infirm. Part of that, though, is because of this next bit:
Zed's taskmaster in the Vortex is a man named Friend. It must be an ironic nickname because he doesn't seem to have any friends at all, apart from the itinerant Zardoz. Friend is sick of everything: sick of passing out bread, sick of taking care of a warehouse full of old statues, sick of watching over Zed, sick of immortality, and sick of everyone around him. Eventually, everyone else winds up being sick of him, and so he winds up a Renegade himself.
Prior to his aging, Friend looked a little bit like Paul McCartney. Now, he's 70s McCartney on the left, 2010 McCartney on the right. I didn't realize the Eternals could do area-specific aging as part of the punishment. I wish they hadn't, as it's a lot tougher to make out his lines with half of his face all stroked out. Suffice to say, his previous desire for death is all the more intense now that he's a poor man's Two-Face.
#6: The Nudity!
Going into this movie, I was not expecting to see a lot of nudity. I guess I just imagined Zed's red briefs to be the upper limit. I discovered that the movie is a veritable tidal wave of pale A-cups, handled with all the grace and subtlety you'd expect from the man who directed Deliverance. Sometimes they're just hanging out there, other times they pop out due to a wardrobe malfunction with the female Eternals' shawls. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining about the nudity they show at all (we are mercifully spared the sight of any flaccid English dongs). It just gets to be a little distracting, particularly during a presentation by Consuela, a female Eternal who is constantly dogging Zed, on the mysteries of the erection.
"Nobody can quite determine how this... becomes this."
They explain that all the Eternal men have lost the ability to produce erections because they no longer need to reproduce, what with everyone being immortal and resources being scarce. Worse yet, in spite of being caretakers for all the collected knowledge of mankind, the Eternals are baffled as to how one even achieves an erection. They experiment with Zed by showing him some nude female mud wrestling, yet this fails to produce a reaction. Zed does pop wood, however, at the sight of Consuela's face screwed up in disgust at seeing him aroused. It was an amusing scene, yet I can't help but feel that the movie could have used more scenes of scientific inquiry involving mud wrestling.
#7: The Hunt For Zed!
Late in the movie, the Eternals notice that Zed is suddenly immune to their psychic powers. This leads them to one obvious conclusion: They must kill him immediately. Since they can't use their powers on him, they resort to flailing at him wildly. Their numbers threaten to overwhelm Zed, but lucky for him, all the Eternals are string-beany waifs with no idea how to go about killing anyone. They search for him, and frankly, it doesn't go well. In their desperation to find this solitary, underdressed man, they grab a few spears and knives from storage and head out. When they fail to locate him, they begin burning down random buildings. They almost manage to catch him several times, yet in spite of the fact that they have horses and Zed is often just fleeing through an open area, he manages to lose them every time. At one point, he escapes by throwing a fistful of flour at his pursuers.
The hunt reaches its low point when Zed is successfully captured not by the horse-riding mob, but by a crowd of the deranged geriatric "Renegades". How this happened remains unclear, but that's not important. The important part is that they decide to help him, but in order to get him past the mob, he needs a disguise:
Let me just say this:
You know your movie is in trouble when Sean Connery in a wedding dress is the least silly thing about it.
#8: The Ending!
If you manage to stick around until the end of this bizarre movie, your reward is a bizarre sequence set to a bit of classical music.
After taking care of business, Zed and Consuella, a woman whom he doesn't seem to have any sort of relationship with, sneak off into the remains of Zardoz's wrecked stone head. The two of them start making out, then suddenly, Consuella is giving birth! Man, that guy is virile!
She gives birth, and then we get a series of time lapse shots of them with their son. A few lapses pass, and he's a teenager, ready to go off and be a bloodthirsty zealot just like his dad. A few more lapses, and Zed and Consuella are old. A couple more, and they're skeletons. Finally, they're gone, and there are just some handprints and a rusty gun on the wall. What the hell? Did they live out the rest of their days using the head like some crummy bungalow? Did they use their powers to age themselves really fast? Why are these two so close? He was a murderous thug, and she wanted to kill him for getting a boner in her presence, but now they've both completely changed? What the heck?
With no answers forthcoming and a sequel looking more and more unlikely with each passing decade, you'll just have to draw your own conclusions. I don't know much, but I'm betting Beethoven never anticipated that his Seventh Symphony would be used to close out a movie about Sean Connery dressing like a ponce and trying to screw everything that moves.
There's other stuff in between all these things, but really, this is what you'll take away from the movie after you see it. Hopefully, there's still enough of the movie left for you to see. Unless you've seen enough here, in which case, you're welcome.
Seriously, though, what was up with that outfit!?
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