Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Boorman|
|Produced by||John Boorman|
|Written by||John Boorman|
|Music by||David Munrow|
|Edited by||John Merritt|
|John Boorman Productions|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||105 minutes|
|Box office||$1.8 million (US/ Canada)|
Zardoz is a 1974 science fiction/dark comedy written, produced, and directed by John Boorman. It stars Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, and Sara Kestelman. Zardoz was Connery's second post-James Bond role (after The Offence). The film was shot by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth on a budget of US$1.57 million.
In a future post-apocalypse Earth (2293) the human population is divided into the immortal 'Eternals' and mortal 'Brutals'. The Brutals live in a wasteland, growing food for the Eternals, who live apart in 'the Vortex', leading a luxurious but aimless existence on the grounds of a country estate. The connection between the two groups is through Brutal Exterminators, who kill and terrorize other "Brutals" at the orders of a huge flying stone head called Zardoz, which supplies them with weapons in exchange for the food they collect. Zed (Connery), a Brutal Exterminator, hides aboard Zardoz during one trip, temporarily "killing" its Eternal operator-creator Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy).
Arriving in the Vortex, Zed meets two Eternals — Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) and May (Sara Kestleman) — and is experimented upon by one of them before being made to work for another Eternal, a troublemaker called Friend (John Alderton). The Eternals are overseen and protected from death by an AI called the Tabernacle (a large crystal mass in appearance) and have problems themselves, falling into catatonia through an odd illness or being deliberately aged into senility for violating a complex set of social rules.
Zed discovers an old book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and he realizes the origin of the name Zardoz. It is then revealed that Zed was created by Arthur Frayn to destroy the Vortex and restore death to the bored Eternals. Zed finds a flaw in the Tabernacle and destroys it, after which the Brutals bring death to the majority of Eternals. A few Eternals escape to make a new life outside the Vortex. The bitter-sweet ending shows Zed and Consuella producing a child, growing old and dying naturally, whilst the sound of the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony swells in the soundtrack.
- Sean Connery as Zed
- Charlotte Rampling as Consuella
- Sara Kestelman as May
- John Alderton as Friend
- Sally Anne Newton as Avalow
- Niall Buggy as Arthur Frayn / Zardoz
- Bosco Hogan as George Saden
- Jessica Swift as Apathetic
- Reginald Jarman as voice of Death
The film received mixed reviews. Roger Ebert called it a "genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators ... The movie is an exercise in self-indulgence (if often an interesting one) by Boorman, who more or less had carte blanche to do a personal project after his immensely successful Deliverance." Whilst Jay Cocks of Time called the film "visually bounteous", with "bright intervals of self-deprecatory humor that lighten the occasional pomposity of the material." Nora Sayre, in a 7 February 1974 review for The New York Times, called Zardoz a melodrama that is a "good deal less effective than its special visual effects" ... a film "more confusing than exciting even with a frenetic, shoot-em-up climax." Decades later, Channel 4 called it "Boorman's finest film" and a "wonderfully eccentric and visually exciting sci-fi quest" that "deserves reappraisal". Despite being a commercial failure and mostly panned by critics, Zardoz has since developed a large cult following and found success on the home video market.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p257
- Solomon p 232. Please note figures are rentals.
- Review of Zardoz from Channel 4
- Review of the film from Roger Ebert
- Celtic Twilight, a 18 February 1974 review from Time magazine
- Review of the film from The New York Times
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