Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Boorman|
|Produced by||John Boorman|
|Written by||John Boorman|
|Music by||David Munrow|
|Editing by||John Merritt|
|Studio||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/fantasy film 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 the year AD 2293, a post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the Brutals, the menial class ruled by the ageless Eternals and periodically culled by the martial class of 'Exterminators'. The Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, an airborne stone idol in the shape of an immense human head, which delivers the following speech:
- The gun is good. 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!
With this speech, Zardoz periodically supplies the Exterminators with firearms, while the Exterminators supply it with grain. Protagonist Zed (Sean Connery), an Exterminator, hides himself within Zardoz for reasons thitherto unstated, and apparently kills its pilot, Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy), identified as an Eternal in the story's prologue. Containing Zed, Zardoz returns to the Vortex, a secluded community protected by an invisible force-field, where the immortal Eternals lead a pleasant but stagnant existence.
In the Vortex, Zed meets two young, attractive female Eternals — Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) and May (Sara Kestelman). Overcoming him by telepathy, they make him a menial worker within their community. Consuella wants Zed destroyed immediately; others, led by May and a subversive Eternal named Friend (John Alderton), insist on keeping him alive.
In time, Zed learns that the Eternals, protected from death by the Tabernacle, an artificial intelligence, have grown bored and corrupt, whereas the needlessness of procreation has rendered the men impotent and meditation has replaced sleep. Others fall into catatonia, forming the social stratum named the "Apathetics". The Eternals spend their days stewarding mankind's vast knowledge, baking special bread for themselves from the grain deliveries, and participating in communal navel gazing rituals. To give time and life more meaning, the Vortex have developed complex social rules whose violators are punished by artificial ageing. The most extreme offenders are condemned to permanent old age and the status of "Renegades". Any Eternals who die are almost immediately reborn into another healthy, synthetically reproduced body identical to the one before.
Genetic analysis reveals Zed is the result of long-running eugenics experiments by Arthur Frayn, to breed a superman who would penetrate the Vortex and alter its social structure. The women's analysis of Zed's memory reveals that Arthur Frayn encouraged Zed to learn to read, then led him to the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, whereby Zed understands the origin of the name Zardoz — Wizard of Oz — and decides to investigate the idol and its origins. Led by Consuella, the Eternals decide to kill Zed and age Friend. Zed escapes and, aided by May and Friend, absorbs all the Eternals' knowledge, including that of the Vortex's origin, to destroy the Tabernacle; then helps the Exterminators invade the Vortex and kill most of the Eternals, excepting a few who rejoin mortal life outside.
Zardoz ends in a wordless sequence of images accompanied by the sombre second movement (allegretto) of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (snatches of which are heard throughout the film). Zed and Consuella, dressed in matching green suits and having fallen in love, then sit next to each other in the remnants of Zardoz and age in time-lapse. A baby boy appears, matures, and leaves his parents. The couple eventually decompose into skeletons, leaving painted hand-prints and Zed's Webley-Fosbery revolver.
- 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 to negative 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."
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."
As of May 2012, Zardoz has a rating of 44% on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
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
- "Zardoz Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
- Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Zardoz|
- Zardoz at the Internet Movie Database
- Zardoz at allmovie
- Zardoz at Box Office Mojo
- Zardoz at Rotten Tomatoes