Bad Movies Beware!
Another one suggested by Bill Mulligan, Zardoz has actually been on my radar for about two years. It’s not an easy movie to find, and I ended up hitting Amazon to grab it (not a fan of buying online if I don’t have to because waiting sucks).
Of course, it’s got Sean Connery, so it HAS to be good, right? I mean, there’s no such thing as a “bad” Sean Connery movie, right?
Yeah, maybe Entrapment could’ve been better.
Okay, I’ll give you that one. Ugh.
Zardoz is, actually, a gigantic floating stone head that is worshipped by the Brutals in the year 2293. The human race has reverted back to the primal days and worships the God Zardoz who commands them to kill each other and not to breed.
“The gun is good! The penis is evil!”
Yeah, I’m serious.
Zardoz then spits hundreds of guns out for the Brutals to pick up and use on each other. We see Sean Connery’s character, Zed, pick one up, remove his mask, and shoot at the camera. Zed is one of Zardoz’s devout followers, wearing the garb that signifies his devotion.
I mean, really. What better way to show your devotion to your higher being of choice than wearing nut-containers with suspenders?
The music is insane, often bouncing back and forth between classical Bach rip-offs and some kindergartner banging on a keyboard.
ANYWHO, in the next scene, Zed wakes up and discovers that he’s inside Zardoz. Zardoz is full of sawdust and shrink-wrapped naked people. He sees a man we know as Arthur Frank from the intro walking around and shoots him. Frank falls from Zardoz, and the stone head lands in a futuristic colony where Zed escapes and finds himself in a nice quiet village.
Zed stumbles upon a lab growing plants and ends up in a nicely decorated apartment. Everything is very modern-looking, very unlike the barren lands we saw earlier.
As it turns out, he’s in Arthur Frank’s apartment and finds out that he’s in “Vortex 4,” one of the many Vortexes growing food for the colonies. He sees a nude woman on a horse outside and follows her.
Hell, who wouldn’t?!
He meets the woman on the beach and goes with her to a lab. The two women in the lab, May and Consuela, are studying his memories to find out how he got to the Vortex. They discover that Arthur Frank is dead by Zed’s hand and try to gather more info on the Outlands. We also find out that these people are immortal, and Arthur Frank is currently being regenerated. The other colonists find Zed’s memories a delightful source of entertainment, and May fights to keep Zed alive for further study, much to Consuela’s aggravation.
Zed becomes a servant under Friend, a man in the colony who has a slightly rebellious outlook on the place. Friend takes Zed to meet the outcasts from the Vortex. First are the Renegades, a group of elderly people who spend day in and day out dancing in a rundown night club.
In another area, we meet the Apathetics. These people have had all f**ks removed and no longer give any f**ks because, well, there are none to give.
No, really. Not kidding. These people don’t give a s**t.
WHEN THE HELL IS SOMETHING GOING TO HAPPEN?!
In the next scene, Consuela tries to study Zed’s erection since the Immortals no longer breed and are incapable of sexual arousal. She shows him porn and it does nothing for Zed, and gets angry when Zed stares at her and becomes aroused.
Hey, it is what it is, sister.
Friend flips out at dinner one night and refuses to share consciousness with the rest of the Immortals. May labels him a Renegade and casts him out. Zed follows him to discover that Friend is already aging. He takes Zed to an elder who tells Zed to talk to May.
May searches Zed’s memories and discovers that Zed is a mutant and far superior to the Immortals in intellect and power. She also finds out how he got inside Zardoz and that Zed and the others have discovered that Zardoz is a front by Arthur Frank to force the Brutals to farm for the Vortexes.
May becomes aroused and begins to try to sleep with Zed, but Consuela discovers them. Zed attacks her and is blinded. He’s taken by the Vortex healer and told the truth: The Tabernacle was discovered to give eternal life. The “Rich and the Clever” isolate off and leave the rest to suffer and starve.
Zed awakens fully and Consuela and the other Immortals attack him. He ends up being hidden in a wedding dress by the Renegade—
What’s worse: there’s NO real reason why they put Zed in a wedding dress. They could’ve hidden him in a building, a tree, hell even a bush. But NO. We NEED the image of Sean Connery in a damn wedding dress burned into our brains. No transition, no build-up, nothing. Just POOF! Sean Connery in a friggin’ wedding dress!
Zed is lured into a wax museum and trapped inside the Tabernacle when he tries to destroy the crystal. This sequence is trippy as s**t. Once Zed escapes, he finds out that the Immortals are attacking the museum. He eats a leaf given to him by the Healer and gains the strength to fight back against Consuela and her people.
What the hell. A LEAF?!
Above, Zardoz is flying in and crashes in the woods somewhere.
Consuela realizes that she’s on the wrong team and joins Zed, May, and their followers. They run back to the Vortex, where the Apathetics have awakened and now have f**ks to give, and the Renegades are leading them into a strike. The Brutals break in as Zed shoos May and her people off so that they survive the onslaught.
Consuela and Zed escape and find the wreckage in the woods. They run in and decide to stay. The final sequence is them sitting side by side as their child grows and leaves. They age, die, and turn to dust.
WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH?!
VERDICT: THIS HAS TO BE INTENTIONAL.
Here’s the thing that really kills me about Zardoz: the plot. It’s actually really strong and deep. It’s also extremely relevant. The movie is also supposed to be satirical. Thing is, it doesn’t even get that right. It’s as if John Boorman wrote the script and then hit the set and said, “Okay, guys. The goal: how many scenes in this movie can we completely screw up?”
The acting is what you’d expect. Truthfully, the dialogue is weak, so it’s not like they had much to work with. The line delivery is actually quite good, but the writing diminishes it so much that you end up often wondering if even the actors really know their respective character’s motivation.
The effects are cheap, let’s be real. ALL of the funding had to go into the very few scenes featuring the titular character, and the rest might as well have been filmed in someone’s back yard with cast and crew being paid in cheeseburgers and beer.
The pacing is the real issue with this movie, and the writing is at total fault for it. The fascination with Zed’s penis is a little disturbing, really. I halfway expected one of the characters to open a jar of pickled peckers and offer everyone a snack.
Yes, this movie is THAT weird.
Give it a look, though, because it IS an Arthouse film. There’s no denying that. But don’t expect that you’re going to watch a Sean Connery classic. Not even Sean could save this movie from being nothing more than an obscure cult favorite that no one has really ever seen, yet a lot more have seen it than you think.