In the distant future Earth is divided into two camps, the barely civilized group and the overly civilized one with mental powers. A plague is attacking the second group after which it's members cease to have any interest in life and become nearly catatonic. When Sean Connery one of the barbarians, crosses over, the tenuous balance in their world is threatened.
Sean Connery ... Zed
Charlotte Rampling ... Consuella
Sara Kestelman ... May
John Alderton ... Friend
Sally Anne Newton ... Avalow
Niall Buggy ... Arthur Frayn / Zardoz
Bosco Hogan ... George Saden
Jessica Swift ... Apathetic
Bairbre Dowling ... Star
Christopher Casson ... Old Scientist
Reginald Jarman ... Death (voice)
This movie is truly awful, but at the same time it's got to be one of the BEST SCI-FI MOVIES I'VE EVER SEEN!
There are so many concepts to digest: Civilization's end, immortality, genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, time control, psychic power, space travel, and on and on and on. If you're the least bit interested in science-fiction, there's more for you in this one movie than you'll find in a year's worth of Star Trek conventions!
Then why do I say it's awful? Well, within this movie's running time are some of the most cheesy moments ever captured on celluloid!
From the opening shots of the hairy-backed, leather-thonged, gun-toting Sean Connery (who at least manages to wear more than most of the rest of the cast), to the catch-cry of the Giant Hovering Stone Head ("The gun is good! The penis is bad!"), as it spews out a torrent of weapons and ammo from its mouth. What about the Eternal's predilection for studying erectile tissue function, by flashing up images of naked mud-wrestling? Or that crazy "wobbling-hands" thing that they do when in some sort of telepathic communion? Completely laughable!
Despite these moments of "cheesy-ness", Zardoz tells an utterly engaging and compelling story. The moment of revelation of the meaning of "Zardoz" took me completely by surprise, even though all the clues had been under my nose right from the beginning! (The Magritte painting "La chateau des Pyrenees", hanging in Frank's house, reminiscent of the hovering stone head, for example.)
If you like hard-core science fiction, and can put up with a few minor flaws, then I think you'll really enjoy Zardoz! It's weird, it's brilliant, it's unique! (Just make sure you watch it while you're wide awake, though, or you may drift off from time to time!)
I've seen some weird movies in my time! 'The Holy Mountain', 'Human Highway', 'Men behind The Sun', 'Nude For Satan', 'Pink Flamingos', 'Dune', but NOTHING as weird as 'Zardoz'! Nothing!
'Zardoz' has the feel of a Alan Smithee movie. It's like you're watching a movie made by committee or recut behind the director's back. But you see that it is written, produced and directed by John Boorman, the man who made the still dazzling revenge thriller 'Point Blank', and the first rate hillbilly suspense classic 'Deliverance', and you realize that this movie is EXACTLY what Boorman intended it to be. And your mind boggles!
'Zardoz' is neither a mindless sci fi action movie not a serious SF-as-ideas film ala Tarkovsky or Kubrick. It's... well, I don't know WHAT it is! A trippy Dystopian fantasy that cribs a few ideas from other sources (Huxley's Savage, Wells' Eloi and Morlocks, Moorcock's Jherek Carnelian), adds plenty of philosophical gobbledygook, some semi-naked babes, an embarrassed looking pony-tailed Sean Connery, and by the look of it, mixes in a bucket full of psychotropics, and hey presto! you end up with a movie like no other before or since!
'Zardoz' MUST be seen! By you. Right now. Unforgettable.
I 1st saw this movie in 1975, at the Students Union all night "sci-fi" event and as it was so off the horizon I loved it. The word plays, picture plays and complex storyline at 3.00 am in the morning were extremely entertaining. The basic themes it pretends of elites vs worker slaves, the boredom of eternal life, the decadence of forced idleness, the pureness of the macho noble savage are all interwoven in a Midsummer Nights fantasy futuristic world. I have to explain it is "British" so the special effects were limited . However, this left the actors with parts to act. Quite simply Zardoz was great, especially the name and how it unfolds. This was despite the fact even then we knew who would eventually win.. and the Union cinema was not Dolby.
I saw it again in the 90's and I was rather depressed, somehow my memory of great film was overwritten. It seemed so pretentious. John Alderton seemed fresh out of `please sir', Sean Connery at bit too macho etc etc. The whole thing so terribly amateur. The cast of typecast British TV / Movie stars waffling through some clever student sci-fi 1984-cum-Brave New World thing, brought to screen with a bad script.. Mind you I thought similar things about `Oh Lucky man the 2nd time around. It was rather like seeing an old flame many years later somehow the chemistry was gone and perhaps love is blind.
I saw it again recently and well I think I have it back. (Perhaps with all these `cloning' and `genetic-engineering' stories being now topical). I seemed to have re-captured the initial feelings. I have thought about these two extremes: To enjoy this movie one needs to regain the feeling of being entertained by actors in a Play. Zardoz more like a fantasy play than a Sci-Fi movie. The imagery is excellent, the themes of immortals and mortals still a relevant possibility for the future. There are gaps that we need to bridge over with our own imaginations and yes we do have to get over the feeling that `Q' will pop up as John Cleese.. But bridging that gap was nearly always the case in a play. Connery really does act, despite his costume.
The part with the crystal continues to excite my imagination. I still love the part in the old public library and his macho strutting don't seem so out of place in a fantasy. The sexual chemistry with the immortal maidens doesn't seem so sexist anymore. His character seems well fitted to the time and place and to me at least it is easy to believe his curiosity led him into the idol.
I think with these type of films , where you extend the script in your head, they are so different from the sci-fi / fantasy genre of today - you either love them or leave them. There is very little middle ground. So for a period piece that has not lost its charm. - Zardoz has place on my shelf of fantasy greats.
* The scene where Zed (Sean Connery) and Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) turn into skeletons had to be shot three times. The first time, the film was damaged, and the second time, a studio helper accidentally exposed the negatives. Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling were extremely annoyed, because of the time they had to spend having make-up done.
* DIRCAMEO:(John Boorman) the slave forced into farming and shot by Sean Connery.
* To help keep the movie cost down, Sean Connery used his own car and drove himself during the production. John Boorman then gave him half the money that had been budgeted to hire him a car and driver. The idea was Connery's, according to Boorman.
* Zed's revolver is a Webley in 455 caliber.
* The exterior shots at the very opening of the movie were taken right next to director John Boorman's house in Ireland.
* To make the shots of the stone head move into the mouth accurately, the camera was placed at the mouth and tracked backwards, and the film reversed in the lab.
* Burt Reynolds was the first choice for Zed, but he bowed out due to illness.
* The government initially refused to allow the production team to import the guns for the movie into Ireland because of terrorist attacks occurring at the time.
* Radio spots (available on the DVD) were narrated by Rod Serling.
* According to John Boorman, Sean Connery found it incredibly difficult to get work when he abandoned the James Bond role a second time after Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Thus, Boorman was able to hire Connery very cheaply for this project.