Kristina A. from ST PETERSBURG, FL Reviewed on 9/10/2011...
The 70s produced a huge number of sci fi flicks, some great, many bad, but none that I have seen thus far are as really, truly horrible as this one. It's so bad that I just couldn't take it any more and stopped watching about 01:14 into the thing. I may watch the rest or I may put that on my "things to do sometime in the next decade or two" list...
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Greatly rewatchable. Interesting for flaws and brilliance
B. Marold | Bethlehem, PA United States | 03/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`Zardoz' was produced, written, and directed by John Boorman who, like Robert Altman (`M.A.S.H') and Ken Russell (`Women In Love') cash in their credit earned from directing very successful commercial films and spend it to direct very personal, very original, and very uncommercial films. `Zardoz' was made right after Boorman's immense critical and commercial success with `Deliverance' and his star in that movie, Burt Reynolds, was to play the lead role in `Zardoz' until Burt fell ill and was replaced with Sean Connery at a cost of 1/5 of the whole million dollar budget. As high as that relative figure may seem, apparently Connery was just finishing up his appearances as James Bond and no one would hire him for anything else, so he needed the money.
While there is a great danger that no one will ever read this review, it is immense fun to write a review of this rich, quirky, and very flawed movie. For starters, I find it easy to see that people have a hard time understanding the movie. I have never held that fact alone against a movie, as it took me at least three viewings of `2001 A Space Odyssey' to feel I was anywhere near understanding it, and `2001' has taken its rightful place among the very best American movies. It has taken me at least that many viewings to understand some of Fredrico Fellini's movies and I still don't understand `8½'. But that doesn't mean this is not a great movie. But that doesn't mean this is a great movie. It only means it has potential the fact that it can still be found on the store shelves is a testament to the fact that this movie has a lot to offer, even if it ultimately does not fully realize the filmmaker's vision.
There are few movies I have seen which are more in need of the director's commentary than this one. One of Boorman's most telling observations on this commentary is the statement that there may just be too much being attempted in this movie. And, I think this summarizes the problem in a nutshell.
Like all true science fiction works, the heart of `Zardoz' is to set the stage by imagining `what would happen if this statement were true'? The central premise of the movie is the fact that some cataclysm destroyed the world as we know it and, not unlike H. G. Wells' `The Time Machine', humankind has split into two major subspecies, one of which is effectively immortal and the other barely survives on a subsistence level and who treat an artifact of the immortals as a god named `Zardoz'. In addition to being immortal, the higher level beings can communicate telepathically and can control lower level beings by the force of mind alone.
Some of the implications the filmmaker draws from this central premise are truly inspired. By far the most brilliant is the inference that the immortals can suffer from debilitating boredom. To imagine how easy this can happen, just imagine a conventional image of heaven where the primary activities are singing and playing an archaic musical instrument.
Another inspired implication is the fact that the immortals are punished by being aged a certain number of years, so that when they are treated to restore their youth, they never grow any younger than their penal age. These two implications lead to two subgroups. These are immortals who become totally immobilized by ennui and immortals who age to the point of debilitation. If the movie stopped there, it could probably have easily filled its two hours with a rich explication of all these suppositions.
The problem is that to make the story interesting, the storyteller must bring a mortal into the immortals' world to shake things up. The problem I have with the device Boorman uses to bring Connery's mortal character into the immortals' world really doesn't seem to work very well. This element of the story all revolves around the premise that the mortals are being suppressed by a myth based on the story of the Wizard of Oz. This myth is so central to the story that the title of the movie and the name of the deity itself comes from a contraction of `wiZARD of OZ'. Connery's character, `Zed', with the help of his fellow mortal `brutals' manages to get aboard the great stone head which embodies Zardoz' after Zed discovers the fact that the great and mighty `Zardoz' is, like the fictional wizard, a sham. My biggest problem is that the analogy between this future earth and the Land of Oz is very, very thin. There is no explanation I can fathom for why the mortals are divided into two classes, one of which, the `brutals' like Zed spend all their time, catching, raping, and killing the other mortal class. This situation remits somewhat when we see the brutals acting as overseers while the other mortals spend time planting crops, but this subplot is simply not very well developed.
The primary thread of the story is in the contention between two immortals over what to do with Zed. The `scientist' who wishes to study Zed wins a vote to keep him alive for 21 days. In the course of this period, Zed manages to stir up the world of the immortals and do a lot to bring some real interest to their life.
As the movie was done very cheaply in the early 1970's, today's computer based effects simply did not exist and the `on camera' effects are a bit threadbare, not unlike the curtain behind which the Midwestern huckster manipulates the image of the Wizard of Oz. And yet this does not detract from the movie. The film mostly suffers from too much implausibility and, to paraphrase the Austrian Emperor's comments on Mozart's music in `Amadeus', there are `simply too many ideas'.
An yet, this is a really worthwhile movie to see, enhanced by medieval music expert David Munro's score. "
One of the greatest, and most underrated, sci-fi flicks ever
Michael Topper | Pacific Palisades, California United States | 02/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When director John Boorman made "Zardoz" back in 1973/4, he
was hot off of the success of his classic thriller "Deliverance",
and pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted. The result
was this completely different sci-fi film "Zardoz", which took
place in the year 2293 and featured one of the most sophisticated
and complex plots of any sci-fi movie before or since. The movie
was savaged upon its release as pretentious and hard to follow,
and is today looked back on by movie guides as a campy 70s oddity, simply because it features Sean Connery running around
in oversized red underwear. However, even its harshest critics
are usually forced to admit that the film boasts an impressive visual style, which is indeed the case. Written during the immediate post-psychedelic era, "Zardoz" was
a clear attempt to encapsulate the intellectual and spiritual
concerns of those acid-drenched times. The themes and plot
twists are quite dense--so it is not completely suprising that
many people are bewildered by it--although anyone who takes the
time to understand will find it filled to the brim with interesting and very deep ideas that were completely alien to
sci-fi at the time, and still rarely discussed in any genre of film. The plot concerns a future Earth where a group of
evolved immortals live a life of imposed isolation from the
rest of humanity, which has devolved into brutal anarchy and
violence. One of the immortals, Arthur Frame, attempts to keep
the brutals in line by appearing occassionally in a large flying stone head and impersonating a god named Zardoz (taken from "The Wizard Of Oz"). However, one day one of the Brutals named Zed (Connery) sneaks into the head and finds himself taken to the Vortex, the home of the immortals. There he finds that although they are highly advanced, with a plethora of knowledge and psychic abilities, they have failed to solve the mystery of life and many have become either renegades (punished for psychic violence and aged to senility) or apathetics (a result of the boredom of immortality). Zed is slowly educated by several of the immortals and comes to realize that he contains the key--the physical vitality and energy, embedded in the lower chakra centers--to liberating the immortals from their slow stagnation. He eventually does so, but only after confronting his own preconceived notions of god and self, which involves killing all that he once was, just as he had murdered his previous god, Arthur Frame/Zardoz, at the beginning
of the film. He then brings death back into the Vortex, which
is welcomed with open arms.If this sounds confusing or perhaps too cerebral (some might
say pretentious) for you, then avoid "Zardoz". However, even if
one doesn't understand a word of what is going on, the visuals
will entrance: the movie was filmed in the gorgeous hills of
northern England/Ireland, the costumes have a colorful post-
psychedelic look to them, and Boorman's virtuosic directorial
style contains several notable sequences that are still discussed
by fans of the movie (most notably, the sequence where Zed receives the immortal's knowledge and powers through osmosis).
All of this is very trippy, with sequences sped up, slowed down
or reflected through mirrors, put through filters and other
tricks. And if some of what happens verges on over-the-top camp, what most critics curiously never understood was that
it was all intentional camp with touches of Monty Python-esque
humor, used to parody its own intellectual ambitions.My favorite sequence is the one in which Zed figures out that
the crystal connects every immortal; it describes itself as
the equivalent of god with some brilliant dialogue which sounds
lifted out of a book on the Tao Of Physics. Zed then realizes that although this god is more daunting than the one (Zardoz) that he had believed in as a brutal, he must still penetrate and kill it (similar to Zen quotes which state that one must,
paradoxically, "kill the Buddha!"). He then finds (in a very trippy and symbolic sequence involving mirrors) that he
is really killing himself, or his previous ego, and must reconstruct who he is and then restore the harmony between
physical vitality and psychic/intellectual might that had been disrupted by the immortals. I cannot think of another movie
that has handled such occult spiritual topics with such wisdom,
humor or stylistic panache. Boorman's commentary in the marvellously restored DVD version is also quite interesting, as
he explains how many of the special effects and directorial
tricks were achieved, and attempts to defend the film against
all of the criticisms that have been put on it over the years.
Connery delivers a magnetic performance, and overall "Zardoz"
remains one of my favorite films, and one of the most overlooked, underrated and misunderstood movies ever."
Beware of the Flying Head of Fake God!
Maximiliano F Yofre | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 12/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director John Boorman has delivered some very good films such as "Deliverance" (1972), "Excalibur" (1981) and "The Emerald Forest" (1985). "Zardoz" (1974) occupies a very special place in his filmography. As Boorman also wrote the screenplay, we may assume it is a "film d'auter". He not only conveys a sci-fi story, he also gives the viewer a parable about power and immortality.
The whole movie has the look and feel of mid `70s cosmovision. Daily life in the Vortex resembles a Hippie community; there are scenes with kaleidoscopic effects (Ken Russell will use very similar images in "Altered States" (1980)); scenes of mass killing are shown with minimal blood effusion and so on.
The story is a classical sci-fi argument: in far future humankind is fractioned in two groups. One group lives in an edenic valley, profits from immortality and suffers no material needs. The other, by far the hugest group, dwells in a destitute Earth subject to the persecution of the Brutals. Brutals are servers of god Zardoz, an enormous flying and speaking stone head. Their religion promises eternal after-life at the Vortex. Zed, one of them, decides to creep into Zardoz's head and starts a "heroes' journey" of discovery, enlightenment and trial. From there on a complex plot, requiring viewer's attention is deployed.
There are several high points in this film. Cinematography directed by multi-Oscar awarded Geoffrey Unsworth ("Cabaret" (1972) and "Tess" (1979)) is delicate, portraying slender and beautiful women bodies. He uses color and texture (especially cloth texture) masterfully. The film has received a BAFTA nomination to Best Cinematography.
Playacting shows a young, beautiful and stylized Charlotte Rampling impersonating Consuella, a sensitive Eternals' leader opposing Zed. Sara Kestelman as May, in her first movie role, insinuates an attractive personality. Last but not least Sean Connery fleshes Zed gallantly; we must remember that, at that time, he was vigorously trying to detach himself from his alter ego: James Bond. It is a good sci-fi movie for sophisticated audience! Reviewed by Max Yofre."
Lovingly restored to DVD.
C. Moon | Valley Village, CA | 06/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm going to mostly keep my review limited to what they've done with the DVD since if you dig back far enough you'll find my thoughts on the film (somewhere...) Briefly though, Zardoz is really unlike no other film. Its wonderfully muddled by an overly-think plot, and enough symbolism to ensure you'll never really get to the bottom of it. I absolutely adore this film and have seen it at least a dozen times (I'm always showing it to someone.)The DVD finally does justice to this film--justice not done by the VHS or laserdisc. There is a considerable amount of material that was cut off the full-screen edition and even the LD was cropped. Now we can finally see Sean Connery shoot John Boorman in the head, as well as the shot where Zed sticks his finger through a painting. Visually this is SOOOO much better--the hazy effect which looked like tape degradation is now clearly the result of cinematic techniques which look awesome here. The sound is good, but it was never really that bad, so no complaints there. The director's commentary is a hoot if not super-informative, and you can (as a bonus) watch the film in French. Ironically I think Zardoz may even work better in French (but its just THAT kind of film.) There are a few other goodies, but nothing really notable. What's more outstanding is just the quality job they've done in reproducing the original film on DVD. If you are at all a fan of the film, you really do owe it to yourself to own this addition since this is the first time we've had a chance to see it the way it appeared in the theatre since its original theatrical release.Lastly, to those who don't care for this film, the beauty of Zardoz that you're missing is how really deep it goes. Sure, it needs to be laughed at--Boorman tried to do WAY to much, but I'll take that any day over the hoards of films which do way to little. Zardoz actually does contain some greating acting and some poignant messages if you are patient with it. Sure, it looks weird...it looked weird back then! But films like this are a rare treat and the sort I enjoy tremendously, even if it isn't a -good- film in the conventional sense. I think a phrase I've used to describe it before is an 'enduring disaster'. Zardoz is definitely a mess, but it is a worthy mess--and so much more delightful on this DVD."