Is God In Show business?
When in doubt, rather than the kitchen sink, just stick a flying giant head in. Except there was zero doubt in the fantastic mind of John Boorman as he was writing the compellingly unique ‘Zardoz’ (1974) which he of course directed too. Coming after the success of his stunning ‘Deliverance’ (1972), this is the type of movie that can only be green-lit when a studio have complete faith in a director, as it would basically never be okayed otherwise, to our great loss.
Written with absolute conviction and focus on ideas (a huge amount of ideas), Zardoz is singularly one of the most bizarre and fantastic sci-fi movies EVER! Don’t get me wrong, it’s stunningly dated and costume wise will burn images into your mind that will never, nor should be forgiven, but it has more brilliant concepts, observations and ideas than 99% of other sci-fi movie fare.
Set in a dystopian 2293 where the 1% in their invisible wall gated communities have ‘evolved’ into Eternals (immortals, the powers of private health care eh), whilst outside in the slums we have the Brutals (slave workers) and their red mankini sporting, horse riding guards called Executioners. The Brutals work the land producing goods to feed the Eternals which is periodically collected via a giant flying shouty head called Zardoz, their constructed/presented actual Godhead. Hopefully flying heads are the future of delivery services around the world, or at the very least next years Christmas toy of choice, a remote controlled flying Zardoz head drone.
Zardoz keeps everything shipping along nicely (brutally) by belching out guns and bullets for the Executioners too, so they can continue their murder and rape sprees across the land. Simple, yet effective.
Strutting in from what seems a return trip from Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, we have handle bar moustached and pigtailed Sean Connery (to his absolute credit) sashaying away his Bond image in seconds as a vicious feral Executioner called Zed. Again after the commercial success of Deliverance, it was actually rising star Burt Reynolds who was slated to fill this role, unfortunately for him (and thankfully for us) he became ill and had to pass. The result is that Connery brings a credibility to an wholly incredible world.
Zed clearly has a dormant rebel gene, rather than accepting the smoke, mirrors and boomong voice of distraction, he questions the world around him, which ultimately lands him on the other side of the invisible wall/curtain, getting to see the ‘normality’ of the world of the Eternals, which is actually insane. Being that one of greatest achievement of mankind is it’s perpetual ability to convince itself whatever it is doing is right, the so called evolution of man won’t be served better by self design (genetic engineering, breeding), but by flaws. This mongrel Zed is basically going to taint/slay the blood of this blue blood society. Sounds great to me.
Most great sci-fi movies deal with issues, be it personal, societal or spiritual etc. Zardoz deals with pretty much everything. The world created within the frames of the film might look strange/dated, but it is actually being constructed all around us today. The fashion might be different (thankfully), but the deliberate separation/division of society isn’t. The concepts are so well thought out that it’s easy to accept this world, though it may take a couple of viewings to acclimatise.
Keeping up the loving standards once again, Arrow Films have the movie restored to 4K, with the original colouring (by Geoffrey Unsworth who was also director of photography on 2001: A Space Odyssey) approved by Boorman. There’s a glut of extra features too, with loads of interviews from the director, crew, directors commentary and a wonderful interview with director Ben Wheately (A Field in England, and next years STUNNING High Rise) talking about the influence of the movie on himself.
Normally folk would take the use of ‘insane’ as a negative, not in this case though. This is a brilliantly unique vision, some will hate it, but this is sci-fi at it’s best.
Zardoz is out on blu-ray now through Arrow Films.