Let’s get this out-of-the-way before we proceed Zardoz is the film where Sean Connery wears for almost the entire running time a red jockstrap like diaper and at the one costume change he wears a wedding dress. This was only his 2nd film after finishing his James Bond run for good with the exception of the unofficial Never Say Never Again. It was directed by John Boorman was at the top of his talent this follows his extraordinary run of films Point Blank (his masterpiece), Hell in the Pacific and Deliverance so he had total control and it should be mentioned in-between Zardoz and Deliverance he tried to make a sexed ultra violent adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
Zardoz has baffled critics and audiences since it’s release in 1974 some citing it as a neglected masterpiece and some consider it’s a muddled piece of psychedelic sci-fi by a director who has bought his own hype and did too much coke at the party. I’m firmly in the middle of the debate, it’s visually stunning which was always one of Boorman’s strong points; the use of Point Blank is exceptional and really adds to the pop-art sensibility of that film. The “plot” is frankly incomprehensible but the film has such a strange and off-kilter sensibility that it’s script problems go on the back-burner, this is a film where there is a giant flying stone head after-all and did I mention James Bond wears a wedding dress? Connery was supposedly very uncomfortable about doing the scene.
Boorman enlisted master cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth to help him with his vision that ends up looking like they smoked a lot of weed on set because it has that slightly tripped out hazy look of many early ’70s films. Unsworth also shot 2001: A Space Odyssey but Zardoz certainly lacks Kubrick’s precision when it comes to the film’s design and look. The film production design mixes then ’70s futuristic design (which now looks dated somewhat) and the Irish countryside where John Boorman lives. Many of the science fiction films of the ’70s films adopted in its costume design this almost unisex in nature look, Logan’s Run is a another example.
The film does have a political satire slant, Boorman like any sensible person realised that the gap between the poor and rich is ever-growing (and certainly has even more since the film’s release) so the immortal “Eternals” are depicted as self wish people and the good guys “Brutals” are depicted as poor salvagers. Sean Connery at this time was doing some of his most interesting work, the film he did before Zardoz was The Offence which is probably the crowning achievement of his career. Charlotte Rampling also appears as one of the “Eternals” and as everyone in the film tries her best with the material, this is the same year she gave her iconic performance in The Night Porter.
Zardoz does not totally work but few films has such a quirky feeling and it grows on repeated viewings, it somewhat reminds me of the superior but equally quirky Buckaroo Banzai. Boorman’s career may have taken a turn for the worst with his next film Exorcist II: The Heretic but Zardoz remains one of the key films of one of cinema’s most intriguing directors. Arrow has compiled a package here which pleads it’s case a cult classic with a extraordinary amount of interviews with cast and crew including Boorman but sadly no Connery or Rampling. The commentary by Boorman from the old DVD is included as are radio spots narrated by the none other than The Twilight Zone’s Rod Sterling. The real highlight comes from the upcoming director of High-Rise Ben Wheatley who does a very convincing appreciation of the film. Yet another great package from Arrow but you wouldn’t expect anything else.
Sci-fi, Fantasy | UK, 1974 |Arrow Video | 15| 21st September 2015 (UK) | Dir.John Boorman | Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton | Buy:Zardoz [Blu-ray]