“Sean, meet Raquel…Raquel, meet Sean”
“The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth and kill!” – Zardoz
Back in 1974, it was rumored that Sean Connery (1) needed cash, and (2) wanted to get distance from his James Bond gig. When Zardoz came along and director John Boorman (a hot property after ‘Deliverance’) offered him the part of, basically, an articulate caveman, Connery ditched the tuxedo. And why not? All he needed was a pony tail, a mustache, a red diaper and a gun – kind of Bond meets One Million Years B.C. – but sans Raquel.
Zardoz is hardly a good film, but it’s creative, ambitious and seems energetically unaware of its stunning limitations – perfect for cult status.
It’s the year 2293, and humans have split in two groups – Eternals (immortal) and Brutals (mortal) – Karl Marx would have a double hemorrhage… The Brutals live in an irradiated wasteland, growing food for the Eternals, who live apart in The Vortex – kind of a sleepy, country estate. The connection between the two groups is the much-feared, somewhat hirsute Brutal Exterminators, who kill and terrorize other Brutals following orders of a laughably awkward flying stone head called Zardoz, which supplies them with weapons in exchange for the food they collect. Zed (Connery), a Brutal Exterminator, hides aboard Zardoz during one trip, temporarily killing its Eternal operator-creator.
Zardoz is stuffed with chewy points for discussion – genetics, gender, slavery, intellectualism, capitalism, immortality, sex, violence – take your pick. That’s the problem – something that is about a lot often turns out to deliver a little. John Boorman said the whole enterprise “was a very indulgent and personal film”. Enuf.
The film is essentially a thinking-person’s sci-fi romp. Zardoz could easily have come from 1966-69 psychedelic cinema…with a lot of Barbarella’s bargain-basement, trippy psychology…but there’s an odd, background bitterness to it all – a violence that makes you think, ‘well, they hired James Bond, what did they expect?’
It’s all so rushed…there’s too much plot and not enough breathing space. This creates numbness, ennui – not necessarily boredom, but indifference. The last few scenes strive to tie it together.
But it’s near impossible to detect life lessons. Maybe that’s the point. What did Sean Connery ever learn in any of his films? There was rarely a character arc in anything he did. The role of a film star is to exit as you entered – and at this, Connery never lets you down, red diaper and all.
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