Zardoz (1974)

Rates: * * * 1/2

Why Did I Watch It? Famous cult classic I had been meaning to watch for a long time.

Cast, crew, etc

Trailer

Thousands of years into the future, human society has collapsed. The remnants of our our species are divided into two groups; the ‘Outlanders’, vicious savages who battle one another for control of scarce natural resources, and the ‘Vortexters’, immortals who live in a technology protected bubble and want for nothing. If you think about it…. IT’S NOT THAT DIFFERENT TO TODAY!!

I had long wanted to see this famous cult classic, and it did not disappoint. The opening scene features a giant size, floating stone head, that distributes guns from its mouth. The stone head’s acolytes, white body painted cultists wearing stone head replica masks, gleefully scoop up the weapons and start killing each other. One of these is Sean Connery, wearing a red rubber loin cloth, but he is a murdering cultist with a few notions. Namely, that the floating head is not the all powerful god the rest of them think.

Connery smuggles himself inside the Vortex, where the immortals live, and finds a society in decay. Having lived for thousands of years, this pampered elite have exhausted every conceivable notion of how to fill their time (quite a thing to watch during quarantine lockdown); now they wait to be consumed either by senility (which is inflicted as a punishment), or apathy (which is a kindof paralysing illness). While they wait, they have esoteric debates about the meaning of existance, and enjoy fancy lunches.

Pudgy sexuality

Connery, in classic outsider mode, turns this dull utopia on its head. He snaps the apathetics out of their torpor (using only his pudgy sexuality!), rallies the seniles to his cause, and convinces the immortal leaders to… commit mass suicide? They figure out they can be killed after all, it involves a crystal, and then they all beg to be shot. It is very strange stuff, but this came out in 1974, another time the world was in a bad place; with Watergate, Vietnam, stagflation, and the oil shock bumming everyone out, perhaps it is not a surprise to see a film from that era that posits mass suicide as a sensible response.

The film ends with a truly bizarre coda. Connery and one of the former immortals (played by a young Charlotte Rampling) escape the carnage, and go to live in a cave. There, they raise a son; the film ends with a series of images as the boy grows up, starts wearing the same forest green jumpsuits his parents do, leaves home (or really: just disappears), and then they get old, turn into skeletons (on screen! without ever changing position!) and eventually crumble into dust.

Did I mention 1974 was a bad time? NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING! If we can’t get Coronavirus under control, this would be a good one for Netflix to reboot, when the government starts distributing the suicide packs.

John Boorman directs this the same way he did ‘Excalibur’; with a lot of mist, sweeping over some pretty English scenery. Connery looks bemused, Rampling looks pretty, the production design is inventive, and also reminiscent of the TV show ‘The Prisoner’. A strange artefact from an earlier time, demented and very entertaining.

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