“When I see the film now, I’m astonished at my hubris in making this extraordinary farrago.”–John Boorman in his 2001 director’s commentary for Zardoz
DIRECTED BY: John Boorman
FEATURING: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, John Alderton, Sara Kestleman, Niall Buggy
PLOT: Zed is an Enforcer, a warrior and slaver who pillages the countryside and takes commands from Zardoz, a floating stone head, in a distant barbaric future. One day Zed sneaks into the head and is carried away with it to Vortex 4, a land filled with technologically advanced people who never seem to age. Zed is a curiosity to them and becomes both a slave and an object of scientific study, but his presence disrupts their society in profound ways.
- Zardoz was John Boorman’s first film after being nominated for an Oscar for Deliverance. Boorman had been trying to get an adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings” off the ground, but the project fell through.
- This was Sean Connery’s second role after completing his run as James Bond with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 (although he would return to the role for a one off in 1983’s Never Say Never Again).
- Burt Reynolds was originally slated to play Zed but fell ill.
- According to Boorman the film’s budget was one million dollars, $200,000 of which went to Connery’s salary.
- Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth also lensed 2001: A Space Odyssey, among many other films.
- Boorman later co-wrote a novelization of the film.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Try as he might to fill his film with unforgettable visions of giant floating stone heads vomiting firearms and of humanity’s entire cultural heritage projected onto the half-nude bodies of immortal hippies, the one image that adorns almost every review of Boorman’s Zardoz is a simple one: Sean Connery standing in the desert, pistol in hand, ponytail insouciantly thrown over one shoulder, dressed in thigh high leather boots and a red diaper with matching suspenders.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: This sci-fi spectacle starts with serious ideas and weighty themes, but gets weighed down under an avalanche of self-indulgent dialogue, a confused script, low-budget psychedelics, and consistently bizarre directorial choices. Fill a talented young director’s head full of anticipation of adapting Tolkien, then pull that opportunity out from under him but instead give him Sean Connery and carte blanche to make whatever film he wants, and the result, apparently, is Zardoz. (Oh, and LSD might have had something to do with it, too).
Original trailer for Zardoz
COMMENTS: Zardoz is introduced by a floating head weaving through a void, slowly Continue reading 78. ZARDOZ (1974)