Reviews of Zardoz
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Sean Connery, the Academy award-winning Scotsman whose suave manner in a tuxedo was the epitome of 1960s cool, turns 82 next month.
Aside from his seven performances as the most famous vodka-martini-drinking spy in the world, Connery’s oeuvre also includes such gems as Hitchcock’s unfairly-maligned curiosity, Marnie, filmed in 1964 around Connery’s Goldfinger shooting schedule, as well as the Disney children’s classic Darby O’Gill and the Little People, in which we get to hear Sir Sean sing a song. Apparently, Walt Disney was counting on American audiences not to discern the difference between Connery’s Scottish brogue and a genuine Irish accent.
Connery was tailor-made for The Man Who Would be King, one of John Houston’s last great films. And Connery won the Oscar, of course, for DePalma’s The Untouchables. Given his pedigree as an action hero, he also seemed the logical choice to play Harrison Ford’s on-screen father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Great films, all, and by no means an exhaustive list.
While Connery will probably always be best remembered as the greatest actor to portray Bond, James Bond, here at Cinema Uprising we suspect there may be one or two films the Scotsman would just as soon forget. Read more
The only John Boorman movies I had seen before Zardoz were Point Blank and Deliverance. Both movies had a particularly eccentric flavor to them that worked really well, so when I read that he did Zardoz in 1974, a quirky sci-fi movie starring Sean Connery, I was intrigued, especially after seeing stills and a poster featuring a floating angry stone head. I figured this would be Boorman totally unplugged and out of his damn mind. I was right.
Zardoz is particularly infamous because of Sean Connery’s rediculous costume and facial hair, as he sports a skimpy red man-diaper, a handlebar mustache, and a lethal pony tail, it’s no wonder that Burt Reynolds was originally slated to play his role. The movie opens with Zardoz, and angry-looking giant floating statue head coming down from the sky to a group of violently devout followers. The statue tells its worshippers that guns are good, penises are evil, and then it barfs up a shitload of firearms before telling the men to “go and kill.” The it flies away. Yep, that happens. We then find Sean Connery’s character, Zed (no, not the rapist from Pulp Fiction) awakening inside the head as it flies through the sky. It takes him into the vortex, a Utopian society where the people are immortal and live a seemingly peaceful life. Zed’s barbaric presence there begins to disrupt their perfect world, as his nature makes their perfect world seem less-than-perfect. I won’t spoil any of the movie’s delightfully silly surprises.
Like any good sci-fi, Zardoz is a genre movie built on concepts and ideas. While the movie’s opening makes the film seem like it’s going to be a ham-handed swipe at religion, Boorman’s ideas are more interesting than that, calling into question the merits of striving to achieve utopia, immortality, and the afterlife. There are lots of truly strange sci-fi ideas, such as a tabernacle where the immortals are regrown after death to be exactly as they were. While it would’ve been delightful to see Burt Reynolds ‘staching it up, Connery is the perfect replacement, even if his costume is ridiculous. Which brings us to the problems this movie has. Zardoz falls into the trap of having production design that very much echoes the time from which it was made to the point where it severely dates the movie. The special effects in the movie range from surreal and interesting, to silly and dated. The immortal characters also have psychic powers, which are conveyed through goofy hand gestures and hokey sound effects, it’s not as bad as the underground humans in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but it comes close.
Zardoz isn’t really a good movie, I’m probably giving it more credit than it deserves, it’s one of those flawed films that has a lot to offer despite its issues. If you like campy seventies sci-fi, Sean Connery with interesting facial hair, or The Wizard of Oz, I’d say give this one a spin.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.