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177 of 187 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greatly rewatchable. Interesting for flaws and brilliance
`Zardoz' was produced, written, and directed by John Boorman who, like Robert Altman (`M.A.S.H') and Ken Russell (`Women In Love') cash in their credit earned from directing very successful commercial films and spend it to direct very personal, very original, and very uncommercial films. `Zardoz' was made right after Boorman's immense critical and commercial success with...
Published on March 29, 2005 by B. Marold

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mix of laughable and unforgettable
In about three hundred years, after some catastrophe has virtually wiped out our civilization, two branches of humanity remain to sparsely populate a now pristine Earth. The "Brutals" are uncivilized apes - ruled by an army of gun-toting, loincloth-wearing "Exterminators" who kill with little compunction. The Brutals are themselves on a divine mission, ordained by the...
Published on September 29, 2006 by Rottenberg's rotten book review

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177 of 187 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greatly rewatchable. Interesting for flaws and brilliance, March 29, 2005
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
`Zardoz' was produced, written, and directed by John Boorman who, like Robert Altman (`M.A.S.H') and Ken Russell (`Women In Love') cash in their credit earned from directing very successful commercial films and spend it to direct very personal, very original, and very uncommercial films. `Zardoz' was made right after Boorman's immense critical and commercial success with `Deliverance' and his star in that movie, Burt Reynolds, was to play the lead role in `Zardoz' until Burt fell ill and was replaced with Sean Connery at a cost of 1/5 of the whole million dollar budget. As high as that relative figure may seem, apparently Connery was just finishing up his appearances as James Bond and no one would hire him for anything else, so he needed the money.

While there is a great danger that no one will ever read this review, it is immense fun to write a review of this rich, quirky, and very flawed movie. For starters, I find it easy to see that people have a hard time understanding the movie. I have never held that fact alone against a movie, as it took me at least three viewings of `2001 A Space Odyssey' to feel I was anywhere near understanding it, and `2001' has taken its rightful place among the very best American movies. It has taken me at least that many viewings to understand some of Fredrico Fellini's movies and I still don't understand `8˝'. But that doesn't mean this is not a great movie. But that doesn't mean this is a great movie. It only means it has potential the fact that it can still be found on the store shelves is a testament to the fact that this movie has a lot to offer, even if it ultimately does not fully realize the filmmaker's vision.

There are few movies I have seen which are more in need of the director's commentary than this one. One of Boorman's most telling observations on this commentary is the statement that there may just be too much being attempted in this movie. And, I think this summarizes the problem in a nutshell.

Like all true science fiction works, the heart of `Zardoz' is to set the stage by imagining `what would happen if this statement were true'? The central premise of the movie is the fact that some cataclysm destroyed the world as we know it and, not unlike H. G. Wells' `The Time Machine', humankind has split into two major subspecies, one of which is effectively immortal and the other barely survives on a subsistence level and who treat an artifact of the immortals as a god named `Zardoz'. In addition to being immortal, the higher level beings can communicate telepathically and can control lower level beings by the force of mind alone.

Some of the implications the filmmaker draws from this central premise are truly inspired. By far the most brilliant is the inference that the immortals can suffer from debilitating boredom. To imagine how easy this can happen, just imagine a conventional image of heaven where the primary activities are singing and playing an archaic musical instrument.

Another inspired implication is the fact that the immortals are punished by being aged a certain number of years, so that when they are treated to restore their youth, they never grow any younger than their penal age. These two implications lead to two subgroups. These are immortals who become totally immobilized by ennui and immortals who age to the point of debilitation. If the movie stopped there, it could probably have easily filled its two hours with a rich explication of all these suppositions.

The problem is that to make the story interesting, the storyteller must bring a mortal into the immortals' world to shake things up. The problem I have with the device Boorman uses to bring Connery's mortal character into the immortals' world really doesn't seem to work very well. This element of the story all revolves around the premise that the mortals are being suppressed by a myth based on the story of the Wizard of Oz. This myth is so central to the story that the title of the movie and the name of the deity itself comes from a contraction of `wiZARD of OZ'. Connery's character, `Zed', with the help of his fellow mortal `brutals' manages to get aboard the great stone head which embodies Zardoz' after Zed discovers the fact that the great and mighty `Zardoz' is, like the fictional wizard, a sham. My biggest problem is that the analogy between this future earth and the Land of Oz is very, very thin. There is no explanation I can fathom for why the mortals are divided into two classes, one of which, the `brutals' like Zed spend all their time, catching, raping, and killing the other mortal class. This situation remits somewhat when we see the brutals acting as overseers while the other mortals spend time planting crops, but this subplot is simply not very well developed.

The primary thread of the story is in the contention between two immortals over what to do with Zed. The `scientist' who wishes to study Zed wins a vote to keep him alive for 21 days. In the course of this period, Zed manages to stir up the world of the immortals and do a lot to bring some real interest to their life.

As the movie was done very cheaply in the early 1970's, today's computer based effects simply did not exist and the `on camera' effects are a bit threadbare, not unlike the curtain behind which the Midwestern huckster manipulates the image of the Wizard of Oz. And yet this does not detract from the movie. The film mostly suffers from too much implausibility and, to paraphrase the Austrian Emperor's comments on Mozart's music in `Amadeus', there are `simply too many ideas'.

An yet, this is a really worthwhile movie to see, enhanced by medieval music expert David Munro's score.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the Flying Head of Fake God!, December 9, 2005
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
Director John Boorman has delivered some very good films such as "Deliverance" (1972), "Excalibur" (1981) and "The Emerald Forest" (1985).

"Zardoz" (1974) occupies a very special place in his filmography. As Boorman also wrote the screenplay, we may assume it is a "film d'auter". He not only conveys a sci-fi story, he also gives the viewer a parable about power and immortality.

The whole movie has the look and feel of mid `70s cosmovision. Daily life in the Vortex resembles a Hippie community; there are scenes with kaleidoscopic effects (Ken Russell will use very similar images in "Altered States" (1980)); scenes of mass killing are shown with minimal blood effusion and so on.

The story is a classical sci-fi argument: in far future humankind is fractioned in two groups. One group lives in an edenic valley, profits from immortality and suffers no material needs. The other, by far the hugest group, dwells in a destitute Earth subject to the persecution of the Exterminators.

Exterminators are servers of god Zardoz, an enormous flying and speaking stone head. Their religion promises eternal after-life at the Vortex. Zed, one of them, decides to creep into Zardoz's head and starts a "heroes' journey" of discovery, enlightenment and trial.

From there on a complex plot, requiring viewer's attention is deployed.

There are several high points in this film.

Cinematography directed by multi-Oscar awarded Geoffrey Unsworth ("Cabaret" (1972) and "Tess" (1979)) is delicate, portraying slender and beautiful women bodies. He uses color and texture (especially cloth texture) masterfully. The film has received a BAFTA nomination to Best Cinematography.

Playacting shows a young, beautiful and stylized Charlotte Rampling impersonating Consuella, a sensitive Eternals' leader opposing Zed. Sara Kestelman as May, in her first movie role, insinuates an attractive personality. Last but not least Sean Connery fleshes Zed gallantly; we must remember that, at that time, he was vigorously trying to detach himself from his alter ego: James Bond.

It is a good sci-fi movie for sophisticated audience!

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One that wouldn't go away, May 3, 2000
R.Hall (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I first saw this film back in the late 70's (I think) on late night television. Twenty years later, I had forgotten the title, but I remembered a few things: it had naked women in it(I was 12 or so and the station ran it unedited--bless them); it had Sean Connery shooting just about everything and running around in an orange diaper and wearing a pigtail; and it was strange, strange, strange, and I liked that.
Twenty years later, I grabbed a movie guide and searched for Sean Connery films. "Zardoz" I found. That had to be it. I rented it and sat down and watched it all over. It was as wonderfully strange and goofy as I remembered. I loved the big floating head of the god Zardoz at the beginning. My wife hated it, and watched only 30 seconds of it. If you must have your movie spoon-fed to you, forget this one. If you're brave enough to be baffled at times, strong enough to see Sean Connery in a wedding dress, and tough enough for some laughable dialog, then you've come to the right movie.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovingly restored to DVD., June 11, 2001
C. Moon (Valley Village, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
I'm going to mostly keep my review limited to what they've done with the DVD since if you dig back far enough you'll find my thoughts on the film (somewhere...) Briefly though, Zardoz is really unlike no other film. Its wonderfully muddled by an overly-think plot, and enough symbolism to ensure you'll never really get to the bottom of it. I absolutely adore this film and have seen it at least a dozen times (I'm always showing it to someone.)
The DVD finally does justice to this film--justice not done by the VHS or laserdisc. There is a considerable amount of material that was cut off the full-screen edition and even the LD was cropped. Now we can finally see Sean Connery shoot John Boorman in the head, as well as the shot where Zed sticks his finger through a painting. Visually this is SOOOO much better--the hazy effect which looked like tape degradation is now clearly the result of cinematic techniques which look awesome here. The sound is good, but it was never really that bad, so no complaints there. The director's commentary is a hoot if not super-informative, and you can (as a bonus) watch the film in French. Ironically I think Zardoz may even work better in French (but its just THAT kind of film.) There are a few other goodies, but nothing really notable. What's more outstanding is just the quality job they've done in reproducing the original film on DVD. If you are at all a fan of the film, you really do owe it to yourself to own this addition since this is the first time we've had a chance to see it the way it appeared in the theatre since its original theatrical release.
Lastly, to those who don't care for this film, the beauty of Zardoz that you're missing is how really deep it goes. Sure, it needs to be laughed at--Boorman tried to do WAY to much, but I'll take that any day over the hoards of films which do way to little. Zardoz actually does contain some greating acting and some poignant messages if you are patient with it. Sure, it looks looked weird back then! But films like this are a rare treat and the sort I enjoy tremendously, even if it isn't a -good- film in the conventional sense. I think a phrase I've used to describe it before is an 'enduring disaster'. Zardoz is definitely a mess, but it is a worthy mess--and so much more delightful on this DVD.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest, and most underrated, sci-fi flicks ever, February 4, 2002
Michael Topper (Pacific Palisades, California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
When director John Boorman made "Zardoz" back in 1973/4, he
was hot off of the success of his classic thriller "Deliverance",
and pretty much allowed to do whatever he wanted. The result
was this completely different sci-fi film "Zardoz", which took
place in the year 2293 and featured one of the most sophisticated
and complex plots of any sci-fi movie before or since. The movie
was savaged upon its release as pretentious and hard to follow,
and is today looked back on by movie guides as a campy 70s oddity, simply because it features Sean Connery running around
in oversized red underwear. However, even its harshest critics
are usually forced to admit that the film boasts an impressive visual style, which is indeed the case.
Written during the immediate post-psychedelic era, "Zardoz" was
a clear attempt to encapsulate the intellectual and spiritual
concerns of those acid-drenched times. The themes and plot
twists are quite dense--so it is not completely suprising that
many people are bewildered by it--although anyone who takes the
time to understand will find it filled to the brim with interesting and very deep ideas that were completely alien to
sci-fi at the time, and still rarely discussed in any genre of film. The plot concerns a future Earth where a group of
evolved immortals live a life of imposed isolation from the
rest of humanity, which has devolved into brutal anarchy and
violence. One of the immortals, Arthur Frame, attempts to keep
the brutals in line by appearing occassionally in a large flying stone head and impersonating a god named Zardoz (taken from "The Wizard Of Oz"). However, one day one of the Brutals named Zed (Connery) sneaks into the head and finds himself taken to the Vortex, the home of the immortals. There he finds that although they are highly advanced, with a plethora of knowledge and psychic abilities, they have failed to solve the mystery of life and many have become either renegades (punished for psychic violence and aged to senility) or apathetics (a result of the boredom of immortality). Zed is slowly educated by several of the immortals and comes to realize that he contains the key--the physical vitality and energy, embedded in the lower chakra centers--to liberating the immortals from their slow stagnation. He eventually does so, but only after confronting his own preconceived notions of god and self, which involves killing all that he once was, just as he had murdered his previous god, Arthur Frame/Zardoz, at the beginning
of the film. He then brings death back into the Vortex, which
is welcomed with open arms.
If this sounds confusing or perhaps too cerebral (some might
say pretentious) for you, then avoid "Zardoz". However, even if
one doesn't understand a word of what is going on, the visuals
will entrance: the movie was filmed in the gorgeous hills of
northern England/Ireland, the costumes have a colorful post-
psychedelic look to them, and Boorman's virtuosic directorial
style contains several notable sequences that are still discussed
by fans of the movie (most notably, the sequence where Zed receives the immortal's knowledge and powers through osmosis).
All of this is very trippy, with sequences sped up, slowed down
or reflected through mirrors, put through filters and other
tricks. And if some of what happens verges on over-the-top camp, what most critics curiously never understood was that
it was all intentional camp with touches of Monty Python-esque
humor, used to parody its own intellectual ambitions.
My favorite sequence is the one in which Zed figures out that
the crystal connects every immortal; it describes itself as
the equivalent of god with some brilliant dialogue which sounds
lifted out of a book on the Tao Of Physics. Zed then realizes that although this god is more daunting than the one (Zardoz) that he had believed in as a brutal, he must still penetrate and kill it (similar to Zen quotes which state that one must,
paradoxically, "kill the Buddha!"). He then finds (in a very trippy and symbolic sequence involving mirrors) that he
is really killing himself, or his previous ego, and must reconstruct who he is and then restore the harmony between
physical vitality and psychic/intellectual might that had been disrupted by the immortals. I cannot think of another movie
that has handled such occult spiritual topics with such wisdom,
humor or stylistic panache. Boorman's commentary in the marvellously restored DVD version is also quite interesting, as
he explains how many of the special effects and directorial
tricks were achieved, and attempts to defend the film against
all of the criticisms that have been put on it over the years.
Connery delivers a magnetic performance, and overall "Zardoz"
remains one of my favorite films, and one of the most overlooked, underrated and misunderstood movies ever.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mix of laughable and unforgettable, September 29, 2006
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
In about three hundred years, after some catastrophe has virtually wiped out our civilization, two branches of humanity remain to sparsely populate a now pristine Earth. The "Brutals" are uncivilized apes - ruled by an army of gun-toting, loincloth-wearing "Exterminators" who kill with little compunction. The Brutals are themselves on a divine mission, ordained by the great god Zardoz to cleanse the world "of the plague of men". Taking the form of a huge, flying stone head, Zardoz lands amid gangs of Brutals, preaching genocide and spitting huge piles of guns and ammo at his gleeful followers. "Go forth, and kill", spake Zardoz, even as his gun-firing followers fill his head with crops harvested by Brutal slaves. Zed (Connery), one of the Brutals, stows away as the stone head floats away, thinking it will bring him to the after-life known as the vortex. Zed - as the story will show - has already been infected with some form of heresy that Zardoz is not what he seems to be.

Thanks to a pre-credits monolog, we already know that Zardoz is a false god, an alter-ego of Arthur Frayn - himself a magician by inclination, and immortal by association. Frayn belongs to that other surviving branch of humanity, the undying and telepathic "Eternals". Ruled by a new age computer called the Tabernacle, Eternals use Zardoz to make pawns of the Brutals, who in turn harvest the world and feed them. Otherwise protected from the Brutals' world by an impenetrable field, the Eternals live an apparently idyllic yet emotionally and physiologically impotent existence within a reserve ironically known as "The Vortex". The Eternals would just as soon kill Zed, holding him little higher than an ape. However linked by the Tabernacle, dissension in the ranks over what to do with Zed allows him to learn the secret of the Eternals' existence and destroy it, while himself evolving beyond his murderously wanton origins. It turns out that the immortals have had enough of their lifeless survival, and now long for death (or at least mortality). But what force drives Zed, and what turned him against Zardoz?

It's hard to answer those questions, because so much of this movie is incomprehensible (including how many of the plot's enigmas were intentional). The script is full of laughably arch dialog and self-aware or simply laughable imagery. (You may recall a movie starring Sean Connery running around in a red diaper, wondering what that movie was - "Zardoz" endeth the lesson!) All the costuming is laughable, consecutive scenes don't lead into each other, the society of the Eternals is never really explained (the Eternals are immortal, yet not quite indestructible; it's never clear just how the Eternals are trapped into immortality) and there's way too much interest in the male anatomy. Worse than that, the movie is incredibly slow, and it's often difficult to understand just what's going on.

Yet, "Zardoz", for all of it's arch self-awareness is still a cut above Boorman's other losers. It still doesn't touch "Excalibur", though it does hint at Boorman's interest in Arthurian legend, with its rural and pre-modern looking settings, the Eternals at one point gathered at a round table; Zed's search inverts the legend of the Holy Grail - he seeks the cup that destroys immortality. Despite its flaws, the flick never loses its sense of enigma, and though it pains me to say, I found the overwhelming desire of the Eternals to die (and their ultimate denoument) gave the story an emotional coherence that nearly makes you forget everything laughably bad about the movie.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Is God in show business?", March 16, 2004
This review is from: Zardoz [VHS] (VHS Tape)
So asks Arthur Frayn, alias the god Zardoz, as his disembodied head floats before us and invites us to be entertained by Zardoz, a 1974 film directed by John Boorman, starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling.
Arthur Frayn loves magic tricks and says Merlin is his hero. (Did Frayn take the name of Merlin's heroic protege for himself?)
We are, as a subtitle tells us, in the twenty-third century. Here the Eternals live inside Vortex 4, a perfect English village by a lake. In the Vortex there is no death, thanks to a device called the Tabernacle, which takes the memories of an Eternal and implants them into a new fetus should the Eternal be unlucky enough to die in an accident or bored enough to take his or her own life.
That is, there is no death until Zed, one of the Brutals who live outside the Vortex, finds his way inside. Zed is strong, hypermasculine, and sexually active - - everything the Eternals no longer are.
In science fiction movies the future often looks like the present with one or two strange elements thrown in. But in the Vortex the clothes, buildings, and even the scientific instruments are so unlike ours as to make us believe we are watching a far future with little connection to our own life. Even more strange than their accoutrements is the way the Eternals speak and move. Barely perceptible movements and gestures are part of their language.
However details outside the Vortex bring this world closer to us. The clothes the Brutals wear are dirty and torn twentieth-century fashions. The Brutals live like barbarians huddled around fires in a town with an abandoned ruin that was once a municipal library.
In the Vortex not everyone is content. There are renegades, those whose negative thoughts disrupt the Eternals' perfection. The renegades are allowed to age but not die. They are the oldest Eternals.
Besides the renegades, there is another group, the apathetics. They barely move or respond. The Eternals are worried because this disease is spreading throughout the Vortex. So the equilibrium of the Vortex is deteriorating before Zed arrives.
Friend, an Eternal, wants to know from Zed what happened to Arthur Frayn, with whom Friend has been conspiring. But Zed can block his thoughts from Friend and from May, the scientist who gets permission to study Zed for a time before killing him.
By the time Friend and May learn what happened to Arthur Frayn and what Zed is it's too late to save Utopia. Finally, Zed learns what brought Utopia into being.
The renegades are the scientists, politicians, and millionaires who built the Vortex to save themselves and their children from the chaos destroying the outside world. But they were too old to adapt to eternal life and after the centuries went mad. Their spoiled, effete children now rule in the Vortex and it is they who are succumbing to apathy from the lack of a need to struggle for their existence.
The Vortex is not a distant, horrible future. It's the horrible present. The Eternals are literally us - - the generation that saw Zardoz in 1974, the children of the generation that first built the terrible weapons and created the rapacious society that caused the apocalypse. We are the children of the renegades.
In 1974 Boorman was describing the generation he saw inheriting the world. The message isn't that original - - life thrives because of the reality of death. The living feed off the dead and it's the prospect of death that inspires creativity. Sex and violence, no matter how much we might prefer otherwise, are related.
The elite who saw their (our) society crumbling around them, who felt the new Dark Ages coming, sealed themselves off the rest of the world and its lower classes. As in so-called advanced societies today a minority took most of the world's resources and left the majority of the world's people to fend for themselves. Then this elite justified their greed and lack of concern for how their behavior would affect the rest of the planet by claiming they had a duty to survive, in order to preserve and transmit the glories of human history.
When the reborn Arthur Frayn returns to Friend, as they joyfully face the end of their world, they realize it's all been a joke, a story told by an idiot. They, like us, have been "confused . . . and abused . . . and amused."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another era, if you can imagine one other than your own, May 12, 2002
Robert Sercombe (Grand Prairie, TX USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
"... why so much pre-Star Wars 70's science fiction is not worth watching ..." one apparently underage reviewer observes. Except for Blade Runner and A.I., nearly all Star Wars-and-after science fiction films are simply TV Westerns with spaceships: predictable puerile overloud explosion-filled melodramas about good guys killing bad guys and getting the girl (at their worst, cool dudes killing ... slimeballs and [getting] the hot babe), with adolescent dialogue of snappy put-downs and comebacks, i.e., Nothing New But the FX. If you find THIS satisfying, I leave you to it. If you think life is about more than boy-kills-enemy-gets-girl, if you don't need to love the characters in a film or wish to become them, if you can imagine people having other values than you (and other fashions/cliche's/prejudices/needs), if you can see the world and the way many people live as absurd, if you can imagine looking back on anything that is or ever was important to you and seeing it differently (you will when you get old), if you suspect that serious ideas can be approached through absurdity and bravura irony, if you watched A Clockwork Orange for any reason other than vicarious pleasure in the raping and violence ... try this daring movie. The attacks on it are off-base and beside the point. Obvious statements? It may be "obvious" that a natural cycle of life is better than sterile immortality, but when Boorman takes this idea to its logical extreme, you'll see beautiful care-free immortals begging Zed to shoot them, running into his bullets, falling bloody and blissfully dead in their lovely gardens, and you'll wonder if you really believe it. Most other films, SF included, are about flattering our beliefs and preserving our illusions, not pushing them to their limits and showing us what they really imply. As Boorman explicitly reminds us, by our personal and shared myths we practice our own form of Show Business. But what if our show never ended? ("We've been to the stars ... another dead end ..." says one character, bored.) US pop culture of the 1990s responded to prolonged prosperity, and it wasn't pretty, nor very different from Boorman's Vortex: sharpened competitiveness, social conformity and all-consuming gossip and nastiness that poisoned amity, politics, and sexual relationships, all from boredom; we treated the people and places around us like insufficiently stimulating entertainment. This film is about one showman (the first character we see) who sneers at this charade of "progress" and rings down the curtain. As drama, it's like Beckett on acid Kool-Aid being reconciled to the natural cycle. Boorman satisfies our short attention span in the final montage, giving us Connery and Rampling in their cave, delivering a baby, who matures before our eyes and leaves them behind (Rampling reaches out, vainly, to keep him from going ...), and the parents age, wither, die, decay, and crumble, still holding hands. The puns, visual and verbal; the showbiz references; the refusal to be solemn or earnest or adolescent in the face of Death or Sex; the Apathetics, bored to catatonia by everlasting life and incapable of feeling physical attack; the conquest of Hell, which is now an endless, boring cocktail party for creaking ancients; the re-scoring of Beethoven's Seventh for organ and two male altos; there's plenty to freshen your viewpoint on old things you haven't thought through in a while. Not for those who "just want to be entertained", or who think that pop conventions of today will look like the Last Word on style and attitude in thirty years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not really a movie, more of an experience, March 27, 2001
Zardoz fan (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz (DVD)
What can I say about this movie? I had never heard of it before until one night my roommate and I were watching some documentary about science fiction on A&E (or some similar channel). They were showing various movie clips and interviewing various SF authors, and then, out of nowhere, comes this clip of ZARDOZ:
A stone head floats into view amongst masked warriors on horseback, makes a scary speech about how guns are good and the penis is bad, then a plethora of guns gushes out of the stone head's mouth.
It blew my mind.
Needless to say, as soon as possible a pilgrimage to the video store commenced and ZARDOZ was attained and watched. Twice. Then again. And again. It's a truly unique movie, after seeing it I really began to pay attention to John Boorman's other work (I've seen all of them, except for THE GENERAL and the current TAILOR OF PANAMA), this is a pretty good summation of 70's SF in general, with lots of winks to Heinlien in particular.
The only problem is that it's dated, very much a 70's tainted view of the much so at times it's laughable ("You have been found guilty of psychic violence..."). And Connery running around in a red diaper the whole time is most amusing. And ok, ok, it is rather pretentious at times. But this cheesiness is half the fun. Fundamentally, it's an intelligent and challenging film that reveals more with each viewing. I shall buy this DVD right now, as I'm interested in a)a sharp picture, the VHS copies I've seen were hopelessly grainy and worn and b)Boorman's commentary, I'm sure he's got some interesting insight.
It's really quite simple, if you haven't seen ZARDOZ, you must. Immediately.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ideal type of the Nietzschean movie, June 7, 2000
S. Maruta (Bristol, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zardoz [VHS] (VHS Tape)
How little sense this movie made the first time I saw it: those goofy costumes, that strange plot! But for all the weirdness I could never forget it, it remained in a corner of my head. And then, the second time I had the occasion to see Zardoz, everything fell into place: like HG WEll's Time machine, Zardoz was a sci-fi interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy.
THe plot in a few words: mankind is doomed because it is crumbling under the burden of its own historical consciousness (remember the ruined library in the beginning?), most of the men have been wiped out by a world war-type catastrophe, their descendants have fallen back into animality, struggling to survive in brutish conditions and revering the Titan-like Zardoz. Meanwhile, literally preserved in a bubble are a happy few last men, a bunch of superior spirits who have discovered the secret of immortality, or so they believe, but the secret is quite awful: immortality is sterility. Of course the immortals are playing a losing hand (Nietzsche didn't like the Last Men, the ones who come after history's pendulum movement has spent itself and come to a standstill). Apparently happy, apparently dominating, the dwindling bunch of immortals feel like prisoners in their pastoral bubble, and the only way out for them is the sweet oblivion of senility. Now just a stylistic comment: the immortals are dressed in 70s futuristic gear, the senile old farts don Edwardian formal dress: the movie was not about some hypothetic future situation, it was about the here and now of 1970s Britain; senile establishment, futile youth with the illusion they will be forever young, and the starving third world knocking at the gates of the bubble.
In Also sprachte Zarathustra, Nietzsche tells us the saviour is an Ubermensch, a "superman" who will shake off the sterility of the last men to push them back into the meaningful and necessary movement of history, launching a new cycle where others pretended there was only a single line, from beginning to end, with progress in between (Hegelian/Christian view of History/Divine Providence). Incidentally, a new cycle means both shedding (the illusion of) immortality and recovering the capacity to (pro-)create. Hence the final scene of the movie. It's interesting to see how, while the catastrophist vision of the future has receded since the 1970s, the obsession of Western societies with the illusion of eternal youth has only grown stronger...
I can't think of another movie so ladden with deep and cryptic philosophical metaphors, even more stunning as it is quite entertaining without possessing an MA in phil.
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Zardoz by John Boorman (DVD - 2001)
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