In a future dystopia, the world is divided into the Brutals (Neanderthals forbidden to have sex) and the Immortals (cool sexy people who live forever) divided by a barrier in The Vortex. Meanwhile, Zed, an Exterminator of Brutals, raises his consciousness
You have to hand it to John Boorman. When he’s brilliant, he’s brilliant (Point Blank, Deliverance) but when he’s terrible, he’s really terrible. A fascinating reminder of what cinematic science fiction used to be like before Star Wars, this risible hodge-podge of literary allusions, highbrow porn, sci-fi staples, half baked intellectualism and a real desire to do something revelatory misses the mark by a hundred miles but has elements — its badness being one of them — that make it strangely compelling.
Burt Reynolds (who’d just come off Deliverance with Boorman) was originally earmarked for the role of Zed but declined, leaving the role open for Sean Connery who desperately wanted to shake off the mantle of Bond. The casting switch meant Zardoz offers the strange sight of a bemused looking James Bond strutting and preening around a futureworld (that looks a lot like Ireland) dressed in nothing but a nappy. But that is only the start of Zardoz’s madness. Shockingly awful dialogue (“The Gun is good, the penis is evil!”), a mish mash of ludicrous ideas (the film desperately wants to say something about organized religion, it just doesn’t know what), some truly bizarre performances (step forward John Alderton in a curly wig and Sara Kestelman who has embarrassing bout of rumpy pumpy with Connery) all wrapped up in a cornucopia of bad special effects. If the movie has a saving grace it is Geoffery Unsworth’s beautiful cinematography of striking Irish locations. But, by the end of the movie as Connery is turned into a fossil to the strains of Beethoven’s 7th, you are in absolutely no doubt that you have just witnessed something extraordinary. And in case you were wondering, the title refers to a truncated play on The Wizard Of Oz. It’s that sort of movie.
Dodgy on every level.