Zardoz (1974): “Go forth, and kill!”

1371231412880One of the worst films of all time? Maybe. John Boorman’s Zardoz (1974) ponders the ethics of technological and societal advancement. Zed (Sean Connery) is a savage warrior whose society is bred for the purpose of killing. When Zed hides within a giant flying stone head (?), he mingles with a technologically and psychologically advanced immortal social caste (??) who choose to keep him alive in order to study him (????!). What happens throughout the film is such an intensely strange experience that I really think any description I can manage simply won’t be good enough.

zardoz copyThis is one of those films that you see an image of and are compelled to ask, “What were they smoking when they came up with this concept?”. Case in point, this winner of the dashing Zed. Take a moment, study it. Imagine looking at this image in action. Do you feel uncomfortable? Have you ever felt the need to see Sean Connery in a wedding dress? Welcome to the Zardoz experience.

The beautiful Charlotte Rampling is also in this film, as Consuella, an immortal academic who initially wants to have Zed killed, but eventually finds his primitiveness fascinating. She is a great actress, but her serious demeanour and actual acting skills serve the purpose of making the rest of the film’s camp sensibilities more humorous in comparison.

Zardoz was the film that John Boorman directed after the impressive Deliverance (1972). This film is completely different to Deliverance. You can barely tell that they are directed by the same person. However, in both films, there is a strong emphasis on visual mood and aesthetics, and in this, Zardoz does not disappoint. Some of the most beautiful sets and props are what makes this film quite special. Even the giant flying stone head, as it rises over rolling green hills, is an impressive aesthetic choice.

Yet again, this is one of those “worst ever!!!” films that people seem to watch with the expectation of seeing something that is utterly incomprehensible and pure trash. I think if you watch Zardoz with an open mind, you might be surprised with your response to the film. I found it genuinely watchable. It kept my attention throughout its duration and the story developed in a way that didn’t feel forced. Its ending sequence is also surprisingly almost good. It’s just an ambitious science fiction concept that seems, frankly, pretty silly.

Zardoz is not a great film. It’s probably not even a good film. If anything, you’ll get some laughs out of it, and you get the chance to see Sean Connery wearing the most ridiculous costume known to man, so it isn’t really a waste of time. It’s not classy or poignant. But it’s entertaining, and isn’t that what cinema is meant to be?

2.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

5 comments

  1. For several years, I thought Zardoz was just a strange dream I’d had.
    I fell asleep in front of the television one evening and awoke in the early hours, in a very confused state as the film played out before my eyes.
    It was only after reading your article and seeing the photo of Sean Connery in his red nappy(diaper if you’re in The USA) that I realised that Zardoz wasn’t the product of some particularly crazy delirium, but was in fact a real film.
    On a second viewing, without the “I’m clearly dreaming” excuse, Zardoz seemed to me to be even more baffling.

    1. It’s funny, I had a similar experience with Flash Gordon. I always assumed it was some form of childhood nightmare (Emperor Ming is kind of scary, I guess) until I saw a re-run on television as a teenager.

      You can’t be blamed for mistaking the vision of Sean Connery’s red nappy for a strange dream though. Throughout the entirety of Zardoz I felt like it could easily have been an account of the dreams of someone who had eaten a lot of cheese before going to sleep. It’s definitely a baffling film in many respects! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  2. […] a stud! Sean Connery donned this magnificent costume for Zardoz (1974), a pretty crazy sci fi film. This ridiculous outfit is what his character’s tribe […]

  3. Reblogged this on FILM GRIMOIRE and commented:

    Here’s a sneaky reblog from vintage Film Grimoire on one of the strangest films to exist – Zardoz (1974), that one film where Sean Connery is half-naked most of the time. A very singular experience of a film that I’ve been meaning to re-watch for a long time!

  4. […] reviewed a certain amazing film called Zardoz (1974) back in the day, but last month I had the opportunity to read Sam’s review at Wonders in the Dark – […]

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