One 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.
This 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?
Watch the trailer here.