Brutals are told that when they die they will go to the vortex, where the Eternals live immortally. Zed, an Exterminator-class brutal who worships the stone head Zardoz, comes upon an old library where a mysterious stranger teaches him how to read. When he finds a copy of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he sets out to learn the secret of the god he worships, and disrupts life in the vortex.
Directed by: John Boorman
. Starring: Sean Connery
, Charlotte Rampling
, Sara Kestelman
, John Alderton
, Sally Anne Newton
, Niall Buggy
, Bosco Hogan
, Jessica Swift
, Bairbre Dowling
, Christopher Casson
, Reginald Jarman
, Daisy Boorman
, John Boorman
. Music by: David Munrow
Sean Connery, replete with bare chest, crossover bandoliers, pony-tail and loincloth (yes, loincloth), plays Zed, a 'Brutal' in a future world divided into two societies. In a reversal of the EloiMorlock world of The Time Machine, here the namby-pamby cissies are the clever ones. We have the aforementioned Brutals, primitive savages and killers who occupy a desolate realm 'laid waste by war and pollution', and the Eternals, immortal scientists and intellectuals, clad in the standard Logan's RunEloi pastels, who live in a lush garden paradise called the Vortex (you'll have by now noticed the amount of imagination used in naming these people and places) which is protected from the Brutals by a powerful invisible force field (represented by pressing your face up against some glass). The Brutals worship, and are ruled over by, Zardoz, a fearsome God who manifests himself as a gigantic floating stone head (no, honestly, I'm not making this up) and who provides them with rifles and compels them to keep the population down by killing the weaker members of the tribes and forbidding procreation. "The gun is good- the penis is evil!" the stone headZardoz bellows. The Brutals also have the role of overseeing the farmers (read 'slave labour') to produce grain (how anything grows in a world supposedly 'laid waste by war and pollution' is never explained) which in turn is fed into the mouth of the floating head, and then carried back through the force field into the Vortex. Zardoz has of course been created by the clever Eternals as a way of controlling the stupid Brutals. Oh yes, and getting the crops in. Zed however is not so stupid. One day he stows away aboard the floating head and manages to get into the Vortex where he of course upsets the whole applecart. Now it seems that the Eternals have intellectualised themselves into decadence and decay. They're bored. They're also sterile and stagnant, and Zed, who initially is looked upon as an amusing oaf, yet still a welcome breath of fresh air in their otherwise mundane existence, and who also has the brains to behave himself in polite society, at least for now, is soon perceived as a threat to that very existence.
It's a real curio of a piece. Filmed in Southern Ireland (in fact near John Boorman's home), the scenery is pretty, as the commentary explains, the picturesque lake and surrounding countryside featured is the same as that used in Boorman's Arthurian flick Excalibur, but as I said earlier it now seems dated and ponderously slow. The Eternals come across as aging pastel clad hippies with their drapes and wind chimes etc., certainly not as 'intellectuals and scientists', and the Brutals are clichéd savages who gallop around on horseback firing their rifles in the air like the gorillas in Planet of the Apes (made six years earlier). Apart from that the story makes little sense, and, as they're both equally detestable, you don't really care what happens to either the Brutals or the Eternals, so it's a depressing and pointless watch and at times just looks cheap.
It was interesting to note that when Boorman was made a Fellow of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at the Orange Film Awards, Zardoz was not included in the selection of movie clips shown.
Boorman himself was the model for the floating head and at one point also appears in the film as a farmer who is shot dead by Zed. Sean Connery shooting his director is quite ironic and appropriate given the end result.
I won't spoil it by giving away the origin of the title, which is revealed near the end of the film. Needless to say it's predictable and stupid like the rest of the movie.
The ladies, and no doubt some of the gents, may like the scantily clad, hairy and Manly Scot running around the countryside, but otherwise it's strictly for curio seekers and movie masochists only. But I suppose it's worth seeing once just for the sheer silliness of it.
Review by quatermax-1 from the Internet Movie Database.