Before Star Wars came along and became the inspiration for decades worth of science fiction film, the genre was a lot more experimental, and ultimately a lot more... well, weird.
There were plenty of successes throughout the later half of the 20th Century. Forbidden Planet became a massive hit in 1956, spawning plenty of imitators and making a movie star out of Leslie Nielsen, while 1973's Soylent Green is still quoted throughout pop culture today.
Then, of course, there's the bad ones. The ones that neither found an audience nor made any money. Ones like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Robot Monster, and, of course, the topic of this article: Zardoz.
The year is 1974. Sean Connery has permanently stepped down from the role of James Bond after 1971's Diamonds Are Forever; considered by many to be his worst turn as the character.
Struggling to find work after leaving his most iconic role behind, Connery agreed to star in Deliverance director John Boorman's upcoming sci-fi film about a strange new world presided over by a giant floating stone head (more on that in a second). He was paid a mere $200,000 for it (compared to the $1.25 Million he was paid as Bond), which turned out to be a fifth of the film's entire budget. I suspect you can already see where this is going.
Click to the next page for why this movie is so brutally weird.
Trying to explain the plot of Zardoz feels like trying to explain a fever dream, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that was what lead to the script being written in the first place. According to imdb:
"2293. Zardoz, an unseen "God" who speaks through an idol - a large stone statue of a head - leads a barbaric race called the Brutals, who live a harsh existence in the Outlands. Zardoz tells the Brutals that once they die, they will be transported to the Vortex, where they will live happily as immortals. He has armed a small group - the Exterminators - with guns, as Zardoz's philosophy is that killing is good, and procreation is the root of all that is bad."
You catch all of that? Yeah, that's stuff you find out in the opening. It also leads to dialogue like this.
Sean Connery plays Zed, one of the aforementioned Exterminators. Which translates to him running around in this costume for damn near the entire movie.
Zed ultimately discovers the fact that Zardoz is actually a man named Arthur Frayn, who not only raised him to be the ultimate Exterminator, but based his entire persona and philosophy on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Zardoz. Yes, I am dead serious.
There's also a bunch of stuff about a race of immortal beings called Eternals, and an artificial intelligence program that presides over them, but the movie gets so wrapped up in its own metaphors for the evils of humanity that it's hard to follow the plot.
It all ultimately ends with Frayn dead, the Eternals' society destroyed, and the Earth "returned" to the Brutals. We're then treated to a montage of Zed and Consuella (one of the surviving Eternals) having a child, who grows into a man and leaves them, while they grow old and die.
The movie was ultimately both a box office and critical failure, though it does have its fans. Roger Ebert referred to it as a "genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators." It's also gone on to be something of a cult favorite, even receiving a blu-ray release in 2015.
It's weird, cheesy, and overly complicated (as a lot of sci-fi at the time was), but it makes for an enjoyable watch if you want to check out some weird 70s-era filmmaking. Check it out!
What do you think?