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Zardoz (1974)
Director: John Boorman

review by Gary Couzens

It's the year 2293. Zed (Sean Connery) is an exterminator, whose role it is to cull the population of brutals, primitive humans. He and the other exterminators receive orders from their god, Zardoz. This is a flying stone head, which makes pronouncements like "The gun is good, the penis is evil" and provides the exterminators with all the ammunition they need. One day, Zed stows away inside Zardoz and finds himself inside the Vortex, in the land of the eternals. The eternals are immortal, so reproduction is no longer required. As a result, women dominate and men are impotent, and the eternals' culture has settled into a lazy, bored decadence. May (Sara Kestleman), a scientist, wants to keep Zed for testing, and soon finds herself attracted to him - much to the disgust of Consuella (Charlotte Rampling), who wants to have Zed killed...
   Made on a very low budget on attractive locations (mostly around Boorman's home in County Wicklow), Zardoz doesn't always make a lot of sense. This isn't helped by a story construction that withholds vital information for about half the running time, and a frequently obscure second half. It's certainly not as profound as it thinks it is, portentous dialogue and allusions to Nietzche and T.S. Eliot notwithstanding, and The Wizard Of Oz... hence the title. But what it has in its favour is Boorman's visual flair (helped by Geoffrey Unsworth's scope camerawork) and willingness to take risks. When it doesn't work, which is often, it falls flat on its face. But you do have to admire Boorman's nerve, and you can't help liking the end result.
   Zardoz flopped badly on its original release, but has since picked up a considerable cult following. Perhaps in recognition of this, Fox have put together an excellent DVD (encoded for both Regions 2 and 4). The disc has an anamorphic picture in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with the soundtrack remixed from mono to Dolby digital 3.0 with extras: director's commentary, a very psychedelic trailer, a stills gallery, four radio spots.
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