Zardoz is part of that period where Sean Connery just seemed to be doing stuff, but no-one was interested, because they’d rather he was just doing another James Bond movie. That period didn’t come to an end until The Untouchables. So there are two distinct phases of Sean Connery. Phase One where he was Bond and young-looking. Phase Two is where he’s suddenly old with a grey beard, and playing Indiana Jones’s dad.
In-between the two phases was a phase which I won’t give a number to, because I’m not even sure it was real. Did it really exist? For a time, it’s like an alternate version of Connery wandered in from another universe, and took over acting duties, whilst our version of Connery whiled away the lazy days practicing his golf swing.
The benefits of a waning career is that perhaps you can make any old shite, and get away with it. What have you got to lose? Apart from your dignity. And Connery’s dignity gets well trampled here, as for most of Zardoz he has to run around bare-chested in nothing but a red nappy. At this point of his movie stardom, time has not been kind to his hairy man tits, which bob up and down energetically in the cool breeze of the Irish countryside (not far from the director, John Boorman’s house).
It's a mad, mad movie
But y’know what? Even if he’s out of shape, it doesn’t matter. Because he’s Sean fucking Connery. There’s probably more movie star charisma in his moustache alone than in the entire body of some modern Hollywood actors. And by Christ, does he need to call on every drop of that charisma to stand a chance of making it through Zardoz.
Because it’s a mad, mad movie.
Set in the year 2293, after the world has fallen foul of the usual apocalypse, Earth is split among the Brutals and the Eternals. The Brutals are pretty much like me and you, except they don’t have access to deodorant and washing powder. But there are other Brutals too, called Exterminators. Their job is to kill anything that isn’t them.
They’re provided with weapons by a massive, flying stone head called Zardoz who periodically drops in to give a sermon about how “the gun is good” and “the penis is evil”. Zardoz is under the control of the Eternals, who live in a hippy commune paradise called the Vortex. One day, an Exterminator called Zed (Connery) decides to secretly hitch a ride on the stone head back into the Vortex.
His mission at this point isn’t clear. The impression I got was that it was one of simple curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to climb into the mouth of a giant, flying stone head and see where it goes?
Connery gets a boner
Zardoz was directed by John Boorman straight after Deliverance, and it couldn’t be more different to that film. It’s a tale of false gods, topless women, red nappies, strange bread, artificial intelligence, level 2 meditation, beards drawn on with marker pens, and everyone standing around giggling when Connery gets a boner. Because, y’know, the penis is evil.
It’s a film that pulls me in two different directions. One side of me loves all the bonkers ideas that it contains. The other side of me is less appreciative of just how cheesy it is, of the way it seems to have dated quite badly in a lot of places. Today, someone else might look at the film with fresh eyes and dismiss it because of that. Something it doesn’t deserve.
It’s here that I think, “Would Zardoz benefit from a remake?” But it’s a thought that gets quickly dismissed. It’s absolutely the product of a director operating in a particular time and place, with a particular type of energy that should it be replicated, would lack the soul that makes Zardoz unique.