• Zardoz



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: April 14th, 2015.
    Director: John Boorman
    Cast: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Directed by John Boorman, Zardoz is best known, particularly in cult and B-movie film circles, as the movie where Sean Connery runs around in a space speedo. And in all fairness, that’s definitely one of the film’s standout characteristics. After all, the sight of Connery clad in such ridiculous attire with a long ponytail hanging down his back is one that is hard to forget. However, to dismiss the movie as having nothing more to offer than that would be a huge disservice. Connery’s wardrobe is really only the tip of the strange cinematic iceberg that is Zardoz.

    The film is set on the Earth of the 23rd Century. Here we meet a man named Zed (Connery), a man who is referred to as an Exterminator and who, along with his cohorts, essentially keeps the local populace, referred to as Brutals, in check by terrorizing them. The Exterminators answer to no man but they do respect their giant stone god, a massive idol named Zardoz, a deity worshipped by the Exterminators with unquestionable faith.

    Zed starts to wonder though… is Zardoz really the god his fellow Exterminators really believe? He has his doubts and so he starts exploring the real story behind the stone god. He eventually learns that a race of higher beings referred to as The Eternals are actually using Zardoz exploit the rest of the planet’s population. When he uncovers this truth, Zed takes it upon himself to set things right and expose The Eternals and the truth behind their ploy. Before that can happen though, he’ll encounter Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) and May (Sara Kestelman), two female Eternals who have very different ideas in mind for what should be done with Zed.

    With the title itself being a play on The WiZARD of OZ, it makes sense that the core of the story here is about those ‘behind the curtain.’ How exactly Zed goes about exposing all of this we’ll leave out of this piece for fear of spoiling the many pleasures that this film offers first time viewers in particular, but it’s interesting to say the least. Boorman is hung up here on Tolkien/Lord Of The Rings inspired imagery, probably because he took this project on after failing to get his own adaptation of that work made, but even with some of that worn plainly on its sleeve Zardoz has its own thing going on in spades. After Zed uncovers what’s really going on, he’s essentially pulled into a vortex after which Boorman’s bizarre film gets even stranger as it is now that the film shifts gears from loopy sci-fi feature to an attempt to explore the worlds of philosophy and the roles of both religion and sex in society.

    It’s a heady and highbrow film in pretty much every way it can be. The script exploits an intense vocabulary and never once opts to talk down to its audience, making the film somewhat impenetrable if you’re not in the right frame of mind for it. Boorman, however, goes for it. How exactly he got this made is interesting in its own way (listen to his commentary) as the film has ‘box office suicide’ written all over it despite the presence of A-lister Connery. To be sure, Connery is a bit of a beast here. He’s about as macho as you can get and the movie plays to his strengths in that regard. His interactions with Sara Kestelman and more specifically with Charlotte Rampling are interesting and offer up some food for thought, all three do decent work given the complexities of the script.

    As muddy and, yes, even incomprehensible as the story might get, Zardoz is definitely a raging success when it comes to the visuals. There’s loads of strange style here and giggle as we may at Connery’s get up, the sets designed for the movie have a seriously cool look to them. An interesting mix of the primitive and the futuristic, the world where this story plays out is a misty, smoky dystopia that will keep your eyes bouncing back and forth from one striking set piece to the next. The movie also uses music interesting ways, and the score highlighted by some great Beethoven pieces, is very effective.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Zardoz arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in a pretty impressive AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. You’ve got to keep in mind that the movie was shot to look misty and hazy so things do look a bit soft for this reason but if you’ve seen the previous DVD release you’ll immediately notice a substantial upgrade in terms of detail and texture. Yes, that haze is still there, as it should be but you’ll definitely get a lot more out of the film’s barrage of strange visuals thanks to the increased resolution and clarity. Colors are also nicely reproduced here and black levels quite strong. Skin tones look good if just ever so slightly pink, there are no instances of any noise reduction or edge enhancement and there’s a nice, natural amount of film grain visible but no serious print damage to complain about outside of the odd speck here and there. This is a solid transfer of a genuinely bizarre looking film.

    Audio chores are handled nicely by an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix with optional subtitles provided in English only. The surrounds don’t get a ton of use in this mix but there’s some nice channel separation up in the front of the mix. Dialogue is clean, crisp and clear throughout and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The score sounds quite good here too, as do the sound effects. Levels are well balanced and there’s a fair bit of depth and range here even if it isn’t a super aggressive surround track.

    The extras on this disc begin with an interesting audio commentary courtesy of director John Boorman, carried over from the previous release, there are some stretches where he clams up and goes quiet but for the most part this is quite an interesting talk. He explains here what he was going for thematically and also talks about the different shooting locations employed for the production. He’s also keen on talking about the different contributions of the cast and crew he worked with on the film and about the effects work and set/costume design that has gone on to make the movie as infamous as it now is.

    Exclusive to this Twilight Time release is a new audio commentary with film historians Jeff Bond, Joe Fordham and Nick Redman. Where Boorman’s track offers up a nice history of the movie, this one is more analytical and it goes into quite a bit of detail in attempting to both explain and explore the world that the film offers up to viewers. It’s a well-paced track ripe with keen insight as the guys do a good job of pointing out odd details that might escape you the first time around and then in explaining their significance. They also offer up a mix of trivia and historical facts regarding the film as well, but it’s the critical side of this talk that makes it as interesting as it is.

    Outside of that, the disc includes six different radio spots for the film, the movie’s original theatrical trailer, the film’s isolated score (presented in DTS-HD 2.0), static menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a color booklet containing liner notes from Julie Kirgo that offer some interesting historical and critical analysis of the film and that shed some interesting light on the themes that pop up in the movie and Boorman’s effectiveness at exploiting them. A good read, as always.

    The Final Word:

    Zardoz is a film like no other – whether you see it as a fabulous disaster or a misunderstood work of genius there’s no denying its fierce originality and it remains a pretty fascinating movie. Twilight Time offer up the movie with an excellent high definition presentation and some extras highlighted by two separate but equally valuable commentary tracks.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!