Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling star in this cult sci-fi parable. In 2293 AD Earth is a wasteland with masses of savage Brutals ruled by Exterminators such as Zed (Connery) who is commanded by the mysterious god Zardoz.
There are three classes on Earth: the Brutals, the Exterminators, and the Eternals. The latter are immortal, remote intellectuals who are very bored and their technology is running wild. They live apart in various civilized "Vortices". Brutals live in a primitive wasteland. The only contact between the two groups are the Exterminators who harass and kill the Brutals at the command of a huge flying stone head of the god Zardoz.
Zardoz (Niall Buggy) explains as the film starts: "I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived 300 years, and long to die. But death is no longer possible, I am immortal. I present now my story - full of mystery and intrigue. Rich in irony, and most satirical. It is set deep within a possible future, so none of these events have yet occurred. But they may! Be warned, lest you end as I. In this tale I am a fake god by occupation, and a magician by inclination. Merlin is my hero! I am the puppet master. I manipulate many of the characters and events you will see. But I am invented too for your entertainment and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in showbusiness too?" Later Zardoz proclaims: "The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the gun shoots death, and purifies the earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth...and kill!"
Zed: "I want the truth."
May: "You must give the truth, if you wish to receive it."
Zed: "I'm ready."
May: "It'll burn you!"
Zed: "Then burn me"
Zed rides around in the Zardoz head, but most of the time runs around in red diapers. He penetrates a Vortex, is captured, studied, and put to work as a laborer. Eventually Zed learns the nature of the Vortex and destroys the Tabernacle that provides immortality. The Vortex is invaded by other Exterminators who kill most of the Eternals. A few escape and educate the Brutals about civilization. Zed and Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) have a child, grow old, then die with Beethoven's 7th Symphony playing in the background.
This pretentiously intellectual film has a muddled plot and is difficult to fathom, even after repeated viewings. For example, it took me about 20 years and many viewings to discover that "Zardoz" is a corruption of "Wizard of Oz".
ZARDOZ is a visual treat, wonderfully fatuous, with some sex and violence. Critics don't like it much and call it a "trash pile" and a "pompous, boring fantasy for the so-called intelligentsia". I like it because it's sci-fi, Connery is very good, and the plot is so incomprehensible that I can watch it over and over again. Yes, I enjoy incoherent, puzzling movies such as DUNE.
Due to budget constraints, most of the Brutals had their feet painted red instead of wearing red boots. You don't notice. This reminds me of the "making of" LORD OF THE RINGS where I learned the Hobbits spent an hour each day having their feet done by make-up artists. I never noticed their feet in the movies.
Others in the cast include: Sara Kestelman (May), Sally Anne Newton (Avalow), Bosco Hogan (George Saden), Jessica Swift (Apathetic), Bairbre Dowling, Christopher Casson, Reginald Jarman, Daisy Boorman, Katrine Boorman, Telsche Boorman, and many others. Original music is by David Munrow. John Boorman wrote the script, produced and directed the film
Burt Reynolds turned down the part of Zed due to illness. Director John Boorman said Connery found it incredibly difficult to find work after he abandoned the 007 movies for the second time after DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971). Boorman was able to hire Connery very cheaply for the role.