The game takes place in the year 2455 and opens with a very poorly rendered character practicing his swordsmanship by chopping stuff with a big ass sword. I say stuff because the game looks so ugly we couldn’t really tell if it was supposed to be anything other then pieces of wood. After your magic sword disappears into its scabbard some creepy old guy knocks on your door and tells you the story of the Daikatana. Apparently the Daikatana is some kind of ultimate mystical sword which allows you to travel through time. The main villain of the story, Kage Mishima, has stolen the Daikatana and traveled back in time to stop a disease from being cured causing a global pandemic in the current year the story takes place. After 8 minutes of choppy animation and pointless text we said screw it and hit the start button to get to the game. Now maybe we missed creepy old dude telling us something important but we highly doubt that as everything he did say would prove useless while actually playing the game. The game bgins with you unarmed but fear not somebody has luckily left a gun within 5 feet of where you spawned. So you pick up the gun, which happens to be an ion cannon, and put it to use right away as their are 2 ceiling mounted turrets in the next hallway. The rest of the game is pretty much tedium defined go to a room shoot some turrets, or guards, or a big robot then find the lever, button, or thing you have to blow up to gain entry to the next room where you get to repeat the process all over again. After about an hour and a half of playing we started to hate ourselves for playing the game so shut it down. We happened to notice the game also had multi-player which is great because after you’re done hating yourself you can invite up to 3 friends over to play and they can hate you too.
The people responsible for this joke of a game was a company called Ion Storm who were led by John Romero. Now if you don’t know who that is he’s practically a video game god and is the co-creator, along with John Carmack, of the entire FPS (First Person Shooter) genre. Together they made games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake which are games any gamer would know. Anyways now Romero was on his own and decided to give us a new game that happened to include one of the most infamous marketing campaigns in all of gaming. The first advertisement for Daikatana actually made no mention of the game it was just text with the company’s logo and the text simply read “John Romero is about to make you his bitch.” Now anyone who has actually spent money on this game and played it probably did feel violated in some way, so in a sense the marketing did deliver as promised. So thank you Mr. Romero, you’ve gone from being a gaming god to a one note joke by leaving gamers everywhere feeling hollow, and confused after playing this travesty of a game.
We are introduced to Udo Kier’s rendition of Dracula during the opening credits, when we are forced to observe him covering up his cadaverous pallor with blush, lipstick and eyebrow pencils. He finishes up by painting his grey hair black as the camera pans around to his rear, to reveal that he isn’t casting any reflection in the mirror he’s sitting in front of.
We are then introduced to Dracula’s ridiculous and quite oily sidekick Anton as he pesters the Count about finding a victim soon. Apparently, the Count can only feed on the blood of a virgin (ostensibly female), and Anton’s big plan is for the Count to travel to Italy in search of a new victim. Anton’s feeble reasoning is that they will have an easy time finding virgins in Italy because the Catholic Church has its headquarters there. The fact that Italy is also top of the shop when it comes to European pornography never seems to illuminate Anton’s flimsy scheme.
We are also dipped hip-deep in the film’s Eurotrashiness almost immediately. The Count begins sniveling and whining about how much he dislikes traveling, and how much he would like to bring his stuffed animals along (I wish I was making this up). Anton sports an annoying (and quite fake) accent like Chekov’s from Star Trek. He can’t seem to pronounce the word ‘virgin’, instead saying ‘WERR-jinn’. He also tells the Count that the Italians will be impressed by his ‘typo’ (title). Why this would be a greater benefit in Italy than in Romania remains a mystery.
All of this discussion about typos, werr-jins and stuffed animals is conducted in the presence of Dracula’s sister, an unnamed and fairly attractive brunette. After convincing the Count to go to Italy to find a victim, they lead her into a coffin and seal it up. We never see her again, nor is it explained why they don’t take her along, or if she has to feed on virgins as well. The film disavows any knowledge of her. We suspect that it was the director’s sister who wanted a part in his latest film.
Anton and Dracula pile into a 1920’s style car in broad daylight, conveniently equipped with the Count’s coffin tied to the roof as well as a rickety old-style wheelchair (which looks like it may have belonged to the old woman from Beverly Hillbillies at one point). The Count also seems immune to the daylight, for reasons which are never explained.
Then we are subjected to some painful examples of poor filmwork — the camera follows the car along the road regardless of what obstacles obscure the camera’s viewpoint, so we get quite a few closeups of hills, trees and the sides of bridges.
One jump cut later, we see a scene with several young ladies tilling a garden. Their mother is keeping a watchful eye on them from a balcony, and saying her lines with such lack of emotion while staring blankly to the side of the shot that she could only have been reading them from a cue card.
Before they can get any amount of substantive work done in the garden, the ladies begin complaining about how hot it is out. Just like a Monty Python skit, they proceed to strip off their clothes and strut around, still not getting any work done. Some sharp words shouted from their mother ends the impromptu burlesque, but not before the gardener/butler/handyman of the house can lurch into the scene and sneer, “Cover yourselves up”.
Another jump cut. This time back to the Count and Anton rolling up to some kind of inn in their car (coffin and wheelchair also intact). They disembark and amble in.
After some silly conversation with a worthless old woman, they rent a room. Anton immediately begins to make some very indiscreet inquiries regarding the location of some available virgins, using the silly and quite tenuous cover story of a Romanian count who has lost his wife and is looking for another one, and it’s quite important for her to be a virgin because of the Count’s religious and family tradition. Why in Italy and not Romania? Well, the Count loved his wife a lot, and another Romanian bride would remind him of his late wife too much, hence a trip to Italy.
The locals seem to regard Anton’s strangeness as though it rolled through their little town twice a week, and send him to see a nobleman named Fiorre who has four daughters of marrying age.
Could these four young women be the ones we witnessed in the garden? You bet your sweet vomit bag they are! Of course, the Count can’t simply meet the girls…no, we must be tortured by their bizarre father (who is obsessed with names), be subjected to Anton’s seedy self as he procures some blood to tide the count over (he ‘accidentally’ drops a loaf of bread into the blood of a little girl who is hit by a car in the road – and brings it back to the room for the Count to slurp on), observe that the girls are hardly virgins while subjecting themselves to the butler’s abusive sexual ways, and bear witness to the Count’s goofy epileptic-like seizure brought on by a lack of blood (which seems to last several minutes).
Eventually, the Count is asked to stay at the Fiorre mansion, which has seen better days. As a matter of fact, the girls’ father is so tickled that the Count wants to marry one of his children because he thinks that the Count is rich – he envisions rebuilding his lost fortunes on the Count’s imagined wealth.
The plot then unfolds like a rotting banana peel sitting in the sun.
The Count, wheeling around in his wheelchair, meets each of the two oldest young ladies in turn. He interrogates them very indiscreetly about their virginity. They wobble about like geisha girls, nodding at his insistent questions, confirming their virginity. Then, the Count feebly attacks them.
He slurps at their necks for what seems like a short eternity, and after a few moments of sitting still with a sated smirk on his face, his face turns green (accomplished by shining a green light on the actor) and he vomits up their blood into the nearest toilet or bathtub. It seems as though he does his best to smear it all down his front as well. Yuck.
Having been attacked by a vampire turns the young women into obedient zombie-like people – which is how the audience feels by now.
The Count gets into a pleasant conversation with the eldest daughter, who seems to actually be a good match for the Count and they get along well. Of course, with a movie as nasty as this one, this can’t end up well.
Mister Fiorre has to take a business trip to London, and that’s when the human zoo of this film rears up.
The gardener/butler/Marxist revolutionary finally figures out that the Count is a vampire, and declares it as though he’s known it all along. The big confrontation (such as it is) is on!
The butler prepares himself for a battle with the undead, arming himself with improvised weaponry scrounged from the tool shed. Just as we thought that the film couldn’t get any nastier, he proceeds to quickly rape the youngest daughter (who is one of the only virgins left in the house), in order to protect her from the Count. It seems to be a case of the cure being worse than the disease.
The camera seems to take an inordinate interest in the trickle of virginal blood that’s left behind on the wood floor as the audience goes, “Ewwww”. You haven’t seen ‘Ew’ yet, my friends!
The mother manages to get her hands on a small revolver, and hovers around her recently raped child while completely ignoring her eldest…who, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, is still a virgin.
The Count is in bad shape, but manages to crawl into the room with the trickle of blood. He laps at it, feeling his strength (such as it is) returning. Now, you may say “Ewwww!”
Anton is still scurrying around, and runs into the mother. After a brief argument, Anton produces a stiletto and stabs Mom. He doesn’t get far, though: Staggering around, she manages to bring her pistol to bear and shoots him through the head as he tries to scamper away. We’re even treated to a goofy close up of Anton’s face, with eyes rolled back and a dripping hole in the center of his forehead.
The butler finally corners Dracula, who seems to have no supernatural powers whatsoever. He runs like a schoolgirl as the butler takes after him with an axe, scampering about like a beetle. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough…he is dismembered limb by limb, resembling the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
After leaving limbs strewn all over the castle, the Count finally flops down in the courtyard (the only fight he puts up is hissing with his fangs bared after loosing both arms). The eldest Fiorre daughter tries to stop the Butler, throwing herself on him and wailing about how he’s no longer a threat. The butler is unimpressed by her pleas, stabbing the count through the chest with the broken handle of the axe.
When she sees this, the girl comes completely unglued, and after a lot of screaming and bawling she dives on the jagged axe handle while it’s still jutting from the Count’s chest. She dies while lying on what remains of him. And who says that romance is dead?
Techno Police takes place in the futuristic year of 2001 where crime has gotten so out of hand that the cops now use robots instead of guns to fight crime. The movie opens as we meet our hero Ken, at least I think thats his name I can’t actually remember but this is a Japanese movie so I’m sure somebody is named Ken. Ken works as a member of the highway patrol but has just been transfered to the Techno Police in. Apparently Centinel City is the most crime ridden city in the world as one of Ken’s fellow officers lets him know that he’s known five other cops who were assigned to and he’s been to the funerals of four of them. Anyway we are forced to sit through a really long and annoying opening credit sequence as we watch Ken drive to along the way he meets a fellow Techno Police officer. As soon as they arrive in they help the Techno Police break up a bank robbery but the two culprits manage to escape. Now the 2 guys from the bank robbery have moved on to hijacking a super tank and the Techno Police eventually stop and arrest them. It turns out the reason it’s a super tank is that it has advanced Artificial Intelligence and the tank keeps going even after the hijackers are caught. The rest of the movie is just a long drawn out chase between the tank and the Techno Police who have to stop the tank because it will self destruct when it runs out of ammo and it just happens to be nuclear powered.
This movie wasn’t very difficult but for some reason we never seemed that motivated to work on it. It was originally intended for NDK 2005 but we dragged our feet on it and decided to just put it off for one year instead debuting it at NDK 2006. The thing that stands out the most about this movie is the dub track, as it sounds like it was dubbed by the same people who dubbed a whole bunch of kung fu movies from the late seventies. Once again we played to a standing room only crowd and I guess people have started to figure out who we are as several of them came up to us afterwards to thanks us or tell us what they thought. Anyways this also seemed to follow the tradition of us thinking about calling it quits with this project until we sat down and watched it with an audience and were re-energized by the audience reaction and appreciation. So I guess we’ll make another one.
When we showed this at Nan Desu Kan we weren’t sure what to expect. It was playing in a video room that sat 540 people. When the movie started to our surprise it was standing room only, unfortunately that number dropped to about 120 within the first ten minutes. There was an audio issue in the video room and that made it very hard to hear what was being said by us over the film. Either way the people who stayed laughed and seemed to really enjoy it. .
This was the first time we ever filmed a movie instead of performing it live and we learned many valuable lessons in the process. First don’t wait till the last minute to figure out all the equipment and cables you will need. This led to John driving to Radio Shack at warp speed ten minutes before it closed to buy $90 worth of cable and connectors. Second the guy at the music store is an idiot, the sales person assured us that the audio mixer could handle 3 microphones well he was wrong and and we had to chain two mixers together to use multiple mics. Third 2 microphones is not enough even with two mixers chained together we were still only able to use 2 mics. If you looks very closely you can see the three of us passing the microphone back and forth. Last never attempt to film at two in the morning both Roger and Murdock were extremely tired and it caused them to miss several lines. This also resulted in one of the most awkward moments as at one point you can see John reach over and point to Murdock’s script after he missed a couple of lines. The movie also features a 12 minute long chase scene which has maybe two lines of dialog throughout the whole scene. With no dialog to rif on many of us were left a little dumb struck as to what exactly say while the scene seemed to run on and on and on. Lensman would also be the last time John would perform in Mystery Anime Theater prefering to work behind the camera.
Johnny’s mission: To free a captive CIA agent who is being interrogated by Russian intelligence.
Johnny, dressed all in black, manages to sneak into the villa (OOPS! I mean, ‘Russian outpost’) in broad daylight past oodles of Russian soldiers by hunching his shoulders and pussyfooting like Elmer Fudd. All the while, we are repeatedly shown scenes of the CIA agent’s interrogation at the hands of a Spetznatz agent who looks like Lacroix from “Forever Knight”.
Johnny bursts into the room, spraying bullets from his submachine gun like water sprays from a fire hydrant — and the six or so guards standing on all sides of the CIA agent are dropped in a hail of gunfire. Miraculously, the hostage is unharmed.
Handing a pistol to the CIA agent, Johnny leads him out of the base, where at least twenty guards are waiting in the courtyard. Apparently, Johnny’s sneaking techniques don’t work once shots have been fired.
The apocalypse begins: Johnny slaughters every last Russian, with the help of the CIA agent (who shares Johnny’s ability to hit absolutely anything with his weapon, regardless of range or movement of the target). The Russians expedite their own deaths by actually leaving good cover to jog toward Johnny and get shot, rather than firing from behind cover. We’re even treated to alternated slow motion close-up shots of Johnny’s weapon spitting ejected shell casings and Russians dropping like dominoes – and we learn that the H&K MP5 fires from a closed bolt as these shots are repeated over and over.
After firing well over eighteen clips worth of ammunition, Johnny runs out of bullets just as more Russians begin making their way down a mountain pass toward the villa, or Russian base, or whatever it is, I can’t lie any more. He begins to radio a helicopter to pick them up after snatching up an AK-47. Johnny engages these new Russians, who line up single file along the path down the hill for his convenience. You’ll laugh out loud as the Russians gleefully hop over the bodies of their fallen comrades on the path to take the exact same position that their buddy did – just to get shot. Infantry tactics for films like this is hilarious.
Apparently, this new band of Russians poses a threat to the helicopter, and it is unable to rescue them. This is when Johnny’s magical abilities first manifest (see this film’s General Weirdness), when he says “I’ll handle this” and his AK-47 is transformed into a rocket launcher (I kid you not, a full length rocket launcher appears from nowhere! This guy is better than David Copperfield). He fires it several times without reloading (more magic), and all the Russians die. The helicopter appears, looking very much like a traffic helicopter, and the two board and fly to safety.
After some interlude scenes of Johnny frolicking in “Montana” (could be the Alps) with an unknown female companion, the real movie begins. A man from “The Government” appears at Johnny’s house to offer him a mission: Reclaim “Top Secret Documents” hidden in Afghanistan. Nope, Johnny’s retired.
But, it turns out that Johnny’s dad wants him to go, because nine years ago Johnny’s dad was trying to get the documents back to the U.S., and was intercepted by the Russians and had to stash them in a school bus. In a plot hole large enough to march the former Red Army through, he was able to hide the bus before having to vamoose. Documents, being as heavy and bulky as they are, obviously would have weighed him down too much to escape – so they had be left behind. I wish I were making this up.
After a poignant scene with his father (who is on his death bed), Johnny takes the job.
He goes to the “Headquarters in Pakistan” (maybe another little villa or bed and breakfast in Italy), where he meets the sorry lot of morons that will be his support staff on this mission: A pretty blonde CIA agent without whom this little band “couldn’t get a match through customs”, a four-eyed gunsmith who looks at weapons as though they were women, and a troll-like radio operator. This is also the time that our noses are rubbed in the radio operator’s odious eating habits as he feeds off of pears straight out of the can (very easy to come by in Pakistan).
After “The Briefing” which is basically a rehash of the whole pointless mess that passes for plot, Johnny loads his Huge Bag O’ Gunz the nerdy weapon smith’s only contribution to this travesty – aboard another traffic helicopter and away he goes.
Johnny bails out of the traffic helicopter because Russian Migs are quickly approaching. Once Johnny leaps out and the traffic helicopter heads for home, the Migs seem to loose interest in both the helicopter and Johnny, and fly away. Dressed like a stylish Italian tourist lugging a titanic kluge bag, Johnny begins to seek out and destroy the legions of Russian soldiers that dot the Afghanistan landscape (for reasons that are a mystery. Apparently, the Red Army placed outposts randomly along roads and camped hither and yon throughout Afghanistan without radios, armor or air support. As a result, Johnny easily annihilates them in a series of meaningless battles – they only outnumber him about two dozen to one at best. Any critical thinking skills you had would have been ruined by now anyway).
Johnny is somewhat lost, because his leap from the traffic helicopter was unexpected. However, he meets an Afghan boy (about twelve of thirteen years old) and his suspiciously light-skinned older sister, who offer him a rather bizarre proposal: If he will take them to the United States to live, they will not only guide him all around Afghanistan, but they will let him use their “spare horse”.
At this point my laughter reached a fevered pitch: An Italian man trying his best to pretend to be from the United States is promising to take an Arab boy and his Italian sister with him so that they can all be Americans. Does this make sense? Anyhow, the kid ends up being the coolest character, calling Johnny “boss” all the time.
Unfortunately, just as you thought it couldn’t get worse they are all captured by moujahadin guerillas, who beat the crap out of Johnny while interrogating him about what he knows about “Captain Johnson”. In a disaster of post-production editing, Johnny seems familiar with who Captain Johnson is (even though the audience has no idea)!
Meanwhile, the kid and his sister are allowed to wander around entertaining the guerillas, which predictably turns violent when one of the leering soldiers tried to remove the young lady’s veil. She begins hosing them with an AK-47, which gives her brother a chance to free Johnny. The girl gets gut shot before Johnny can start sowing grenades like seeds in the field, and lives only long enough to gasp at her brother to go with Johnny to the US.
It is at this point that one of the most disturbing aspects of this film becomes apparent to the audience: Hundreds of soldiers are slaughtered in a camp of perhaps two dozen men, because enemies emerge mysteriously from tents, buildings or just over the next hill ready to be butchered.
Anyhow, Johnny finds the moujahadin prison camp, a magical Narnia-like realm which holds Captain Johnson and his sidekick. The prison camp is a strange place. Decending a ladder into a cave, the visitor comes into a lush miniature world under the rebel camp. This is where the prisoners hang out. Apparently, this realm is so wonderful that no one wants to leave: There are no bars to keep anybody in!
These pair of losers really round out this party. They are strangely familiar with the documents that Johnny is seeking, because they know his father. By this time the coincidences are so thick and unlikely that this comes as no surprise.
These two direct Johnny and the little boy to the bus, which has apparently been “hidden” for the past nine years.
The bus that they were looking for ends up being a Blue Bird yellow school bus, like the kind you went to elementary school in. What’s more, it would be hidden only to the blind…it’s entire camouflage scheme consisting of a bunch of spare lumber being stacked up along all sides of the bus. The yellow peeking through the stacks of wood probably could be seen for miles.
It makes sense in an odd way, though. This motley band is able to scrounge for parts; a fresh battery, gobs of sheet metal and an arc welder from a nearby town that resembles a small village in Greece. I never thought that Afghanistan would be filled with such modern luxuries, but they apparently don’t need to salvage a school bus, so they must have as many motorized vehicles as they need.
The bus undergoes a complete metamorphosis, and is transformed from a stupid school bus into the War Bus (the film makers achieve this effect by using a completely different bus), a magical vehicle the likes of which has not been seen since K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider” so many years ago. Johnny searches the Bus for the documents, and finds an ammo box in the floor. Confident that this contains the stuff he’s looking for, he replaces it without checking. This is a ‘plot point’ (plot point?) that will return later in the film.
The War Bus “roars” into action (about the same way that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang “roared”), but the protagonists only have 5 gallons of gas, and that wont get them to the Italian (Pakistan) border. They must raid a Russian fuel depot to get the gasoline that they need.
Stopping a few hundred yards away, these four clowns plan their attack (the tattered critical thinking that I had left screamed “THEY’VE STOPPED WITHIN SIGHT OF THE BASE”, but I did not hear). Since time is of the essence, they plan to attack right away (a plan that could have been made on the road).
The War Bus crashes through the gates of the miserable little depot, guns blazing. Completely unprepared for the assault (even though the War Bus stopped easily within sight of them) Russian soldiers die, and die, and die. They use the same dubious infantry tactics as before, except a few decide to take cover behind big stacks of oil cans (with predictable results).
They also trickle out of tents and buildings rather than fire out of windows (it reminds one of the monster generators in Gauntlet. However, the stupid protagonists never catch on that they could end the stream of Russians by lobbing a grenade in that tent over there).
The entirety of the gasoline in this depot is stored in a two-and-a-half ton small fuel truck (by some miracle, it does not catch a stray bullet and explode). Instead of pulling the bus alongside the truck and running the hose from the truck to the War Bus, they stop a few yards away to fill up small gas cans and run them over to the Bus. This, of course, exposes them to enemy fire, and each protagonists gets hit at least once. They show that they are injured by staggering and yelling the obligatory “I’m hit!”, but it doesn’t stop them from hurrying the gas cans along. They are also quick healers: by the next scene, they’re all fine. The little kid even takes a RPG blast to the face and is knocked ass-over-teakettle in the War Bus, but after some moaning and rolling around he gets up and dusts himself off.
Needless to say, everybody gets away just fine (occasionally wincing and moaning to prove that they’re still injured, but they’re awfully spry for taking 7.62mm Soviet slugs). Johnny gets around to looking at the documents that are stored in the Bus, and finds that the ammo box doesn’t have documents but gold bars instead!
Everybody suddenly begins acting like they’ve got the Treasure of Sierra Madre, even though the little box could only hold about four gold bars. Captain Johnson and his sidekick hold Johnny and the kid at gunpoint, spewing about how they’ve searched for that gold for nine years. Apparently, they knew Johnny’s dad had hidden the gold, but got captured by the moujahadin before they could get it. Go figure.
Anyhow, they make Johnny drive to the Greece/Italy border (or the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, whichever you prefer), and kick Johnny and the kid out of the Bus just in time for more Russians to appear over the hill (they are unaccompanied by vehicles, so one is forced to wonder how they got there).
Gunfire ensues, and even though the War Bus is completely immune to damage, Captain Johnson drives it into a ditch anyway. This proves too much for the War Bus, and it explodes.
Johnny and the kid are rescued from Russian gunfire by the blonde CIA agent and her boss riding in a jeep. A horse, also immune to gunfire, begins running behind the jeep as they make their getaway. Everyone laughs as the kid explains that it’s his horse, and that she never goes anywhere without him.
The boss of the operation apologies to Johnny, saying that he was sorry for not telling Johnny about the gold and for setting him up. The film ends with Johnny shrugging and saying, “I don’t really mind.”
I heard sobbing…it was several hours later that I realized that the sobbing was mine.
He reveals to us how much his “obsession with his work” has cost him (a couple of fellowships, two associate professorships and a few friendships…sniffle sniffle, boo hoo). With the Bill Clinton protruding lower lip, he looks skyward while declaring that he doesn’t really care.
At the end of his strange discourse, he tells us that the result of his research is something that nobody wants to hear. That unless we hear his message, we may be wiped off the face of the Earth without knowing how or why. I wish I was making it up! The opening credits (along with the opening monologue) would have us believe that Dr. Hellstrom is a real person, because it is “produced in association with Dr. Nils Hellstrom, M.S. PhD”. However, Dr. Hellstrom is a fictional character played by an actor, which we learn during the ending credits. I felt used.
Then Dr. Hellstrom goes about his loony task of convincing the audience that insects are not only better equipped to survive on Earth, but that they will wipe humanity out some time in the future.
To convince us of this, we’re shown footage of insects eating each other, with occasional voice-overs by Dr. Hellstrom. During these narrations, Dr. Hellstrom implies that evolution is a voluntary act – one that insects are winning because they have a “three hundred million year head start on Man”.
Dr. Hellstrom becomes more and more like a stereotypical mad scientist as the film progresses, indulging in very un-scientific soliloquy and rhetoric in an unsuccessful attempt to whip us into a fear-frenzy (all with the obligatory environmental message).
He interviews an unnamed farmer (with a silly ‘southern hick’ accent) who tells us about how many barrels more of DDT he has to use every year just to keep his crops pest-free. “This year” (which year?) he finally managed to kill all of the pests, but his crops are so poisoned that he has to burn them all (the amounts of poisons that he describes putting on his plants, it’s a wonder that he has any crops to burn). This is supposed to prove that we are destroying this planet of ours, and how the insects are adapting to our pesticides. Dr. Hellstrom states that only two species on the planet Earth are experiencing a population growth, while “virtually every other species is on the decline”. Of course, these turn out to be Insects and Humanity. Attribution for these findings? Forget it! Dammit, Jim, I’m an entomologist, not a journalist!
He goes to a radiation lab in Nevada, where he reveals to the audience that insects survive radiation a lot better than mammals do, in a “surprising tour-de-force” (his words, not mine). Hilarity ensues as Dr. Hellstrom almost begins to foam at the mouth!
Dr. Hellstrom does his own Candid Camera thing, where he hides insects in people’s salads, in the produce section at the supermarket and in their ground round at the butcher’s shop, and films their startled reactions. It’s a good thing that Dr. Hellstrom is an actor: His current and future grants would be in serious jeopardy if anyone found out that this was how he was spending the money!
Soaring off the deep end, Dr. Hellstrom holds a squirming red-eyed laboratory mouse to the camera, declaring that “in a few seconds, this mouse will be dead”. He produces a class cage containing a wasp…He captures the wasp in a pair of tweezers (the film suspiciously never reveals the species of the wasp), and presses the enraged insect to the backside of the mouse. The mouse squeaks, slumps into a heap and stops moving. That’s Entertainment!
The film ends with Dr. Hellstrom announcing that he has saved the most shocking footage for last. Then we are treated to a film of army ants swarming over a variety of larger animals and killing them for food. It also shows them building little fortresses to camp out in, using each others’ bodies for bridges, and dragging their queen along with them at such a furious pace that her legs are worn to stumps.
However, this isn’t the end of the film. Next, the odd little lives of mayflies are explained to us. Apparently, they live only for one evening: They hatch, fly around in a big cloud, mate, lay eggs and die. Next year, their offspring live for a single evening doing the same things. Sounds like some people that I know.
All throughout this film, Dr. Hellstrom draws inappropriate parallels between human and insect behavior. These screen shots are from a memorable scene where Dr. Hellstrom declares that ants fight wars, just like people.
The microphotography is gorgeous, but they use it to show us ants chewing each other’s heads and legs off over a dead bee. Check out these pictures:
Anyhow, before we can sort out Arthur’s foppish and self-contradictory tirade, we’re made witness to the god Zardoz (represented by a giant floating stone head) declaring a variety of bizarre things to a gathered throng of half-naked barbarians waving guns in the air. He announces that “The penis is evil” because it “shoots seeds of new life, that poison the Earth with a plague of men”. Also, “The gun is good” because it “shoots death and purifies the Earth”. The barbarians really love this, and we’re treated to a close-up of a barbarian stabbing some POW while everybody is screaming “Praise be to Zardoz!” (You can only see this in the wide-screen version – in the regular version, the aspect ratio chops off the execution and all we see is a flashing knife and the guy screaming).
Zardoz refers to people called “The Brutals”, whom he charges his followers to slaughter. For this reason, Zardoz gave them “the gift of the gun”. Then a colossal gout of firearms of all kinds start pouring from the stone head’s mouth, and the barbarians go ape-shit (some of the rifles slam into the camera, shaking it around). If these guys aren’t the Brutals, it makes one wonder who the heck the Brutals are. Forget about any kind of direct explanation as the camera pans over the barbarians firing their weapons into the air, and we see Sean Connery (as Zed) among them. He points his revolver at the camera and fires, for reasons that I can’t quite figure out.
The beginning credits roll and the stone head is slowly flying through the clouds. Inside the head, Zed emerges from a pile of grain, an apparent stowaway. He is surrounded by piles of grains and other foods, and some naked people encased in giant plastic bags. Like many things in this film, you wont help yourself any by waiting for an explanation about the naked people in the plastic. I’ve trained myself to let such things pass without noticing them.
Suddenly, he sees Arthur Frayn wandering around, examining the food. Zed sneaks up behind Arthur and blows him away. OOPS! Of course, any sympathy we may have had for Arthur quickly drains, because this clown can’t simply drop dead. Nope, he has to moan, “You fool…I could have shown you!” while slowly flying out of the stone head like Peter Pan.
The head lands in a place called “Vortex Four”, a place of apparent high technology. We know this because Zed finds a ring that can talk to him, and several of the trees are encased in plastic. After wandering around unsupervised for a while, Zed is apprehended by a petite woman with freckles (who we later know as Mae). She quickly subdues Zed with some kind of telekinetic mind blast.
This begins the ‘plot’ of Zardoz:
See, the people of Vortex Four are elite intellectuals, who have Scanner-like mind powers and a super-duper computer that they call “The Tabernacle” (they’re called the Eternals, because the Tabernacle is able to re-grow people after they die, so nobody dies permanently at the Vortex). The talking ring that Zed found was an interface to the computer. Wow. They have locked themselves away from all the regular scum after a big catastrophe or nuclear war or something. Now the Vortexes are wonderful paradises, and the rest of the world sucks (this is partially because a giant stone head distributes firearms to lunatics and urges them to execute people because they have genitalia).The Eternals see Zed as an animal. They keep him in a cage, they hook him up to machines and probe his memory, they refer to him in the neuter third person in his presence (“Oh my, its memory here is very clear” or “Let’s look at more of its memories”).
The two scientific leaders of the vortex have differing opinions about what should happen to him – Conswella thinks that they should put Zed to sleep, because he has a “disruptive influence on the community”. This is a big deal, apparently. Mae, the freckled lady who found him, wants to give him all sorts of medical and psychological testing.
One of the problems with Vortex life is boredom. People get so bored that they just stand in place and don’t do anything. The food that Zardoz was having the barbarians gather is to feed these people who don’t want to feed themselves. Why not just let them die, you ask? After all, the Tabernacle will just rebuild them. Don’t hold your breath waiting to find out, the film doesn’t bother. The Eternals simply “can’t support them anymore”, so they have the barbarians make the food. One of the funny scenes in the film is when Zed finds a girl that he likes and tries to jump her bones. She doesn’t do a single thing in response to his groping (just standing with a blank look on her face), and in disgust he tosses her like a medicine ball.
The other problem (probably leading to the whole boredom thing) is that Eternal males aren’t able to get erections. I wish that I was making this up. One of the funnier parts of the film is when Conswella is testing Zed on how he gets an erection. Speaking in front of an assembled gathering, Conswella shows Zed pictures of women kneading their breasts and mud wrestling (I wish I was making this up, too). This does nothing for Zed, and instead he gets a chubby while peering at Conswella as her colleagues laugh at her.
The most lucid point during the film is when Mae makes a deal with Zed: Show her his full memory (because he can somehow block the more incriminating aspects), and she will help him with the Tabernacle. He shows her why he ended up stowing away in the stone head – he finds books in an abandoned building, having been lead there by a masked weirdo (who ends up being Arthur Frayn). Zed learns to read, and finds the book “The Wizard of Oz”. WiZARD of OZ, ZARDOZ. Get it?
Zed gets pissed and tells his friends that Zardoz is a crock, and they hatch a scheme to get him into the Vortex to kick ass. So, that’s how everything is set into motion.
From there, the film goes downhill very quickly. Conswella finds Zed and Mae together. Conswella nukes Zed with a couple of mind blasts, which renders him blind. Conswella runs off, yelling about how “we must become hunters and killers ourselves”. Zed is cured by an unknown Eternal, who makes him promise to kill her when the time comes. Then the film takes an LSD trip straight to hell. Continuing to describe it in chronological order would be pointless.
Anyway, Zed destroys the Tabernacle, thereby restoring mortality to the Eternals and dropping the shield around the Vortex. This lets Zed’s barbarian buddies in, and the barbarians shoot everybody (while the Eternals beg for death, not putting up any resistance). The film ends with Zed and Conswella running off together, and Conswella has Zed’s son. They grow old and die.
(For some real pain, watch the beginning monologue again right away after seeing the film.)
Of all the movies we’ve done we rate this as the hardest because it was so hard to come up with lines and a lot of it seems forced. During one writing session we checked the time code and realized that after 2 hours we had only watched 10 minutes of the movie because we were struggling so hard coming up with stuff to say. Once again this was originally performed live and this time we managed to get 2 microphones. About 20 minutes into the live performance the sound actually dropped out and we were forced to actually pause the movie and check the A/V connections. The rest of the show went off without a hitch but when it was over one person who sat through the whole thing actually complained that he wanted to see the movie without our added commentary. As someone who has watched the film multiple times it’s not something I recommend.