As soon as the film starts, even before the main credits, you know you’re in for Deep Hurting. The disembodied head of a man who identifies himself as “Arthur Frayn” bobs around the screen, delivering a goofy soliloquy that is supposed to pass for an introduction to the film (but convinces the viewer that perhaps the writer had been under the influence when it was written). I don’t remember what I said when I first saw this, but I do believe it had ‘Jesus Christ Almighty’ in it (especially when Arthur’s head swings close enough for us to see that his goatee is painted on his face with grease paint).

Arthur Frayn’s Silly Introductory Monologue:Arhur FraynI am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived three hundred years, and I 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 in a possible future, so none of these vents 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 that you see. But I am invented, too, for your entertainment and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay? [chuckles] Is God in show business, too?

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).

The god Zardoz“I, Zardoz, give you the gift of the gun”

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:

The apocalypse -- Brought to you by Armani
This is a scene of the wretched, common people staring into the
Vortex. Apparently, people got all dressed up for the Apocalypse.

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 whole film is filled with bizarre (and, in our opinion, drug induced) scenes that don’t seem to add to any kind of story (and don’t make any kind of sense), especially during the middle and ending of the film. It is virtually impossible to completely catalog all of the absolutely strange things in this film. Here are some of the things that we spotted in the first dozen viewings or so. If you ever see Zardoz, prepare yourself for a whole heck of a lot more. You Have Been Warned!
Case One:
While Zed is escaping a mob of rampaging Eternals, a group of bored-to-motionless Eternals discover that Zed’s sweat can restore their lust for life. They begin moving around again, smiling as they pass the sweat by kissing each other.
Case Two:
Before destroying the Tabernacle, Mae and her followers apparently need to teach Zed all of their collective knowledge, for reasons that remain a mystery. They accomplish this by “Touch Teaching” him. Each follower, in turn, drags her nipples across Zed’s chest while a voice-over of each follower quotes scientific and philosophical principles. Strobe lights and mirrors abound. This goes on and on for what seems like three hours.
Dude looks like a ladyCase Three:
Some men in the Vortex have women’s hairdos. Isn’t it cool that, in the future, we will be liberated from such concepts as “men’s” and “women’s” hair styles.
Case Four:
Zed has just destroyed the Tabernacle, and the Eternals are rampaging through a museum of old statues, smashing them all with a variety of improvised weaponry (because smashing up old statues is the best way to find Zed the Brutal). A few of the Eternals are leaving the Vortex with Zed, but they’re all cornered by the mob. What is the hero going to do?! They outnumber him thousands to one! Zed confidently says to his companions: “Stay close to me, behind my aura!”Get Behind Me, Inside My Miraculous Editing!Suddenly, stock sound footage of wind blowing can be heard as Zed stretches out his hand, and the director obliges the protagonists’ escape by running the film of the hostile Eternals backwards, giving the Good Guys the time that they need to make their getaway. Isn’t filmmaking great when you’re the Good Guys?

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.

Burn all of our own buldings!
Rather than searching for Zed building-to-building in a traditional
manner, the Eternals decide to take the Los Angeles Rioter’s
approach to things and simply set fire to their own buildings
indiscriminately.

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.

The End.

(For some real pain, watch the beginning monologue again right away after seeing the film.)



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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 6th, 2008 at 2:47 pm and is filed under Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Comments so far


  1. Kathleen Bullock on May 29, 2010 12:59 am

    If only I had a dime for every time I came to http://www.vaguely-specific.com! Amazing article.

  2. Alison Ferris on May 31, 2010 2:02 pm

    Haha am I really the first comment to your amazing post!?

  3. Pan on October 22, 2010 7:48 pm

    What are you talking about, one of the best films ever.

    Never laughed so hard in my life.

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