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"The gun is good. The penis is evil."
It is the year 2293 AD. A post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the "Brutals", simple soil-tilling serf types, who are in turn overseen by Exterminators. These Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head that dispenses weaponry and ammunition by the truckload.
Zardoz is neither a mindless sci-fi action movie nor a serious SF-as-ideas film a la Tarkovsky or Kubrick. It's... hard to describe, on account of the fact that it really doesn't make a lot of sense. Still, some sort of plot description might help. One day, an Exterminator named Zed gets swept up into the hollow stone head and finds himself under possession of the Eternals, an elite class who long ago discovered the secret to immortality and removed themselves from all that penis-having to the rarified heights.
Life has become so meaningless that Zed is hailed as manna from heaven. Some, however, see him as a dangerous threat to their status as higher beings As it turns out, a lot of the Eternal scientists are female. They argue all this for awhile. Then others start clamouring for Zed to kill them and end this awful tedium.
Fun fact: Boorman wanted to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but that fell through. It's that project which inspired Zardoz. It's a trippy dystopian fantasy full of psychotropics, philosophical something-or-another, and lots of gratuitous female nudity. It's definitely a Cult Classic, and frequently considered more 70's than That 70's Show.
Zardoz has examples of:
- Actor Allusion: In his first appearance onscreen, Sean Connery aims his gun at the camera and shoots it.
- Age Cut: The final shot takes it further than most, aging Zed and Consuella and their newborn son repeatedly until the adult son walks off and the parents remain until they're nothing but skeletons.
- After the End: Apparently this takes place after a Nuclear War.
- Babies Ever After: Both Zed and Consuella ended up having a son.
- Blessed with Suck: The Eternals' immortality. At first that seemed a like a good idea until boredom set in and with no way to end it.
- Body Horror: The immortals punish the criminal by speed-aging the offender. The more you resist, the closer you get to endless senility...
- The Cameo: Boorman appears as one of the Brutals that gets shot in the head.
- Cargo Cult
- The Chessmaster: Arthur Frayn. Turns out he′s responsible for creating Zed as well as ensuring that he′d betray him and to enter the Vortex.
- Crapsack World: The world outside the Vortex, especially for the Brutals who are being constantly hunted down by the Exterminators. However, even the Eternals are unhappy after living for centuries in the Vortex.
- Cross Dresser: The Renagades need to get Zed away from rioting Eternals that want to kill him....so they dress him up in a wedding dress.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: Subverted, in that the film presents this as a Dystopia, too.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The Tabernacle′s last words upon its destruction.
You have destroyed us. You found the flaw in the crystal. We are gone. You are alone.
- Domed Hometown: The Vortex, natch.
- Dude, She's Like, Apathetic!: At one point in the movie, Zed rapes an Apathetic woman.
- Dystopia: The rest of the world is pretty crappy. While the Vortex is intended to be an Utopia, it wound up becoming this.
- Fan Service: In that very special 70's but-nudity-is-just-natural sort of way.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Because no Eternal can die, the only available punishment is aging the offender into senility.
- Gun Porn: As noted, Zardoz is very big on this, to the extent that his version of 'showering blessings' involves automatic rifles.
- Hall of Mirrors: The Tabernacle, which is described as some kind of computer that provides the Eternals with their immortality mechanism.
- Jerkass: Friend...before turning into a Jerkass Woobie.
- Kill'Em All: No sooner do the Eternals get their immortality mechanism destroyed than they mostly get slaughtered by a bunch of Exterminators. They couldn't be happier.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The gun is good.
- Low Culture, High Tech: The barbarian class.
- Mind Rape: This happens to Zed.
- Mind Screw: The whole movie, from beginning to end.
- Mishmash Museum: The Tabernacle.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The reason why the Exterminators turned on Zardoz/Frayn was because he forced them to grow wheat, something that angered them because, according to Zed, they were "hunters, not farmers".
- Planet of Hats
- Playing Against Type: Connery did the film purely to get people to stop thinking of him as just James Bond. And boy, did it work.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Throughout the movie, Zed is equipped with a Webley revolver as his weapon.
- Ring of Power: All the Eternals have them.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: In the opening scene. Also featured in the trailer of the movie.
- Scenery Porn: The rolling Irish hills sure are gorgeous.
- Science Fiction: A very broad use of it anyway.
- The Seventies. Very much so.
- Sex Is Evil:
Zardoz: 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.
- Shout-Out: A salute to The Wizard of Oz becomes a pretty major plot point.
- Slap Slap Kiss: More or less the film's entire attitude to romance.
- Straw Feminist: The future women (and possibly men) who speak constantly about how horrible and violent sex was, but at the same time, obviously want to get into Connery's pants.
- Stripperiffic: What else would you call him?
- Technology Marches On: The immortals are said to have been in this state for 300 years, and the year is 2293, which means they started in 1993...
- This Is Your Premise on Drugs: No, really. John Boorman WAS on drugs when he made this.
- Trickster: Arthur Frayn.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Arthur Frayn.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Zed and the Exterminators. Which is exactly what Frayn wanted since had been engineering things from behind the scenes to ensure that they would "betray" him so that they can get inside the Vortex, destroy the Tabernacle, and kill the Eternals.
- Twist Ending: Zardoz is... The WiZard of Oz.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Even though the movie's set in a Post Apocalyptic future, its 70s influence shows.
- Watch It Stoned: Boorman admits he used drugs during filming.
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: It WAS.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Eternals long ago succumbed to ennui.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The scene where Zed reveals how he learned Zardoz was actually The WiZard of Oz makes you think the movie's wrapping up when, in fact, there's still almost an hour to go.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Grade B Male Example. Yuck.