Zardoz (1974)

R | 102 or 104-105 mins | Science fiction | 6 February 1974

Director:

John Boorman

Writer:

John Boorman

Producer:

John Boorman

Cinematographer:

Geoffrey Unsworth

Editor:

John Merritt

Production Designer:

Anthony Pratt

Production Company:

John Boorman Productions Limited
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HISTORY

       According to various contemporary sources, including the film’s 18 Feb 1974 review in Box, the title Zardoz, was inspired by a contraction of the novel and film title The Wizard of Oz, and the picture’s ending sequence was “borrowed” from the 1927 Buster Keaton silent College (see entry).
       In an 11 Jan 1974 LAT article, critic Charles Champlin stated that writer-director-producer John Boorman was inspired to write Zardoz while working on a screen adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1954 novel The Lord of the Rings in 1973 after finishing production on his Academy Award nominated film Deliverance (1972, see entry). According to Champlin, Boorman had been hired by United Artists Corporation to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but when the studio was “scared off” by the cost of the production, Boorman continued to be haunted by “the idea of inventing a strange new world.” Additionally, Boorman was concerned with the “technical problems” of Deliverance, as well as those posed by creating a film version of The Lord of the Rings, and sought to portray “man’s ambiguous relationship with nature” cinematically. Boorman stated in the article that he wanted to use film as a medium “to communicate on other levels than observed narrative flow” at “a twilight level of the dream and the unconscious,” and Champlin noted that Zardoz provided a “technically ingenious and provocative” manifestation of cinematic language.
       While an 11 Apr 1973 Var news item announced that actress Charlotte Rampling had been hired to co-star in ... More Less

       According to various contemporary sources, including the film’s 18 Feb 1974 review in Box, the title Zardoz, was inspired by a contraction of the novel and film title The Wizard of Oz, and the picture’s ending sequence was “borrowed” from the 1927 Buster Keaton silent College (see entry).
       In an 11 Jan 1974 LAT article, critic Charles Champlin stated that writer-director-producer John Boorman was inspired to write Zardoz while working on a screen adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1954 novel The Lord of the Rings in 1973 after finishing production on his Academy Award nominated film Deliverance (1972, see entry). According to Champlin, Boorman had been hired by United Artists Corporation to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but when the studio was “scared off” by the cost of the production, Boorman continued to be haunted by “the idea of inventing a strange new world.” Additionally, Boorman was concerned with the “technical problems” of Deliverance, as well as those posed by creating a film version of The Lord of the Rings, and sought to portray “man’s ambiguous relationship with nature” cinematically. Boorman stated in the article that he wanted to use film as a medium “to communicate on other levels than observed narrative flow” at “a twilight level of the dream and the unconscious,” and Champlin noted that Zardoz provided a “technically ingenious and provocative” manifestation of cinematic language.
       While an 11 Apr 1973 Var news item announced that actress Charlotte Rampling had been hired to co-star in the picture with Burt Reynolds, an 8 May 1973 report in DV announced that Reynolds was "felled by overwork" and Sean Connery was cast in his place.
       A 22 Mar 1974 edition of Swing reported that the film was made for $1.5 million and that filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was an uncredited technical advisor.

      Before the opening credits, the film begins with a prologue. Actor Niall Buggy’s face is suspended in darkness as he recites the following statement: “I 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 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 show business, too?” The end credits conclude with the following written statement: “Filmed at Ardmore Studios, Ireland, and on location in the Wicklow Mountains.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Feb 1974
p. 4664.
Daily Variety
8 May 1973.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1973
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 1973
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 1974
p. 3.
LAHExam
6 Feb 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Jan 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1974
Calendar, p. 1, 24, 45.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Feb 1974
p. 76.
New York Times
7 Feb 1974
p. 46.
Swing
22 Mar 1974.
---
Time
18 Feb 1974
pp. 71-72.
Variety
11 Apr 1973.
---
Variety
30 Jan 1974
p. 13, 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A film by John Boorman
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Asst cam
Elec supv
Stillman
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Scenic artist
Prop buyer
COSTUMES
Ward master
Ward asst
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Process projection eff
Spec eff
Spec projection material
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Asst makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Des and story assoc
Casting
Continuity
Horse master
Prod asst
Prod secy
Prod's secy
Casting/Dublin
Pub dir
Prod accountant
SOURCES
MUSIC
Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7," by Ludwig van Beethoven, played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, conducted by Eugen Jochum.
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 February 1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 6 February 1974
Production Date:
25 May--late August 1973 at Ardmore Studios, Bray, and in County Wicklow, Ireland
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
13 March 1974
Copyright Number:
LP43258
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
102 or 104-105
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Ireland, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the year 2293, an army of mercenaries called Exterminators praise their god, Zardoz, who hovers above the field in the form of a statuesque mask. As ammunition and rifles spill from the idol’s mouth, Zardoz tells his worshippers that “the penis is evil” because it “shoots seeds” to poison the earth with new life; Zardoz orders the men to make war, not love. Sometime later, one of the Exterminators, Zed, rises from sand inside the cavernous mouth of the Zardoz idol as it flies over the countryside. Zed shoots Arthur Frayn, the human manifestation of Zardoz. Floating into the clouds, Arthur warns Zed that existence will be meaningless without him. After the Zardoz idol lands, Zed explores an abandoned flourmill and finds a crystal ring that projects words and images into thin air. Seeing people in the courtyard outside, Zed secretly creeps through the bushes and tries to kill a lady named May. When she does not die, Zed realizes that he is in the Vortex, the immortal afterworld of people called Eternals, which was promised to the Exterminators by Zardoz in return for their obedience. May captivates Zed with her stare and takes him to a room, where he lies unconscious. Images of Zed’s memories are projected onto a screen for May and her partner, Consuella, to review. As the women learn about Zed’s life of rape and brutality in the Outlands, a region where people are enslaved to harvest wheat for bread to be eaten in the Vortex, Consuella argues that they should prevent themselves from knowing the truth, but May sees Zed’s memories as an ... +


In the year 2293, an army of mercenaries called Exterminators praise their god, Zardoz, who hovers above the field in the form of a statuesque mask. As ammunition and rifles spill from the idol’s mouth, Zardoz tells his worshippers that “the penis is evil” because it “shoots seeds” to poison the earth with new life; Zardoz orders the men to make war, not love. Sometime later, one of the Exterminators, Zed, rises from sand inside the cavernous mouth of the Zardoz idol as it flies over the countryside. Zed shoots Arthur Frayn, the human manifestation of Zardoz. Floating into the clouds, Arthur warns Zed that existence will be meaningless without him. After the Zardoz idol lands, Zed explores an abandoned flourmill and finds a crystal ring that projects words and images into thin air. Seeing people in the courtyard outside, Zed secretly creeps through the bushes and tries to kill a lady named May. When she does not die, Zed realizes that he is in the Vortex, the immortal afterworld of people called Eternals, which was promised to the Exterminators by Zardoz in return for their obedience. May captivates Zed with her stare and takes him to a room, where he lies unconscious. Images of Zed’s memories are projected onto a screen for May and her partner, Consuella, to review. As the women learn about Zed’s life of rape and brutality in the Outlands, a region where people are enslaved to harvest wheat for bread to be eaten in the Vortex, Consuella argues that they should prevent themselves from knowing the truth, but May sees Zed’s memories as an opportunity to make contact with the Outlands. May notes that Arthur, a fellow Eternal, was formerly the only person who straddled both worlds and Zed, whom she refers to as a Brutal, might reveal why the leader recently vanished. Sometime later, the Eternals gather in a theater to watch gruesome battles from Zed’s memory for entertainment and vote to keep him alive for three weeks for May’s studies. One day, an androgynous man named Friend forces Zed to pull a bread wagon from the Eternal’s bakery, and Zed learns that physical contact is outlawed in the Vortex. Friend directs Zed to a community of elderly, senile people called Renegades who are resentful of their immortality and shunned from the youthful Eternals. Friend then guides Zed to a village of Apathetics and explains that indifference has been an unfortunate result of immortality. Back at the Eternals’ estate, Zed attends a lecture in which Consuella reports that Eternals have no use for procreation because they are immortal. Attempting to prove that male sexuality is triggered by aggression, Consuella projects provocative images onto a screen to arouse Zed, but he remains unaffected until he looks into her eyes. Later, at the Eternals’ communal meal, Friend complains of boredom and is banished to the Renegades. When Zed searches for Friend, the man provokes his fellow Renegades to chase after Zed by revealing that Zed is mortal. However, Zed assuages the Renegades, encouraging them to “fight for freedom,” and an old scientist tells him speak to May about breaking the spell. Racing back to May, Zed agrees to share the secret of the Outlands in return for knowledge about the Vortex. Zed confesses that he was one of Zardoz’s Exterminators, but he lost his desire to kill when a mysterious man showed him a book in a decrepit library that inspired him to read. Recalling one book in particular, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Zed becomes fitful and unwillingly reveals his memory of shooting Arthur. With May’s persuasion, Zed recounts his anger toward Zardoz for betraying the Exterminators, ordering them to enslave people instead of killing them. He explains that the Exterminators were carnivorous hunters and had no use for the wheat cultivated by their slaves. After reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and realizing the words “wizard” and “oz” can be conjugated to spell Zardoz, Zed recognized his people were being duped by a false leader and organized a rebellion. May kisses Zed, but Consuella finds the couple in an embrace and turns May into a Renegade for violating the Eternals’ ban on intimacy. With the news of Zed’s rebellion, an angry mob of Eternals chase him. Zed hides with the Apathetics, who are rejuvenated by the taste of his perspiration and start an orgy, and then he reunites with Friend and May in the Renegades’ community. May arranges for her disciples to “touch teach” Zed the mysteries of the Vortex in return for his implantation of the “seed” of knowledge through sexual intercourse. Zed learns that when the Eternals segregated themselves from the Outland in the hope of preserving their wealth and intellectual superiority, they were psychically merged by crystals. The stones were implanted in the Eternals’ foreheads and in rings, which spoke to them in the voice of an all-knowing god called the Tabernacle. Zed is given a diamond of his own with the forewarning that he will be prepared for the uprising when he can see inside of it. However, Zed sees nothing but his own reflection. Following a distant voice, Zed finds the resurrected Arthur, who gives him a crystal ball and disappears. As Zed stares into the ball, he sees a reflection of Conseulla approaching from behind with a knife and orders her to stop. Consuella drops to her knees, confesses her love and gives him her ring. Refracting light from the ring into the crystal ball, Zed realizes the Tabernacle’s power is centralized in his diamond and he is transported into a maze of mirrors inside the gem. As Zed shoots his gun at images of screaming Eternals, the Tabernacle’s voice reports that Zed has broken the spell of immortality. Zed then sees a reflection of his former self and fires, killing the Exterminator. Later, Zed’s allies find him collapsed next to the crystal ball, but he is revitalized by Consuella’s kiss. Zed guides his friends to safety through a mass of rioting Eternals and brings the diamond to the old Renegade scientist, who reports that he and his cronies created the Vortex to defy nature and dies. Meanwhile, the Zardoz idol, which hovers overhead, crashes to earth. Sometime later, Zed gives his diamond to May and directs her to the Outlands. When he returns to the Eternals’ estate, Zed is greeted by Arthur, who reveals himself as the man who showed Zed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and takes credit for sparking the destruction of his own power. Although the Eternals beg Zed for death, he claims is no longer a killer and lowers his gun; however, shots are fired by Exterminators who have recently penetrated the Vortex. While the Eternals are massacred, Friend tells Arthur with his dying words that it was all a joke. Meanwhile, Zed escapes with Consuella and they hide inside the remains of the Zardoz idol, making love. As time passes, the couple raises a son, grow old, and die in within the ruins of Zardoz. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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