Zardoz (1974)

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Released 3-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary-John Boorman (Director)
Gallery
Radio Spots-4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 101:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (39:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Boorman
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sean Connery
Charlotte Rampling
Sara Kestelman
John Alderton
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music David Munrow


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Croatian
Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    What can you say about a film that features lines like these:

    "The p**** is evil. The p**** shoots seeds, and makes new life, and poisons 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! Zardoz has spoken."

    "Stay behind my aura!"

    "I try to suppress these thoughts, but they leak out in Second Level through the head wound of my third death. I was imperfectly repaired."

    The dialogue from Zardoz is so bombastic that it could only have come from either a very bad and cheesy science fiction film, or else from a film so surreal that it's good. I definitely think Zardoz falls into the latter category rather than the former.

    I remember being dragged by my father (who is a big Sean Connery James Bond fan) to watch this when we were kids. Boy was he surprised! I ended up liking it a lot, mainly because unlike some of the other science fiction films of the era that I watched (which were clearly B-grade action flicks set in space not worthy of the term "science fiction") Zardoz was a real honest-to-goodness science fiction story that incorporated some of the genre's most popular themes: a futuristic vision, dysfunctional utopias, a post-nuclear war world, immortality, a god-like super computer, and even an oblique reference to the perennial theme of science fiction: space travel.

    And of course let's not forget the most important point of all - the fact that we get to see SEAN CONNERY RUNNING AROUND IN A RED LEATHER LOINCLOTH for most of the film! Sorry for shouting like that, I am that excited. And, oh, for those of you who like females - there's lots and lots of shots of female breasts in this R rated film.

    Sean Connery plays "Zed" - an "Exterminator". The year is 2293 and most of the world is in ruins (presumably as a result of a nuclear war - the film does not make this clear but the book (written by director/screenwriter John Boorman with Bill Stair) hints of a nuclear war which has devastated most of civilization. "Brutals" are the human survivors who scavenge around to survive (although you would have thought after hundreds of years there would be nothing left to scavenge). Exterminators like Zed are people that seem to spend their lives wearing red leather loincloths and carrying lots of guns and using the guns to kill the Brutals. Again, the film does not really make it clear why this is necessary - the book hints that most of the Brutals are mutants and the killings are done as an attempt to purify the human race.

    The Exterminators get their orders and their supplies of weaponry from a "god" called "Zardoz" (represented as a flying rock shaped like a gargoyle head). One day, Zed decides to sneak on board the flying head to find out more about his "god." The rock lifts off and eventually deposits Zed in a strange place called the "Vortex".

    The Vortex appears to be a utopia-like environment sealed off from the rest of the world by some sort of impenetrable force field. Inside, conditions are totally unlike the rest of the world - the grass is green, the water is clear, flowers bloom everywhere. The buildings are old, but appear to contain sophisticated equipment and technology. The women are pretty, slender, and young. And so are the men, who appear to be hairless, dainty, and effeminate (later on we find out the men are also impotent). These are the "Eternals," and they have strange mental powers. They all seem to be wearing a crystal ring that appears to be a link to some sort of central computer called the "Tabernacle."

    An Eternal woman called "May" (Sara Kestelman) subdues Zed with her mental power and starts experimenting and studying him. The Eternals are all pretty interested in Zed because he is the first Brutal they have seen in a long time - so enclosed and sealed is the Vortex from the outside world. However, they are fearful of Zed too, and one of them at least - Consuela (Charlotte Rampling) - wants to destroy Zed before Zed destroys them.

    The Eternals are all descendants of the creators of the Vortex, and are effectively immortal. Their bodies contain a crystal that sends their thought patterns continuously to the Tabernacle, which has the power to regenerate their bodies should they accidentally die and also rejuvenate their bodies to make them perpetually young. The Vortex was technology originally developed for travel between the stars (which take thousands of years). When the world entered a post-nuclear Dark Age, the rich and powerful hoarded the last remnants of the treasures of civilization (knowledge and art) and created the Vortex to safeguard these treasures for an uncertain future.

    After describing what must effectively be the ultimate Utopia from Zed's perspective (another common science fiction theme: a stranger in a strange land), writer and director John Boorman proceeds to deconstruct the utopia by revealing all the flaws in the Perfect Society. The Eternals are bored and have lost the will to live, but they are not allowed to die. Instead, the Tabernacle "ages" them whenever they commit a crime so that eventually the rebellious ones become "Renegades" who are doomed to live out eternity as senile old people. Other Eternals become "Apathetics" - they become catatonic.

    Zed represents the "new" man - we soon learn that Zed is a mutant with super-human strength and intelligence - the result of years of selective breeding amongst the Brutals done by a mischievous Eternal called Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy). What will happen next? Will the Eternals destroy Zed or will Zed destroy them? By the end, everyone in the film will have been (to quote another segment of dialogue from the film) "used ... re-used ... abused ... amused." I'm sure many in the audience would feel the same.

    This is a very stylish and surreal film that you will either hate or want to watch over and over again to try and understand it. Don't expect great special effects in this low budget production - its all about the story, innit? Expect scenes like ... shot of flying head falling down ... (crashing sound) ... camera shakes to denote the head impacting the ground (well, of course you knew that was going to happen eventually, didn't you?)

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is an excellent widescreen transfer presented in its intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement.

    Detail levels and colour saturation is near reference quality - for example, check out the flowers around 16:20-16:29 (of course, you can also check out Avalow's (Sally Anne Newton's) breasts in the same scene if you are so inclined.

    There are many scenes in this film which look somewhat "soft" and lacking in contrast, but this is intentional (as revealed in the director's commentary track) and is created by using smoke and fog effects.

    The film source itself is very clean and could perhaps be an interpositive, but does suffer from occasional grain.

    There are a number of subtitle tracks, including English For The Hearing Impaired, which I turned on briefly to verify its existence.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change is very well placed, as I did not detect it on first play. It is perfectly positioned at 39:28 when the camera freezes on a Japanese artwork.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (384Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s).

    The Dolby Digital 3.0 track is somewhat unusual as it means there is no rear channel information or low frequency track.

    Dialogue is quite pleasant and natural sounding. I did not detect any issues with audio synchronization.

    The music score features extensive excerpts from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, which obviously has personal significance for the director. The original music score by David Munrow is far less memorable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The main highlight of the extras section is the audio commentary track featuring director and screenwriter John Boorman.

Menu

    All the menus are 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (3:02)

    This is presented in 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kb/s) audio. It is somewhat grainy. This is the first time I've seen a trailer that virtually summarises the entire film (through the use of scrolling text banners no less) - it must be an attempt to "explain" the film to help people understand what it's all about.

Audio Commentary-John Boorman (Director)

    This audio commentary track is (obviously) a retrospective one featuring director and screenwriter John Boorman. John talks about the Shakespearean introductory monologue at the beginning of the film being inserted in post production to try and "explain" the film's premise (it didn't work - few understood what the film was about). John emphasises the low budget nature of the production - the whole film was made for just under $1 million (of which $200,000 was Sean Connery's fee). John also reveals some technical details about the filming and how the special effects were achieved. Obviously, no CGI was used - just clever camera techniques.

    John also relates some interesting anecdotes about the cast and crew. He doesn't speak continuously for the entire duration of the film (in general he was more chatty during the first 40 minutes), and some of his comments are rather banal, but overall I found this a commentary track well worth listening to, mainly due to my interest in the film itself.

    Incidentally, John makes a cameo appearance in the film, which he points out during the commentary - he is the peasant falling down and getting shot between 20:40-20:51.

    Towards the end, John also reveals that the ending sequence featuring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling had to be shot three times for various reasons, which really annoyed Sean.

Gallery

    This is a set of 24 stills of storyboard/production art, various shots captured during filming, and film posters.

Radio Spots-4

    This is a set of 4 30 second and 60 second radio spots promoting the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Both versions appear to have identical features apart from language and subtitle tracks, so I don't see any reason why anyone would want to buy the Region 1 version.

Summary

    Zardoz is a classic science fiction film that is worth watching - even if the storyline may be difficult to fathom on first viewing. The video transfer is good, the audio transfer is acceptable. Extras include a director's commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Saturday, June 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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