In the year 2293, human society is dilapidated and regressed, technology is extinct, and the Earth has descended into anarchy and is polarised into two groups.
The Brutals are a crude and vicious people inhabiting the Outlands.
They are ruled over by the Eternals, a group of immortals who employ a group of killers called the Exterminators (who run around in orange underpants) to keep the Brutals at bay and limit their numbers.
Then one of the Exterminators, Zed (Sean Connery) starts to question his faith in the group and their god, Zardoz – who appears to them in the guise of a giant floating stone head issuing instructions and vast amounts of guns in exchange for receipt of the goods extracted from the murdered farmers.
Zed plots to smuggle himself inside the stone god-head during one of its visitations. He succeeds and discovers a man therein – the architect of the Zardoz cult. Zed exterminates him.
The Zardoz head (in reality just a sculpted airship) returns to a land called the Vortex – a paradisial domain insulated from the Outlands by a forcefield and inhabited by the Eternals.
These people had been the rich, the clever and the powerful of the former world, and had retreated from the catastrophes of their era to this place, with the intention of preserving all that was of value in civilisation – science, art, music, literature, flowers etc – and creating an aesthetically and politically perfect society.
The founding fathers of the Vortex were a group of brilliant scientists who perfected a technique to arrest indefinitely the biological process of ageing so that all those who are admitted into the Vortex receive immortality.
The Eternals examine Zed in fascinated contempt. His sexual potency is a focus of great interest for sexuality has long since died out in the Vortex.
Zed soon discovers that a grotesque malaise is slowly petrifying the Vortex; a kind of psychic entropy is in process and its final effect is to induce in individuals a state of total catatonia.
It becomes his mission to avenge the neglected humanity of the Outlands and bring the gift of death to the Eternals and release them from their sleepless nightmare.
Detailing the plot, though, is pointless as the story is so complex with multiple interpretations.
Poor Sean Connery – Burt Reynolds obviously knew what he was doing when he said “no” to this film (John Boorman had created the film especially for Reynolds).
Yet, thanks to Geoffrey Unsworth’s stunning photography, this patently silly storytelling of a rebellion against sexless intellectualism and soulless technology – has become one of those “risible but unmissable” cult movies, whose main attraction now is the unintentional comedy.
Sally Anne Newton
Voice of Tabernacle
David De Keyser