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As we’ve learned from the writings of Mark and Peggy Noonan, the Powerline trio, and others, George W. Bush isn’t merely an effective leader whose talents are uniquely suited to this period of crisis; he’s a being with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals!  Which is fine, if winning the War on Terror requires the Chief Executive to reverse time by flying around the Earth really fast, or fight insurgents from the Phantom Zone who possess both superhuman powers and Hugh Hefner’s pajamas.  But what if, as the future unfolds, we discover that the real threat isn’t Islamofascism or rogue Kryptonians, but bored immortals who dress like Belgians and can’t get it up.  Then who you gonna call?

Suddenly the Clenis isn’t looking so bad, is it?

In order to prepare for this possible dystopia of erectile dysfunction, we present the following educational film:

Zardoz (1974)

Directed by:  John Boorman (at his most Boorish)

Written by: John Boorman

Zardoz begins in a style reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, except instead of a pair of crimson lips superimposed on a black screen, we see the head of a fey Brit, who has drawn facial hair on himself with an eyebrow pencil and donned an Egyptian-style head-dress made from a periwinkle dishcloth.  This is “Zardoz” (of the Tumbridge Wells Zardozes) and he’s here to explain things so we don’t get confused.

Like Criswell, he informs us that what we are about to see are future events, that will affect us in the future, while his towel-draped head bounces from one side of the screen to the other, like the cursor in Pong.  Zardoz confesses that he’s a “fake god” with a “fake mustache,” but assures us that the boredom we’re about to experience will be genuine.

The credits roll, and “ZARDOZ” appears in a strange, dramatic font (I think it’s Xanadu Bold Condensed) followed by the most chilling words in the film: “Written, Directed, and Produced by John Boorman.”  Yes, John’s reward for the success of his previous film, Deliverance, was a bag of peyote buttons and carte blanche to film the subsequent hallucinations.  The resulting motion picture was largely deemed a failure by those members of the audience who were not concurrently hosting a large amount of psilocybin in their cerebrospinal fluid, but fortunately, Boorman redeemed himself with his next effort, Exorcist II:  The Heretic.

The future gets off to a goofy start when a giant paper-mâché bust of Santa Claus screaming like a howler monkey hovers over the English Midlands, while cavalry soldiers wearing nothing but Angry Santa masks and scarlet hot pants ride around below, the wan light reflecting from their white, hairless, Poppin Fresh-like thighs.

The Giant Screaming Santa Head lands and we learn that this is Zardoz, god and motivational speaker.  Zardoz reads the minutes of the last meeting, recounting how it raised the Hot Pants Men from brutality and taught them the sacred catechism (“Who wears short shorts?  We wear short shorts!”) so that they might go forth and slaughter everybody who had the decency to wear slacks.  To accomplish this, Zardoz reminds them, “I gave you the gift of the gun.  The gun is good.  The penis is bad.  The penis shoots seeds [and occasionally kidney stones] and makes new life.”  So auteur Boorman’s vision of the future comprises a society of hot pants-wearing Santa fans who worship the head of Andrea Dworkin.

Anyway, the service ends with the traditional admonition to “go forth and kill!”  Then Zardoz suffers a painful attack of acid reflux and vomits guns, just like Hobo Kelly’s toy machine if her mid-60’s syndicated kids’ show had been sponsored by the National Rifle Association rather than Milton Bradley and Bosco. 

Zardoz lifts off, and suddenly a topless Sean Connery fills the frame, sporting a French braid, Harry Reems’ mustache from Sensuous Vixens, and enough armpit hair to knit a Cowichan jersey.  He looks around at his masked compatriots with a perplexed, irritated expression that seems to say, “What the hell?  Boorman told me I’d be playing King Arthur.  This looks like a bloody nudist camp on Guy Fawkes Day.”  Then he turns toward us, points a revolver, and shoots the cameraman.  Alas, he’s not getting out of the film that easily…

To be continued…

11 Responses to “ZARDOZ”

Somehow, I’ve always managed to avoid Zardoz. I always got a bad bad movie vibe off of it, as opposed to a good bad movie, like, oh I don’t know, Capricorn One (man, I love that piece of shit!). Plus, it just looks low-rent. Now, if only they had populated the santa-mask-wearing short shorts dudes with recent vintage Falcon porn stars, I’d probably be very interested in checking it out… if only to see the looks on their faces while Connery is doing his “penises are evil” schtick. But a squad of poppin’ fresh boiz? Um, thanks, but… Feh!

Aah! What’d I do to activate the spam filter?!? And, hopefully the word “spam” won’t activate it this time!

It looks like Amon Düül Placard Condensed Extra to me, but then I’m no expert.

Ah, at last. Thank you, I’ve been waiting for this one. But To Be Continued? Ah, well. The really sad thing is, the movie could easily enough be summarized with one word: “Goofy”.

Of course, my friends and I watched it one night in mixed company while stoned, a *long* time ago, and I don’t think we ever did see the end of it. Obviously, the “Penises are bad” thing didn’t take. Not completely, anyway.

Boorman did redeem himself with (if you didn’t like the Emerald Forest or Excalibur two geeky movies with some weight to them) The General. To blame anyone for an artistic crack-up in the mid-70’s isn’t completely fair.

Look at Altman, he followed up Nashville with Buffalo Bill… (a reviled movie I liked), 3 Women (a well-respected movie I hated) A Wedding and Quintet which is every bit Zardoz’s equal.

I should add the disclaimer that any comments regarding the filmmakers were written while the wounds were still suppurating.

I have enjoyed some of Boorman\’s subsequent work, like Excalibur and Hope and Glory; but it struck me that following Zardoz with Exorcist II: The Heretic is like getting arrested for assault-and-battery and then offering to work off your community service by committing arson.

Aah! What’d I do to activate the spam filter?!?

I wasn’t sure, so I checked the settings that came with WordPress. Turns out that while “penis” is a forbidden word, the spam filter is all in favor of the word “cock.” So I’ve loosened the lexicological strictures, because there’s no discussing Zardoz without reference to the male genitalia, and if we have to use cock everytime we mean penis, we’ll be awash with confused Protein Wisdom commentors before we know it.

Zardoz was a very funny, bad movie. You would have to be in the mood for a funny, bad movie to watch it.

There must be something wrong with me. I liked the movie. I even have the DVD.

Zardoz is a brilliant movie, somewhat flawed by post ’60’s damage. A little damage is good for you, it builds character. I think that if the flaws were removed, the movie would be a complete waste of time. You just couldn’t present these concepts if they were displayed in a neat and tidy package.

Something to say?