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PRAISE BE TO ZARDOZ!

Between the Hollywood productions of Deliverance and Exorcist II: The Heretic, John Boorman embarked on one of the strangest films ever to come from a major studio.

The year is 2293. Society as we know it has broken down centuries ago with the Earth s population split into three classes: the Brutals, who work the land and are forbidden from reproducing; their overseers, the Executioners; and the highly civilised Eternals, who are protected from the outside world by a force-field. But when an Executioner, Zed (Sean Connery, light years from James Bond), smuggles himself into their isolated paradise, he risks unbalancing the system and threatening the status quo...

Photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey) and designed by Anthony Pratt (Excalibur), dystopian science-fiction has rarely looked so beautiful or been so odd as it appears in Zardoz.
[Official Arrow Synopsis]

 Zardoz
I'd never seen Zardoz in full before. I'd seen plenty of clips and was well aware of Connery in his mankini, thigh high boots and bullet belts combo but a full watch had never happened for me, until now.

With the floating head of a Zardoz, seemingly with a t-shirt on his head  and a drawn on moustache and beard opening this flick, it is immediately odd. Set in the year 2293, this bleak almost medevil view of the future is everything late 60 early 70s sci-fi loved to play with in movies. With grand ponderings that echo Planet of the Apes and The Time Machine and many other sci-fi cliches from the era, the world at war within much divided classes and Thinkers vs. Barbarians is very much the core here. It gets even more typical when it hits the society of immortals and their well spoken, overally formal situation as they discuss the meaning of humanity and their own cold society.

 Zardoz
Anyway, Zardoz is immediately and continuingly bonkers but in a 100% committed to just how bonkers it is kind of way. It has something to say both in its heavy dialogue, striking visuals and even in some of its elaborate model work and set design. The entire film reeks of visionary boldness even if it all feels a little like a high end porn parody is about to kick off at every turn. It remains thoughtful throughout but kind of hard to love or to even penetrate at times but its larger than life goals make it appealing in a way that you forgive many of its failing and strange choices. Zardoz is far from great but it has something about it that hits the mark, even if I'm not entirely sure what that mark is.

 Zardoz

Video


This is a strong, well coloured image and everything outside of the hazy grain filled opening credits looks kinda great. There is a continued haziness to the image, largely in smokey design more than anything but details are rich and colour generally reaches out through the smokey grain even at its thickest.

In the more naturally lit scenes, in more conventional locations (and incidentally where Connery's costume looks even more mental) edges are sharper, detail and textures are increased and of course the image more noticeably upgraded.

Generally speaking the image is well sat in HD and looks good for its age but lacks the added pop other catalogue titles can often bring. Colours are solid but never really leap off of the screen, wild imagary never quite dazzles and despite the high level of detail such as costume designs,  freckles and the odd well lit location, the overlaying haze to the image holds it back from showing off despite the clearly improved video presentation.

 Zardoz

Audio


The audio track is strong, bassy and full of power, despite its limitations. The floating head in the opening scene has a bassy, echoy boom to it that come with a good level of oomph, despite the utter madness of it spitting guns.

Zardoz is largely a quiet film, or at least one driven by future based thought provoking-ish minimal dialogue. The occasional heavy score elements are more for focused effect with an emphasis on selling a point or underpinning a mood but comes with a nice thump when it needs to. Dialogue is consistently crisp, sound effects also follow that way and because the film is so quiet, every little footstep, scuff of a prop or grunt from Connery sounds clean and fresh even with the films age.

 Zardoz

Extras


The commentary by John Boorman is full of quiet moments, vast gaps of nothing in fact only broken by small single line comments or observations but he does go into detail about the film's themes and ideas and expands on what we are seeing in amongst the madness.

The interview selections come with a vast selection from John Boorman, Sara Kestelman, Anthony Pratt, Gerrymandering Johnston, Peter Macdonald, Simon Relph, Colin Jamison, Seams Byrness and Alan Jones. There's lots of talk about how thebold came to be (Boorman outright says he only got this made because Deliverance was a hit), there's also a lot of talk about the films intentions and the ideas behind the future vision the film attempts to paint. The interviews range anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and paint a nice behind the scenes collection when combined.

An Appreciation by Ben Wheatley (16:24 HD) has the director talking of his long term enjoyment of the film and how it found him in his youth. He certainly talks up the film's charms and defends it equally for its boldness and pure vision.

Last up is the Trailer and Radio Spots.

 Zardoz

Overall


Zardoz is bold, semi thought provoking (though largely silly) and is focused on feeling other wordly and distant in its future vision. In those regards, it's a success, it however, like many other sci-fi films from the era doesnt balance ideas with entertainment all that well and often makes you feel like an outsider rather than striving to find ways to welcome you in. I'm perosnally okay with that in sci-fi and sort of appreciate it but the oddity of that comes with this Connery in a mankini legacy is very much deserved because it certainly wont be for everyone.

Disc wise, the image is great, though suffers a bit due to it's smokey locations, the audio is solid and the extras insightful, though relativly light when comapred to other Arrow titles. Still, Zardoz getting this sort of treatment is a hats off to Arrow because even Connery in the most outlandish costume of his career deserves some love and it's really felt on this disc.


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