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Visual Technology Goes Wild in 'Zardoz'

October 22, 1992|GEOFF BOUCHER

With a cheesy title such as "Zardoz" and an opening monologue by a floating, disembodied head sporting an Egyptian headdress and a penciled-on mustache, it is easy to understand why John Boorman's 1974 fantasy film might grow dusty on video store shelves.

But for fans of wild science fiction, the film is a trippy examination of what happens when intellect overpowers humanity and humans taste immortality. For the less philosophical, "Zardoz" is a unique chance to see a bare-chested Sean Connery run around as a gun-toting savage with a ponytail.

The movie, set in the year 2293, presents a post-apocalyptic Earth ruled by the Vortex, a pristine community peopled by the Eternals, a group of intellectuals who have grown lethargic and disinterested after conquering death. Outside the walls of their commune, less evolved humans called the Brutals live in a world limited by violence and superstition--except for Zed (Connery), who is born with an intelligence far beyond his peers.

Zed manages to infiltrate the Vortex, where he is probed and prodded by the Eternals, who find a rare amusement in their savage visitor. Soon Zed's presence and his contempt for the sterile world lead to a confrontation that threatens to destroy everything.

British director Boorman, whose eclectic resume also includes "Deliverance" and the autobiographical "Hope and Glory," fills the movie with dazzling visions and special effects that, remarkably, age fairly well. What don't stand the test of time, however, are the metaphysical meanderings that clutter the film's last 10 minutes with layers of half-baked flower-child philosophy. Still, Boorman's ambitious and campy flight of fancy is worth a ride.

"Zardoz" (1974), directed by John Boorman. 105 minutes. Rated R.

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