A bewigged Sean Connery is Zed, a savage "exterminator" commanded by the mysterious god Zardoz to eliminate Brutals, survivors of an unspecified worldwide catastrophe. Zed stows away inside Zardoz's enormous idol (a flying stone head) and is taken to the pastoral land of the Eternals, a matriarchal, quasi-medieval society that has achieved psychic abilities as well as immortality. Zed finds as much hope as disgust with the Eternals; their advancements have also robbed them of physical passion, turning their existence into a living death. Zed becomes the Eternals' unlikely messiah, but in order to save them--and himself--he must confront the truth behind Zardoz and his own identity inside the Tabernacle, the Eternals' omnipresent master computer.
A box office failure, John Boorman's Zardoz has developed a cult following among science fiction fans whose tastes run toward more cerebral fare, such as The Andromeda Strain and Phase IV. An entrancing if overly ambitious (by Boorman's own admission) film, Zardoz offers pointed commentary on class structure and religion inside its complex plot and head-movie visuals; its healthy doses of sex and violence will involve viewers even if the story machinations escape them. Beautifully photographed near Boorman's home in Ireland's Wicklow Mountains by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001), its production design is courtesy of longtime Boorman associate Anthony Pratt, who creates a believable society within the film's million-dollar budget. The letterboxed DVD presentation includes engaging commentary by Boorman, who discusses the special effects (all created in-camera) as well as working with a post-Bond Connery. --Paul Gaita