There’s a good movie somewhere in Zardoz, but you’ll have to settle it for being very weird. A pretentious movie that thinks it is the cleverest thing to exist, there is nothing more ‘70s than this 1974 film, directed by John Boorman. It’s leaving Hulu at the end of August and you won’t see anything else like it, that’s for sure.
After 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, science-fiction became a genre where directors could explore and venture outwards, seeing what truly existed in the human psyche. Wandering alone through empty streets, like Charleton Heston does during The Omega Man, spoke to the isolation and confusion that marked the first half of the decade, which saw Americans tore apart over the Vietnam War.
Zardoz, it could be argued, attempts to heal this vicious divide. It uses a template as old as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, showing a brutal underclass forced to serve a lethargic overclass. Here, the underclass is literally called “the Brutals.” They’re ruled over by an overclass man in disguise pretending to be a god called Zardoz in the shape of a giant stone head. Zardoz tells the Brutals to kill, sexually assault, and to love guns and hate their penises.
“The gun is good. The penis is evil,” Zardoz tells them, as they cheer on horseback wearing masks that look like Zardoz. Why they all love this philosophy is never really explored.