Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - ZARDOZ on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Twilight Time - ZARDOZ on Blu-ray

ZARDOZ (1974; John Boorman)
"Written, Produced and Directed by" is not a credit seen too often these days. When it does occur it is often an indicator of a pretty pure directorial vision. Since this is such a rare occurrence, especially with regard to films released by major studios (in this case, Twentieth Century Fox), the resulting movies are typically remarkable in one way or another. In the context of director John Boorman's career, ZARDOZ followed the great success of his film DELIVERANCE and it would seem that allowed him a good deal of creative freedom on his next feature. In watching ZARDOZ it is impossible to imagine it being a movie that could possibly come from the "films by committee" studio culture we currently live in. Of course it's obvious to say that the 1970s was quite a different time and one where many directors were given free reign to create many great and interesting films. 
Somewhere between THE WIZARD OF OZ, PLANET OF THE APES and a touch of LOGAN'S RUN lies ZARDOZ. The story begins in the outlands where a race known as the "Brutals" lives, farms, and kills each other off. When the  giant head of their god Zardoz descends on them, it speaks in a bellowing voice and declares that the penis is bad and guns are good and then proceeds to spew hundreds of rifles along with ammunition out of its mouth. One Brutal called Zed (who we recognize immediately as Sean Connery) finds his way into the mouth of the giant head and "hitches a ride" back to the place where it came from. What he finds is a hidden village filled with "Eternals" who are basically a more evolved race who rule the planet and oversee all the lesser lifeforms like the Brutals. While the Eternals are initially amused by Zed, he soon causes friction and tension between them and things in the peaceful commune begin to unravel. I don't normally do plot synopsis stuff, but I just wanted to give people kind of a sense of what the movie is like. My explanation does no justice to the filmmaking and the visuals which are particularly mesmerizing. The whole movie is quite perplexing but it isn't difficult to see why it continues to fascinate cinephiles even forty plus years after its initial release. 
My initial discovery of ZARDOZ came through one of my favorite conduits, Danny Peary. He listed it in his Cult Movies 2 book and I believe my familiarity with Connery from the Bond films and others drove my curiosity to investigate it further. ZARDOZ was one of the films I saw early on in my experience with Peary's recommendations that really helped form my idea of what a cult movie was. It exemplified this sense of "other" and a vision outside the mainstream that I was really drawn to. It was this kind of film that made me want to seek out more cult movies. There was a sense of "whoa, this is special" that I got from it and that I really thrived on for a long time when I was in college in terms of movies that I wanted to discover. It was Peary's books and the films in them and the memorable quality that so many of them had that started to turn my perspective on movies in general. ZARDOZ was part of the period where I shifted my focus toward the lesser known, underappreciated movies. I started to take great pleasure in finding films like that and championing them. I've really never looked back since then. I would love for folks to discover ZARDOZ with this Blu-ray and to do likewise and start looking for those odd an interesting standouts from years ago. Some may treat it as just another WTF movie and I completely understand that, but I hope it will be a gateway for some others as it was for me.
(Oh and by the way, the transfer looks quite lovely, I was very pleased with it)

Special Features:

This Twilight Time Blu-ray is wonderfully loaded with not one but two commentary tracks.
-The first commentary is from director John Boorman himself and it is absolutely engaging and invaluable. Boorman kicks off the track by talking about his adding of the "floating head" sequence of the beginning of the film in an attempt to give the film a bit more explanation and that this apparently failed and people were still perplexed by it. He mentions the budget right off the bat ($1 million including $200,000 for Connery according to Boorman) and is very candid about the movie on the whole. As the film continues, Boorman goes into detail about many of the in-camera special effects and locations. Boorman really is a great commentator for movies and with a movie like ZARDOZ it is excellent to have the insights from the man behind the vision.
-The second commentary is a Twilight Time exclusive and includes Film Historians Jeff, Bond, Joe Fordham and Nick Redman. They discuss the film as a "post-2001" film and that the marketing even went so far as to indicate that ZARDOZ was the"next step" after that movie. Frank Herbert (DUNE) is mentioned as a big influence on Boorman. There is further discussion of the special effects (and Boorman's approach to them in general), potential casting choices (Burt Reynolds, Richard Harris), cinematography, the novelization of the film, thematics and violence in Boorman's work, and more. Solid stuff (as is no surprise from the folks at Twilight Time).

John Boorman on ZARDOZ:

Fantasy Film Festival - Mick Garris Interviews Boorman about ZARDOZ:

ZARDOZ is a Limited Edition Twilight Time Blu-ray which can be purchased through Screen Archives:
It has apparently sold quite well so if you are interested, you may want to order it sooner than later.

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