Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Never Seen It: Watching Zardoz with Filmmaker John Pickle

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 10:35 AM

I'm starting a new, semi-regular feature for the Film/TV/Etc. blog. With Never Seen It, I'll be showing interesting people a classic movie they've never seen before, and share their reactions in Q & A form. For the initial Never Seen It, I talked Memphis underground film pioneer John Pickle into watching Zardoz, the not-so-classic 1974 science fiction film starring Sean Connery. The film was directed by John Boorman, who was riding high on the success of Deliverance, the backwoods thriller which launched Burt Reynolds' career. But Zardoz, an insane sci fi film which defies easy description, is today an infamous flop, probably most famous for Sean Connery's outfit.

Sean Connery as Zed in Zardoz, because this is how genetically superior future men dress.
  • Sean Connery as Zed in Zardoz, because this is how genetically superior future men dress.


Chris McCoy: What do you know about Zardoz?

John Pickle: I know it’s got Sean Connery in it, and he’s dressed like a who the fuck knows what. There’s a giant floating head vomiting rifles and pistols and ammunition all over this tundra of apocalypse. It’s telling the people that the penis is evil. It spawns life, and the gun takes it away. The gun is good, the penis is evil.

CM: So you have no idea where this is heading?

JP: None at all.

click to enlarge The giant head which dispenses assault rifles also flies.
  • The giant head which dispenses assault rifles also flies.

Two hours later…

CM: You are now someone who has seen Zardoz. How has your life changed?

JP: It’s changed in that I can now stop seeking to watch that shitty movie. It’s not at all what I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be an hour and a half of the opening scene. Not that it wasn’t weird…it was definitely fucking weird. I thought it was going to be more of a Holy Mountain weird.

CM: It’s big think science fiction, but it’s all kinda half baked.

JP: The purpose is so covered up by other…stuff, there’s no following the movie. Not at first watch, anyway. You might start figuring shit out by the tenth time you watch it, but that’s never going to happen with me.

CSM: There’s not going to a tenth time watching Zardoz for anybody.

JP: I thought this would be one of those movies, but it’s not.

CSM: That stuff with the projection was really cool. Boorman seemed to be more interested in just doing that kind of stuff than telling a story.

JP: He should have just made a music video.

CSM: So you liked Deliverance, right?

JP: Oh yeah! I’ve always loved that movie.

CSM: How do you go from Deliverance to this?

JP: How do you go from 007 to this?

click to enlarge Zardoz features many questionable sartorial choices.
  • Zardoz features many questionable sartorial choices.

CSM: It’s like they said, let’s rent an estate in Ireland and all trip acid, and we’ll make a movie while we’re doing that.

JP: Hmm... I’ve got an idea…

CSM: But there was a lot of cool stuff in there, like the kaleidoscope effects. Stuff that I’ve never seen before went on in this movie.

JP: And it’s the year 2239, right?

CSM: Exactly! The immortals have only had a couple of hundred years to get suicidally bored. I’m not an immortal, but I think could last a couple hundred years. Especially if I had a spaceship shaped like an English manor house with giant inflatable condoms growing out the back. There were so many little weird things like that. The "touch teaching" scene was the most visually coherent thing in the whole movie. It was a serious attempt to convey a concept. Here’s all this data that they’re learning projected onto people. But most of the time it was just like, “Let’s put 007 in the kaleidoscope again!”
JP: What was the bit with the guy walking into the room and talking gibberish?

CSM: I don’t know. He was just suddenly speaking backward. But I did like the bit where they unsmashed all the statues and jumped backwards...Would you recommend Zardoz to a friend?

JP: Certain things about it I would. The first five minutes is the best part of the movie. That’s the only thing that I saw, and I thought it would another hour and forty six minutes of crap like that.

CSM: So if it were more like Mad Max...

JP: I think it makes me want to go watch Deliverance again. Now, I’m a fan of horrible cinema. But this just wasn’t it.

CSM: It didn’t turn the so-bad-it's-good movie corner for you.

JP: No.

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