I’m starting to finally feel a bit better, but not yet sound enough to survive an expedition to Townhall or RenewAmerica, so I hope you’ll all forgive me for dipping into the archives and presenting another encore. Back in 2006, longtime friend of the blog D.Sidhe suggested that we give the BLTBM treatment to John Boorman’s celebrated masterpiece of cinematic What-The-Fuckery, Zardoz, and like an idiot, I fell for it. Enjoy…!
Directed by: John Boorman (at his most Boorish)
Written by: John Boorman
Directed by: John Boorman (at his most Boorish)
Written by: John Boorman
Our story opens in a style reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, except instead of a pair of crimson lips superimposed on a black screen, we get the disembodied face of a flamboyant Englishman, who has scribbled facial hair on himself with an eyebrow pencil and donned an Egyptian-style head-dress made from a periwinkle dishcloth. This is “Zardoz,” and he’s here to explain things so we don’t get confused.
Like Criswell, he informs us that what we are about to see are future events, that will affect us in the future, while his towel-draped head slowly bounces from one side of the screen to the other, like the cursor in Pong. Zardoz confesses that he’s a “fake god” with a “fake mustache,” but assures us that the boredom we’re about to experience will be genuine.
The credits roll, and “ZARDOZ” appears in a strange, dramatic font (I think it’s Xanadu Bold Condensed) followed by the most chilling words in the film: “Written, Directed, and Produced by John Boorman.” Yes, John’s reward for the success of his previous film, Deliverance, was a bag of peyote buttons and carte blanche to film the subsequent hallucinations. The resulting motion picture was largely deemed a failure by those members of the audience who were not concurrently hosting a large amount of psilocybin in their cerebrospinal fluid, but fortunately, Boorman redeemed himself with his next effort, Exorcist II: The Heretic.
The future gets off to a goofy start when a giant paper-mâché bust of Santa Claus screaming like a howler monkey hovers over the English Midlands, while cavalry soldiers wearing nothing but Angry Santa masks and scarlet hot pants ride around below, the wan light reflecting from their white, hairless, Poppin Fresh-like thighs.
The Giant Screaming Santa Head lands and we learn that this is Zardoz, god and motivational speaker. Zardoz reads the minutes of the last meeting, recounting how it raised the Hot Pants Men from brutality and taught them the sacred catechism (“Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts!”) so that they might go forth and slaughter everybody who had the decency to wear slacks. To accomplish this, Zardoz reminds them, “I gave you the gift of the gun. The gun is good. The penis is bad. The penis shoots seeds [and occasionally kidney stones] and makes new life.” So auteur Boorman’s vision of the future comprises a society of hot pants-wearing Santa fans who worship the head of Andrea Dworkin.
Anyway, the service ends with the traditional admonition to “go forth and kill!” Then Zardoz suffers a painful attack of acid reflux and vomits guns, just like Hobo Kelly’s toy machine if her mid-60’s syndicated kids’ show had been sponsored by the National Rifle Association rather than Milton Bradley and Bosco.
Zardoz lifts off, and suddenly a topless Sean Connery fills the frame, sporting a French braid, Harry Reems’ mustache from Sensuous Vixens, and enough armpit hair to knit a Cowichan jersey. He looks around at his masked compatriots with a perplexed, irritated expression that seems to say, “What the hell? Boorman told me I’d be playing King Arthur. This looks like a bloody nudist camp on Guy Fawkes Day.” Sean turns toward us, points a revolver, and shoots the cameraman. Alas, he’s not getting out of the film that easily…
He makes a break for the car. But it’s parked on the far side of the catering tent, and before he can reach it, director John Boorman foils Sean’s escape by cutting to a scene of Zardoz, the Giant Screaming Santa Head, floating serenely through the clouds, as it belts out an aria in its surprisingly lovely mezzo soprano voice.
Inside the head, we see a huge mound of sawdust. Apparently, when he’s not defending the Second Amendment and preaching against the penis, Zardoz likes to relax with a little decorative woodworking. But wait! It turns out the sawdust was only there so that Sean could emerge dramatically from the pile (also so that they’d be prepared in the event the audience suddenly barfs). As Sean rises, we can see that he’s dressed like the other pro-gun/anti-penis types (let’s call them The Cheneys), except he has spurned hot pants in favor of a pair of pleather Depends, and he’s accessorized his ensemble with hip waders and crossed bandoliers, creating a look that’s sort of And a River Runs Through It meets the Frito Bandito.
Sean looks around the interior of the head, sees a bunch of naked English people in man-sized Shake ‘N Bake bags, then spies the guy with the blue tea towel on his head, who tells Sean, “Without me, you’re nothing!” Sean promptly shoots him right between the towel, and he falls out of Zardoz’s mouth and plunges screaming to his death. (Well, we’re later told he falls a thousand feet and dies, although at this particular moment he appears to be thinking his Happy Thoughts because he just sort of hovers there in his pajamas like one of the Darling children.)
Anyway, the Giant Santa godhead and its precious cargo of boil-in-the-bag nudists lands at “the Vortex,” an impregnable, futuristic 17th century village where everyone dresses like Flemish peasants but talks like they’re on Space: 1999. Sean wanders around the place and gets successively terrorized by flour, hydroponic Brussels sprouts, and a jack-in-the-box. Fortunately, he finds a talking ring that explains everything in the movie, even when you don’t want it to:
Sean: What is it?
This is a pretty cool gadget, and I wish I’d had one when the Netflix envelope first arrived:
Scott: What is it?
Ring: To give self-indulgent crap a bad name.
Ring: To give self-indulgent crap a bad name.
A plain-looking woman appears. Like the other residents of the Vortex, she is immortal, possesses deadly psionic powers, and is very, very boring. Unlike the other “Eternals,” she also apparently thought Scarlett Johansson’s costume from Girl with a Pearl Earring would make the perfect fashion statement if you just accessorized it with a hat made from a damp Handi-Wipe and dyed the whole thing orange.
Anyway, Orangina mentally bitch-slaps Sean, then places him in a Mylar pup tent decorated with Playboy centerfolds, and we get to watch home movies of Sean riding around with a bunch of other guys sporting Pampers and porn ‘staches, shooting dress extras in the back and forcing themselves on women trapped in gill nets.
The raping and killing doesn’t bother blank-faced Eternal Charlotte Rampling, but she is so traumatized by Sean’s graphic memories of forced wheat farming that she can only speak in words beginning with the letter Q. “Quench it,” she recommends. “Quell it.”
Orangina wants to keep Sean, but there’s a no-pet policy in the Vortex, so the Homeowners Association has to take a vote. A male Eternal named “Friend” with preternaturally poofy hair takes a liking to Sean and promises to feed him and pick up after he does his business. The condo board agrees to let Sean live on a trial basis, but insists that in order to prevent him from digging up the flower beds, he has to be crated every night.
The next morning, Friend appears dressed in a skirt and a low cut macramé halter top, his hair ratted like Nancy Sinatra’s, and proceeds to methodically beat the half-naked Sean with a bullwhip in a scene that Robert Mapplethorpe found “a trifle excessive.”
The rest of the Eternals sit down to lunch, where they pass a green baguette around the table and ritually sniff it, while Sean hauls Friend around in a rickshaw as he delivers oddly-hued baked goods to the Apathetics –- a group dressed like late Renaissance Walloons who stand motionless and stare into space all day, slack-jawed and drooling. Friend explains that these are the sole survivors of a Zardoz test screening in La Jolla.
After lunch, Sean attends Charlotte’s PowerPoint slide show on The Lost Art of the Erection. Apparently, the Eternals can conquer death and construct giant flying heads, but they can’t figure out how the peepee works. Charlotte, as part of her Show ‘N Tell segment, makes Sean watch Cinemax After Dark in an effort to put a Lincoln Log in his Huggies, but it doesn’t have the desired effect. However, just when her presentation is circling the drain, the Soundtrack from Fantasia arrives and awards Sean a huge pulsating boner, which is symbolized by a cutaway to a llama.
The next day at lunch, an embittered Friend decides he doesn’t want to sniff the baguette. The other Eternals respond to this mutiny by humming like a model train transformer while Carrot Top does a sinister jazz hands routine.
Sean decides he’s had enough of this and climbs a hill so he can do mime in peace. Despite presenting a killer “trapped in the invisible box” routine, he sustains a critical drubbing, so he heads to the Sizzler to blow off steam and gets badly mauled by a group of elderly patrons who don’t appreciate him gadding about in a diaper while they’re trying to enjoy the Early Bird Special.
Then Charlotte and Sean fight over a poncho and Sean goes blind, but Princess Leia suddenly appears and performs Lasik on him, then warns him that his strength will inevitably fail, and when it does, he should eat some spinach.
The Eternals trap Sean in one of those inflatable Jolly Jumpers and start beating him to death, but he confounds them at the last possible second by throwing a handful of Gold Medal flour in their general direction and escaping! Then he runs back to the top of the hill and violently vogues. When this doesn’t seem to help, he goes to hang with the Apathetics since at least Boorman didn’t give them any dialogue. Unfortunately, the catatonic women magically awaken when they taste his underarm perspiration. This inspires a tepid lesbian makeout scene, but it doesn’t last, and suddenly all the apathetic Flemish chicks are moaning and licking Sean, so he frantically eats his spinach, then runs a 10K while an angry posse with severe erectile dysfunction gives chase.
Eventually, he’s saved by the elderly Sizzler patrons, who make him wear Miss Haversham’s wedding dress while they wander around with Roman candles and the Apathetics, still hopped up on Sean sweat, hump on the lawn ornaments.
Orangina realizes that, although the members of the Vortex possess the sum of all knowledge, Sean is a physically superior mutant who can pop a chubby at will, so he wins. She figures that, if you can’t lick ‘em, then…well, lick ‘em, and tells Sean, “We will touch-teach you, and you will give us your seed.” Sean agrees to this bargain, but adds, “Um…I’m gonna need a magazine.”
So Princess Leia gets naked and speaks Swedish while math problems are flashed on her skin by the Eternal AV Club’s Kenner Give-A-Show! Projector. Then suddenly everybody is nude and covered in algorithms and speaking Albanian and nattering on about Ethelred the Unready and the Gadsen Purchase as Sean crams for his midterms. Finally, Sean’s apotheosis reaches a climax as a girl with staticky hair offers to sell him a large cubic zirconium at a substantial discount.
Sean absorbs the sum of all human knowledge, and promptly realizes that he looks ridiculous in this diaper, so he goes and puts on some gauchos. Charlotte sneaks up behind Sean with a huge knife, but she’s so moved by his attempt at pants that she instantly falls in love.
Then Sean sneaks into the Mormon Tabernacle, which doesn’t look at all like I thought it would – a lot more labyrinths, bleeding mirrors, and interpretive dance recitals by disembodied heads than you’d expect. Meanwhile, the Flemish peasants break into the workroom on Project Runway and vandalize some dress forms.
Sean tells Orangina and Charlotte, “Stay close to me. Inside my aura,” then sticks out his hand, which causes the film to reverse (but not, thankfully, to the beginning). Then the Santa-Head Hot Pants People ride in waving their guns. Suddenly, the screen is filled with men and women staggering around shouting “kill me! Kill me!” Since we’ve never seen most of these people before, I can only assume they’re members of the film crew who have finally snapped. Meanwhile, Sean and Charlotte run off and hide in Injun Joe’s cave.
Suddenly, Charlotte’s nude and giving birth. Then she and Sean are sitting on a rock in the cave, and staring expressionlessly at the viewer just like American Gothic, except they’re both topless and she’s nursing a baby. Then, the film dissolves and they age a bit -– the kid is about 5 years old now –- but they’re still sitting on the rock, although now they’re dressed in forest green, Napoleonic-era greatcoats. Another dissolve. They’re still there, still modeling the coats, and the kid is about ten. Another dissolve. Nobody’s moved. The kid is about 18 and sporting long, unkempt hair and a rawhide loincloth like Tarzan. He looks at over Sean with an expression that plainly says, “Um, Dad? Can we get up off this rock now?” Sean doesn’t respond, so the kid pulls one of those “You guys are so bogus! I am so out of here!” faces, and stalks off camera.
Now that the kid is no longer sitting between them, Sean and Charlotte join hands, and continue to decay in their overcoats. Through a series of painfully slow, yet hilarious dissolves, they rot into skeletons. Then the connective tissue decomposes, and at last they’re a big, disorganized pile of bones, and the camera pans up to Sean’s rusted gun hanging on the wall of the cave, beside two handprints that were apparently created using the science of Kirlian photography. Bet you didn’t see thatcoming, did you?!
Oh. Um. The End.
Posted by scott on Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 9:36 pm.