ZARDOZ was undoubtedly the nuttiest role Sean Connery ever played . . .
Zardoz was a 1973 science fiction/fantasy film written, produced, and directed by John Boorman, starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, and Sara Kestelman. Zardoz was Connery's second post-James Bond role (after The Offence).
In the year AD 2293, a post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the "Brutals", who are ruled by the "Eternals" who use other "Brutals" called "Exterminators", "the Chosen" warrior class. The Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head. Zardoz teaches:
"The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth . . . and kill!"
The Zardoz god head supplies the Exterminators with weapons, while the Exterminators supply it with grain. Meanwhile, Zed (Sean Connery), an Exterminator, enters Zardoz, hidden in a load of grain, and shoots (and apparently kills) its pilot, Arthur Frayn (identified as an Eternal in the story's prologue), and travels to the Vortex. The Vortices are hidden communities of civilization where the immortal "Eternals" lead a luxurious but aimless existence.
Arriving in the Vortex, Zed meets two women Eternals — Consuella (Charlotte Rampling) and May (Sara Kestelman) — with psychic powers; mentally overcoming him, they make him prisoner of their community. Consuella wants Zed destroyed immediately; others, led by May and a subversive Eternal named Friend (John Alderton), insist on keeping him for study.
In time, Zed learns the nature of the Vortex. The Eternals are overseen and protected from death by the Tabernacle, an artificial intelligence. Given their limitless lifespan, the Eternals have grown bored and corrupt: the needlessness of procreation has rendered the men impotent; meditation has replaced sleep; others fell to catatonia, forming the social stratum the Eternals name the "Apathetics". The Eternals spend their days stewarding mankind's vast knowledge, while doing little other than participating in communal navel gazing rituals. To give time and life some meaning, the Vortex developed complex social rules, whose violators are punished with artificial aging — condemning them to eternal old age and the status of "Renegade".
Moreover, Zed is less brutal than the Eternals think him. Genetic analysis reveals Zed is the ultimate result of long-running eugenics experiments devised by Arthur Frayn — the Zardoz god — who controlled the outlands with the Exterminators, thus coercing the Brutals to supply the Vortices with grain; yet Zardoz's aim was breeding a superman who would penetrate the Vortex and save mankind from its perpetual status quo. Earlier, the women's analysis of Zed's mind reveals that in the ruins of the old world, Arthur Frayn led Zed to the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, from which Zed understands the origin of the name Zardoz — Wizard of Oz — bringing him to a true awareness of Zardoz as a skillful manipulator rather than an actual deity.
As Zed divines the nature of the Vortex and its problems, the Eternals use him to fight their internecine quarrels. Led by Consuella, the Eternals decide to kill Zed and to age Friend. Zed escapes and, aided by May and Friend, learns the Eternals' knowledge and the Vortex's origin in order to destroy the Tabernacle. Zed helps the Exterminators invade the Vortex and kill most of the Eternals—who welcome death and freedom from their eternal but boring existence. Some Eternals escape the Vortex's destruction, heading out to a new life among the Brutals.
Zardoz ends in a wordless sequence of images accompanied by Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Zed and Consuella, dressed in matching green suits, sit next to each other in the cave-like stone head and age in time-lapse. A child appears, grows, and leaves his parents. Eventually the couple turn into skeletons.
As out of control as the Seventies were, we were all shaking our heads in disbelief when this thing came out.