I first heard about the movie Zardoz on some internet forum or other where a running joke was to put up disguised links that would lead you to a still from the movie, showing Sean Connery in his bizarre costume from the film (hip boots, red diaper, bandoliers of bullets, beard and ponytail). It’s not an image you really want to dwell on but it’s hardly an atrocity like the old goat.se linkbomb on B3ta.
Anyway the more I read about the movie, the more interested in it I become. First and foremost, it was written & directed by John Boorman. Deliverance is a widely-recognized classic, and Excalibur is one of my all-time favorite films despite its flaws. The other details I picked up from synopses and reviews (the flying stone head, the psychedelic tone, the gratuitous violence and nudity) only made it more intriguing. Joesky’s review and the endorsements from a variety of bloggers whose aesthetics are interesting made me finally break down and watch in on cable a few months ago. I watched it late at night, possibly with chemical enhancement like Nyquil or something (when I get a cold or flu I sleep downstairs and watch too much TV), and I found it a little confusing, but watchable. (Caution: I managed to watch Children shouldn’t play with dead things all the way through so my threshold for what is ‘watchable’ may be abnormally low.)
Anyway, when I came across the ‘novelization’ of the film, which was credited to Boorman and Bill Stair, I grabbed it and figured I’d read it some time — it is a very slim book, as you might expect from a movie tie-in novel. In fact I read it over the course of a week or so at the gym. (I try to read something slightly trashy or pulpy so that I don’t have to think too hard but which is still good enough that I look forward to reading it, as motivation to get to on the stationary bike.)
The co-writer, Bill Stair, worked in some design capacity on the film as well, and also co-wrote the script for another Boorman film (Leo the last), but I have not been able to find out much more about him apart form the fact that wrote & drew a comic or graphic novel called Superslave which appears to be fairly rare, and involves some kind of reluctant messiah. It sounds interesting but is priced way beyond what I’d pay for a graphic novel (currently over $60 on Abebooks and close to that on Amazon).
The Zardoz novel, at just under 130 pages, is a quick read, and gives a few details that weren’t in the film, as well as a fair amount of explanation of what is going on inside Zed’s head, which I didn’t really get from the movie. It also suggests that the ‘brutals’ are not just peasants but frequently mutants, which is not clear in the film. The ‘message’ is much more explicit, and the awkward narration at the beginning of the film is not reproduced, which is a plus. I can’t say it made me want to re-watch the movie, but if I ever do, I’ll have a much better idea of what is going on. On it’s own merits, it is a decent science fiction adventure, written in a fairly unique voice, that compares favorably to other pulps but doesn’t really achieve “greatness.” As a source of gaming ideas, the flying heads, the vortex, and the pyramid are all interesting locations, and the immortals, brutals, and exterminators might make an interesting population dynamic for Gamma World or a similar post-apocalyptic game; for D&D, they are equally usable, especially if you veer towards science fantasy.