Oct 21, 2015
Zardoz (1974) (part 12 of 15)
Z-Dawg asks, “The Vortex. How did it start?” Cut to the Renegades in the Old Folks Home. Friend pops into the frame, points at the old folks, and says, “They did it!” Really Old Guy sees Friend and stumbles over. Friend tells Z-Dawg that the Old Folks were the scientists who built the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “but they were middle-aged, too conditioned to mortality!”
Several of the old guys stumble into the room and get up on stage. Friend’s VO says, “They went Renegade! We were their offspring, and we were born into Vortex life!”
Really Old Guy suddenly starts talking. “We seal ourselves, herewith, into this place of learning!” Then, “artistically”, we flash back to the old guys when they weren’t so old, standing in what looks like the Orange Auditorium. The Not-So-Really Old Guy repeats the line about “this place of learning” and announces, “Death is banished forever!” Apparently, in the future, all middle-aged guys will wear turtleneck sweaters and Native American-style parkas.
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Cut to all the young Eternals witnessing this announcement. There they all are, dressed up to look like teenagers. They’re all wearing parkas of their own, and Friend has a moptop haircut and a leisure suit on, and there’s Topless Chick before she got all slutty and walked around topless all the time, and May, and Connie, and you were in it, and you were in it! Gosh, honestly, the Eternals were all such cute kids. What the hell happened to them?
As they stand there, Not-So-Really Old Guy dictates that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir shall erase from them “all memories of its construction!” Of all the things that appear to be good ideas, this is not one of them. “So we can never destroy it if we should ever crave for death!” What? Just because you don’t know how to build something doesn’t mean you can’t tear it down. For instance, I could never make a movie this pretentious and nonsensical, yet I sure can tear it a new one.
Moving on, Not-So-Really Old Guy announces that mankind, from this point on, shall only go “forward to perfection!” And the teen titans all start applauding [?] like they’re trapped in a bad school assembly.
In voiceover, Friend explains how all the Eternals then set to work on the “unsolved mysteries of the universe.” We pan across several Eternals, all hiding under sheets for utterly no reason. “But even with infinite time,” Friend says, and again, we’re talking 300 years here, “And the help of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, our minds were not up to it! We failed!”
Connie and some other random chick stroll past the sheet-covered Eternals, murmuring science-y sounding non sequiturs into their Mood Rings. Friend says they’re all “trapped by our own devices”, and that “There is no exit!” Is that a reference to Sartre? Or are fire exits just not clearly marked in the future?
We then cut to inside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Z-Dawg pops up into the frame and shouts, “Destroy it!” Then he holds up his revolver and starts shooting in random directions. He shoots at the Star Trek viewscreen, which for some reason is showing an abstract painting, and then shoots at all the nude bodies behind the sheets of glass.
“Kill the Tabernacle!” he yells. He aims his gun at one naked body that turns out to be May [?]. Huh? How is she back in here? Did someone kill her? She turns to him and shouts, “The Tabernacle is indestructible and everlasting!” Then the scene ends. What? When was that supposed to be happening?
Cut to a close-up of a small jewel being held with a pair of tweezers. Friend says, “This crystal shall join us, each to each!” We then see this crystal is being lowered into a wound on May’s forehead [!!]. “And all to the Tabernacle,” Friend says. Then that scene ends. Okay. Does anyone have a clue what’s going on here? Because I sure don’t.
“A crystal joins them!” Z-Dawg exclaims, while we see a shot of somebody’s hand holding a big cubic zirconium. Ah, yes, crystals. Crystals sure were popular back in the 70’s, weren’t they?
Topless Chick AKA Avalow is heard telling Z-Dawg that even though they’ve given him everything they have, there’s just one thing left to give him, “which contains everything, and nothing.” Can he return it if he doesn’t like it?
Z-Dawg struggles to get to the crystal, fighting his way through projected images of plankton. [?] Yeah, I don’t get it either. But now he’s in an Eternal outfit, instead of that red diaper. Do you get what’s happened here? Well, do you?
We pan over and find Avalow is the one who’s holding the crystal. “Look into this,” she tells him. “You will see lines running into the future!” Then there’s further shots of Z-Dawg struggling through the plankton.
“You will make insight jumps,” Avalow tells him. Somehow, I find that unlikely. “When you can see into this crystal, then you will be ready!”
Z-Dawg finally reaches through the plankton and grabs at the crystal. It glows for a moment, and suddenly we cut to a honeycombed view of Z-Dawg like he’s being attacked by bees in The Swarm. “I see nothing inside,” we hear his voice say (while his lips don’t move), “Except my own perplexity.” Yep. That’s pretty much how I’d describe this movie.
Suddenly, Z-Dawg is back in the statuary fondling the crystal. Then it’s back to a honeycombed view of his face again, and in voiceover he says, “Knowledge is not enough.” But for right now, I’d take it. I mean, just knowing what the hell is going on would be enough for me.
Z-Dawg hears a man’s voice yell, “I have come for you!” It sounds very similar to the voice of Zardoz, so Z-Dawg picks up his revolver and marches out.
He follows the voice over to a gallery of wax statues dressed like 17th and 18th century French and British soldiers, who are, by far, the most animated performers in the movie. Z-Dawg passes by a statue with a top hat, and when Z has his back turned, the statue suddenly comes to life and taps him on the shoulder.
Z-Dawg rips a rubber mask off the statue, and underneath is the Sharpie-Mustache glory of Arthur Frayn himself. Z-Dawg calls him by name, but Arthur Frayn says, “My Brutal friends call me Zardoz!” He then laughingly stabs Z-Dawg in the shoulder with a switchblade that turns out to be a collapsing gag knife. He walks away, and for no apparent reason says, “Revenge!” No, truth! No, revenge!
Arthur Frayn stands between some wax statues and says, “Now, we’re even!” He then snaps his fingers and a glass sphere floats down from the ceiling [??] directly into his hand. He starts misquoting the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot: “To have squeezed the universe into a ball, To roll it toward[s] some overwhelming question, To say: ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead…” He turns to Z and asks, “Do you know the next line? It’s T.S. Eliot.”
Z, still holding his revolver, says, “‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead. Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all!'” Oh yeah, like it was really difficult to guess that line. Frayn is giddy at this. He releases the glass sphere and it hovers in mid-air [?] over his head.
He compliments Z-Dawg on learning his lessons well. Z-Dawg wants to know what Arthur Frayn can tell him, so Frayn tosses over the sphere with a laugh. Z-Dawg catches the sphere, which has suddenly transformed into a solid crystal ball that looks nothing like the thin sphere that was hovering over Frayn’s head a second ago.
Frayn asks Z-Dawg what he sees in the ball. “Nothing,” Z-Dawg replies. Well, you have to shake it first. Frayn says, “Then I have nothing to tell you.” Hey, some good news for a change!
Frayn suddenly disappears, and we’re right back to that freeze-frame of Connie yelling, “Charge!” from like ten minutes ago. Yeah, remember that? I guess this means all the nonsense we just saw with the osmosis and the flashbacks and the creation of the Tabernacle and the crystal, I’m assuming this means all of that took place in the space of a few seconds. But who knows. Really, who knows.