Blu Reviewed: Twilight Time - Zardoz

Twilight Time has released Zardoz on blu-ray. Find out our thoughts on the technical aspects of the release.

"I'm SO hard."
British director John Boorman achieved phenomenal success with his white knuckle 1972 thriller Deliverance about a group of friends who embark on a canoe trip in Northern Georgia only to tangle with violent mountain men along the way.  A box office and critical smash, Boorman achieved that rare and envious area of carte-blanche where he had the power to direct any project of his choosing and retain final cut.  After initially being offered the task of directing The Exorcist which he turned down after finding it unremittingly cruel towards children, Boorman instead set his sights on a project of his own devising: a post-apocalyptic metaphysical science fiction thriller he called Zardoz. 

Drawing elements from The Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes and A Clockwork Orange, Zardoz is among the wackiest and deeply insane personal projects ever to emerge from the tail-end of an era of low budget science fiction filmmaking where the story was based more on ideas than explosions…too many ideas.  Far more batty and oddly loveable than the recently released Jupiter Ascending with probably the most ridiculous costume design ever worn by a male lead, Sean Connery more or less carrying James Bond into a moustache/ponytail bound savage clad in red leather boots and nappy, Zardoz is the kind of self-indulgent exercise in artistic pretension where the less sense it makes, the more we can’t stop watching it.  Full of floating stone God-heads, a surreal hippie commune and a brief moment of Sean Connery in a wedding dress, Zardoz could in fact be the weirdest film ever released by mainstream Hollywood.  It also marks one of the very best and top-selling Blu-Rays offered by the limited edition series label, Twilight Time!

"Dig my underpants?"
The Video
Shot by 2001: A Space Odyssey’s cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, Zardoz is, if nothing else, totally visually arresting on every front.  The opening vista of an optical floating God-head slowly careening towards the camera, whether it works or not, is among the most grandiose and startling images in all of science fiction.  Utilizing endless rear projection effects in camera with psychedelic colors and kaleidoscopic mirror effects, Zardoz intends to assault the viewer’s senses as much as it can with the film’s shoestring budget.  Needless to say, the aged 2.35:1 material has been transferred flawlessly to Blu-Ray. When compared to some of their earlier discs like the gritty master for Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia full of print damage and dots, Zardoz looks like it’s undergone a restoration process and is largely free of artifacts or blemishes.  While eccentrically and at times intentionally erratically photographed, Twilight Time’s Blu-Ray exhibits a great deal of sharpness and healthy amounts of film grain that don’t distract or feel like they could have undergone further remastering.  After having seen the 20th Century Fox DVD for many years, this Blu-Ray is quite the upgrade in the video department and will give your home theater a pleasing visual experience of the nuttiness that ensues.

The Audio
Initially offered on DVD in the front-loaded Dolby Digital 3.0, taking up the three front channels of sound, Twilight Time brings Zardoz to Blu-Ray in a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound remaster.  Sonically, the film is still largely front-loaded though some of the music and ambience does bleed into the rear channels.  While not necessarily demo material for those wanting to show off their home theaters, the audio has been mastered relatively well considering its age and it comes through loud and clear.  The subwoofer still roars to life whenever the floating God-head appears and flies through the sky and David Munrow’s score, which ranges between the eerie and distant electronic noises of THX:1138 to Beethoven’s Seventh, sounds as oddball and beautiful as it did on the DVD.  In the time honored tradition of Twilight Time, an isolated effects and music track has been included on the disc in 2.0 stereo.

"We ARE so progressive."
The Extras
While somewhat light in the way of video extras, only including the original theatrical trailer, Twilight Time more than makes up for the lack thereof in the audio department.  As with the aforementioned isolated track, the Blu-Ray ports over director John Boorman’s audio commentary from the DVD as well as a newly recorded commentary with Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and film historians Jeff Bond and Joe Fordham, offering a unique insight into the film’s themes as well as anecdotes about the film’s checkered past and how Sean Connery became involved.  It’s an engaging listen with a lot of dissertation on the era of early 1970s low budget science fiction that asked more of the audience than most films today would.  Also included are several radio spots for the film and, as always, Julie Kirgo’s essay included in booklet form.

Whether Zardoz really works as a film or not is kind of beside the point. In terms of really strange but intriguing science fiction films of the era, Zardoz is both completely bananas and oddly grounded in classical as well as present themes.  For trying to create a completely new and unseen world of a perfect utopian society, assailing the old ‘man-behind-the-curtain’ theme and attempting to use science fiction as a comment on the end of the hippie generation, Zardoz is overloaded and completely out there and yet consistently entertaining and unpredictable.  No doubt a mildly pretentious head scratcher, Zardoz is wonderfully wacky and almost foresees the unbridled nutty mayhem Boorman would brew with his much maligned sequel to The ExorcistZardoz is, if nothing else, a truly interesting picture that has the power to grow on you with time and for having the gall to take its laughably bizarre premise all the way.  A wonderful addition to any film library for science fiction enthusiasts and Twilight Time has done a great job with the Blu-Ray!

-Andrew Kotwicki