This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
In the 23rd Century, in a blasted wasteland, the god Zardoz – who takes the form of a vast, flying stone head – rules over the Exterminators, a band of vicious bandits who at the behest of Zardoz use the guns and ammunition that Zardoz provides them with to cull and control the Brutals (defined as anyone in the wasteland who isn’t an Exterminator). The Exterminators are an elite, chosen by Zardoz, who allows a select few to reproduce by commanding them to rape selected Brutals in order to keep their population strictly controlled.
In recent years, Zardoz’ demands have changed: he now has the Exterminators enslave the Brutals rather than killing them on sight, and the Brutals are used to produce grain which is surrendered up to Zardoz. One day, a lone Exterminator named Zed (Sean Connery) stows away on Zardoz and kills Arthur Frayn (Niall Buggy), the head’s controller. Arthur is an Eternal – a member of a peaceful, egalitarian, and extremely technologically advanced society of immortals who live in “vortexes” – sealed communities protected from Brutals and Exterminators alike by forcefields, and controlled by advanced computers and systems of direct democracy and collective agreement. Since nobody else wanted the job, Arthur took on the job of managing the outlands on behalf of the vortices, and Zardoz – given his flair for the occult and the theatrical – was his solution.