Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Zariku Number Two

Zariku for Consuella

With your dress so green
Pointing at stiff cocks on screen
You're very keen

Dolly Dolly

Zarikus to the comments box, please. Don't forget that prize, or that Unmann-Wittering has promised it - so quite frankly it could be any old bloody tat. His 'house' is full of it.

Everybody Needs A Bosom For A Pillow

The Sound Of Zardoz

First the bad news: there is no official Zardoz OST.

The good news: Mounds & Circles have created one from the DVD! Imperfect, with snatches of dialogue, but the closest we could get to capturing the film score proper.

John Boorman commissioned David Munrow to compose the score, no doubt having been impressed by his groundbreaking work reviving early music with his outfit, The Early Music Consort, and period soundtrack projects such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elisabeth R for the BBC, and Ken Russell's film adaptation of Huxley's The Devils of Loudon.

The soundtrack for Zardoz uses a sprinkling of electronic noises woven into early chamber instrumentation, renaissance and Ligeti-modernist choral passages, Debussy flute suggesting Zed's affinity with Pan and Tibetan tingsha cymbals to top it off. On paper this looks rather confusing but the score works seamlessly with the sound effects and serves to enhance Boorman's visuals without dominating, possessing an almost timeless quality as it folds together styles from different periods to create the sound of futures past, as is only appropriate for the Eternals in AD 2293.

The film ends as it begins in a romantic mood with Munrow's reworking for voices and early instruments of Symphony No. 7 in A, op. 92, 2nd movement by Ludwig van. Vidi well, my brothers.

DM rocking the bass shawm - take that, Circulus!
Munrow was an incredible driving force during his career, recording over 50 albums as well as lecturing and touring the world, bringing extinct instruments back to life and collaborating with many artists, including Shirley and Dolly Collins.

Following the deaths of his father and father-in-law soon after one another, Munrow's world fell apart and he hanged himself in 1976 at the age of just 34. Thankfully his work lives on despite this tragedy,  through his many recordings, and one item of particular interest: a recording included on the Voyager Golden Record , sent off beyond the solar system on the Voyager space probes on their journey through the cosmos.

The hills are alive...

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Zariku Number One

Zariku for Zed

Hair all down his back
None on his head - just his back
Here to fuck and kill


Yes, we know it's not a proper haiku so please don't write to Watchdog. If, however, you'd like to have a go, please add your own Zariku to the comments box. There may even be a prize for any good ones.

Fair Exchange

'How much time do we have?'

'We will not work in time. You will take our knowledge by osmosis - out of time. We will touch teach you, and you will give us your seed'. 

Zardoz is trippy, too.

Continuation Of The Trial Of George Saden Of Vortex 4

Monday, 29 August 2011

Upstairs at Arthur's

In which Zed enters Arthur Frayn's house and discovers all manner of magician's props and occult artefacts, a mandala/astrological chart on the ceiling, phrenological bust and palmistry hand, wall diagrams documenting the rise of the Eternal's "homo superior", René Magritte's 'Le Château des Pyrénées' (a nod to the floating head), antique scientific instruments and children's toys.

These all add a certain cultural and historical depth to the unfolding story, and the anachronisms serve to throw into relief the new-age science of the Vortex.

Death meets death
Arthur's Psychedelic Disco
Most importantly Zed finds Frayne's ring, which sends him into some confusion when it begins to speak and project images, especially that of the man he's recently killed.

Fyoocharisik zpellin
What the...
Some years before Zardoz, Boorman had been commissioned to direct a film of Lord of the Rings. He produced a screenplay but no studio would give it the green light; perhaps this experience found it's way into Zardoz through the rings the Eternals must all wear to commune with the Tabernacle?

Repeat After Me

The Gun Is Good

Long before I ever saw 'Zardoz', I was able to (unin)form an opinion of it based on stills from the production and other people's views of the film, i.e. it looked incredible, but was one of the worst films ever made. When I finally saw it, I was initially disappointed that it wasn't the hilarious spectacle promised but, instead, was hugely ambitious, not always successful, occasionally disastrous, eminently watchable. I've seen it again and again over the years and am proud to say that my informed opinion is that the critics are, as ever, full of shit. 'Zardoz' is a great film in the true sense of the word - big, bold, ballsy, brilliant and jam packed with mad ideas. Does it always work? No. Does it matter? No! It's what Friese-Greene invented cinema for.

Usually derided as a crazed ego trip on the part of director and writer and producer John Boorman, 'Zardoz' oversteps the mark from the start, giving us not one, but two prologues. The first (see above) is a nod to Shakespeare and a nudge and wink to the viewer which always reminds me of Burt Lancaster's aside in 'The Crimson Pirate': 'Believe only what you see. No, believe only half of what you see!'.  

The second prologue, where the magician Arthur Frayn's normal sized disembodied head gives way to the huge, floating noggin of his fake God, is one of the most astonishing three and a half minutes in cinema. This brilliant sequence, in which the huge stone deity flies through the clouds to land before an expectant crowd of hairy men wearing masks of its fierce face, before proceeding to lecture on the efficacy of violence as an extreme form of contraception should rightfully cause your jaw to drop - and when the head starts dispensing guns and ammunition from its jagged mouth you know for certain you're not in Kansas anymore.

In amongst the hairy men is the ever hirsute Sean Connery. Connery stars as Zed, a genetic experiment who combines ruthless aggression with intellect. In his first act as 'hero', he cocks his new gun, turns to the audience, and shoots it in the face.

That's the first five minutes taken care of. From here on in, things start to get a little strange.

The Magician

'I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived three hundred years, and I long to die, but death is no longer possible: I am immortal. I present now my story, full of mystery and intrigue - rich in irony, and most satirical. It is set deep in a possible future, so none of these events have yet occurred, but they may. Be warned, lest you end as I.

In this tale, I am a fake god by occupation - and a magician, by inclination. Merlin is my hero. I am the puppet master. I manipulate many of the characters and events you will see. But I am invented, too, for your entertainment - and amusement. And you, poor creatures, who conjured you out of the clay? Is God in show business too?'

Welcome To The Vortex

Welcome to Zardoz Week, people. Please check your penis at the door and pick up your free gun on the way in to The Vortex.

For the uninitiated, Zardoz is a 1974 sci fi film written and directed by John Boorman. The story is far from straightforward, but here are the salient points.

It's 2293 AD, and the people of Earth have splintered into two factions: the Brutals and the Eternals. The hapless Brutals are desperate, nomadic, fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic wilderness - while the immortal Eternals live a cloistered and pampered life of endless luxury and entropy within The Vortex, a safe environment created for them by The Tabernacle, an advanced artificial intelligence.    

The Eternals use the more aggressive Brutals as Exterminators, vicious killers and rapists who keep their own people in their place. They are motivated by their God, Zardoz, a flying stone head which gives them munitions in exchange for grain. Zardoz is actually the creation of Eternal Arthur Frayn, and is little more than an elaborate prop to maintain the status quo.

Zed, an Exterminator, stows aboard the flying head of Zardoz and penetrates The Vortex, the first Brutal to do so. Although he is assumed to be little more than an animal, he is, in fact, the result of Frayn's experiments in eugenics - a genetically mainipulated Nemesis designed to destroy the sterile decadence of The Vortex  once and for all...   

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Hound of the Baskervilles

'Hound Of The Baskervilles' is not the glittering highlight of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's  partnership, more a well polished turd, this loose adaptation of Conan Doyle's tale has, nonetheless, long had a place in my affections.

Peter Cook as Sherlock, or 'Sherl' as to his mother
Peter Cook plays the lazy, charmless, Jew-ish Sherlock Holmes and Dudley Moore is, of course, the bumbling Dr Watson, who adopts an ill-advised Welsh accent for comedy effect. A variety of old stagers ham it up nicely as the supporting cast.

Yes, this is a comedy but I would warn potential viewers that the gags are a little thin on the ground, or rather well-worn. This will not come as much surprise to anyone familiar with British cinema of the period (1978), as the film industry was in a very poor state: Hammer was washed up, the Carry On series had more or less run their (coarse?) course and producers were reduced to transferring successful television sit-coms to the big screen in a desperate attempt to attract audiences. Those who have seen the film versions of Man About the House, Porridge, George and Mildred, Rising Damp, and so on, must surely agree that these were all miserable failures, where actors who filled the small screen with their charisma and riotous laughter were all at sea in a humour-free cinematic ocean.

The Barrymores : Max Wall and Irene Handel (my dream couple)
Massage Parlour Madam : Penelope Keith (hot stuff)
In this scene Watson attempts to send a telegram to Holmes, assisted by the strangely familiar postmaster, Henry Woolf (mate of Harold Pinter, star of 70s BBC kids show Words and Pictures), with Prunella Scales and Eastender's Lou Beale:

HOTB is no different from other films from the era, as Pete and Dud valiantly attempt to revive aging gags such as Pete's 'One Leg Too Few', which debuted 18 years previously in 1960, and music hall routines much older still. Please don't misunderstand; I love these jokes and still laugh at this film, but there's something hollow at the heart of it, a melancholy going-through-the-motions that suggests Cook and Moore finishing their days as Vladimir and Estragon, waiting for a new punchy gag that never comes along. Director Paul Morrissey's cold reserve may have found favour with Warhol's ironic ntures in horror cinema, but with a British story and cast it feels empty, set-bound and passionless.

The Franklands (M&C favourites Dana Gillespie and Hugh Griffith) grab Wattie
Beryl Stapledon (Joan Greenwood) exposes Watson to her seduction techniques:

I would imagine that lengthy lunches off set were probably the highlight of Cook's day during the filming. His Holmes looks noticeably bored through much of his time on screen when compared to Moore, whom the camera loves and who is clearly having much more fun as Watson and especially in his additional part as Holmes' Jewish mother. Dud attacks this part with relish as he is freed from his usual subservient role and is able to abuse Pete with abandon. Moore had endured years of Cook's tormenting, which only increased with Cook's drinking, and he left soon after this film for stardom in Hollywood. Their partnership was at an end, played-out, literally, by Dudley's melodramatic piano score.