Zardoz was released in 1974, the second movie that Sean Connery made after leaving Cubby Broccoli's Bond franchise for good. According to the movie's director and writer, John Boorman, Connery badly needed money and agreed to do the movie on that basis. He must've been really broke.
The movie is 23rd-century romp in which all of humanity is divided up into the lusty and animalistic "Brutals" and the psychic and ethereal "Eternals" at the "Vortex" who have no need to procreate, while a huge flying stone head distributes armaments across the countryside. Sean Connery plays "Zed," an "Exterminator" who manages to infiltrate the "Vortex," where he discombobulates the Eternals' barren notions of sex and violence—or something. Along the way the huge stone head—"Zardoz" to you—memorably bellows the mottos "The gun is good!" and "The penis is evil!" The movie is heady and trashy in a way that only the cinema of the 1970s could possibly muster.
Boorman made several straightforwardly excellent movies, including Excalibur, Hope and Glory, Point Blank, and Deliverance, which makes the eternal peculiarities of Zardoz all the more astonishing.
Zardoz was released in early 1974, and the March issue of Playboy that year featured a nude spread connected with the movie that included nude photos of Charlotte Rampling.
It's abundantly clear that the content of Zardoz was a kind of reaction to the sexual revolution that had been taking place for a number of years before the movie was made. In the text that accompanies the pictures, Boorman makes a remarkable statement of sorts about this, indicating that his experiences visiting communes in America convinced him of the folly of gender equality, a stance that feels all the stranger considering the harsh critique of masculinity featured in his previous movie, Deliverance. Here it is:
Researching for the film, Boorman visited many communes throughout the U.S.A. "I was shocked," he admits now, "in the way you are shocked by something you thought you knew and find you didn't. I was shocked because women were living in the commune in real equality with the men and I realized I hadn't seen that before. I had thought that I believed in women's equality, but I discovered that really I didn't. I can't accept that they're the equals of men. Guilty about it? Yes, but I can't add any more to my burden of guilt. Once you get to 40, you really can't take on any more."Boorman's DVD commentary, which is available on this page, is considered by not a few people to be the greatest of all time. At one point he says that "Charlotte was very disappointed in this sequence because she said she had been looking forward to being raped by Sean Connery and that it was all over far too quickly." Hmmm.
In 2015 Rampling was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in 45 Years, making her one of a tiny number of women who have posed nude in Playboy and also been nominated for an Oscar. (Sharon Stone, Kim Basinger, and Charlize Theron are the only ones I can think of, although Burt Reynolds posed nude in Cosmopolitan and received an Oscar nomination.)
Photo-spread for John Boorman's 'Zardoz', 1974
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