Suspiria! Caligula! ZARDOZ! Wacky One Word Movie Wonders!

There are certain movies that gain infamy for being – well, so over the top, creative inspired or just plain psychodelically CRAZY – that you tell people to watch them just to see their minds blown!

Sometimes the plot doesn’t drive a film as much as the strange, surreal imagery that saturates a movie, and stories about the movie can sometimes be as interesting as the film itself…

There are films that create unique worlds – worlds that are SO far removed from reality, or that twist reality in such a way that you never see the world the same way again….here is an example:

I mean – LOOK AT SEAN CONNERY HERE! How can you NOT want to know what in the world is going on here? Well, wonder no more! Here are three examples of mind-blowing cinema…


Zardoz.
1974. Directed by John Boorman.

Ready to have your mind blown? I mean, BLOWN BLOWN BLOWN?

Check out this trailer, and be ready for madness to descend…

This film was directed by John Boorman, who had made the brilliant “Deliverance”…As you can see from the trailer, is is one CRAZY FILM – starring James Bond!

In the distant future Earth is divided into two camps, the barely civilized group and the overly civilized one with mental powers. A plague is attacking the second group, after which its members cease to have any interest in life and become nearly catatonic. When Zed, one of the barbarians, crosses over, the tenuous balance in their world is threatened.

And here are the opening lines of the movie….a a huge huge huge stone head floats over the English countryside…

“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?”

Soon after, the Stone Head delivers these gems:

[the gigantic Stone Head hovers before the worshipful horde of Exterminators]
Zardoz: Zardoz speaks to you, His chosen ones.
Exterminators: We are the chosen ones!
Zardoz: You have been raised up from Brutality, to kill the Brutals who multiply, and are legion. To this end, Zardoz your God gave you the gift of the Gun. The Gun is good!
Exterminators: The Gun is good!
Zardoz: The Penis is evil! The Penis shoots Seeds, and makes new Life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was. But the Gun shoots Death and purifies the Earth of the filth of Brutals. Go forth, and kill! Zardoz has spoken.

And look at this! Yes, Sean Connery fights back against the “evil penis!”

To completely understand how warped this movie is, stop for a moment: take a deep breath, then get your head around this fact: “Zardoz” is a film that has a giant rock head flying over the countryside saying “the penis is evil!”

Look, this is one warped classic, wildly and weirdly entertaining, so check it out!

And speaking of weirdly entertaining, let’s look at one of the most controversial movies ever made – with an All-Star cast!


Caligula! – 1979

One of the most notorious films ever released! An all-star cast finds themselves in a hardcore film!

Here is the plot: The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign – he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end.

There are various versions of the film, ranging from the heavily- truncated 90-minute version to the legendary 160-minute hardcore version which leaves nothing to the imagination (though the hardcore scenes were inserted later and do not involve the main cast members).

Yes, while the film was always supposed to be very adult, the original Director Tinto Brass walked away when Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione added hardcore sex scenes into the movie….

Acclaimed writer Gore Vidal did not want credit for his work on the screenplay, and legendary Actors Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud claimed to have been unaware hardcore sex footage was being shot for the film.

Malcolm McDowell plays Caligula, and even if material was added separately, there is still plenty of graphic sex and violence in the original version. Helen Mirren co-stars as well…

Great trivia courtesy of IMDB: Despite popular beliefs, Gore Vidal and Tinto Brass did not disown this film because Bob Guccione inserted hardcore sex and graphic violence sequences and changed the point of the film.

In reality, only five or six minutes of the 156-minute version of the film was part of Guccione’s reshoot – that five or six minutes consists of the lesbian tryst in the secret room, and several inserts in the imperial bordello scene.

Everything else was shot by Brass. Vidal disowned the film because Brass and lead actor Malcolm McDowell changed the point of view of his screenplay. Brass disowned it because Guccione locked him out of the editing room (some in the industry suspect it was because Brass didn’t want to use Guccione’s hardcore inserts) after assembling the first 40 minutes (which was probably disassembled shortly afterward).

Guccione then proceeded to edit the film himself, but he often chose shots that were never meant to be included (the many zooms, out-of-focus shots, etc.), and also cut up certain scenes and put them in the wrong order.

Hear The Inside Story!

Now you can hear exactly what happened here, by some of the stars involved!

In 2007, Image Entertainment released a 3-disc special edition known as the Imperial Edition. It features two cuts of the film, the 156-minute print and a new edit created from an alternate pre-release version which re-arranges some scenes and does not include most of the explicit sexual inserts added by Guccione (a few shots were left in by mistake and various outtakes from Brass’ shoot and a handful of 16 mm behind-the-scenes footage were used to fill in for the deleted material).

Both Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren take part in a full-length audio commentary, discussing the non-hardcore, pre-release version of the film – the film they THOUGHT they were making…the DVD also includes interviews with Tinto Brass, who discusses the film’s hectic production and botched editing; and Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner, who discusses the addition of the hardcore footage, including the lesbian sex scene in which she participated.

There is also a booklet included with the 3-disc set includes a discussion of the many different versions of the film, and states that a significant amount of footage remains unaccounted for – this movie should be studied in film school as a classic example of “crazy gone wild” – and with so much behind-the-scenes information and commentary, here is a ton to study!

Finally, if you’ve never seen a Dario Argento film, you have missed out on some of the most psychodelic horror films ever made, by one of the most acclaimed Italian Directors of all time!

Suspiria – 1977. Directed by Dario Argento

Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.

Can’t argue with that! Here is the trailer for this wildly surreal horror film!

A young American dancer travels to Europe to join a famous ballet school. As she arrives, the camera turns to another young woman, who appears to be fleeing from the school. She returns to her apartment where she is gruesomely murdered by a hideous creature.

Meanwhile, the young American is trying to settle in at the ballet school, but hears strange noises and is troubled by bizarre occurrences. American Actress Jessica Harper plays the young American who finds herself in increasingly bizarre circumstances…

She eventually discovers that the school is merely a front for a much more sinister organization – check out this dialogue as she stumbles upon a sleeping local…

Helena Markos: [aroused from her snoring slumber] Who is it? Who’s there? Ah, I’ve been expecting you! The American girl! I knew you’d come. You want to kill me! You want to kill Helena Markos!
[vanishes, laughing]
Helena Markos: You wanted to kill me! You wanted to kill me! What are you gonna do now, huh? Now death is coming for you! You wanted to kill Helena Markos! Hell is behind that door! You’re going to meet death now… the LIVING DEAD!

Suspiria is noteworthy for several stylistic flourishes that have become Argento trademarks. The film was made with anamorphic lenses. The production design and cinematography emphasize vivid primary colors, particularly red, creating a deliberately unrealistic, nightmarish setting, emphasized by the use of imbibition Technicolor prints.

The imbibition process, used for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind”, and is much more vivid in its color rendition than regular, emulsion-based release prints – which allowed the Director to enhance the nightmarish quality of the film.

The finale of “Suspiria” was inspired by a dream that co-writer Daria Nicolodi once had. In the dream Nicolodi said she had encountered an invisible witch and most bizarrely there was a panther in the room with her that suddenly exploded.

This dream-like, mind-altering imagery is everywhere in “Suspiria”, creating a surreal atmosphere that is completely unique and mesmerizing…

This is a classic horror film, but so completely unique and different than what you’d expect…check it out!



Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Foreign Films, Grindhouse, Horror films, Movies, Obscure Movies, Revenge Movies, Sexploitation Movies, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. What was Sean Connery thinking? That made me laugh. As for Caligula, looks like a very raunchy romp.

  2. Great stuff, John. ‘Zardoz’! I actually went to see that at the cinema. What the hell was Boorman thinking? The whole film was his ‘baby’. He must have been on some strong stuff back then…
    Best wishes, Pete.

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