TV Cream

Films: F is for...

Final Programme, The

Maverick pop-art fantasy director Robert Fuest (The Avengers, The Abominable Dr Phibes) is let loose on Michael Moorcock’s time-tripping novel of swinging psychosexual splother, producing a muddled tale of a race to stop the blueprints for a genetically modified Superman falling into the wrong hands as the missiles drop. Jon ‘Counterstrike‘ Finch cuts a dashing cross between Jon Pertwee and Tony Bastable as unstable, black nail varnish-wearing, chocolate digestive-munching fop Jerry Cornelius, and Jenny ‘Jubilee‘ Runacre is fun as the catsuit-clad, predatory Miss Brunner, and there are top guest turns from Hugh Griffiths, Sterling Hayden, Patrick Magee, Harry Andrews and Graham Crowden. But really, as with The Avengers, forget trying to make sense of any fragments of so called “plot” that might happen to be floating about, this is all about the set-pieces.

And what set-pieces. Heaps of wrecked cars along the Thames? Check. Multicoloured poison gas clouds? Check. Underground supercomputer powered by rows of scientists’ disembodied brains? Check. Hypodermic-firing drug pistols? Check. Chic restaurant with in-house wrestling tournaments, with booze served up in little Freeze-pop packets from a tray around Sandra Dickinson’s neck? Check. Picnics with lab-coated scientists in miniature geodesic domes? Check. Fiendishly cryptic Adventure Game-style puzzles involving doors with gigantic vertical chess sets as locks? Check. Giant pinball game featuring women rolling about in those inflatable spheres James Burke used to try out on Tomorrow’s World? Check. Solarised film to indicate the apocalypse? Check. Actually quite good zero-budget visual effects done with a bit of corrugated glass by an optical lab that, when asked to repeat the trick for something else, admitted they’d forgotten how they did it? Check. Hermaphrodite ubermensch revealed as a manicured monkey doing a crap Humphrey Bogart impression? Er, check. The soundtrack? Why, jazz-Moog, of course!

So, we’re not in for a round of incisive character-led examination of the human condition or taut, finely crafted storytelling. So what’s the big deal? Well, we’d argue that a great big wobbly dollop of blancmange is great once in a while. The fact that your average multiplex these days shows nothing but blancmange is part of the problem – ‘once in a while’ is the key. Besides (and this is a matter of taste), there’s a big difference between some off-the shelf readymix packet blancmange and the sort your granny whips up out of various Macmillan-era odds and ends she’s found at the back of the pantry. Both will lay you up in bed for a fortnight, but only the latter lends itself to a good anecdote rather than a sniffy letter to Watchdog. (The fact we’re reduced to making such absurdly overstretched food metaphors is somehow appropriate to this mad film.)

Any hardcore Moorcock fans watching this film will become crosser and crosser throughout, but while it does break the cardinal rule of this sort of thing by playing up its inherent daftness at times, it’s splendid entertainment to watch this misguided film shake itself spectacularly to bits, like one of those Heath Robinson prototype flying machines. Enjoy the journey – just don’t expect to find yourself anywhere convenient when you get off.



  1. Droogie

    May 19, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    I watched this again recently and had forgotten how much fun it is. Jon Finch oozes sexy charisma in buckets as Jerry Cornelius, looking remarkably like a young Johnny Depp here. The film’s visuals are fascinating too, like a cheaper knock-off of A Clockwork Orange. ( the scene in the psychedelic amusement arcade is pure Korova Milk Bar.) Among all the high camp, there are some great set pieces. The needle gun fight is especially good. I wondered why they didn’t film any more of the Cornelius books after this as Finch was so good as the character -like a more brooding Austin Powers. But then I read the other books and realised their increased weirdness made them unfilmable.

  2. THX 1139

    May 2, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    It is surprisingly entertaining for ninety minutes of overindulgence, and Finch is just fantastic, he should have had a bigger career is what you think when you see him in this, his Cornelius is like nobody else, then or now. Moorcock hated it, but you might not if you have a taste for post-psychedelic visual noodling.

  3. Droogie

    October 22, 2020 at 11:56 pm

    Jon Finch’s movie CV is a bit bonkers. He worked with Hitchcock and Polanski, but also appeared in awful cack like Breaking Glass and The Pop Pirates. ( Though his military background as an SAS reserve suggested he would’ve been a decent James Bond at least.)

    • Richardpd

      October 23, 2020 at 10:19 am

      I heard even this one struggled to be film-able according to the book of science fiction films I have, which has a picture of the giant inflatable pinball machine to illustrate it.

      Jon Finch was the first choice for Bodie in the Professionals, but turned it down as he didn’t see himself in the part. Luckily Lewis Collins had a similar special forces background.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      October 23, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      Finch was also in Alien, but fell seriously ill and was replaced by John Hurt – or is this too well known a fact to be trotted out here? I remember Finch was excellent in a play on BBC TV in which he was George Orwell, meeting H. G. Wells (played by Richard Todd).

  4. Richardpd

    October 24, 2020 at 10:54 pm

    I’ve heard that John Hurt replaced someone in Alien, but wasn’t sure who.

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