The Final Programme (film)

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The Final Programme
Final programme.png
Directed by Robert Fuest
Produced by John Goldstone
Sandy Lieberson
executive
Nat Cohen
Roy Baird
David Puttnam
Written by Robert Fuest
Based on novel by Michael Moorcock
Starring Jon Finch
Jenny Runacre
Hugh Griffith
Patrick Magee
Production
  company
Goodtimes Enterprises
Gladiole Films
Distributed by Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI Distributors Ltd. (UK)
New World Pictures (US)
Release date(s) 4 October 1973 (UK)
1974 (US)
Running time 94 mins (UK)
76 mins (US)
Country UK
Language English

The Final Programme is a 1973 British fantasy science fiction-thriller film directed by Robert Fuest, and starring Jon Finch and Jenny Runacre. It was based on the first Jerry Cornelius novel (also called The Final Programme) by Michael Moorcock. It was distributed in the United States and elsewhere as The Last Days of Man on Earth. It is the only one of the many Moorcock novels to have reached the screen.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The story opens in Lapland with the funeral pyre of Jerry Cornelius's father, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who has developed the "Final Programme"—a design for a perfect, self-replicating human being. Jerry Cornelius, playboy physicist and dashing secret agent, who has flown in by helicopter, is in attendance and afterwards is questioned by Dr Smiles, who wants to retrieve a microfilm which he knows is in the Cornelius family home back in England. Cornelius, who wears black fingernail polish, continually eats chocolate biscuits, drinks heavily and dresses in dandyish fashion with a ruffled white shirtfront and black suit and gloves, says he plans to blow up the family house. Flashbacks to Jerry's conversations with Professor Hira about the Kali Yuga inform the narrative, providing a philosophical background of the world being in its final days. In various scenes, we learn that the Vatican no longer exists, that Amsterdam has been razed to ash, and we see Trafalgar Square a post-apocalyptic scenario of wrecked cars piled atop one another.

Back in the UK, a group of scientists led by Dr. Smiles and the formidable Miss Brunner (who consumes her lovers) try to persuade Cornelius to locate the microfilm containing his father's Final Programme. Jerry learns from his family servant of his sister Catherine's imprisonment at the hands of his evil, drug-addicted brother, Frank; Frank has his and Jerry's sister Catherine held captive in their family home, and has addicted her to drugs for unspecified reasons. Jerry instructs his servant John to smuggle Catherine out to the lodge on the property's grounds; he will take care of Frank. Jerry sets out to rescue Catherine, with whom his relationship is hinted to be one of incest. He consults Major Wrongway Lindbergh, who supplies him with a high-powered jet (not seen onscreen), and also his old friend "Shades" who may be able to supply him with napalm. Norwegian actress and pinup model Julie Ege appears briefly in this scene as Miss Dazzle, a friend of Jerry's. The attack on the old house commences. The house is protected by a sound system which induces pseudo-epilepsy; however Jerry and the others manage to get inside unharmed. They fight their way past many traps including poison gas and a lethal chessboard to be breached. Jerry finds John fatally wounded by Frank; John confesses that Catherine has not been freed and that Frank has returned her to the bedroom, before dying. Jerry finally confronts Frank, and a needlegun fight ensues. In the process, Catherine is accidentally killed by Jerry. Jerry is wounded, and Frank falls into the hands of Miss Brunner. She forces him to open the vaults, but he outsmarts her and gets away.

After Jerry recuperates from being infected by one of Frank's needles, he again meets Miss Brunner, who introduces him to her new friend, Jenny, one of her lovers. They plot to go and find Frank but in the meantime, Jenny, after playing the piano naked in Jerry's flat, is consumed by Miss Brunner. Frank has set up a meeting to sell the microfilm to Baxter (Patrick Magee); Jerry and Miss Brunner track them down. Miss Brunner consumes Dr Baxter. When they find Frank, another fight ensues, and this time Frank is killed. despite having landed in Jerry's jet, Miss Brunner takes Cornelius and they return via hot-air balloon with the recovered microfilm to Lapland, "Daddy's summer resort".

There, the scientists put the Final Programme into operation, in a process that involves combining Miss Brunner with another person to form an hermaphroditic all-purpose human being. At the last minute, Brunner chooses Cornelius over the previously designated participant, Dimitri, who is shot dead by Miss Brunner. The scientists of the project, working against time, scramble to re-calibrate their experiment for Cornelius. He is placed inside a large chamber with Brunner and bathed by solar radiation. Forces are unleashed that kill the scientists. A single being emerges from the chamber - the result of the experiment is supposedly a new Messiah, but is actually a rather dumpy looking caveman who says "Be seein' ya, sweetheart" in imitation Humphrey Bogart accent.

Production[edit]

Michael Moorcock has said that he originally envisioned space-rock band Hawkwind as providing the music for the entire film, and also appearing in the scene with the nuns playing jukeboxes where Jerry is trying to buy napalm. Hawkwind, and Moorcock himself, can in fact be glimpsed briefly in this scene right at the back of the set. Director Robert Fuest, however, did not like Hawkwind and had music with a jazzy feel placed into the film. Moorcock has also praised the acting performances in the film, and commented that it was only when he told the actors it was supposed to be funny that they delivered lines with more of his intended black humour. [1]

The film was released as the top half of a double bill with Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan. Later in the run, The Final Programme was moved to the bottom half of the bill.

Reception[edit]

Baird Searles found the film "an almost unmitigated disaster," with "an ending so inane that you will want your money back even if you wait and see it on television."[1]

On its DVD/Blu-ay release in the UK in 2013, The Guardian wrote " Director Robert Fuest was responsible for the pop-surrealism of The Avengers and the twisted art deco of Vincent Price's Dr Phibes movies, and here he makes sure every frame looks stunning, throwing so much in to please and confuse the eye, often at the cost of narrative coherence. But who cares when the movie is full of cryptic, sly humour and endlessly inventive imagery, such as an amusement arcade where nuns play fruit machines as the world ends."[2]

Cast[edit]

DVD[edit]

The film was released on DVD and VHS formats in the US in 2001 by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The Anchor Bay DVD featured a remastered print of the film, which could be played with an audio commentary featuring director Fuest and star Runacre. Other special features on this DVD included the American theatrical trailer and TV spot, and an insert replica of the British poster. The Anchor Bay DVD is now out-of-print and hard-to-find, with existing copies retailing up to £100 on sites such as Amazon.

On 7 October 2013, Network Distributing released the film on DVD in the UK. The Network DVD is presented in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements, featuring both the 1.77:1 theatrical ratio and the full frame, as-filmed version of the main feature. Special features include original theatrical trailers, an Italian title sequence, image gallery, and promotional material in PDF format.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Films," F&SF, April 1975, p.90-1.
  2. ^ Phelim O'Neill. "The Final Programme, out this week on DVD & Blu-ray | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-06. 

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hardy, Phil (1995), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Kobal Collection, p. 310-311, ISBN 1-85410-382-2
  • Hochscherf, Tobias & Leggott, James (2011), British Science Fiction Film and Television: Critical Essays, McFarland & Company, Inc., p. 60-72, ISBN 0786446218
  • Hunter, I.Q. (1999), British Science Fiction Cinema (British Popular Cinema), Routledge, p. 210, ISBN 0415168686
  • Willis, Donald C. (1985), Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews, Garland Publishing, Inc., p. 304, ISBN 9780824087128