The Final Programme (1973) | Robert Fuest’s decorative dystopian sci-fi is a tasty one indeed

Michael Moorcock's The Final Programme

Cult director Robert Fuest’s dystopian 1973 sci-fi thriller The Final Programme makes its UK DVD debut on 7 October 2013.

In a futuristic world where war and famine rages, a group of British scientists led by programmer Miss Brunner (Jenny Runacre) plan to create an immortal, self-replicating human being using a super computer. Jerry Cornelius (Jon Finch), a playboy physicist whose late father devised this ‘final programme’, is key to the project’s success. But first he must retrieve the formula from his family’s isolated mansion, which is laden with deadly traps and guarded by his drug-fuelled psycho brother.

Jon Finch in The Final Programme

This very British black comedy sci-fi thriller from cult director Robert Fuest takes its cues from Michael Moorcock’s seminal 1968 novel of the same name – the first of many to feature hero Jerry Cornelius, a hip futuristic secret agent and adventurer who was like a James Bond-cum-Flash Gordon for the 1970s. The film is definitely stylish, but has its flaws, mainly because the director (who had just completed the two Phibes films starring Vincent Price) puts most of his energies into the film’s elegant production design rather than capturing the essence of Moorcock’s wild vision. The author famously disliked the film and its script, which tries to be satirical, but comes across as having a whiff of jingoism about it – French wine, for instance, is described as ‘Industrial waste from the Beaujolais district of France, fortified with natural saccharin, of course’.

The Final Programme is, however, a decorative delight nevertheless, and if it wasn’t set in the future, it could very well exist in the same stylised art deco world that Price’s vengeful Phibes inhabited, as it shares the same light, camera angles and colour schemes, and even possesses the ingenious doctor’s penchant for devilish devices – including a door lock that’s also a giant chess piece and an alarm that causes epilepsy.

Jon Finch in The Final Programme

Visuals and retro décor aside, there’s much to savour here – including the Paul Beaver and Bernard Krause score, which is certainly hip, in a druggy London 1970s way, and the wonderfully OTT performances, especially Hugh Griffith as a Hindu scientist dispensing cryptic advice to Finch’s modern dandy Jerry – who encapsulates the glam period with his wild locks, black nail polish and fashionable Ossie Clark threads.

Jon Finch in The Final Programme

It’s just a pity that cinema audiences never did get to see much more of Finch on screen. The classically trained actor, who also appeared in Polanki’s Macbeth and Hitchcock’s Frenzy, gave up film work after a diabetic attack forced him out of 1979’s Alien, in which he was to play the iconic Kane – a role that ended up going to John Hurt. Finch was just 70 when he was found dead last December in his home in Hastings, while back in March of 2012, the 84-year-old Fuest – who retired in the 1980s to take up his first love, painting – also passed away. But thankfully their memories live on in this bewildering, topsy-turvy slice of 1970s British sci-fi – which is very tasty indeed.

The Network DVD release is presented in a brand new transfer from the original film elements, featuring the full-frame, as-filmed version of the main feature, and including original theatrical trailers, an Italian title sequence, image gallery and promotional PDF materials.

A must see, despite its flaws.



About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on October 7, 2013, in British Film, Must See, Sci-Fi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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