THE FINAL PROGRAMME
THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH
The Final Programme is the only one of Michael Moorcocks books to have been filmed. (Hint: Elric would make an utterly awe-inspiring film some day. For the sake of outright subversiveness, I would love to see a film made of Moorcocks Behold the Man (1966), but that is never likely while there are still fundamentalists in the world). Moorcock did also contribute the script to Amicuss adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughss The Land That Time Forgot (1974). The Final Programme was made by Robert Fuest, a director who emerged with the psycho-thriller And Soon the Darkness (1970) and then had a hit with the sublimely arch Vincent Price vehicle The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) and its lesser sequel Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972). Unfortunately, Dr Phibes showed Robert Fuest to be a one-hit wonder with his career thereafter being a quick slide downwards though The Final Programme, followed by the terrible Satanist film The Devils Rain (1975), an episode of the obscure horror anthology Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) and tv fodder like Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980) and The Gold Bug (1980).
The Final Programme looked initially promising. Robert Fuest incarnates Jerry Cornelius as a dashing, Swinging 60s hero in ruffled opera shirt and velvet frock coat, a figure that one could easily imagine having slid onto the screen direct from the pages of the books. Jenny Runacre makes a distinctive Miss Brunner, assertively strutting through the film in a variety of feather boas and black-leather skinsuits and for some reason physically absorbing her lovers of both sexes. Robrt Fuest (who also acts as production designer) designs some occasionally striking sets a wall that is a vertical chessboard and becomes either a door or a death-trap depending upon which move one makes; coloured silk tunnels; a pinball arcade of inflatable plastic decor and girls running inside giant plastic balloons. At times, it seems that Fuest is trying to conduct Moorcock as a trippy psychedelic version of The Avengers (1962-9) a series where he made his directorial debut if you can imagine it as an Avengers that has embraced Swinging 60s psychedelia and with John Steed as a fey, neo-Victorian adventurer.
Unfortunately, The Final Programme is never as good as it suggests it could have been. While the sets occasionally achieve such, Robert Fuests direction never achieves the surreally apocalyptic sense of Michael Moorcocks novels. There is a single shot showing car bodies stacked along the Thames embankment that briefly suggests a Moorcockian entropic future but the rest of the film is slow and pedestrian where it should have hit a note of apocalyptic surrealism. Where in the book, Michael Moorcock created wonderful visions Jerry Corneliuss house where there existed a perpetual party, the climactic scenes with the ambi-sexual messiah crossing Europe drawing the masses like lemmings Robert Fuests The Final Programme seems like a dull spy thriller, tripping around dreary locations in Spain and Lapland in search of the microfilm. There is not even any impetus to it as a spy film the best scenes are those breaching the booby-trapped family mansion after Frank but the rest of the film is dull. The films final gag where Moorcocks ambi-sexual messiah is replaced by an ape-man who does a Humphrey Bogart impersonation to the camera before loping off into the sunset seems like a bad joke on the book.