THE FINAL PROGRAMME

The Final Programme
[aka The Last Days of Man on Earth]
d. Robert Fuest / 1973 / UK / 94 mins
@ NFT1 – BFI Southbank (London, UK)
Flipside screening w/ Michael Moorcock Q&A

Still from The Final Programme

Part of the problem with trying to write about (almost) everything I watch, and having a bit of a backlog (thanks to a Masters dissertation), is that it can be rather hard to remember the finer details of particular films or screening events. Especially when you seem to have completely forgotten to write any notes whatsoever…

Anyway, a couple of months back I attended a screening presented by the wonderful folks behind the Flipside strand at BFI Southbank, which aims to shed some light on neglected archival gems of British (and occasionally international) cinema. This time around, the film itself – The Final Programme – was hit and miss (to say the least), suffering from the kind of bloated ’70s quasi-mysticism that was, by all accounts, pretty bad at the time and hasn’t fared much better since. Sure there were moments of high-camp comedy (intentional or otherwise), a handful of interesting set-pieces and even a few examples of genuine menace, but nothing could save it from a messy script, ridiculous contrivances, lax direction and a bafflingly awful final image.

The sheerly ridiculous nature of which gave way, rather aptly, to the highlight of the evening, a brief but enjoyable (and enlightening) Q&A with Michael Moorcock, the famed science-fiction and fantasy author on whose novel – the first of his Jerry Cornelius series – the film was based. To say that Moorcock wasn’t a fan of the film would be something of an understatement, particularly considering its consequential impact on his desire to pursue any subsequent film adaptations. He didn’t like The Final Programme when it was released in 1973, and he seems to like it even less almost forty years later.

Interestingly, however, he was full of praise for the majority of the production crew, as well as the cast (particularly Jon Finch’s excellent turn in the Jerry Cornelius role), reserving his disapprobation almost exclusively for the film’s director Robert Fuest, who – still high on success of the Dr. Phibes films – supposedly saw The Final Programme as an opportunity to consolidate his misguided auteurist tendencies.

It was a truly entertaining Q&A (edited excerpt of which is available on the BFI website), with a particular highlight being Mr. Moorcock’s reminiscence of times spent pumping out 15,000 words a day, with a suggestion that writing a novel then was like ‘having a crap – you get it out of your system, flush it away, and it’s gone.’

Better, fuller updates written by people with fresher memories (or written closer to the time, at least), can be found on Bagotbook’s Blog and Fifteen Minutes of Mantra-Filled Oompah. In the meantime, here’s the trailer for the US release of Fuest’s minor ‘abomination’:

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