Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Final Programme, The (1973)


Main image of Final Programme, The (1973)
DirectorRobert Fuest
Production CompaniesGoodtimes Enterprises
 Gladiole Films
ProducersJohn Goldstone
 Sandy Lieberson
ScriptRobert Fuest
Original novelMichael Moorcock
PhotographyNorman Warwick
MusicPaul Beaver
 Bernard Krause

Cast: Jon Finch (Jerry Cornelius); Jenny Runacre (Miss Brunner); Sterling Hayden (Major Wrongway Lindbergh), Harry Andrews (John); Hugh Griffith (Professor Hira)

Show full cast and credits

Jerry Cornelius sets out to rescue his sister from his mad brother, and becomes embroiled in a hunt for a microfilm that contains information which may bring about the birth of a new Messiah and the end of the world.

Show full synopsis

Derided by critics upon its release, Robert Fuest's The Final Programme (1973) was a brave attempt to adapt Michael Moorcock's 1968 novel to the big screen. Although Moorcock disowned the film, it's nevertheless an interesting document of an important period in British science fiction literature.

Extracts of Moorcock's novel first appeared in New Worlds magazine - along with Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthologies, a frontrunner in promoting what would later be known as the 'New Wave' of science fiction. By 1965, under Moorcock's editorship, it had become a vital breeding ground for talent as diverse as J. G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss, Thomas Disch, Harlan Ellison and Norman Spinrad.

By the time Fuest filmed The Final Programme, its protagonist, Jerry Cornelius, had been embraced by the counterculture, mainly because of his prodigious drug intake, ambiguous sexuality and flagrant disrespect for 'straight' morality. By the end of the '60s, a comic strip adaptation of the novel had even appeared in International Times. However, by 1973, the celluloid incarnation of Jerry Cornelius seems a far more listless, cynical character than his literary forebear.

Fuest's direction of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) and episodes of The Avengers (ITV, 1961-69) showed how his use of relatively cheap but startling set design could give an impression of high production values. With The Final Programme, he tackled, with variable success, a story that would normally require a huge budget. The futuristic Cornelius mansion, an abandoned Nazi submarine base and a bizarre pinball arcade are all effective backdrops. A couple of snatched shots of a deserted London choked with wrecked cars are particularly unsettling, recently reprised in 28 Days Later... (d. Danny Boyle, 2002).

The Final Programme fails to match the novel in its final moments, where inventive set design couldn't cover for lack of money. Moorcock's apocalyptic vision of a Dionysian revolution led by Cornelius is entirely absent. Instead, the film ends in a messy series of cheap psychedelic effects, with the world reduced to a set-bound wilderness of shifting colours by Cornelius's ascendance to godhood. Although in places it seems like a threadbare imitation of the 'Stargate' sequence in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the imagery works in the context of the film and foreshadows many of the effects employed in Ken Russell's Altered States (US, 1980).

George Watson

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Arcade assignation (3:07)
2. Needle shootout (4:07)
Original Poster
Production stills
Andrews, Harry (1911-1989)
Crowden, Graham (1922-2010)
Griffith, Hugh (1912-1980)
Magee, Patrick (1922-1982)
Science Fiction