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Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 01/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Final Programme" is an adaptation of Michael Moorcock's first book in the Jerry Cornelius series. Like Elric, the Jerry Cornelius stories, an epic in themselves, comprise a subset of his Eternal Champion epic, inspired in part by Jungian psychology and the theories of Joseph Campbell. Of all of Moorcock's books, the Jerry Cornelius stories are the most experimental and are by far those which lend themselves the least to movie adaptation.Robert Fuest, who was a set designer and director of the Avengers TV series and the Dr. Phibes movies, makes an admirable, and visually entertaining, attempt at adapting the first novel, however what he creates is ultimately flawed. This is most noticeable in the ending (which I won't spoil) which comes off as purely pretentious camp in the film, although it works well in the novel.One of the things which makes the Jerry Cornelius series most interesting is that each novel takes place in a slightly different world with slightly different characters with similar names, reliving the same dramas over and over again. For example, there is the love triangle between Jerry and his brother and their sister, which is barely developed in the movie, perhaps for censorship reasons. As you progress through each book, the themes become reinforced and the series' exploration of archetypes becomes stronger. The love triangle, for example, becomes more profound and takes on mythic tones, like the legends of Osiris, Isis and Anubis. By adapting only the first novel, the movie loses most of its impact and its focus on the themes in the novel becomes quite surface. So instead of an amazing intellectual journey, you instead get what appears to be an especially campy, bizarre and racey episode of the Avengers, with secret agents and spies in fancy dress racing to retrieve a mysterious microchip in a psychedelic and decadent age.Another weakness of the movie is that it gives only a bare glimpse at the End of the World, something that is wonderfully portrayed (in different manners) in each of the Cornelius books. The largest indication of the movie taking place at the end of the world is a speech about the approaching end of the current Yuga (or "age"). However, it is preferable that the movie is a bit too subtle in this regard instead of hitting you over the head with it.Someone who has read the Cornelius books will likely have greater appreciation for this film than others, recognizing what it accomplishes in attempting to adapt an impossible to film book. But all should find at least the first half an enjoyable trip with great, creative visuals and avant garde late 1960s fashion and architecture."
"A very tastey world!"
Erica Bell | Washington State | 05/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can you say about a film that, opening scene onwards, you either love or loathe? It's fantastically dated, and that's what makes it fantastic. From the London Red-Bus Movie music, the bizarro pseudo-science, the biting dialogue, and the (almost) Cast of Thousands, "Final Programme" is one of my favorite films ever. I've almost worn out my copy.
The plot's incidental, but what the hey. Jerry Cornelius (Jon Finch) is a Nobel Laureate living on Bell's scotch, pills, and chocolate digestives in a chaotic world where Trafalgar Square is a vast dump, arms dealers operate in basements across from the National Gallery, and Amsterdam's now "25 square miles of white ash--for once the Americans got it right." Jerry's dad, mad-scientist and founder of the Cornelius line, was working on something weird in Lapland when he died, but that's not Jerry's problem now. He's more worried about his crazy brother Frank (the wonderful Derek O'Connor), who is holding their sister Catherine hostage in the Family Manse and is, if possible, more strung out than Jerry.
But Lapland returns to haunt him in the form of Miss Brunner (Jenny Runacre) and three Magritte-like scientists. They need Jerry to help them get his dad's microfilm, the last piece of The Final Programme---a project staggaring in conception and quite, quite funny. The microfilm is locked in the house with Frank, and as the old family retainer tells Jerry,"There's another problem--it's that house. You know what that old house is like." "I haven't forgotten" says Jerry.
That "old house" is a super-modern fortress, of course, complete with lights of simulate "pseudo-epilepsy", booby traps, poison gas, and a pantheon of James Bondish dangers. Along the way to the microfilm, it becomes apparent there's something very odd about Miss Brunner, and that Frank's not the fool he seems.
I know it's dated and I don't care. I don't care if the continuity is bad. I don't care if the budget could've been bigger. I don't care if the "science" is Junk with a capital "Juh". I'm oblivious to it all, because this is such an entertaining movie. For one thing, Jon Finch is incredible. He's the perfect Jerry, and Prince could only PRAY to wear a Goth/New Romantic suit as well as Finch does. For another, Jenny Runacre's Miss Brunner was feminist before there was a common understanding of what that word meant. And the versatile Derek O'Connor's greasy, desperate Frank is brilliant.
You'll need to have your finger on the "rewind" button--the dialogue comes fast and urbane. You'll keep recognizing British character actors, and let's face it, if you're female,you'll enjoy watching Finch, who's easy on the eyes. And the visual jokes--watch for "LOVE" embroidered on the vampirical Brunner nightie in the "climactic" final scene!
A warning, though: this really does deserve its R rating. Hustle the kiddie-winks to bed first--then enjoy!"
Better than I expected
academon | Bangor, Maine | 07/01/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had read Michael Moorcock's somewhat scathing comments on this movie and its history. Jon Finch was a friend of Moorcock's and he also knew some of the other actors -- it has a superb cast including Hugh Griffiths, George Chakaris, Jenny Runacre, Sterling Hayden. According to Moorcock the only thing wrong with the film (produced by Putnam and Leiberson who had just done Performance -- Jagger turned the Cornelius part down as being 'too freaky') was the director, who came in after the success with EMI of his Doctor Phibes movies. Fuest certainly didn't rise to glory after this and seems to have disappeared almost entirely. Moorcock claimed the director had 'reversed' much of his attack and added sexism whereas Moorcock was celebrating gender bending. For all that, there are some fine performances and some great comic scenes, with Finch and Co. coming in to their own as, according to Moorcock's account, they gradually took charge of the picture. Jerry starts out as a sort of freaky James Bond, but by the middle of the picture is playing it far more for laughs (and a lot better than The Spy Who Shagged Me!). Still well worth watching, if only for its incredible list of British and American repertory movie actors giving their baffled best. Moorcock's piece also notes Chakaris coming up to him 'Young man, young man -- what is this film all about ?' By this time Moorcock had no idea himself. "I don't know," he said. "Ah, there you are," said Chakaris triumphantly, "the author doesn't know what it's about, either.' Really, if you want the full strength of what this could have delivered, you need to read the new Cornelius Quartet, just out from Four Walls, Eight Windows -- this first was always the weakest -- but would have been so much better with a director who understood its targets. The relative failure of this movie meant that the other Cornelius movies, optioned to Goodtimes, never got made. Imagine The English Assassin as a movie -- or better still The Condition of Muzak. Someone should start thinking about a good remake..."
academon | 01/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is based on the original Michael Moorcock story of the same name. I have read the Moorcock version and I genuinely have to say that the film seems to be better. It is an existential romp through conscienceness. It takes you to a weird alternate reality of planet earth. In the end it leaves you with more questions than it answers (what can be better than that). You get to sit back and decide. A film that really makes you think."
"Throw down your needle and come out with your veins clean!"
Laon | moon-lit Surry Hills | 11/06/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel? Well, I'm going to, a bit. The fact is, this really isn't a very good film. Despite the inventiveness at the set design level, and despite the great shirts worn by Jon Finch, this film is surprisingly subdued at an ideas level. The free-wheeling political, sexual and chemical anarchism of Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius character is largely absent. So is altogether too much of Moorcock's plot; director Robert Fuest obviously hadn't read the book with, shall we say, a clear head, and neither had his scriptwriter. Instead of Moorcock's plot (actually the first Elric novel re-staged in the acid-glow London of an alternative universe) we get something that mostly looks like a mildly futuristic secret agent film, with a familiar enough "swinging London" as a backdrop. But despite these trappings we never exactly get a secret agent plot, either. Though I think the reviewers who compared Jon Finch's Jerry Cornelius to Mike Myers' Austin Powers, psychedelic spy, are exactly right. But the resemblance is surely no coincidence. Mike Myers has almost certainly seen this film more than thrice, and the fifth time he was taking notes. Though the Austin Powers films actually make more sense than Fuest's film, and god knows that's not saying much. _The Final Program_ more or less works as a cult film of an interesting cult book. But the trouble with cult films is that unless they're very, very good they tend to fall into being very dull instead. There's only so long you can say, "But the plot isn't _supposed_ to make sense," and "But they're _deliberately_ acting like that", and "yes, but it being shambolic is part of the _point_", and so on, before starting to rebel. Maybe, one suspects, it seems to be not very good because it's not very good. The early Jerry Cornelius stories and the first novel are themselves mostly a sort of in-joke, but there are plenty of incidental pleasures along the way in Moorcock's writing. But the film is an in-joke without enough out-jokes (the biggest laugh isn't for anything contributed by the scriptwriter, but when Finch's Cornelius quotes Monty Python: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition"). It's not so much shambolic, in the end, as sham bollocks. Still, though it was a disappointment to Moorcock fans, and probably everyone who saw it (I first saw it at the art-house cinema in Mission Bay, the disgusted manager leading me into a vast theatre where I had the company of only seven other patrons; and of only three other patrons by the time it had finished), it's a curiosity, and it has some residual charms. Finch's performance is one source of charm; his big shirts are another. Some of Fuest's set designs are terrific, such as his version of Moorcock's mythical club "The Friendly Bum" (Fuest was really more of a designer than a director). And occasional Moorcock gems survived the addled scripting: Jerry's ultimatum to his evil brother Frank, "Throw down your needle and come out with your veins clean" is one of cinema's great lines, that belonged in a better film. So... it never quite works, and it cheapens too many of Moorcock's ideas. Especially the end, when Moorcock's climactic merging of his male and female characters to create a new androgyne, beautiful and deadly, is replaced in Fuest's film with the creation of a, well, a man in an apesuit. Moorcock makes a point about gender; Fuest gives us instead a puzzling and irrelevant visual joke. But for all these defects and disappointments it's an original film, odd, visually interesting, and not without charm. I can't in all honesty give it a very high rating, and yet I took the trouble to see it three times in cinemas, being prepared to cross town on a rainy night to catch a screening, or infuriate girlfriends by taking them to this instead of something decent (I have never met a woman who has seen this film and liked it). It's a film that seems to shimmer with the ghosts of ideas that never quite make it onto the screen; it clearly comes from a strange place. And for all its faults, including some dull patches, there's that charm thing. Somehow, it's got charm. But rent it first: Taste and try, as Frank might say, before you buy."