One of the fun things about being a longtime science fiction/nerd culture fan is the possibility with file-sharing sites to find films I haven’t seen in decades. One such is The Final Program, aka “The Last Days Of Man On Earth“. This is a 1973 dystopian science fiction movie directed by Robert Fuest from a Michael Moorcock novel, one of a series that Moorcock wrote about gadabout secret agent Jerry Cornelious in the near future where society has broken down.
I haven’t seen this film in decades, but from what I remembered it was in the same vein as A Clockwork Orange, one of my favorite Kubrick films. I tracked down a good copy on file-sharing site iDope, a nice alternative to PirateBay, and ran it off…
I was expecting it to be much better than I remembered, but it was quite the reverse. Except for a few flashes of interest, the general feeling I got was it was a mishmash of cliches, poor plotting, a serious lack of continuity, and not very good acting. Jon Finch, a fine actor who would appear in Hitchcock’s Frenzy around the same time, plays Cornelious as a booze-swilling, pill-popping fop in a frilled shirt, crapping around in his Bentley in a post-nuclear London. Trouble is, there’s no art direction to show that the world has collapsed except for one matte shot of wrecked cars piled up in the Thames river…
Even more trouble, Cornelious is supposed to be a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, but this character doesn’t seem capable of the brain power to do that, and poor Jon Finch has a really awful time struggling through the “technical dialogue” when required.
Best scenes include a Pop-Act human-scale pinball machine with players inside it, and trippy lighting effects when the secret agent and his scientist support staff raid his family home to “get the secret microfilm” off his deranged, drug-addicted brother Frank.
There’s a cool appearance of a pressure-operated poison needle gun, but then it appears that Jerry and Frank went to the Stormtrooper School of Inefficient Shooting, as their running gun battle lasts for *hours* with no hits, until it ends abruptly. And someone forgot to tell the Foley department an airgun is silenced – the whanging and twanging ricochet effects go on and on and on, even though nobody hits anything.
On the minus side, there’s a totally-wasted appearance by veteran actor Sterling Hayden, who sells our hero an F-14 Phantom jet that we *never get to see, not even in stock footage*. Also on the minus side is a final showdown in the mad scientists’ lab, which is equipped with standard fishtanks with rubber brains floating around in them, and a solar nuclear reactor that looks like it was bought cheap from the original 1960’s Batman tv show.
Back on the plus side, Jenny Runacre plays hard-as-nails dominatrix-style secret agent Miss Brunner in the film, kind of like an updated Mrs. Peel from the original British Avengers show, with an Atomic Blonde edge to her as well. She has a take-no-prisoners attitude and tends to psychically absorb her lovers in the film, though Jerry manages to avoid being absorbed for most of the film.
The ending works well, as we get a startling glimpse of “homo superior” that is played for laughs.
Survey says: B+