This is one of those spectacular misfires; Fuest has taken Moorcock’s splendid book and cut everything down to the bone so much that what remains is only the irrelevant sci-fi plot that was basically a throwaway excuse to hang all the elements of the book together. For this there really is no excuse; the next two books were available at the time the film was in production (the last was not publish until 1977) and if anyone had bothered to read them, they would have realized that Jerry Cornelius ain’t James Bond. This a cheap Bond rip-off. The books were trans-dimensional, time hopping wonders; they had an arrogance of plot structure that really captured the complexities of multi-dimensional realities. This is a chase movie.
It has a conventional three-act structure and, worst still, it ditches all the characters vital to the novel (or amalgamates three, four or five of them into one). It misses out on Moorcock’s views of sexual liberation and worst of all Fuest has absolutely no idea what his source material is about. After seeing the Dr. Phibes movies I thought him to be an entertaining and imaginative director. After seeing this I realize his style has nothing to do with imagination but a talent for making do with low budgets. The Final Programme was made for around £600,000. Not inconsiderable for the time but it is wasted in every frame on trivia. For example, an early chapter of the book revolves around a massive assault on Jerry’s father’s Chatauex in Normandy by a team of crack armed mercenaries with hundreds of casualties; here it is reduced to a bit of mild house breaking just outside London. Jon Finch’s Cornelius is the only plus point about it (he was, after all, a friend of Moorcock) and what the books really need is $400 million throwing at them (they have to be filmed back-to-back), faithful adaption, and a director like Alejandro Jodorowsky. The books have recently been reissued in a bind-up as “The Cornelius Quartet”. Read them; you’ll be going back to them for years to come trying to unravel all the different strands. The film has no strands.