VIDEO: Sci-fi's lost 007
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
A look at a possible sci-fi franchise that was killed by post-1960s kitsch...
It's funny how one interest leads to new discoveries - while I was researching my interview with Roger Christian (art director on Alien and Star Wars), I watched a number of his films that I had never seen, including the almost-unfindable The Final Programme (1973). Based on the Michael Moorcock 'Jerry Cornelius' novels, TFP is a serious but frequently misguided attempt to create a true sci-fi James Bond. Jerry Cornelius is a little bit Bond, a little bit Bruce Wayne - a billionaire physicist with broad sexual tastes, a penchant for one-liners and an insouciant attitude to calamity and impending danger. Check out this video, and see if you don't agree that Jon Finch had a genuine charisma that could have segued into a franchise...
Apparently Mick Jagger turned the part down. I can see why they offered it to him, based on his apposite turn in Nic Roeg's Performance (1970), but if he'd taken the role, I would not be posting this article (in the light of Ned Kelly and Freejack).
In TFP, Cornelius has all the hallmarks of Bond - sexual magnetism, a network of disreputable contacts, a tendency to get into shoot-outs, a love of gadgetry, a casual attitude to sex and a proclivity for the latest fashion in men's attire (another reason that they shouldn't have made this film in 1973!).
I observed to Roger Christian, who worked on the art department of Robert Fuest's largely unsuccessful adaptation, what a shame it was that this attempt at a Jerry Cornelius franchise had not been delayed by perhaps three or four years. If so, The Final Programme would have been a bit more Star Wars (or at least a bit more Logan's Run) than Barbarella. As it stands, the highlights featured above give a false impression of the film, which really does get lost up its late 1960s fundament on occasion - though that's no fault of its star.
Christian commented: "I think Bob Fuest had a very whimsical attitude to everything in the way he makes his films,...that was his sensibility, and Philip [Harrison, TFP production deisgner] and I were trying to drag it down a bit into the more fantasy/grounded level. But I think yeah, if it had gone three years later with another director, that would have been a great franchise. There were several more of the [Jerry Cornelius] Moorcock books...[Jon Finch] was a very powerful actor, and he was in his game at that point. And what a great character!
"And if you read the books, they're much more 'hardcore'. I do think they would have made a great series."
As it stands, we got Moonraker instead, and a continuing Bond that 'goes sci-fi' every 3-4 outings, quickly followed by a 'gritty' reboot...
UPDATE: When I pointed this post out to Roger Christian, he mentioned additionally that Hawkwind played live in The Final Programme, and also commented on Cornelius's eccentric love of chocolate biscuits: "The movie industry runs on McVities. We ate them every morning with early morning tea in my office on Star Wars...maybe someone would finance a remake or a new movie of the 'Cornelius' series - I'd love to make it. That would be awesome!"