The UK’s Hastings Observer reports that 70-year-old British actor Jon Finch has died of natural causes at his home in Hastings. Although he spent most of his career on the stage, Finch is well remembered to all of us at Cinefantastique for a handful of screen appearances in horror, fantasy, and science fiction films in 1970s.
Finch played the romantic lead opposite Ingrid Pitt’s voracious Countess Karnstein in Hammer Films’ THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970). He etched an uncharacteristically youthful portrait of the title character in Roman Polanski’s blood-soaked adaptation of Shakespeare’s MACBETH (1971). And Finch was bemusingly dead-pan as author Michael Moorcock Jerry Cornelius in campy film version of THE FINAL PROGRAM (1973, a.k.a. THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH), which was adapted and directed by cult auteur Robert Fuest (THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES). Finch also starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s violent and horrific thriller FRENZY (1972).
Finch also had a couple of near-misses in the genre. He turned down an offer to play James Bond in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973). And he dropped out of what would have been his most high-profile film assignment, as Kane, victim of the chest-burster in ALIEN (1979). Although details of accounts differ, Finch became ill after filming started (apparently his respiratory system did not react well to Ridley Scott’s smokey interiors), and he had to be replaced by Jon Hurt. (Finch later worked with Scott in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.)
Finch also had roles in THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1971), DOKTOR FAUSTUS (1982), LURKING FEAR (1994), the telefilm MERLIN OF THE CRYSTAL CAVE, and in episodes of THE NEW AVENGERS (1977), HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR (1980), THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES (1980), and THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, appearing as Count Sylvius opposite Jeremy Brett.
There was a quiet intensity about Jon Finch. He was not a conventional leading man or a movie star, but in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN he showed more personality than most of the young leading men in other Hammer horror films. His best genre performance was probably as Jerry Cornelius in THE FINAL PROGRAMME, playing a an unconventional hero who walks with practiced insouciance through the film’s bizarre happenings in a manner that foreshadows the later THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION. The film’s final gag, a quote from Humphry Bogart, was Finch’s on-set ad-lib.
Finch was once married to actress Catriona MacColl, who is known to cinefantastique fans for her appearances in a trio of Lucio Fulci horror films, including THE BEYOND (1981). The couple divorced in 1987