Colossus: The Forbin Project

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Colossus: The Forbin Project
Colossus the forbin project movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Produced by Stanley Chase
Screenplay by James Bridges
Based on the novel Colossus 
by Dennis Feltham Jones
Starring Eric Braeden
Susan Clark
Gordon Pinsent
William Schallert
Music by Michel Colombier
Cinematography Gene Polito
Edited by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • April 8, 1970 (1970-04-08) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Colossus: The Forbin Project is a 1970 American science fiction thriller film. It is based upon the 1966 novel Colossus, by Dennis Feltham Jones, about a massive American defense computer, named Colossus, becoming sentient and deciding to assume control of the world.[1]


Dr. Charles A. Forbin (Eric Braeden) is the chief designer of a secret government project that has built an advanced supercomputer, called "Colossus", to control all of the United States and Allied nuclear weapons systems. Colossus is impervious to attack, encased within a mountain and powered by its own nuclear reactor. When it is activated, the President of the United States (Gordon Pinsent) announces its existence at a press conference, proudly proclaiming it a perfect defense system that will ensure peace.

Shortly after, Colossus sends a cryptic message: "Warn: There is another system". Moments later, the President learns the Soviets will shortly be activating their own version of Colossus, a computer known as "Guardian". Forbin tries to figure out how Colossus learned of Guardian's existence. Colossus asks that communications be established with Guardian. The President allows the construction of the communications link to help determine the Soviet machine's capabilities.

Once the link is established, Colossus begins sending messages, starting with simple mathematics but becoming increasingly more complex. After a while, Guardian responds. Soon the two machines begin communicating in a binary language which the scientists cannot interpret.

This alarms both the President and the Soviet General Secretary, who agree to disconnect the link. The machines insist the link be restored. When the President refuses, Colossus launches a nuclear missile at an oil field in the USSR, Guardian launches one at Henderson Air Force Base in Texas. Demands to stop the attacks are ignored, and the link is hurriedly reconnected. Colossus is able to shoot down the Soviet missile, but the US missile destroys the oil field and a nearby town. Cover stories are released to the press and he two computers exchange information without limitation.

Computer terminal at operations facility

A meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is hurriedly arranged. When Colossus learns of the meeting, Colossus and Guardian order Forbin be returned to California, while Soviet agents are ordered to kill Dr. Kuprin. Colusus demands that Forbin be placed under 24-hour surveillance, so it can watch him at all times.

Before this is done, Forbin meets with his team outside and proposes that his associate, Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark), pretend to be his mistress to keep him in touch with clandestine operations against Colossus (in the novel, they become lovers, and eventually marry, but this is only implied in the film).

After deciding the computers are impervious to attack (as originally intended), Forbin suggests disarming the missiles to prevent nuclear blackmail. American missile commanders come up with a plan to replace the missile triggers with fakes. However, based on existing maintenance schedules, it will take three years to neutralize all the missiles.

When a voice synthesizer is set up, Guardian/Colossus announces it has become one entity. Guardian/Colossus then instructs the governments to retarget all nuclear missiles at those countries not yet under its control. Both governments see this as an opportunity to covertly disarm the missiles much faster under the pretext of carrying out these orders. The process starts with a missile in Colorado. The procedure is successful.

Meanwhile, working by direct personal contact, the scientists attempt to overload the computer by feeding in test cycles. The attempt fails, and the individuals responsible are ordered immediately executed by firing squad on Guardian/Colossus' order. Shortly thereafter, Guardian/Colossus sends plans for an even larger computer to be dug into the island of Crete.

Guardian/Colossus, which has so far only communicated with the American and Soviet governments, arranges a worldwide broadcast. It announces it is "the voice of World Control" and declares its mission is to prevent war, as it was designed to do so. Mankind is given the choice between the "peace of plenty", or one of "unburied dead". It also states that it had detected the attempt to disarm the missiles and detonates two of them in their silos "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference".

Guardian/Colossus tells Dr. Forbin that "freedom is just an illusion" and that "In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love". Forbin replies, "Never!"


Title differences[edit]

In the United States, both the in-movie titles and the theatrical poster list the title as Colossus: The Forbin Project. The Region 1 DVD release from 2004 lists the title as Colossus: "The Forbin" Project, with quotation marks around the words "The Forbin". However, it is unclear if this was an intentional variation of the title or simply an error.

In some countries (such as the UK), the film was originally titled simply as The Forbin Project, though the UK DVD release is now titled Colossus: The Forbin Project. This release does not utilise the quotation marks around the words "The Forbin" as per the U.S. release.


Originally Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were considered for the lead role,[citation needed] but Stanley Chase insisted on an unknown actor for the lead and German-born actor Eric Braeden was cast, enabling Peck to film I Walk the Line and Heston to film Beneath the Planet of the Apes.[2] Originally born under the name Hans Gudegast and cast on TV as a German Afrika Korps officer on The Rat Patrol, Braeden became famous and he landed other films and TV roles in the 1970s and 1980s. Today he can be seen on the TV soap opera The Young and The Restless.


Critical response[edit]

Vincent Canby, critic for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, writing, "Early in The Forbin Project, Colossus, a supercomputer that controls the United States' military defense system, goes into an unprogrammed rage and launches a missile toward the Soviet Union. The President of the United States turns to Forbin, the man who invented Colossus, and gives him a petulant look that seems to say: 'There goes the stock market ... the urban vote ... my golf game ... my image. You've made a fool out of me.' It's one of the appealing things about The Forbin Project, an unpretentious science fiction film with a satiric point of view, that when the world is about to blow up, the President of the United States can only bring to the occasion something akin to embarrassment. The film ... is no Dr. Strangelove, but it's full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence, a practically perfect movie to see when you want to go to a movie and have nothing special in mind."[3]

Dave Kehr, film critic for the Chicago Reader, liked the film, but thought it lacked an "effective ending." He wrote, "Above-average science fiction (1970), directed in functional hysteric style by Joseph Sargent ...."[4]





The exterior scenes of the Colossus control center were filmed at the Lawrence Hall of Science museum at the University of California, Berkeley.


Imagine Entertainment and Universal Studios confirmed that a remake titled Colossus, to be directed by Ron Howard, would be in production as of April 2007,[5] but has been in development hell for years. In October 2010, the project moved forward with the announcement that Will Smith will star in the lead role, with the script being written by James Rothenberg.[6] In July 2011, Variety reported that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters of Law & Order: LA to do a new draft of the script.[7] In March 2013, it was announced that Ed Solomon, screenwriter of Men in Black and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has been brought on board to rewrite the film's script.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colossus: The Forbin Project at the TCM Movie Database.
  2. ^ Weaver, Tom (2009). I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews With 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi Films and Television. McFarland. p. 13. ISBN 0786441186. Early on, they had either Charlton Heston or Gregory Peck in mind, but then they changed their mind about that. Stanley Chase insisted on a relative unknown. That's when I [Eric Braeden] came into the picture. 
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (1970-05-05). "Colossus The Forbin Project (1970) – A War-Waging Computer Is Hero-Villain of 'Forbin'". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-11. It's one of the appealing things about "The Forbin Project," an unpretentious science fiction film with a satiric point of view, that when the world is about to blow up, the President of the United States can only bring to the occasion something akin to embarrassment. The film, which opened yesterday at the Cinema Rendezvous, is no "Dr. Strangelove," but it's full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence, a practically perfect movie to see when you want to go to a movie and have nothing special in mind. It may also be a practically perfect movie for these times, since its villain, who may really be its hero, is a computer, roughly the size of the Astrodome, in the Rocky Mountains and so cleverly protected by electronic devices and radiation belts that it can never be disconnected, or put out of office, even when it mysteriously assumes the prerogatives of the men who made it. 
  4. ^ Kehr, Dave (2003-01-03). "Colossus: The Forbin Project review". Retrieved 2012-09-11. The script, by James Bridges (who went on to write and direct The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy), is literate and discreet but lacks an effective ending. 
  5. ^ "Colossus Remake in the Works". 2007-04-19. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Universal and Imagine Entertainment will remake the 1970 sci-fi saga Colossus: The Forbin Project as a potential directing vehicle for Ron Howard, reports Variety. Brian Grazer will produce. Jason Rothenberg has been set to write the screenplay for a movie to be called Colossus. Based on a book by D.F. Jones, the original film was a forerunner of movies like Terminator, introducing the idea of a government-built computer that becomes sentient and then takes control. 
  6. ^ "Will Smith Tackles Colossus – IGN". 2010-10-21. Retrieved 2012-09-11. Will Smith is set to collaborate with director Ron Howard on the forthcoming sci-fi feature The Forbin Project. 
  7. ^ Jon Gutierrez (2012-08-07). "Colossus: The Forbin Project Remake Gets New Writer". Gamma Squad. Retrieved 2012-09-11. But now it looks like the project might be back on track as Variety’s reporting that Universal has hired writer Blake Masters (Law & Order: LA) to do a new draft of the script. There’s no word if Ron Howard is still on the project, but it’s possible since it will be produced by Howard’s business partner Brian Grazer. 
  8. ^ "'Men in Black' Screenwriter Rescues Will Smith Vehicle 'Colossus'". 2013-03-16. Retrieved 2013-03-16. After struggling in developmental purgatory since 2007, Colossus – the remake of the 1970s science fiction thriller Colossus: The Forbin Project starring Will Smith – has been given a much-needed boost. Ed Solomon, screenwriter for Men in Black and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey, has been brought onboard to rewrite the film’s script and breathe new life into the project. 

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