Colossus: The Forbin Project

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Colossus: The Forbin Project
Colossus the forbin project movie poster.jpg
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 (aka The Forbin Project) is a 1970 American science fiction thriller film from Universal Pictures, produced by Stanley Chase, directed by Joseph Sargent, and starring Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, and William Schallert.

The film is based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Colossus, by Dennis Feltham Jones (as D. F. Jones), about a massive American defense computer, named Colossus, becoming sentient after being activated and deciding to assume control of the world and all human affairs for the good of mankind.[1]


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

Shortly after, it sends a cryptic message: "FLASH THERE IS ANOTHER MECHANISM". The president learns the Soviets will be activating their own defense computer known as "Guardian". Colossus asks that communications be established, and the president allows a communications link to determine the Soviet computer's capabilities.

Once established, Colossus begins sending messages with simple mathematics, becoming increasingly more complex. When Guardian responds, the two machines begin communicating in a binary language which scientists cannot interpret.

This alarms the president and the Soviet General Secretary, who both agree to sever the link. Both machines insist it be restored. When this is refused, Colossus launches a nuclear missile at a USSR oil field and Guardian launches one at Henderson Air Force Base. Demands that the attacks stop are ignored, and the link is hurriedly reconnected. Colossus is able to shoot down the Soviet missile, but the U. S. missile destroys the oil field and a nearby town. Press cover stories are released, and both computers continue without limitation.

Computer terminal at operations facility

A meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is arranged. When Colossus learns of it, the computers order Forbin be returned, and Soviet agents are ordered to kill Dr. Kuprin. Forbin is then to be placed under 24-hour surveillance by Colossus.

Before this is done, Forbin meets with his team. He proposes that Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark) pretend to be his mistress in order to keep him informed of all clandestine actions against Colossus.

Concluding the joined computers are impervious to attack, Forbin suggests disarming the missiles to prevent nuclear blackmail. U. S. commanders develop a plan to replace the launch triggers with fakes, but it will take three years to complete the task.

With a voice synthesizer added, Guardian/Colossus announces it is now one entity. It instructs both governments to retarget their nuclear arsenals at those countries not yet under its control. Dr. Forbin sees this as an opportunity to covertly disarm the missiles much faster while carrying out this latest order. The process begins in Colorado and proves successful.

Working by direct personal contact only, the scientists attempt to overload the supercomputer by feeding in test cycles. The attempt fails, and those responsible are immediately executed on order from Guardian/Colossus. Guardian/Colossus then transmits plans for an even larger computer complex to be built into the island of Crete.

Guardian/Colossus then arranges a worldwide broadcast. The supercomputer proclaims itself "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 has detected the attempt to disarm the missiles. It detonates two in their silos "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference".

Guardian/Colossus informs 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 angrily replies, "Never!"



Film historian Tom Weaver noted "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 Eric Braeden came into the picture."[2] Braeden's casting enabled Peck to star in I Walk the Line and for Heston to star in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

The exterior scenes of the Colossus control center were filmed at the Lawrence Hall of Science museum at the University of California, Berkeley.[Note 1]

In some countries (such as the UK), the film was originally titled simply as The Forbin Project, though the UK DVD release is titled Colossus: The Forbin Project. This release does not utilize the quotation marks around the words "The Forbin" as per the U.S. release.[Note 2]


Vincent Canby, critic for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, "The film ... is no Dr. Strangelove, but it's full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence [...] an unpretentious science fiction film with a satiric point of view [...] 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 .... 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." [4]





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. Officials were quoted as saying: "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."[5]

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. "Will Smith is set to collaborate with director Ron Howard on the forthcoming sci-fi feature The Forbin Project. 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."[6]

Variety also reported in July 2011 that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters 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 had been brought on board to rewrite the film's script. "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 ... has been brought onboard to rewrite the film’s script and breathe new life into the project."[8] As of February 2015, no further details have emerged. This, coupled with several years of different people taking on this project, suggests the remake may have entered a stage of development hell.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Having a computer as a villain was commented on by reviewers. "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."[3]
  2. ^ In the United States, both the in-movie titles and the theatrical poster list the title as Colossus: The Forbin Project. The 2004 Region 1 DVD release lists the title as Colossus: "The Forbin" Project, with quotation marks around the words "The Forbin".


  1. ^ Colossus: The Forbin Project at the TCM Movie Database.
  2. ^ Weaver 2009, p. 13.
  3. ^ a b Canby, Vincent. "Colossus The Forbin Project (1970) – A War-Waging Computer Is Hero-Villain of 'Forbin'." The New York Times, May 5, 1970-.
  4. ^ Kehr, Dave. "Colossus: The Forbin Project review.", January 3, 2003.
  5. ^ "Colossus Remake in the Works.", April 19, 2007.
  6. ^ "Will Smith tackles Colossus – IGN.", October 21, 2010.
  7. ^ Gutierrez, Jon. "Colossus: The Forbin Project remake gets new writer." Gamma Squad, August 7, 2012.
  8. ^ "'Men in Black' screenwriter rescues Will Smith vehicle 'Colossus'.", March 16, 2013.


  • Weaver, Tom. I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews With 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi Films and Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7864-9571-9.

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