Colossus: The Forbin Project
|Colossus: The Forbin Project|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joseph Sargent|
|Produced by||Stanley Chase|
|Screenplay by||James Bridges|
|Based on||the novel Colossus
by Dennis Feltham Jones
|Music by||Michel Colombier|
|Editing by||Folmar Blangsted|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||100 minutes|
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.
Dr. Charles A. Forbin (Eric Braeden) is the chief designer of a secret government project. He and his team have built an advanced supercomputer, called "Colossus", to control all of the United States and Allied nuclear weapons systems. Colossus is built to be impervious to any attack, encased within a mountain and powered by its own nuclear reactor, filling the area with gamma radiation. When it is activated, the President of the United States (Gordon Pinsent) announces its existence at a press conference with Forbin in Washington, proudly proclaiming it a perfect defense system that will ensure peace.
Shortly after the broadcast ends, Colossus displays a cryptic message on its screens: "Warn: There is another system". Moments later the President receives a phone call from the Soviet ambassador stating they would shortly be activating their own version of Colossus, a computer known as "Guardian". The President expresses his concern that the Soviets were able to build the device unknown, and concludes a spy was involved.
Forbin returns to the Colossus programming center in California to try to understand how Colossus was able to determine the existence of Guardian. Shortly after he arrives, Colossus displays a message asking that communications be established with Guardian. Forbin believes this to be a minor programming issue. Forbin returns to the White House and briefs the President on the problem, while the director of the CIA notes they had reports of a major Soviet electronics effort, but were not aware of its significance. The President agrees to allow the construction of a communications link between the computers, on the basis that it would allow the US to learn of the Soviet machine's capabilities.
The link is set up, whereupon Colossus begins sending messages with simple mathematics. The communications become increasingly complex, eventually extending into mathematics that are unknown to mankind. After a time, Guardian begins sending messages back to Colossus, again starting with simple math and then rapidly increasing complexity. When Guardian catches up, the two machines begin communicating in a binary language that the scientists cannot interpret.
This alarms the President and the Soviet General Secretary, who agree to disconnect the link. Colossus initially attempts to re-route communications, but when this fails, Colossus asks why the link has been disconnected. When told it was on the orders of both country's leaders, the machines insist that the link be restored or "action will be taken immediately". The President refuses, so Colossus launches a nuclear missile at an oil field in the USSR. The General Secretary informs the President that Guardian has launched a missile at the Henderson Air Force base in Texas. Demands to stop the attacks are ignored, and the links are hurriedly re-connected. 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.
The scientists and officials then watch helplessly as the two computers exchange information without limitation. Colossus orders the Washington-Moscow hotline, the only line of communications it is not monitoring, to be equipped for its surveillance. A meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is hurriedly arranged before the monitoring is installed. When Colossus learns of the meeting after asking operators about Forbin's whereabouts, Colossus and Guardian order US agents to return Forbin to California, while Soviet agents are ordered to shoot Dr. Kuprin.
The computer demands that Forbin be placed under 24-hour surveillance so that it can watch him at all times. Prior to this happening, Forbin meets with his team outside and proposes that his associate, Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark), will pretend to be his mistress to deliver messages and keep him in touch with clandestine operations against Colossus. After video and audio monitoring are set up, and Colossus begins issuing Forbin's schedule for each day, with every minute detail, even what he can eat. The schedule starts with him working on a new voice synthesizer.
The programmers and governments examine a number of potential solutions. After deciding the computers are impervious to attack (as originally intended), Forbin suggests disarming the missiles and thereby denuding the computers of their nuclear blackmail capability. The US missile commanders come up with a plan to replace the missile triggers with fakes that look and work the same, but will not trigger the warhead. However, based on existing maintenance schedules, which Guardian/Colossus watches via video links, the missiles will not be fully changed over for three years.
When the synthesizer voice is ready, Guardian/Colossus announces that it has become one entity. Guardian/Colossus then instructs the governments to redirect all nuclear missiles at those countries that are 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 the computer's orders. The process starts with a missile in Colorado, surreptitiously switching the dummy trigger when the camera is looking elsewhere. The procedure is successful.
Meanwhile, working by direct personal contact, the scientists develop their own plan to attempt to overload the computer by feeding in test cycles. The attempt fails and the machines identify the individuals responsible, ordering their immediate execution by firing squad. Shortly thereafter, Guardian/Colossus sends plans to the US programming team to build an even larger computer dug into the island of Crete.
The machine, which has so far only communicated with the American and Soviet governments who have hidden their actions from the public, announces itself as "the voice of World Control" in a broadcast to the general population of all countries. It declares that its mission is to prevent war, as it was designed to do so. Mankind is given the choice between the peace of plenty under its authority, or one of "unburied dead". It also states that it had detected the attempt to disarm the missiles and responds by detonating two missiles in their silos with the announced justification "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference".
In a final remark addressed to Dr. Forbin concerning its world control, Colossus states that "freedom is just an illusion" and the machine predicts: "In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love". Forbin replies: "Never".
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, 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. 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.
When the film was released, Vincent Canby, film 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."
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 ...."
- Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Golden Scroll of Merit, Stanley Chase, for theatrical motion picture production; 1979.
- Hugo Awards: Hugo, Best Dramatic Presentation; 1971.
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, 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. In July 2011, Variety reported that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters of Law & Order: LA to do a new draft of the script. On 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.
- Colossus: The Forbin Project at the TCM Movie Database.
- 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."
- 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."
- Kehr, Dave (2003-01-03). "Colossus: The Forbin Project review". Chicagoreader.com. 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."
- "Colossus Remake in the Works". ComingSoon.net. 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."
- "Will Smith Tackles Colossus - IGN". Movies.ign.com. 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."
- 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."
- "'Men in Black' Screenwriter Rescues Will Smith Vehicle 'Colossus'". screenrant.com. 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."
- Colossus: The Forbin Project at the Internet Movie Database
- Colossus: The Forbin Project at allmovie
- Colossus: The Forbin Project at the TCM Movie Database
- Colossus: The Forbin Project film clips at YouTube
- Colossus: The Forbin Project review at Eccentric Cinema