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 an advanced supercomputer, called "Colossus", to control 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 U. S. missile destroys the oil field and a nearby town. Cover stories are released to the press, and the 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; Soviet agents are ordered to kill Dr. Kuprin. Colossus demands that Forbin be placed under the machine's constant surveillance.

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

After concluding the joined computers are impervious to attack, Forbin suggests disarming the missiles to prevent nuclear blackmail. American commanders develop a plan to replace the missile triggers with fakes. Based on existing maintenance schedules, however, it will take three years to complete the task.

When a voice synthesizer is ordered set up, Guardian/Colossus announces it has become one entity and then 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 under the pretext of carrying out this order. The process starts in Colorado and proves to be successful.

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

Guardian/Colossus, which has so far only communicated with the American and Soviet governments, 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 and detonates two in their silos "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference."

Guardian/Colossus informs 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 angrily replies, "Never!"



Both Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were originally considered for the lead role of Dr Forbin, but Stanley Chase insisted on an unknown actor for the lead. German-born actor Eric Braeden was cast, enabling Peck to star in I Walk the Line and for Heston to star in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. 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 I [Eric Braeden] came into the picture."[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.

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] 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. "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 2015, no further details have emerged.

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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