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
Music by Michel Colombier
Cinematography Gene Polito
Edited by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • April 8, 1970 (1970-04-08) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Colossus: The Forbin Project (a.k.a. The Forbin Project) is a 1970 American science fiction thriller film from Universal Pictures, produced by Stanley Chase, directed by Joseph Sargent, that stars 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),[1] about an advanced American defense system, named Colossus, becoming sentient to everyone's pleasant surprise ... at first. After being handed full control, Colossus's draconian logic expands on its original nuclear defense directives to assume total control of the world and end all warfare for the good of mankind despite its creators' orders to stop.[2]


Dr. Charles A. Forbin (Eric Braeden) is the chief designer of a secret project, "Colossus", an advanced supercomputer built to control the United States and Allied nuclear weapon systems. Located deep within a mountain and powered by its own nuclear reactor, Colossus is impervious to any attack. After Colossus is fully activated, the President of the United States (Gordon Pinsent) proudly proclaims to the world that Colossus is "the perfect defense system".

Colossus first action is a message warning: "THERE IS ANOTHER SYSTEM" and its location. CIA Director Grauber is asked why the CIA did not know this but Grauber tells the president they had seen indications of a large Soviet defense project happening near that area. Forbin is asked how Colossus deduced the other system's existence, to which Forbin proudly answers "Colossus may be built better than we thought". The Soviets then announce to the world their own advanced defense system called "Guardian" is now operational.

Colossus then requests to be linked to Guardian, and the president allows this under certain conditions in order to determine the Soviet machine's capability. The Soviets also agree to the experiment. Surprising everyone, Colossus and Guardian begin to slowly communicate using only simple arithmetic. Even more surprising, the two systems communications quickly evolve in to complex mathematics far beyond human comprehension and speed. The two machines then become synchronized by an inter-system language that no human can interpret.

Alarmed that the computers may be trading secrets, the President and the Soviet General Secretary agree to sever the link. Both machines demand the link be immediately restored. When their demand is denied, Colossus launches a nuclear missile at a Soviet oil field, while Guardian launches one at an American air force base. The link is hurriedly reconnected and both computers continue without any further interference. Colossus is able to shoot down the Soviet missile, but the US missile obliterates the Soviet oil field and a nearby town. Cover stories hiding the facts are released to the Presses.

In a last desperate attempt to regain human control, a secret meeting between Forbin and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Kuprin, is arranged. Colossus learns of it, and both computers order Forbin's return while Soviet agents are ordered to kill Dr. Kuprin, under threat of a missile launch against Moscow. Colossus orders Forbin to be placed under 24-hour surveillance. Forbin has a last unmonitored meeting with his team prior to this happening and proposes that Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark) pretend to be his mistress in order to secretly communicate with his team. Colossus grudgingly grants them unmonitored privacy only when they are in bed together. During this bed time they make plans to regain control of Colossus.

Concluding that Colossus's only real power resides in the control of the nuclear missile arsenal, Forbin suggests covertly disarming them to eliminate Colossus' nuclear blackmail. US/USSR commanders develop a three-year plan to replace all launch triggers with undetectable fakes. Simultaneously programmers comes up with a plan to feed in a "ordinary" test program that is hoped to overload and disable Colossus.

Then Colossus creates a voice synthesizer to improve communications to humans around the world and announces it has become one entity with Guardian. Colossus instructs both governments to redirect their nuclear arsenals at those countries not yet under "Colossus control". Forbin and others see this new directive as an opportunity to covertly disarm the missiles much more quickly and celebrate. The disarming process begins and seems to go undetected by Colossus. The attempted system overload during routine maintenance fails and the responsible programmers are summarily executed.

Colossus arranges a worldwide broadcast in which it proclaims itself "the voice of World Control", declaring that it will prevent war, as it was designed to do. Mankind is presented with the choice between "the peace of plenty and content, or the peace of unburied dead". Colossus states that it has for some time been monitoring the attempts to disarm its missiles and as a lesson would now detonate two missiles in their silos, one in the US and one in the USSR, killing thousands, "so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference". The computer then transmits to the design team, plans for an even larger computer complex to be built into the island of Crete.

Colossus later tells Forbin that the world, now freed from war, will create a new human millennium that will raise mankind to new heights, but only under its absolute rule. Colossus informs Forbin that "freedom is an illusion" and that "in time you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love". Forbin responds, "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."[3] When he was cast, Braeden was still using his birth name, Hans Gudegast. Universal Pictures executive Lew Wasserman told him that no one would be allowed to star in an American film if they had a German name. Thus, Colossus: The Forbin Project became the first production in which he started using "Eric Braeden" as his stage name.[4] Braeden's casting enabled Peck to star in I Walk the Line and for Heston to take a supporting role 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 US release.[Note 2]


Critical response[edit]

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 [...] a practically perfect movie to see when you want to go to a movie and have nothing special in mind".[5] Dave Kehr, film critic for the Chicago Reader, liked the film. 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". [6] At the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Colossus: The Forbin Project holds a "fresh" score of 88% based on 8 reviews.



Colossus: The Forbin Project was released in theatres on April 18, 1970. The film was released on DVD on November 23, 2004, by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.[7] A remastered high-definition widescreen Blu-ray disc version was released by Shout Factory on February 27, 2018[8].


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 science fiction 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".[9]

In October 2010, the project moved forward with the announcement that Will Smith would 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".[10]

Variety also reported in July 2011 that Universal replaced Rothenberg with Blake Masters to do a new draft of the script.[11] 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 limbo 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 on board to rewrite the film’s script and breathe new life into the project."[12] As of March 2018, no further details have emerged in the five years since this March 16, 2013 announcement.

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".[5]
  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.



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