‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’

I found out recently that Universal Pictures have decided to remake a classic Sc-Fi thriller, known as Colossus: The Forbin Project. So I thought I would do a review of what is one of my favourite movies of all time.

COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT

The film is based on the 1966 novel, Colossus: The Forbin Project, by British author Dennis Feltham Jones, and was released in 1970 with a screenplay by James Bridges (The Hitchcock Hour, The China Syndrome, White Hunter Black Heart, among others.)

Starring Eric Braeden as Dr. Charles Forbin, Susan Clark as Dr. Cleo Markham and Gordon Pinsent as The President.

SYNOPSIS

Set in the middle of the Cold War,the film begins with Dr. Forbin putting the finishing touches to Colossus, a super computer that is soon to be put in control of all of the defences for the United States of America. Dr. Forbin is then summoned to The White House, where the President makes a speech to the waiting World. He explains that Colossus is for the betterment of the Human Species and that with Colossus in control of America’s, and the Allied forces, nuclear arsenal, the World will be a safer place. He then introduces Dr. Forbin, who gives a brief, but thorough, run-down of what Colossus is and, more shockingly, where it is. This is to show the World that Colossus can defend itself, should the need arise. With this done, the President gives Dr. Forbin the order to turn Colossus on. Dr. Forbin contacts his team at Colossus HQ and the switch is made. Within minutes, Colossus flashes a message across the White House communication screens, warning that Colossus has detected another system. The President then receives a video call from the Russian Premier, announcing that they have a similar system, that they have activated, called Guardian. Colossus requests a link be set-up between itself and Guardian, which the leaders of both superpowers agree to. Within hours the two computers are exchanging data, far greater than normal human comprehension, causing both sides to fear that military secrets could be shared. It is at this point that both sides decide to terminate the link. Dr. Forbin can understand their reasoning but is concerned about Colossus’ reaction. Colossus and Guardian demand that the communication link be re-established. Both sides deny this option, so Colossus launches a nuclear missile at Russia. Guardian retaliates by firing a missile at the USA. Finding attempts to stop the missiles futile, it is agreed to re-establish the link. With the link back on-line, Colossus fires a defence missile and destroys the incoming Guardian missile. Guardian, on the other hand, fails to react in time and the missile detonates over a Soviet Oil Complex and destroys a nearby town. With information flowing freely between both computers, they soon announce that they have become one computer. With this new Colossus-Guardian supercomputer controlling all communications, CCTV and missile defences, the only way for the two sides to communicate is in person. The Colossus-Guardian computer then demands to be given a ‘voice’ so that it will no longer have to communicate via visual messages. After trying to overload both computers fails, Colossus-Guardian identifies the people responsible and has them executed. It is then decided to sabotage the missiles themselves, as both computers were built to be impervious to attack. Colossus-Guardian keeps Dr. Forbin alive as it needs him to further its development, by building a new machine base on the Island of Crete. Dr. Forbin is then placed under the Colossus-Guardian’s control, where he is kept under 24 hour surveillance, with camera and microphones positioned throughout the complex and his apartment. Colossus-Guardian even goes to the extent of sorting his daily schedule and tells him what to eat. Cut-off from the outside world, Dr. Cleo Markham becomes his mistress, so that Forbin can still have some contact. With the missiles still being sabotaged, Colossus-Guardian learns of the plot and detonates two missiles, while still in their silo. Colossus-Guardian then announces itself to the World population as ‘The Voice of World Control’, declaring its mission to end war, famine and disease and to create an unprecedented era of human achievement. This leads to the climactic final scene…

REVIEW

Although the film begins slowly, and isn’t your typical all-action movie, that people expect today, it still a suspenseful and unnerving film, which builds in intensity until one of the greatest climaxes in cinema history. The casting of the unknown Eric Braeden, in his first leading actor role, adds much to the power of the story. The acting is solid and the dialogue is concise, so that there is nothing said that didn’t need saying. Eric Braeden is convincing as Dr. Forbin and it his story that we follow and it is his character that has the most depth. His struggle to believe that his creation has become more than he imagined, and his even bigger battle to try to defeat it, are what really makes the film that much more believable. Susan Clark gives subtleness to the character of Dr. Cleo Markham. A woman who is as intelligent as any of her male colleagues, if not smarter, but who also has the emotional aptitude to help Dr. Forbin, as his World begins to collapse around him. Gordon Pinsent portrayal of The President is very well executed. At the beginning of the film he is the supremely confident and affable Commander-in-Chief, but, as the story unfolds, he becomes far less controlled as his power to control anything is gradually taken from him. It is the relationship between these three that keeps the suspense building. The ‘voice’ of Colossus is provided by Paul Frees, and it is this voice that although chilling, also has a certain intelligence and, possibly, emotion. There are many supporting characters, such as Dr. Kuprin, the creator of Guardian, played by Alex Rodine, who is ultimately betrayed by his own creation. C.I.A. Director Grauber is wonderfully played by William Schallert, who gives a performance that has now become synonymous with inept C.I.A. Directors.

When the film was released in 1970, Universal found that they had a surprise hit on their hands, as everyone clamoured to see it.

A SHOCKER, FASCINATING

New York Daily News

 

SMOOTH SUSPENSE, FULL-OUT ENTERTAINMENT

Time Magazine

 

PRACTICALLY PERFECT

New York Times

 

A SIZZLER, BUILDS TO HIGH TENSION

NBC Radio Monitor

 

WILDLY IMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY ABSORBING

Gannett Newspapers

Many of the Artificial Intelligence / supercomputer films, that have been released in the last thirty years have borrowed, if not downright stole, their ideas from what Colossus set out. Gene Roddenberry used the idea in the 1968 Star Trek episode, ‘The Ultimate Computer’.  James Cameron cites Colossus as his inspiration for Skynet, in his 1984 movie ‘The Terminator’.

THE NOVELS

‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ is the first of a trilogy of novels, concerning Colossus. There are few differences between the film and novel, with the exception that Colossus demands a new project be built on Crete in the movie, while the novel chooses the Isle of Wight.

The second novel, ‘The Fall of Colossus’ (1974), concerns Dr. Forbin, and his colleagues, attempts to stop Colossus once and for all, with the help of Martians.

The third novel, ‘Colossus and the Crab’ (1977), concerns Dr. Forbin and friends trying to reactivate Colossus, in order to stop the Martians from extracting the Earth’s Oxygen supply. When Colossus is finally reactivated, Colossus decides that the Martians are right and should be aided. Dr. Forbin then destroys the Martians Collector, but dies in the process. Colossus then makes an agreement with the Martians and, with Colossus’ guidance humanity retreats to Mars.

LATEST NEWS

In late 2011, Will Smith was rumoured to be in talks with Universal Pictures to star in a remake of Colossus: The Forbin Project, but has since withdrawn his name from the project. On July 18th 2012, Blake Masters was signed by Universal Pictures to rewrite the remake of Colossus: The Forbin Project. So, it seems, that even after 42 years the old ones are still the best.

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