Colossus : The Forbin Project (1970)
“I think Frankenstein ought to be required reading for all scientists.”
I couldn’t agree more with Eric Braeden who scores the title role as Dr. Charles Forbin. While watching this Joseph Sargent political tale of science fiction and nuclear war I thought just that when a machine that Braeden has constructed turns on it’s creator while seeking world domination.
Like most scientists, Braeden’s intentions are noble as are the United States President played by Canada’s own, Gordon Pinsent. In a huge underground structure is the computer Colossus. I’d say it’s about the size of a small city as were most computers we’d see in movies from this era. Big giant reel to reel tapes and plenty of flashing lights and automated voices. Both in real life or imagined on screen. The whole idea is that Colossus will take the decision making process of military might from the hands of us mere mortals who will let emotion and knee jerk reactions enter into our thought process.
In theory this may sound like a good idea and Pinsent goes public to the world allowing Braeden his moment to bask in the glory of his gift to science. It’s short lived when it’s revealed that the Russians have a similar computer. Espionage has entered the story and it would appear that the Russians have somehow stolen the plans to Colossus perfecting there own machine to take over their military strategy christened Guardian.
When the opposing computers begin to converse in a language all their own, the leaders of both countries become prisoners of their own creations. What evolves is a war equivalent to computer games with the downfall being that civilization becomes the battlefield and mankind the victims. Like Fail Safe, nuclear weapons are launched and while the one headed to Texas is intercepted, the one headed to Russia isn’t thus wiping out an entire Russian city. Colossus is wining the war but extremely distrusting when it comes to mankind and those who would attempt to “pull the plug” on it’s being.
Breaden is to become his creation’s prisoner. He’ll be placed under 24 hour surveillance by Colossus and be on call at any given time. If there is any disobedience then the threat of nuclear destruction is only a computer command away. In essence Breaden becomes the victim of an electronic peeping tom. He enters into a game of cat and mouse with Colossus that includes the computer giving him free bedroom time four nights a week with his lab assistant and leading lady, Susan Clark. It’s more than a bit uncomfortable for the co-workers as they’ll have to strip nude in front of our peeping tom computer before entering their secluded bedroom/playground for the night. More so when considering the fact that it’s all a ruse so that they may exchange information and plans on just how to defeat this modern day Prometheus.
Others one might recognize in this claustrophobic tale are William Schallert as the head of the F.B.I., Marion Ross from Happy days is one of the many lab assistants under Breaden’s employ as is a man who has developed a steady cult following over his 60 plus year career in film and television, James Hong. The funny thing here is that while Hong may get a fair amount of screen time in the background and a close up on occasion to give a facial reaction as the tension builds, he doesn’t have a scripted line until the 91 minute mark of a film that only runs 540 more seconds in length!
“Obey me and live.”
This is the choice that Braeden and the rest of the cast/world will have to decide upon if they can’t somehow defeat the master computer in this high stakes game of chess.
For the most part, director Sargent had mainly toiled in series television up until 1970 on shows like Gunsmoke and The Invaders. While he’d score some theatrical successes with White Lightning (1973) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) he’d mostly direct telemovies for the remainder of his career ending in 2008. He’d pass away at the age of 89 in 2014.
Not only is Pinsent a Canadian and looking for John Kennedy(ish) if you ask me but so is leading lady Susan Clark who hails from Sarnia Ontario. She’s the same Susan Clark who scored some major laughs in Porky’s as the hooker the boys are meeting up with for a much anticipated night of fun until someone turns up with a machete. I still crack up and find myself rolling on the floor during that gag. Then of course there’s Mr. Braeden, a staple of The Young and The Restless for ages. No I don’t watch it but Mom did and still does so it’s kind of hard not to know just who the character Victor Newman is. Then again I see Braeden from this era of his career and all I can think of is his villainous role in Escape From The Planet of the Apes. “Damn that Dr. Otto Hasslein. Damn him all to hell!”
Speaking of the Apes films, there sure seems to be some musical cues borrowed from the famous simian series but it very well could be my imagination as we have two different composers and studios involved. Universal and Michel Colombier working on Colossus whereas the Apes were from Fox and Jerry Goldsmith.
First time viewing for me thanks to happening across a DVD release from Universal if you’re so inclined.