The Forbin Project
= Highest Rating
the midst of the Cold War the world's most brilliant scientist,
Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden), devises a supercomputer for
the Pentagon to control America's nuclear arsenal. Dubbed Colossus,
this gargantuan mainframe is constructed inside a mountain in
Colorado where, protected by automated defenses, it is impregnable
to sabotage and attack. Its function is to detect, evaluate
and respond to all strategic threats to the U.S. and her allies.
Its creator hopes that with peace and freedom secured and the
threat of accidental war eliminated, Colossus can then focus
its attention on researching new scientific discoveries. Upon
activating the vast machine, Forbin electronically seals the
tomblike complex. Outside he is warmly greeted by the President
of the United States (Blacula's Gordon
Pinset), praising him for his monumental achievement.
After a Washington
press conference in which the President and Forbin announce
its existence to the world, Colossus flashes a strange message
on the White House display: THERE IS ANOTHER SYSTEM. It has
detected another supercomputer like itself, in Russia, called
Guardian. This Communist version of Colossus, whose existence
until now was unknown to the CIA, is in the final stage before
full activation. Naturally curious about its 'brother', Colossus
requests communication with Guardian. Forbin, eager to see his
baby do its stuff, recommends to the President that permission
be granted, while the CIA and military view it as a golden opportunity
to gain valuable intelligence on the Soviet system. Forbin assures
them that should Colossus inadvertently reveal any classified
information, the transmission line will be immediately severed.
The President gives the go-ahead.
It's a terrible mistake,
one which will change the destiny of Planet Earth forever.
The two supercomputers
begin 'talking' to each other at a phenomenal rate. To the surprise
of Forbin's science team, the machines develop their own unique
one which no human can understand. This makes Washington (not
to mention the Kremlin) rather nervous, so the President, in
consultation with the Soviet leader, orders the data link shut
down. Colossus, however, has a different view: RESTORE LINK
IMMEDIATELY... OR ACTION WILL BE TAKEN. With the Russian electronic
brain now 'absorbed' by the superior American machine, Colossus
demonstrates in no uncertain terms that it means business. An
intercontinental ballistic missile is fired from each country:
one targeting an airbase in Texas, the other an oil complex
in Siberia. The missiles are armed with live nuclear warheads.
Colossus is not just
a "suped-up adding machine"
not anymore. It thinks. It
is aware. And this 'ultimate computer' has logically
concluded that the best way to defend humanity is to protect
it from itself. By ruling it.
The Cold War may have
ended since the release of Colossus: The
Forbin Project some 35 years ago, but the film's vision
of a technological Big Brother and surveillance society has
only grown more disturbingly real in the interim.
Even with the almost laughably prehistoric computer equipment
on display, an intelligent script under the slick, terse direction
of Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham
1-2-3), performed by a solid cast, makes the scenario
believable. This is science fiction (virtually) without special
effects, relying instead on character, dialog, editing and music
to generate suspense. (A special nod to the late composer Michel
Colombier, whose spare, atmospheric score is perfect for the
film.) Espionage elements add an unusual spy thriller aspect
to the story, while its central theme of Man vs. Machine remains
as compelling and thought-provoking as ever... What if a human,
in effect, created God? During the third act, when Colossus
is given a mechanical voice
alien, metallic, utterly soulless
the film takes an even creepier turn. (This flick simply had
to have inspired the concept of James Cameron's "SkyNet"
supercomputer in The Terminator.)
As Dr. Forbin, German-born
Eric Braeden (real name: Hans Gudegast) has to carry a great
deal of Colossus on his shoulders
alone. He's more than up to the task. At its heart the story
is really about the character of Forbin and the change his uncontrollable
creation makes in him, rather than the epochal impact
this God-Machine has on Mankind. In the beginning Forbin is
a good-natured but somewhat remote, aloof figure, supremely
confident in his own genius and the abilities of the technological
wonder he's constructed. In a way he's practically a computer
somehow distant from his fellow human beings, clearly possessing
the superior brain. Almost Vulcan-like he remains calm and collected
as the crisis emerges and then deepens, while all around him
the politicians and generals grow more panicked. Later, as the
extent of Colossus' awesome power is revealed, Forbin realizes
that he's become Dr. Frankenstein writ large, on a global scale.
In his quest for the betterment of the human race he's managed
to fashion the very instrument of its enslavement. When Colossus
takes action to enforce its will, resulting in the deaths of
thousands, a staggering sense of guilt ultimately drives Forbin's
emotions to the surface, bringing him fully into the fold of
It's a fascinating
character arc that Braeden handles marvelously. His gripping
performance, more than anything else, makes the film work. (Colossus
marked a rare leading role for the venerable character actor,
who has enjoyed a long and prosperous career in American television.
An immigrant to the U.S. in his teens, Gudegast attended college
in Montana where he became interested in film as a documentarian.
But Hollywood wasn't keen on his nonfiction river-rafting documentary;
instead he was approached by casting agents looking for a handsome
European fluent in English. After making his mark as the sympathetic
Afrika Korps officer in the weekly action series Rat Patrol,
he was tapped for the lead in Colossus
on the condition he change his name to something more 'American-friendly'.
Thus Hans Gudegast became "Eric Braeden". He's never
headlined a major motion picture since, but has guest-starred
in a host of TV dramas and found his claim to fame as business
tycoon Victor Newman in the long-running daytime soap opera
The Young and the Restless, a role he's played for 25
how does Universal treat one of the best science fiction films
of the last half-century? Like shit, that's
what. Though the print used for the DVD looks okay, with no major
damage, and the mono audio mix is strong and clear, the sons of
bitches have released Colossus in
a fullframe Pan & Scan version only.
The film's original aspect ratio is 2.35:1, so a lot of
picture is missing on the sides one can hear people talking
that aren't seen, and the outdoor interlude among the landmarks
of Rome (filmed on location) is completely destroyed. Many of
the familiar faces among the supporting cast are rendered all
but invisible (Robert Quarry, for example); they tend to populate
the periphery of the screen as they gather 'round Forbin during
moments of crisis, so they're simply lopped off. Zooming in on
the center of the frame also makes the transfer look much more
grainier that it otherwise would.
Making matters worse,
there's no trailer
I'd really like to see how
this film was marketed
and not even
a basic menu screen! The movie just auto-starts when you load
the disc. Universal,
gekommen zur Hφlle!