Colossus: The Forbin Project is one crafty science fiction thriller
This exceptional Throwback Thursday film from the 70s fits nicely with the likes of ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and ‘Charly’ in the smarts department. I have no idea how this slipped through the cracks for me …
Fact: You can’t see everything, you can’t get to everything, you can’t know everything. That’s precisely why things have the tendency to slip through the cracks.
Take Colossus: The Forbin Project for example.
How did I miss this film? It wasn’t for lack of trying (I wasn’t!) or knowing it was out there. (I didn’t know!) If films like this have buzzed under my radar, I’m certain there are others awaiting my discovery.
I was introduced to Colossus by a brother from another mother, a relative-in-law who shares not only the same humor I do but a lot of my same interests. In this case he shared a heretofore unknown film.
Released at the beginning of the 70s, Colossus is a smart science fiction thriller based on the titular novel by Dennis Feltham Jones. It tells the story of a government defense computer which not only becomes smarter (in leaps and bounds) than its creators but ends up acting on its own delusions of grandeur with cold and exacting efficiency. Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) has birthed Colossus, a supercomputer created to maintain control of the United States’ nuclear weapons systems and would, in turn, push toward world peace. The computer is designed not only with its own defense system (rendering it impervious to physical attack) but with a self-sustaining nuclear reactor. (Yep. I smelled trouble right there.) During a national press conference, the President of the United States (with Forbin in tow) announces Colossus’ activation as the perfect defense system. (That “trouble” feeling? About to become a reality. And sure enough …) Shortly after Colossus’ switch is flipped, it cryptically informs the conference “there is another system” which causes the room to buzz. Immediately, there is a call from the ambassador of the Soviet Union who announces they have supercomputer version of Colossus dubbed “Guardian.” And the film is really off and running …
In rapid succession, Colossus establishes communication with Guardian, sizes it up, begins communications and melds with it after establishing a common binary language. Surprise! Neither Forbin nor his team of scientists can decipher the chit chat between machines. Alarmed, both the US and Russia decide to pull the plug on the back and forth and the communication line is severed. Neither computer takes lightly to this and it’s requested the link be re-established by both machines. Naturally, this is refused prompting Colossus to threaten action … and that action comes in the form of a nuclear launch both on the US and Russia. Chop chop, the link is reconnected. While the launch at an Air Force base in the U.S. is averted, a strike on an oil field in the USSR is not. That target — and a nearby town — is obliterated. Colossus means business.
Want to know more? Too bad … seek out the film or look up what happens yourself. But I wouldn’t cheat — I’d hunt down the flick and revel in the 100 minutes in all its glory. Trust me: The search for this flick is worth it. I will throw you a bone, however, and pass this much along: It’s not a feel good story in the vein of, say, WarGames. It’s much, much better.
The film — and if I haven’t crowed about it enough I’ll say it again: Go get it! — is packed with a ton of familiar faces. Beside Eric Braeden (who still holds a stint on daytime television’s The Young And The Restless), Colossus boasts spots from 70s Playboy model Susan Clark (from television’s Webster … and you might recall as Cherry Forever in the scandalous-at-the-time Porky’s), Georg Stanford Brown (The Rookies, Roots, Stir Crazy), Marion Ross (Mrs. C on Happy Days … !!!) and character actor James Hong (everything from Kung Fu to All In The Family to Blade Runner to Kung Fu Panda). As an added bonus (and something I found of delightful interest) voice and character actor Paul Frees (gads of Disneyland/Disneyworld work, the voice of Boris Badanov from The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show and tons more) is uncredited as the sterile, synthesized voice of Colossus. (Interesting Aside: Forbin’s character was rumored to have Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck in consideration in the early going.)
Admittedly, there’s a lot of popcorn fluff out there when it comes to science fiction flicks (along with a bevy of groaners). But there are also some terrific, tightly written and intelligent offerings worth seeking out. Colossus: The Forbin Project is one of the latter. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat.