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The terrifying technological future came in 1970 via Colossus: The Forbin Project. Eric Braeden plays the creator of an American supercomputer, with Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent and William Schallert in mainframe support.
D.F. Jones’ Colossus Novel
Colossus: The Forbin Project is based on the 1966 novel Colossus by British author D.F. Jones (1915-1981). It was the first book in his Colossus trilogy, followed by The Fall of Colossus (1974) and Colossus and the Crab (1977).
Joseph Sargent Directs Colossus
James Bridges wrote the screenplay for producer Stanley Chase and Universal Pictures. Joseph Sargent – who had worked primarily in television up to this point – directed. Michel Colombier created the movie’s techie music score.
Colossus: The Forbin Project Cast
Eric Braeden (Dr. Charles Forbin) and Susan Clark (Dr. Cleo Markham) head the cast. Other players include Gordon Pinsent (The President), William Schallert (CIA Director Grauber), Leonid Rostoff (Russian Chairman), Georg Stanford Brown (Dr. John F. Fisher), Willard Sage (Dr. Blake), Alex Rodine (Dr. Kuprin), Martin Brooks (Dr. Jefferson J. Johnson), Marion Ross (Angela Fields) and the venerable Paul Frees (Voice of Colossus).
Colossus Filmed at University of California – Berkeley
A low-budget production, Colossus: The Forbin Project was filmed at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California - Berkeley; Tiber Island in Rome, Italy; and the California desert near Palmdale.
The main prop – mighty Colossus – was actually “played” by Universal Pictures’ payroll computer. Providing some $4.8 million worth of computer equipment along with the technicians to operate it was Control Data Corporation, who viewed the movie as an opportunity to showcase their hardware via the prominent CDC logo.
Colossus: Science Fiction Thriller
Dr. Charles Forbin and his team have created a new supercomputer called “Colossus.” The President announces that Colossus, housed in a Rocky Mountains fortress and powered by its own nuclear reactor, will now control all American and Allied atomic weapons, thus ushering in a new kind of military deterrence.
But the Americans are not alone in their technological endeavors, as the Soviet Union has also created its own supercomputer. The two machines begin communicating with each other, eventually becoming one. In time, the new, improved Colossus becomes the master, dictating terms to its now-humbled human inventors.
Premieres in New York City
Colossus: The Forbin Project premiered in New York City on April 8, 1970.
“It’s full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence, a practically perfect movie to see when you want to go to a movie and have nothing special in mind,” observed Vincent Canby of The New York Times (5/5/70).
Colossus Film Review
One has to admire Eric Braeden and Susan Clark. They play second banana to a bossy, conceited bag of bolts and carry it off with nary a snicker.
Colossus: The Forbin Project is one of those engaging sci-fi flicks warning against man’s dependence on machines. The first jolt in the movie comes early – right after the JFK-like President’s announcement – where Colossus declares: “There is another system.”
The “other system” is Guardian, the USSR’s own supercomputer which finds a soulmate in Colossus. The two machines begin to “chatter,” eventually communicating in a form of mathematics previously unknown to their creators.
Director Joseph Sargent keeps the proceedings intense, as scientists Braeden and Clark – posing as man and wife – try to outsmart Colossus, which definitely means business when it detonates two nuclear missiles in their silos.
Colossus DVD, Stanley Chase Papers
- Colossus, which had a poor showing at the box office in 1970, is available on DVD (Universal, 2004).
- Producer Stanley Chase’s Colossus papers are housed at UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library.
“This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied dead. The choice is yours. Obey me and live, or disobey and die,” Colossus declares.
Well, if you put it that way…