Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)


Directed by Joseph Sargent

Written by James Bridges (based on the novel by D.F. Jones)

Starring Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent

Tagline: We built a computer with a mind of its own and now we must fight it for the world.

Trivia: Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were considered for the lead role of Dr. Forbin.

Although Colossus: The Forbin Project looks and feels dated, the story itself may portend the shape of things to come. The film begins with scientist Dr. Charles Forbin proudly announcing the birth of Colossus, a supercomputer that will keep the world safe from a nuclear war.  For the United States, in the interest of national security, decided to turn over control of its nuclear arsenal to a computer. But things take bad turn after Colossus teams up with its Soviet supercomputer, Guardian.

As supercomputers take over the world . . .

Most of Colossus consists of government officials and scientists talking in conference rooms with hardly any action scenes.  The tone reminded me of another 1970s Sci-Fi film The Andromeda Strain in which a group of scientists attempt to stop a global pandemic from spreading.  Despite the dialogue heavy narrative – both films are oddly compelling.

Eric Braeden, known to many as Victor on the long running soap opera The Young and the Restless, gives a convincing performance as a cold and calculating scientist who watches his beloved creation go power crazy, an update of the Frankenstein concept.  Gordon Pinsent plays the tragic JFK lookalike president. Veteran TV director Joseph Sargent shot the movie with precision and grace.

Many Cold War era films featured an alien intelligence that arrives on Earth and warns humanity to end its violence or face consequences, The Day the Earth Stood Still being the best example.  Colossus inverts the concept: Humanity’s reliance on technology backfires and seals its own doom.

Just google “AI will take over” and you might lose sleep.  As reviewers of the film often point out, Colossus raises the question of whether an enforced world peace is desirable. Should we surrender freedom for security? One of the oldest questions in philosophy I suppose.  Most would prefer to be the master of our their own fates.  Colossus reminds that while humans are obviously flawed, it is those very flaws that make our accomplishments even more impressive and worth celebrating.




3 thoughts on “Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

  1. Ah yes, the Freedom vs. Security debate, which is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

    This does sound like a dated film, but also one worth watching. Thanks for introducing me to another unheard-of movie. 🙂


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