Cyberpunk Review » Colossus: The Forbin Project

March 1, 2006

Colossus: The Forbin Project

Year: 1970

Directed by: Joseph Sargent

Written by: D.F. Jones (novel), James Bridges

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Dr. Charles Forbin: Eric Braeden
  • Dr. Cleo Markham: Susan Clark
  • Rating: 7 out of 10


    “Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you, will be solved - famine, overpopulation, disease, this human millennium will be a fact, as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge”


    Overview: Colossus - The Forbin Project is one of the really intelligent early “AI computers taking over mankind” stories. While the graphics are completely non-cyberpunk, the story certainly has enough to qualify as a pre-cyberpunk flick. On top of this, Colossus is well acted throughout, and the pacing is such that you stay riveted to the story. Eric Braeden (Professor Forbin) and Susan Clark (Dr. Cleo Markham) are especially good together.




    Colossus - The Forbin Project takes place in the 50s during the height of the cold war. Dr. Charles Forbin, a genius scientist who has lost trust in humanity’s ability to logically address emotional issues, has developed a very special computer to perform the Strategic Air Command and Control functions for the military. This computer, code named Colossus, is developed based on incredible advances in Artificial Intelligence, and has a logical process for determining when to launch the ICBMs. With much fanfare, the President of the US “turns on” Colossus to take over responsibility for the US nuclear armament.



    The one massive downside of this movie is the lack of a widescreen release - enjoy the beauty that is the pan and scan shot above


    Unfortunately, shortly after being turned on, Colossus learns the presence of another AI command and control system. It turns out that the Soviet Union, independently has developed their own system call the Guardian. Both computers “insist” that they be linked to ensure no attacks will take place. After taking appropriate precautions, both countries let the computers link up with one another.




    Things begin to go downhill when Professor Forbin realizes that the rate of learning for the machines is increasing at an exponential rate – he recommends detaching the connection between the two computers. When they attempt to do this, both computers threaten an immediate launch of nuclear weapons. Quickly, the government’s realize their situation – the machines are now in power. Worse, they proceed to take complete control of human society.




    The Bottom Line: As you can see by the screencaps, there’s nothing too exciting here from a visual standpoint. However, from a thematic standpoint, Colossus – The Forbin Project deals with modern society’s desire to fully remove emotion from all decision making. In doing this, Professor Forbin gets his wish, and it turns out to be a never ending nightmare. Colossus is Skynet without the cool robot helpers. In Colossus – The Forbin Project, Colossus is here to help whether we want it to or not. While the movie is very well done, one point is taken away from the review for the Pan and scan on the 2:35 to 1 widescreen movie - it truly does destroy the cinematography.


    ~See movies similar to this one~


    July 8, 2006

    Glam Creature said:

    Great movie. But I would not agree that movie is not exciting from visual standpoint. In my opinion, this movie ( and “Andromeda Strain” too!) has charming and now retro - looking tech visuals. In their time, the movies’ visuals maybe were reflecting current technology level and were progresive-looking, but during the pass of time, they got some retro charm and value to be enjoyed. Too fully understand what I mean, I reccomend to watch clip of Miss Kittin & Hacker song “1982″, released in year 2000 or 2001 (can be found in youtube). The music video’s aesthetics really apply more to 1982, than to late sixties/early seventies, but the message is the same - artistic value, found in the aesthetics of computer past and love for the retro-tech visuals.

    Glam Creature said:

    P.S. I remebered one interesting interview, aesthetics of retro scifi-visuals and their influence to today’s culture are mentioned. Interview with famous UK electro-rock band Ladytron, where “Andromeda Strain”( and “Logan’s Run” series) are mentioned.

    January 28, 2007

    TG da JF said:

    “… famine, overpopulation, desease, this human millennium …”

    Disease or decease?

    January 29, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Thanks for the spelling catch - it was “disease.”

    February 19, 2007

    Chris said:

    This is probably my second favorite movie (star wars series always counts as one reallly really long first : ) heh heh

    One really COOL way to watch this (worth it) is to watch it till the end..then immediately start Terminator II
    The ending of Colossus has a great speech by the computer talking about how he`ll soon become stronger and expand into More and More Machines..then Terminator II practically starts with a giant chrome robot stomping on a human skull ..and from there looks like a sensible continuation of the Colossus movie 10 years later etc.

    sounds kinda geeky..but fun if you gotta couple hours with popcorn.

    BTW this is from a book which when read seemed kinda strange the way it was written guy runs into a room “hEY!`ll neVeR gueSS what happened outSiDE! …the computer did this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this happened!!” …”really wow!?” …then someone else later …”HEY!!..i can`t believe what happened!” …really what? …”this and this and this and this and this and this and that” …really? ..too

    anyways in case anyone`s curious..
    there were two book sequels.
    1 where they disabled the computer ..(i thinK with the help of martians … .. seriously)
    2nd where they ended-up going to battle against the martians and the computer was actually trying to gear us up for the battle ( know..being a missle exploding jerk in the process..) ..bUT since we turned him off it looked like we`ll lose the battle …and ok i`ll leave it there in case anybody want`s to read`em : ) heh heh

    mostly i`d vote to do the video colossus-terminator thing i was talkin about


    chris said:

    oh sorry counterbalance my ramblyness i should`ve also mentioned YEAH this movie IS GreAT!

    The Dialogue is surprisingly realistic (as opposed to the book) with terminology referring to dumping terminal buffers and running test routines etc. ..the acting wasn`t overdone at all
    and the ‘ultimate’ test was that surprisingly I didn`t catch myself OnCE saying “OH THAT wouldn`t hAPpeN!” ..which is really surprising seeing how easily a director could fall into the trap of shifting the story around to give it..maybe..too much punch etc.?

    The ThinG that I think really puts the movie over the top is that it`s an “oops we accidentally made a machine so well that it`s taken over the world” movie ..that`s “SENSIBLE” ! ..the designs aren`t overdone ..the actings accurate to what it should be (only a very slight but likeable theatricalness to the acting styles) and the decisions the characters make in the story are all intelligent “yeah that`s what they should do” kind of moves (..instead of the copout almost all movies like this would do..make the characters less intelligent so they`ll make mistakes to drive the plot ..ghaHHH!!) (..hate that.)

    instead the movie had a niiiiice subtle reality to it that could really hold you till the end ..ahhh …breath of fresh air.

    All that plus a well done little twist in the end ..surprising for that era.

    ok done typing (3am) ..goin back buildin robots.

    (..with a big red oFF button)


    February 20, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi Chris, I love the Terminator II idea! I just may try this! And yeah, Colossus made good use out of its budget. It didn’t need to be overblown, and worked well enough.

    But, um, the martian thing? I think I’ll pass. :)

    April 17, 2008

    corvid said:

    I’ve always loved this movie, but I will definitely wait for the widescreen (Blu-Ray?) release, if there every is one.

    I have all three novels:

    Colossus: The Forbin Project
    The Fall of Colossus
    Colossus and the Crab

    The last title has nothing to do with shellfish! They are all a good read, I believe. If you can find them in a used book shop, go for it!

    corvid said:

    I just found the 2nd and 3rd novels available used on amazon. There is an excellent review of the 2nd book, The Fall of Colossus, on the page for that book by “The Doctor”. If you check it out, be aware (as The Doctor says at the start of the review), that there are spoilers within. In fact, he pretty much gives away everything, so you may want to read just the first half or so of the review.

    July 4, 2008

    Anton Niedels said:

    Your remark in the summary of CtFP that it takes place in the 50’s, at the height of the Cold War, is incorrect; the film is set in its own present time, 1970. Looks like a great website; I’ll be back. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

    August 15, 2008

    David Merriman said:

    Loved the music in that flick. Haunting.


    August 17, 2008

    B.A. Gooch said:

    I seem to remember a sequel? What was the name of it?

    September 9, 2008

    Bill Hope said:

    Yeah I loved this movie. Reminded me of the good old early 1970s Doctor Whos with Jon Pertwee except the Doctor didn’t come and save the world from the evil computer.

    corvid said:

    The sequel is “The Fall of Colossus”, and the 3rd book is “Colossus and the Crab”.

    November 9, 2008

    kris said:

    James Cameron himself is quoted as being a huge fan of the film (don’t know if it was an influence for Skynet, or not.) In an interview, he mentioned that on the set of Titanic, when he first met Eric Braeden (Forbin/Capt. of Titanic), Cameron blurted out “Never!”, then had to explain to Braeden that it was his final line in Colossus. Neat.

    December 2, 2008

    Doctor Sinister said:

    Incidentally, there is a widescreen DVD release now - I just spent a glorious afternoon reacquainting myself with this great film.

    Dr. S.

    corvid said:

    Yayyyy!! Where did you get it? Is it a good copy? Any extras?

    January 17, 2009

    total_loss said:

    This movie was NOT set in the 1950’s! It was set sometime in the future from a start date of the the original production date of 1969-1970. It was however, one of my main influences when I was a kid back then. And is a reason for me to have made my career working in the computer field.

    November 29, 2010

    Ken said:

    I believe that at the end it will come to this: From Colossus to it morphing into a madness called AM (from “I have no mouth and I must scream” by Harlan Ellison).

    April 7, 2011

    Chantal Terry said:

    Yes! I too was taken back to the 1970’s! What a great reminder of a time where the future was always met with absolute wonder and excitement!

    June 29, 2011

    SMS chat said:

    Thanks for posting that article, it’s very interesting!

    July 10, 2011

    Hundehaftpflichtversicherung said:

    I watched it one time and in my opinion it’s really good!

    August 14, 2011

    MottTheHoople said:

    OK, this movie is from my teenage years. Loved it then. Love it now. And, btw, Forbin was opposed to breaking the connection between Colossus and Guardian. The Pres and the Soviet Premier were the ones who insisted. Today I get a kick our of the ASR33’s and what sounds like a Selectric typewriter used as a terminal. Voice synthesis was still in the future at the time. Believe it or not, Radio Shack sold a voice synthesizer a few years later-the early eighties I think.

    September 27, 2011

    Anonymous said:

    A little note. The movie was named after an actual british military computer system which had some technical similarities to the US Project ENIAC in controls and abilities.

    January 17, 2012

    Thomas J. Coleman said:

    “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” LOL

    February 24, 2012

    Sam Raine said:

    Cyberpunk movies lost their appeal in the 80s and early 90s because more and more people started to see what computers could and could not do. We just became more aware of them. It wasn’t until the 2000s and where we start to see a slight revival in the genre, through movies like Eagle Eye, which has some cyberpunk themes. Still, Blade-runner was the best I have watched.

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