Monday, April 01, 2024

Colossus: The Forbin Project

Universal’s perceptive science fiction thriller owes a tad to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but manages to stand on its own, thanks to a literate script by James Bridges (THE CHINA SYNDROME) and taut direction by Joseph Sargent (THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE).

Though THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS star Eric Braeden isn’t without talent, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT could have used more star power to counteract the drab photography (by television vet Gene Polito) and costuming (Edith Head). Albert Whitlock’s visual effects are quite good.

American scientist Forbin (Braeden) creates a super-computer called Colossus that is designed to keep an eye on the Soviets and launch nuclear missiles automatically if it senses an imminent attack. But — whoops — Colossus discovers the Soviets have their own super-computer, and the two machines team up to rule the world. They even shoot off a few nukes to prove they mean business. Can Forbin find a way to destroy his indestructible creation?

Considering COLOSSUS is mainly white guys in suits (and Georg Stanford Brown) looking at monitors, Sargent manages to work up a great deal of suspense. Stakes couldn’t be higher — nuclear annihilation — and the film melds elements of espionage and foreign intrigue into the sci-fi plot. Braeden was known for playing German soldiers in World War II mellers — he was a semi-regular on THE RAT PATROL — and brings a firm intelligence to Dr. Forbin. He and colleague Dr. Cleo Markham (drab Susan Clark) cleverly pretend to have a sexual relationship in order to have private conversations — Colossus agrees not to monitor the couple in bed — but expanding it into an actual romance is the film’s only major misstep.