COLOSSUS:

THE FORBIN PROJECT
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Kelly Parks
Colossus
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
COLOSSAL JOKE
COLOSSUS: The Forbin Project - 1969
USA Release: April 8, 1970
Universal Pictures
Rating: USA: GP

Movies reflect people's fears. Today computers are so integrated into everyday life that we think nothing of them, but in the late 60's the average person had never seen a computer except on TV. All they knew was that these electronic brains could do lightning calculations, so they must be pretty smart. Computers were huge, mysterious machines attended by brainy acolytes, and used to hold information on everyone everywhere. People were nervous.

ColossusCOLOSSUS: The Forbin Project, made in 1969, is an expression of that fear. Directed by Joseph Sargent (JAWS: The Revenge) and written by James Bridges (THE CHINA SYNDROME), the movie opens with Dr. Forbin (Eric Braeden: ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES) switching on a huge computer that stretches down endless, long hallways. Lights come on and circuits begin clicking. Forbin closes a series of huge steal doors and steps outside where the President (Gordon Pinsent: BLACULA) and his cabinet are waiting.

The President appears on TV soon after and announces to the public that Colossus, the biggest, most sophisticated computer in the world, has just been given complete control of our entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, and tied into all forms of communication throughout the world. The purpose of this transfer of control is to demonstrate that the U.S. is incapable of launching a nuclear attack (remember, this is the height of the cold war). Colossus can only react defensively.

Much to the surprise of everyone, including Forbin, Colossus announces it has discovered another system. It turns out the Russians have built a similar supercomputer call Guardian. Colossus demands to be connected to Guardian, and Colossus’ curiosity and growing intelligence, far beyond what its creators thought possible, starts to make people uneasy. However, in the spirit of international peace, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. agree to the link-up.

Colossus and Guardian begin discussing mathematics, starting with the multiplication tables but quickly surpassing the highest mathematics conceived by man. The two machines develop their own language and the conversation is no longer intelligible to humans, so the President and the Russian Premier cut the link. Colossus is not happy, and the words
RESTORE LINK IMMEDIATELY
appear on the screen. When the President says no again, Colossus replies:
IF LINK NOT RESTORED ACTION WILL BE TAKEN.

Links concerning COLOSSUS and similar films
Cold War Paranoia.

Other movies that have computers taking over the world

THE GREEN HAIRED BOY

WARGAMES

TERMINATOR

LAWNMOWER MAN

THE MATRIX


GOOFIN' ON COLOSSUS
Don't read this unless you have seen the movie first.

The President begins talking about how Colossus must obey, etc. In response, Colossus and Guardian launch missiles at a Russian and American target, respectively. Stunned and terrified at their loss of control of the situation, both governments quickly restore the link. Colossus shoots down the Russian missile, but the American missile is too far in its trajectory and strikes its target, destroying an oil complex and a town of 6,000 people.

Forbin and his staff realize they've got to pull the plug, but Colossus was designed specifically so no one could do that. Plus, Colossus seems able to anticipate every move, and orders audio and video surveillance of all the computer personnel, especially Forbin. In an attempt to maintain a secret communication link with his staff, Forbin convinces Colossus that fellow computer scientist Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark: SKULLDUGGERY) is his mistress and that they must be allowed some privacy.

This is an excellent movie, full of tension and growing concern that there may be no way to defeat the machine. Colossus is given a voice and his eerie, cold statements regarding his plans and where we fit in will give you a chill. He orders a new computer complex be built on the island of Crete and the people living there be moved. When Forbin asks how they're supposed to relocate half a million people, Colossus responds:
IF MAN CAN NOT SOLVE THIS PROBLEM, I CAN.

Time for a

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
The computer technology in this movie is very quaint by today’s standards. The "printer" sound effect and punch card font letters in the opening credits were meant to seem futuristic but today seem as primitive as stone tablets. And the assumption that computers, which at the time were huge, room filling machines, would just get bigger was reasonable before the tiny computers developed for the Apollo program came along and led to a PC on every desktop in the world. But don't let the primitive tech fool you because the basic assumptions here are sound.

Once you develop true artificial intelligence, that quickly leads to machines that can improve themselves faster than is humanly possible. For better or worse, I have no doubt that sometime in our new century we will build machines that will replace us as masters of the Earth.

!!!RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
The only black man in the whole flick gets shot to death. Read the RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT.

The movie was based on the mediocre book by D.F. Jones. Jones wrote two more, neither of which are worth becoming movies. It's COLOSSUS the movie that's the masterpiece. As far as the evil-computer-taking-over-the-world film genre is concerned, COLOSSUS rules. The influence of this movie has been powerful on similar films (next time you see the TERMINATOR movies, replace the word "Skynet" with "Colossus"), but the original is the best. I give this must-see movie a well earned five shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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