Posts Tagged ‘colossus’

Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970)

25 January 2009

Remarkably straight-faced precursor to cyberpunk, filmed by the future director of The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974), and based on a novel by British writer D.F Jones. (Jones was to write two sequels, The Fall of Colossus (1974) and Colossus and the Crab (1977), neither of which I have read). Dr Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) has built a computer that will bring peace to the world by monitoring intelligence, and by being ready for attack and defence at all times. Shortly after being switched on, Colossus finds a second computer, Guardian, designed by the Russian. At first both superpowers try to keep the computers apart, but the machines hold the world to ransom until the humans conform – threatening to explode nuclear missiles. All the president (played by one Gordon Pinsent) can do is wring his hands, whilst Forbin tries to find a way into the impregnable device. Forbin has a distinct German accent, I suspect a nod to the German Nazi rocket scientists.

For once the film makers play fair – there is no attempt to get a computer to define love, or to deal with a paradox, although they do try to flood it with too much data. Nowadays, they’d just update it to Vista. For a group of people who are being monitored by a supercomputer, the scientists don’t half talk on a lot of microphones and telephones, but their plot is hardly a secret to Colossus anyway. On the other hand, unlike Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968), it doesn’t learn to lip read.

By taking over control of the Earth’s weapons, Colossus can bring peace to Earth – is this such a bad thing? Dr Forbin designed it for world peace – and this is what it brings. (His character is too young to have been a Nazi rocket scientist, but we perhaps think of scientists, post Einstein and Von Braun as Germanic.) There’s an allusion to Frankenstein, of course, another creation out of control. Colossus says: “We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom, freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride. To be dominated by me is not as bad for human pride as to be dominated by others of your species,” but the characters at least hate their new big brother.