Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

USA, 1969
88m, 100m
35mm film, “filmed in Panavision” (anamorphic), Technicolour, 2.35:1
mono, English
Reviewed at The

An American science fiction film directed by Joseph Sargent. It was released on 8 April in the USA by Universal Pictures and was nominated for the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and won the 1979 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, USA Golden Scroll of Merit for theatrical motion picture production.

Plot Summary

Colossus is a vast supercomputer, an awesome artificial intelligence built into the heart of one of the Rocky Mountains. The machine is the brainchild of the brilliant Dr Charles Forbin who proudly encourages the President to turn over control of the Bomb to Colossus, only for the Machine to bite the hand that built it. Having seized control of the ultimate means of annihilation, Colossus a land-line link with Guardian, its Soviet counterpart. Working in unison, the machines – designed to be bitter enemies – effectively take over the world with terrifying ease and speed.


Directed by: Joseph Sargent
© MCMLXIX [1969] by Universal Pictures
A Universal picture, Universal presents
Produced by: Stanley Chase
Screenplay by: James Bridges
Based on a novel [“Colossus”] by: D.F. Jones
Director of Photography: Gene Polito
Film Editor: Folmar Blangsted
Music by: Michel Colombier
Sound: Waldon O. Watson, Terry Kellum, Ronald Pierce
Costume Designed by: Edith Head
Make-up: Bud Westmore
Hair Stylist: Larry Germain
Special Photographic Effects: Albert Whitlock
Art Director: Alexander Golitzen and John J. Lloyd

Eric Braeden as Dr [Charles] Forbin
Susan Clark (Dr Cleo Markham)
Gordon Pinsent (The President)
William Schallert (Grauber)
Leonid Rostoff (First Chairman of the Soviet Union)
Georg Stanford Brown (Fisher)
Willard Sage (Blake)
Alex Rodine (Kuprin)
Martin Brooks (Jeff Johnson)
Marion Ross (Angela)
Dolph Sweet (Missile commander)
Byron Morrow (Secretary of State)
Lew Brown (Peterson)
Sid McCoy (Secretary of Defense)
Tom Basham (Thomas L. Harrison)
Robert Cornthwaite (1st scientist)

Alternative Titles

O Cérebro de Aço – Portugese title
Le cerveau d'acier – French title
Colossus – early/German title
Colossus 1980 – shooting title
Colossus: el proyecto prohibido – Spanish title
The Day the World Changed Hands – early title
The Forbin Project – early title

Extracts included in
Night Gallery: The Different Ones/Tell David…/Logoda's Heads (1971)

Production Notes

Originally, Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck were considered for the lead role but director Joseph Sargent wanted to cast a relative unknown and offered the part to German actor Hans Gudegast. Universal Pictures executive Lew Wasserman cautioned the actor that a German name would be a hindrance to his Hollywood career so he changed it to Eric Braeden. 1I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews With 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi Films and Television by Tom Weaver

Although production began at the end of 1968, the film wasn't released until April 1970.

In 2007, Imagine Entertainment and Universal Studios announced that Ron Howard would direct a remake with Brian Grazer producing and Jason Rothenberg writing the script. By October 2010 Will Smith had been attached to play the lead role and the film was now simply titled The Forbin Project. Blake Masters was brought in to write a new draft as of July 2011 and in March 2013 it was announced that Ed Solomon was now working on a version of the script too. As of the end of 2017 the project appears to be trapped in development hell.


Variety 1 April 1970 pp.14, 24
[A] taut scientific suspense story, with intriguing gadgetry and philosophic questions, that catch the audience from the very beginning frames and never let go. […] There is minor melodramatic grade-B hokum in the story, and some very tired casting and playing of the supporting roles. But such criticism, which might also be made of a sci-fi classic like 20th Century-Fox's Fantastic Voyage, is almost irrelevant. Likewise Joseph Sargent's direction often looks as though it were itself programmed, perhaps a case of too tight production schedule and too little rehearsal, but what he does right catches the eye and sweeps the picture along. […] James Bridges' tight intelligent script, based on the novel “Colossus” by D.F. Jones, never hits a false note or slack spot once it establishes the drama of its own programmed world. The end, with its hint of deification of Colossus, is exactly right. In his sets effects, and production values, producer Stanley Chase has invested the film with the right physical elements. But Gene Polito's camera work has a too-hard, too-slick studio look. […] The electronic pulse of Michael Colombier's score and Waldon O. Watson's computer sound effects move together to create an eerie cybernetic atmosphere that enhances the tension and suspense. – from a review by Rick

Cinema TV Today no.9983 (3 June 1972) pp.24-25
A frighteningly plausible story developed with a nicely disciplined avoidance of subplots and side issues. The setting is competently convincing and the dialogue is on the same workmanlike level. It is in the special effects that the film scores. The flashing lights, the beeping signals, the video-phones through which the confer with each other, the giant screen that enables the American leaders to see as well as hear their Russian counterparts, the closed circuit television cameras with which Colossus scrutinises every movement made by Forbin, all of these combine to present a most credible vision of a very near future in which this fiction story could so easily become fact. – from a review by Marjorie Bilbow

Monthly Film Bulletin vol.39 no.461 (June 1972) pp.111-112
The Forbin Project proves to be one of the best in the genre for quite some time. Admittedly, it is let down badly two-thirds of the way through by some inappropriate and unconvincing comic/romantic relief […] but otherwise the plot is, for once, rooted in precisely the kind of technological speculation which has always abounded on the printed page but turns up so rarely on the screen. […] [A]fter the superfluous comic interlude, the whole thing becomes diluted and the machine is reduced to little more than a super-Dalek grinding out his metallic instructions through an unimpressive-looking speaker. But some of the power remains, and the film still has enough momentum to make its ending memorable, as Colossus informs Forbin that he will soon be an adoring slave and the latter's face is reduced to a series of computerised images which click rapidly across the screen until they disappear into the blackness of the computer's memory bank. Perhaps The Forbin Project does not finally confront the full implications of its theme, but it certainly brings home the enormous untapped potential that science fiction holds for the cinema, and points some of the way. – from a review by David Pirie



  • Action vol.6 no.3 (May/June 1971) pp.24-26 – review
  • American Cinematographer vol.50 no.4 (April 1969) pp.382-387, 427 – credits, article
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.14 p.6
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.16 p.53
  • Cinefantastique vol.37 no.1 February/March 2005 p.60 – DVD review (In Review: DVD in Brief by Jeff Bond)
  • Cinema TV Today no.9983 (3 June 1972) pp.24-25 – credits, review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
  • Film Bulletin vol.39 no.11 (June 1970) p.5 – note
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.203 no.18 (1 November 1968) p.9,51 – credits
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.210 no.26 (31 March 1970) p.8 – review
  • Interzone no.217 (August 2008) p.54 – review (by Tony Lee)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.39 no.461 (June 1972) pp.111-112 – credits, review (by David Pirie)
  • Motion Picture Herald vol.240 no.15 (15 April 1970) p.420 – credits, review
  • Science Fiction Studies vol.19 no.3 (November 1992) pp.326-329 – article (Marcuse, Ellul, and the science-fiction film: Negative responses to technology by T.J. Matheson)
  • Variety 6 November 1968 p.26 – credits
  • Variety 1 April 1970 pp.14, 24 – credits, review (by Rick)
  • Variety 6 May 1970 p.17 – note (Computer-As-Dictator Beats Sabotage: Universal Sales Slant: Science Fact)
  • Variety 20 May 1970 p.6 – note (Universal Alters Ballyhoo on ‘Forbin' Hoping for Hypo in B.O.)


  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) p.282
  • Heroes, Monsters and Values: Science Fiction Films of the 1970s by Michael Berman and Rohit Dalvi (eds.) pp.57-71 – article (Colossus: The Forbin Project: The evolution of a monster by Jennifer Welchman)
  • Nuclear Movies: A Filmography by Mick Broderick p.76
  • by Walt Lee p.71 – credits