1/8/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
DVD region 2: pub: Universal/Medium Rare FHED2472. 1 DVD 95 minute film with extras. Price: £ 4.95 (UK) if you know where to look). stars: Eric Braeden, Susan Clark and Gordon Pinsent
check out website: www.universal-playback.com
Several years back I reviewed the standard release of the DVD 1970 film 'Colossus; The Forbin Project' only to see the Special Edition released a couple years later. The only extras being an audio commentary by director Joseph Sargent and a stills gallery it seemed prudent to wait until the price dropped which only happened recently. It looked like my patience was the right thing to do.
There is nothing wrong with the film itself. 'The Forbin Project' is a superb low-key SF 1970 film examining the ramifications when a super-computer is given control of the American defence system only to discover that a USSR version with similar capacity called 'Guardian' has come on-line at the same time and insists on communicating with it. Both governments aren't keen on this but concede to both computers demands. Later, when the telephone link is cut off, both computers release a single nuclear missile at their opponent countries until the link is restored. Charles Forbin (actor Eric Braeden) manages to see his Russian counter-part in Europe before the two computers order the latter's execution. Forbin is kept under Colossus' supervision as TV surveillance is set up and the computer gains a voice. Prior to that happening, Forbin arranges for one of his staff, Cleo Markham (actress Susan Clark) to pose as his mistress and as a means to get information out.
Colossus and Guardian arrange for the tactical nukes to be allocated new targets at countries not under their control and the Pentagon see it as a means to covertly replace the detonators with dummies. What the humans forget is that these computers aren't stupid.
This film is always worthy of a repeat viewing and I'm surprised that even with the end of the Cold War that it doesn't get shown on television more regularly. I would also heartily recommend the original book, 'Colossus' by DF Jones, if you can lay your hands on a copy as it's a pretty close adaptation.
Joseph Sargent directed the film and gives the audio commentary pointing out that he hadn't seen it in over 30 years. The sparseness of what he has to say would surely have been a clue to have let him have a viewing first to draw this thoughts up and then a recorded commentary second as you can tell in the gaps that he is drawn into his own work as much as we are. This is no disrespect to Sargent. I've said this as a problem with audio commentaries for a lot of older films. It's with this one, the long pauses are ever more apparent.
We learn a little about Albert Whitlock's superb matte paintings and why Sargent thinks he had a good cast but little in way of extra details other than how Braeden and Clark's modesty was kept intact. As to whether modern day computers are smarter than Colossus, I tend to disagree with him mostly because they have still got a long way to go to achieve artificial intelligence although when AI is achieved, I hope everyone involved watches this film.
I'm sure had Sargent been given more time, he might have recalled more than he's given here. With both normal and special edition at the same price now, you can make up your own mind which to get. I'm glad I was patient enough to wait for the price to drop.
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