Wednesday, February 01, 2017

cinema obscura: Joseph Sargent's "Colossus: The Forbin Project" (1970)/redux

Watching Eric Braeden anchor CBS's obcessively watchable drama, "The Young and The Restless," with his effortless acting and wit, I felt compelling to dig my review of Braeden's "Colossus: The Forbin Project" out of the mothballs and re-run it (replete with original comments). 
 It was originally published on November 22, 2010. 

Joseph Sargent - born Giuseppe Danielle Sorgente (albeit in Jersey City) - has been a hugely neglected filmmaker, something of an adjustable wrench among directors, given that he can handle just about any genre effortlessly and without narcissistically stamping his name on it.

He tends to disappear within his subject matter, as evidenced by his output: The original (and superior) "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974), Burt Reynolds' pleasing "White Lightning" (1973), the solid war flick "The Hell with Heroes" (1968), Gregory Peck's "MacArthur" (1977), Susan Anton's underrated "Goldengirl" (1979), the Robert Blake-Dyan Cannon lark "Coast to Coast" (1980), plus several impressive TV films - "Hustling" (1975) with Lee Remick and Jill Clayburgh, the incredibly popular "Sunshine" (1973) with Cristina Raines and the ahead-of-its-time "The Man" (1972) with James Earl Jones as the first black President. "The Man," adapted by Rod Serling from Irving Wallace's novel, was detoured into theaters before actually playing on network TV.

But my favorite Sargent film remains 1970's juicy "Colossus: The Forbin Project," a title that has always been available on home entertainment but is honored here because, despite enthusiastic reviews, this fine movie has never been given its due - by either its studio or the viewing public.

Adapted by filmmaker James Bridges from D.F. Jones novel, the preternaturally observant movie details - in an immensely entertaining fashion - how a sophisticated computer, named Colossus, designed ostensibly to control the country's nuclear defense network, goes berserk with power, turning on its creator, Dr. Charles Forbin, and joining forces with its Soviet counterpart, Guardian, to become a single Super Power bent on taking over the world from humans. The film is creepy and witty.

Eric Braeden is commanding as Dr. Forbin in a performance that should have led to bigger and better things. For one, Braeden would have made a terrific 007. Instead, this fine actor has enjoyed a lengthy, lucrative run as the willfully evil patriach, Victor Newman, on NBC's excellent daytime drama, "The Young and the Restless." Smart Susan Clark, as the thinking man's love interest, and Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent as the Kennedy-like President of the United States provide atypically combative support as each one spars with Braeden over his beloved demon child.

Universal, alas, exhibited limited interest in the film which had the working title "Colossus" in production, was released initially as "The Forbin Project" and then as "Colossus: The Forbin Project" for a half-hearted rerelease.

Funny thing, all three titles are fine.


Andrew Wickliffe said...

Yeah, Sargent has always impressed me. Makes me feel awful his last major work is Jaws 4.

I remember back in the 1990s, Forbin was hard to come by on video. I first saw it back then. I like how lots of films owe to it, but it's barely known.

Eric Braeden is great, isn't he? I couldn't believe he turned into that old guy on the soap.

joe baltake said...

Andrew- I also find the film kind of seminal, often imitated but rarely acknowledged. And, yes, Braeden is great - both as a promising young leading man and as an aged character actor. He always had a fasincating edge to him.

John Kaiser said...

I saw it long ago. Great movie.

Joe Dante said...

Universal kept this on the shelf for nearly two years, and still doesn't seem to have much interest in it.
Sadly, it's not available on DVD in the US in anything but a pan-and-scan version, although there are Scope copies available overseas.

joe baltake said...

Joe! I once had a 'scope 16mm print. I got rid of it (and other titles) when we relocated to the West Coast. Now I regret that decision.

jbryant said...

Haven't seen this in ages, and then only pan-and-scan on TV. Sargent is generally impressive, I agree. Recently saw WHITE LIGHTNING and liked it. I'm a sucker for rural-set crime flicks, and it's a good one.

John Kaiser said...

Joe ("Gremlins 2: The New Batch" one of the funniest movies ever) Dante?

joe baltake said...

Yes, John. Joe Dante, one and the same. Joe started out in Philaldelphia when I was working there.

John Kaiser said...

Mr. Dante - I am normally a very sarcastic person, but I tell you in all sincerity, I loved "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". One of my favorite movies. The inspired lunacy of having the gremlins take over Trump, um strike that, Clamp Tower was wonderful. I saw the film at a sneak preview the first time, and kept bringing friends to see it later. Everyone and everything was in top form in that film.

Kevin Deany said...

I remember Eric Braeden from THE RAT PATROL television series. Always liked him.