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 compter, 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 length, 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.