Colossus - The Forbin Project [1970]

Format: PAL
Region: 2 (UK, Europe, Japan, South Africa and Middle East)
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs:
Fabulous Films Ltd.
DVD Release Date: 26 May 2008
Run Time:
95 minutes



Made before HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Colossus – the Forbin Project features the ultimate “computer gone mad”, namely an artificial intelligent so large that it takes the inside of an entire mountain! The aptly-named “Colossus” is entrusted with taking over the United States’ nuclear defense system. This of course turns out to be a mistake as the machine soon rebels against his human makers and turns the tables on them.

THE DISC: Even though it is a minor sci-fi cult classic of sorts, this is actually the first decent widescreen DVD release of this title on DVD. Thus far the movie has been only available as a cropped pan ‘n’ scan region 1 (U.S. & Canada-only) DVD which was released in 2004. This new DVD unfortunately is a region 2 release and with no word as yet on a U.S. release fans in the States will probably have to import it from the U.K. Or they can stick to the old pan ‘n’ scan version.

But why bother? Not only is the widescreen version infinitely better, but this new release boasts some bonus extras such as a commentary track by film director Joseph Sargent, a stills gallery and original publicity materials, none of which are to be found on the region 1 release. In fact the region 1 disc was such a bare bones affair that it didn’t even have a menu the movie simply started playing when you insert the disc!

You might argue that such a talky and intimate drama would benefit from the pan ‘n’ scan process, but a shot-by-shot comparison reveals the obvious: the widescreen aspect ratio is to be preferred. The 2:35 widescreen preserves director Sargent’s compositions and his attempts to present the stage-y material in a more visually interesting manner. The same source print seems to be used for this DVD (all the minor celluloid scratches appear identical) but this is still the version to get. The PAL color also seems more vibrant and alive.

Unfortunately the director’s commentary by Sargent is filled with a lot of silent patches and his talk tends to be on the generalist side.

WORTH IT? Oh yes. Although its fashions and politics are out-of-date today with the Cold War long over and computers no longer taking up entire mountainsides, Colossus – the Forbin Project still makes for essential and intelligent viewing for hard SF viewers. It also raises some interesting questions about humanity, freedom and the like. In retrospect it also turned out to be a huge influence on the 1980s Matthew Broderick flick WarGames. (Note the link to buy below is for the region 1 disc and not the disc featured in this article.)



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