Friday, 14 September 2007

Adventures in the Forbin Project

DISCLAIMER: This is a multimedia post and is best read as such.

From Wikipedia
“Colossus: The Forbin Project is a science fiction film based upon the 1966 novel Colossus, by Dennis Feltham Jones, about the massive, eponymous American defense computer becoming sentient and deciding to assume control of the world. Although unsuccessful when released, it is well respected by science fiction aficionados and critics. Imagine Entertainment and Universal studios have confirmed that a remake titled Colossus, to be directed by Ron Howard, is in production.”

I guess I get to call myself a science fiction aficionado, since today’s post is on the enigmatic story of Colossus. To start I have to go on record as having never read the book. My introduction to the story is from the 60’s CBC radio adaptation of the novel.

I found the radio play while tripping over the web. I’m a bit of a radio play zombie, gobbling up weird stories faster that most television junkies watch TV (it helps that I can do other things while I listen). I don’t know where I found it, likely at the zombie astronaut’s site, but really I can’t remember. That night I put it on my ipod. The audio was lo-fi but the story fascinated me. A bit stuck in the cold war, but a story that delivered what good science fiction should, an intelligent story to reflect the socieity in which it was created.

Here’s the weird part. Within a week, days really, The 1966 feature was aired on Drive-in, a specialty channel here in Canada. I was orgasmic. I had to see it. I pulled out my VHS VCR for the first time in 6 years and taped it. I needed a record that it even existed. Well exist it does. I’ve since found out that there is a region 1 pan and scan DVD of the film.
The book was written by author Dennis Feltham Jones a British science fiction writer who wrote under the byline D.F. Jones. He was a naval commander in World War II and lived in Cornwall. As I’ve said, I haven’t read the original novel, but my eye is now on the lookout.

Now onto the adaptations:

What interests me is the Canadian connections to the adaptations.

I believe the CBC radio play came first. So lets start there. CBC radio is our national broadcaster. Think BBC or NPR and you have a good idea about what it is all about. Funded by public money.

I don’t know a lot of details but I do have some clues from the program itself. From the credits I can glean two things about the actors.

Donald Harron is the actor noted as Charles Forbin. Could this be Canadian actor / comedian Don Harron? Well on a second listen it sure sounds like it. He is best know for his Charlie Farquharson character who was seen on the Red Green show, but originated in 1952. The character was showcased on HeeHaw and Harron has also published 9 books as Charlie. He could be said to have made a career out of Farquharson except I remember him hosting a national Canadian talk show on CTV in the mid eighties as himself. It aired in the afternoons and I believe it was called “the Don Harron Show”.

Paul Kligman played the president. He was a well know Canadian actor, best remembered as a regular on "The Wayne and Shuster Hour" (1952). He went on to do voice work, mostly in cartoons. He was the voice of J. Jonah Jameson in the 60’s Spiderman cartoon series. It is this persona that I will always think of when I hear his voice.

Here’s a clip of Paul in Colossus: The Forbin Project as I hear him:

He passed on in 1985.

Courtesy Trailers from Hell, here’s a look at the 1966 film:

More Canadian connections. The president is played by famed Canadian actor, Gordon Pinsent. I had the plesure of working with him on a seldom seen feature entitled “Blood Clan”. I was a lowly production assistant at the time (one of the crew under the guy in charge of getting things done). He was, I can gladly report, a very delightful man to drive to set everyday. He also has been seen in The Red Green Show, The Thomas Crown Affair, Blacula, and The Rowdyman.

Non-Canadian. The voice of Colossus was played by Paul Frees, the ubervoice of Old Time Radio, going back to Suspense and Escape.

Charles Forbin is played by Eric Braeden best known as Victor Newman on daytime soap "The Young and the Restless"

Now, if you have an hour. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s adaptation of Colossus: The Forbin Project.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There has been a lot of interest in this post. Comments would be appreciated.