Last June, La-la-Land Records put out another marvel…
For a long time, hidden in the vaults at Universal Pictures, was Michel Colombier’s score to the 1970 sci-fi cult paranoia Colossus: the Forbin Project, directed by Joseph Sargent (the director of the original The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3). Colossus is one of the most captivating ‘computer gone mad’ movie thrillers, but it was a box office failure slowly gaining cult status. At the time of the film’s release, no soundtrack was issued on vinyl and it stayed that way (no CD release either) for decades.
Michel Colombier got the assignment to score Colossus. The French composer already had an impressive resume, working with Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Aznavour, Michel Magne, Brigitte Fontaine, Quincy Jones, (later) supertramp, as well as being the co-writer, with legendary Pierre Henry, of the seminal Messe Pour le Temps Présent for the, equally legendary, choreographer Maurice Béjart.
For the film medium, Colombier already worked on the scores of an entry in the Euro-spy spoof Coplan FX-18 series, on Claude Sautet’s L’Arme à gauche (1964), both composed alongside Eddie Barclay, and on Vittorio DeSica’s Un Nouveau Monde (1966), among others. Following his Colossus involvement, he would score late career entries by major directors such as Marcel Carné (Les assassins de l’ordre, 1971) and Jean-Pierre Melville (Un Flic, 1972). The 1980’s would also bring such pop assignment as the scoring and arrangements for Prince’s Purple Rain (1984).
Colossus: the Forbin Project was a, typical of its time, story of cold war Sci-fi paranoia in which two supercomputers, respectively from US (Colossus) and USSR (Guardian), befriend in a taking over of the destiny of the world and their makers by enslaving them for their ‘own good’.
The primeval quality of Colombier’s flair in writing the score is that it seizes, at first, the mechanical aspects of the twin computers, in a Musique Concrète fashion, while being primary recorded with the organic sounds of real instruments.
The Main Titles theme introduces a series of repeated pizzicato who will become a leitmotiv through most of the story . An organ of Godlike presence is later introduced within the piece as another leitmotiv with keys becoming more and more incisive. All Systems Go (track #2), introduces the listener to some of the various sound manipulation to follow with gongs/ water chime effects passed through the Echoplex (a Jerry Goldsmith favorite!). With ”Set Up Communications (track #3), Colombier builds some tension music with various timpani, Bongos , Xylophone, later repeated in Goodbye Kruppa (track #9).
Guardian to Colossus (track #5) establishes the alarming bond of burgeoning brotherhood between the two machines with the use of the recurring aforementioned percussion and Echoplex and brushed piano strings, served in a jazzy manner. A New Language (track #6) goes further to point out the, no human allowed, increasing web of intrigue, opening with bongo, followed by a medley of electric keyboards, frenetic pizzicato with added pitch bend effects. The ensuing variations to build tension from the mid section of the film, from track 7 (Missile Lauched) to track 10 (Nuclear Surveillance) are complete though many parts didn’t make it into the theatrical cut. Track 11 to 16 offer more romantic jazz lounge fusion and light sound, synonym with hope, before the climatic dramatic motives, in the later part of the score, come as reminder of who the bosses are.
Colombier’s Intuitive and ingenious score to Colossus: the Forbin Project deserved to be given this red carpet treatment. It was mastered by Colossus Mike Matessino and liner notes are by guardian Jeff Bond.