Not every director in Hollywood is an artiste or an auteur, the fancy French term for a “total filmmaker.” In fact, many great films have been helmed by journeymen directors who are good craftsmen, and who know how to get the job done.
Joseph Sargent, who just passed away at the age of 89, was certainly in the journeyman category, but he also made two of my all time favorite films, Colossus: The Forbin Project, and The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 (the original 1973 version of course).
Colossus dealt with artificial intelligence taking over the world, and some feel it was the inspiration for Skynet in the Terminator films. Pelham is also without a doubt one of the best action films of the seventies, and it still holds up very well today.
Like any journeyman director, Sargent also made his share of clinkers, including Jaws: The Revenge, which inspired a great comedy routine by the late Richard Jeni. (Look for it on YouTube.) But again, a journeyman goes from film to film, and he has to get the job done to the best of his ability. Win some, lose some, but in the case of Colossus and Pelham, Sargent did a great job with both.
Recently Will Smith has been attached to a remake of Colossus, and it would indeed make a great sci-fi movie today, but we’re hoping audiences will revisit the original instead of waiting for a reboot. We should also mention that Sargent directed a lot of television, including the legendary episode of Star Trek where Spock first said one of his trademark lines, “fascinating,” with that great Vulcan delivery.