The Collector is a William Wyler film, something he chose to do instead of The Sound of Music—probably not the best career move. It was based on John Fowles’s first novel, but the script departs from the original source material. The result is a sort of weird horror/thriller film, which was also actor Terence Stamp’s second movie.
Stamp had just become an overnight sensation after starring in Billy Budd. He plays Freddy Clegg, a collector of butterflies who kidnaps a young art student, holding her against her will in his mysterious country mansion. The two form a creepy sort of relationship during her captivity, although of course she is hoping to escape at some point. For 1965, it’s quite an odd, bleak movie.
Stamp notes in the interview included with The Collector that it was a very different role from the almost angelic character he had become known for in Billy Budd. He’s an actor with real rage, so that worked. He had actually turned the part down a couple of times, thinking that someone like John Hurt or Anthony Perkins would be better suited for the role. But Wyler was sure that Stamp was the right guy, and eventually convinced him. Samantha Eggar plays Miranda Grey, the kidnap victim. a part that everybody including Stamp thought was going to be Julie Christie.
The script adaptation is credited partly to John Kohn, who was one of the producers as well. Kohn had also penned an adaptation of Fowles’s The Magus. Stanley Mann has the other screenwriter credit. However, it’s pretty clear that Terry Southern was called in as a script doctor and did a pretty major rewrite.
Obviously, with screen veteran Wyler at the helm it’s pretty well made. He usually did big, glossy Hollywood movies like Roman Holiday and Best Years of Our Lives, so it’s quite a departure for him. But he did turn his attention to other difficult topics, including The Children’s Hour, and at the end of his career he was really pushing to do hipper, more contemporary material. The Collector goes to some out-there places, and Stamp fully uses his chance to get into his character’s twisted mind.
The Jam song “The Butterfly Collector” is a homage to the film. The Smiths also paid homage to The Collector with the image of Terrence Stamp on the cover of “What Difference Does It Make?”. Stamp initially denied them the rights so some covers had Morrissey mocked up as Stamp (only time Morrissey appeared on a Smiths cover) but Stamp changed his mind. The Morrissey covers are incredibly rare and a collector’s item.
There are loads of extras on the disc, wAs usual with Indicator’s releases, there’s a Guardian audio interview with Wyler, and a Guardian interview with Stamp, that can be played as an alternative commentary for the film. There’s a selected-scenes commentary with Neil Sinyard, a newly filmed interview with the two main actors, a promo video about Eggar’s casting, a video about the locations, an appreciation by critic Richard Combs, the trailer, and a teaser trailer,. The collection is rounded off with a printed copy of the John Fowles book, and a 40-page booklet with essays (contemporary and older) on the film.