In his third film, Terence Stamp draws down his natural aura to play a sort of British cousin to Norman Bates in William Wyler’s exceptional adaptation of John Fowles’ debut novel. Disturbingly quiet, emotionally closed off, socially immature, Stamp’s routine of office drudgery is broken by a passion for butterfly collecting. But when a big win in the National Football Pool sets him up as a country gentleman on a lonely estate, he finds a new type of ‘butterfly’ to collect in student-artist Samantha Eggar. Kidnapped & figuratively pinned down for display, Eggar puts up physical & psychological resistance, confounding Stamp’s expectations of friendship & love for all his attentions. Basically a two-hander, the film is largely without boilerplate thriller aspects (though an ill-timed visitor, with accompanying bathtub overflow, is faintly comic/nail-biting stuff), more concerned with intellectual envy, class resentment & life-or-death gamesmanship. Wyler paces & structures the film as if the built-in limitations of the storyline simply didn’t exist; and successfully mines for depth rather than variety in his two largely inexperienced leads. A feel-good film it’s not, but creepy & satisfying in its unique way. (Excellent tech, too, with Robert Surtees’ Hollywood shot interiors & Robert Krasker’s location work in England, perfectly in synch.)
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Who else but William Wyler would opt out of THE SOUND OF MUSIC/’65, where he was well into pre-production, to take on this small, challenging chamber piece? It shows the range of subjects Hollywood trusted him with; and the distrust (largely misguided) of too many film academic types who hold range of content as a signifier of impersonal output. (It’s does make for an unwieldy monograph.)
CONTEST: The old Hollywood Production Code, still in effect in ‘65, got pushed against two ways here. Name them to win a MAKSQUIBS Write Up of your choosing.