By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: Collecting women like butterflies.
Freddie (Terence Stamp) is a withdrawn loner who collects butterflies for a hobby. One day he manages to win a lot of money in a football pool and uses it buy an old, isolated house in the English countryside. The place has a very large cellar, which gives him the idea that it can be used as a prison. It is then that he decides to kidnap beautiful art student Miranda (Samantha Eggar). He keeps her in the cellar, but fixes it up making it seem almost like an apartment. He treats her with the upmost respect and even knocks before entering her room. He buys her art supplies so she can continue her work and makes an agreement with her that he will let her go after 4-weeks, but hopes in between then that she will fall in love with him.
The film puts an interesting spin on the old ‘psycho kidnapping a beautiful woman’ theme and for the most part succeeds. The viewer ends up feeling almost as sorry for Freddie as they do his victim as it becomes clear that through his social awkwardness he is in even more of a prison than she. The way the two try to communicate and connect, which only ends up driving the them further apart is fascinating and their contrasting views about the book ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as well as the paintings of Picasso are equally revealing.
Stamp gives one of his greatest performances in his already illustrious career playing a character who weaves from being menacing to vulnerable and childlike. Eggar makes for an appealing victim and apparently turned Stamp down years earlier when he had asked for her date while the two were students in acting school.
William Wyler’s direction is perfect as he wisely decides to pull back without adding any unnecessary Hitchcock touches and thus allowing the interactions between the two characters to propel the film. His superimposed, colorful shots of butterflies seen over the closing credits are a nice added touch. My only minor grievance is the Maurice Jarre score, which seemed too melodic without enough of the dark foreboding undertones that music for a thriller should have.
If you’re looking for the conventional thriller you may be disappointed as the emphasis is more on the psychological than the suspenseful. There are a few good tense moments including Miranda’s final attempt to escape during a nighttime rain storm, but for the most part the compelling element comes from the way these two multi-layered people deal with each other and ultimately reveal things about themselves that they didn’t know existed. The story also makes an excellent point of how everyone to a certain degree is trapped in a prison and the challenging if not impossible effort it can sometimes be to bond with others especially when reaching across different social-economic lines. The only thing that does get ruined is the ending, which no longer has the novelty or shock value that it once did.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: June 17, 1965
Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes
Director: William Wyler
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video