William Wyler’s The Collector AKA The Collector (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (26th September 2018).
The Film

The great Hollywood director William Wyler (Jezebel, Wuthering Heights, The Heiress, Ben-Hur) took John Fowles’ celebrated novel and turned it into one of the finest – and most controversial – psychological thrillers of the 1960s.

Video

A troubled individual (Terence Stamp) who collects butterflies, kidnaps a young art student (Samantha Eggar) he’s obsessed with.

Extremely well made in all respects with two knockout performances, this seems to want to compare a dull unimaginetive man against someone with boundless imagination, someone with few skills against someone deeply skilled and finally a comparrison between high and low class.

What may have worked well on the page in a rarified literary sense comes over as a wordy psychological melodrama on film. A story about a deeply sick, individual who knows he’s doing wrong but hasn’t the social skills to really develop his own relationships; a product of his mundane, working class background and his resentment of such.

The prisoner is the product of nurture and love in an upper middle class environment and represents a height of being that the Collector simply can’t comprehend as in the scene where he fails to understand the hidden meaning in a Picasso painting, becomes enraged at the prisoner’s entreaties to deeper meanings and destroys the image.

An unsettling film; I find it easy to admire the skill with which it’s made, but not one that I can like much. The only Fowles books I’ve read are The Aristos: A Self Portrait in Ideas (1965), a collection of thoughts about life the universe and everything; and The Ebony Tower (1974), about a ménage a trois between an artist and two female students and things become complex when a young artist visits. With The Collector perhaps he *thought* too much; it was apparently inspired by his sexual fantasies which have led to charges of misogyny. I‘ve seen other films based on his work - The Magus (1968) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) - and he was very much an intellectual exploring concepts and ideas in relation to the human condition, but I find his books are coldly intellectual puzzles.

The image is as usual very true to it's source with a very robust, very ‘60s use of colour accentuated by having a pair of great cinematographers (Robert Krasker, Robert Surtees) and plenty of time to light scenes; this was a big budget film with a big budget schedule.

Black levels are excellent and I couldn't see any signs of crush and where intended shadow detail was present. Contrast is low key which allows more detail to come through especially in fabrics and backgrounds which aides in appreciation of the detailed interior set dressing. Colours are rich, well defined but natural; this is not candy coloured in any way. The palette deemphasises reds for much of the films length with lots of browns, yellows and grays.

Grain is present but it’s very fine obviously turning up slightly more in night or dark interior shots. This has the usual maxed out Indicator Series’ bit rate and topnotch encode; no gaps in the grain and no signs of posterisation, mosquito noise or other unwanted artifacts. No signs of DNR or edge enhancement and no signs of any print damage; the original master used is in excellent and the handling by the Powerhouse team ensures it's on it's best behaviour.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 119:14

Audio

A solid lossless, mono track typical of the period. Dialogue is very clear and easy to follow, music is clearly levelled in the track never becoming overbearing. The soundtrack hasn't got the over bearing levels of music modern films can have and there are no phasing issues or other distortions. Subtitles are welcome.

Extras

“The Guardian Interview with William Wyler: Conducted by Adrian Turner at the London Film Theatre, London on 31 May 1981” plays as an alternate audio track over the film (83:03)

“The Guardian Interview with Terence Stamp Conducted by Tony Sloman at the National Film Theatre, London on 6 July 1989” plays as an alternate audio track over the film (91:56)


Two more expansive, career spanning interviews from the '80s. These are always interesting and Wyler's career spans the silent era through 1970. In fact he died only three months after this was recorded.

Stamp is as interesting as he is in the on camera interview segments and discusses extensively working with various stars over the years and there's some risqué material and impersonations to savour.

Selected scenes commentary with Neil Sinyard (72:31)

Sinyard eloquently covers the nuts and bolts of the films production in a surprising amount of detail.

“Angel to Devil: Terence Stamp on The Collector” featurette (12:45)

A continuation of the interview section also excerpted on The Mind of Mr. Soames (1969) Blu-ray. Stamp is chatty, intelligent and articulate about

“Nothing But Death” featurette (15:20)

An excellent interview with Samantha Eggar who discusses working with Wyler, the truth behind the original story and she also mentions her disappointment at a subplot involving a romance with a teacher played by Kenneth Moore being cut.

“The Look of Stardom” 1965 featurette (2:14)

Vintage featurette that would’ve played in cinemas and / or on TV promoting Samantha Eggar. Very much a product of it’s time.

“The Location Collector” featurette (7:51)

Locations then and now comparrison.

“Richard Combs on The Collector” featurette (8:34)

Short piece in which Combs touches on the themes and places it in context of Wyler's career.

Theatrical trailer (2:51)
Teaser trailers (1:24)


Vintage advertising; cheesy by today’s standards.

The Collector Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (23 images)

Brief but decent hD gallery of stills.

40-page liner notes booklet by Carmen Gray, John Fowles and The Collector, a look at the making of the film, contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Another peerless collection of contextual material that most likely this film would not have been granted by any other video label.

Overall

This controversial film from an equally controversial book gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse. It looks and sounds as good as can be given the already excellent Sony master supervised by Rita Bella, so top marks. I'm sure that if one day we get a new 4K restoration presented on UHD Blu-ray with HDR or Dolby Vision the ratings will need looking at. However, for Blu-ray this is as good as it's likely to get.

Extras are extensive and very valuable in appreciating this film and the context in which it was made and released.

Bravo!

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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