Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Lost John Norman Collins Movie - Part One of Three

In early 1977, a film crew of thirty-five people from Hollywood descended upon the communities of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Michigan, to make a film about John Norman Collins, the all-American boy and Eastern Michigan University student, who allegedly murdered seven young women in the area.

Producer/director/writer, William Martin, took five years to write the screenplay and insisted that it was not at all connected with The Michigan Murders, which was released a year earlier in 1976. Martin's movie was to be more of a mood piece about the community in crisis rather than "factual" details. The movie was entitled, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.

"It's not a police story," Martin told reporters. "The whole county was in terror for two years. I'm only doing it from the standpoint of what was running through the minds of the girls, what was happening in the community, and what was happening with the killer at large."

What was happening with the killer is still a story begging to be told. John Norman Collins has steadfastly maintained he is innocent.

The budget for this film ranged from early estimates of 1 million dollars to a soaring 2.5 million in total production costs. The film was slated by Paramount Pictures for its Ypsilanti premiere around Christmas time in 1978, but the film was never completed. Somewhere in a vault or storage locker lies footage from a film never before seen by the public.

Martin planned to change the names of the victims as Edward Keyes and others have done, but below and in my book on this subject, The Rainy Day Murders, I've used the real names of the people and the actors who played them.

Malibu surf legend, Robert Purvey, was cast as John Norman Collins; Rory Calhoun portrayed Washtenaw County Sheriff, Douglas Harvey; Katherine Grayson, of 1940's MGM musical fame, was to play Collin's aunt, Sandra Leik; Peter Hurkos agreed to play himself with little or no persuasion; and local Detroit WXYZ anchorman, Bill Bonds, reprised his role as a field reporter which he had previously played in a couple of Planet of the Apes movies and Five Easy Pieces.

Reasons why the film was never completed range from John Collins lawyers trying to get a court injunction to stop production to personal threats against the producer. Recently, my researcher, Ryan Place, has been in contact with Robert Purvey who sheds new light on why this movie was never made. More on that in my next post.

To be continued...


  1. Good stuff!! I was not aware of this movie!!

  2. I remember when they filmed it but of course, it never came to fruition. I always wondered why this clowns serial killings were never more well known. He did such weird things like always coming back to look at then bodies after he dumped them and then how the investigation was bungled a few times. There was a lot to learn from that case.