15 August 2011



1965/Director: William Wyler/ Writers: John Fowles (novel), Stanley Mann (script)

Cast:  Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar,  Mona Washbourne, Maurice Dallimore

The Collector is a film by William Wyler starring basically two actors in a almost stage style performance. Terrance Stamp plays butterfly collector Freddie Clegg who is brilliant but has an incredible inferiority complex. He works as a clerk who is taunted by his co-workers but one day wins a substantial fortune in the British football pool. He uses his money to buy and equip a isolated, rustic old house in the country side. By equip I mean he turns the Gothic looking cellar into a furnished holding cell meant to contain one Miranda Grey (Sammantha Eggar) who he had developed an obsession with and is determined to make her fall in love with him. The first step in his bizarre courtship is to chloroform her then kidnap her and haul her back to her cell. She has no idea where she is or what Freddie’s intentions really are.

The film focuses on the tension and conflicts between educated and born into money Miranda and once working class Freddie who is now wealthy and has a lot of free time on his hands. Both actors deliver excellent performances. The movie follows Hitchcock’s Psycho and while technically Psycho is a better made film, The Collector is a more believable study of a broken mind. One cannot help but sympathize somehow with Freddie’s plight (and Stamp’s performance adds to our ability to connect with the unhinged young man). We almost wish that Miranda will little by little actually come around to Freddie or that he will honor his word and release her at the time he promises at the beginning of her captivity. None of this is to be and the film ends tragically, but not with Freddie being killed off by his captive, but with the death of Miranda from exposure to the elements basically. Some reviews I refer to Freddie as a serial killer, but this is not the case at all. He sincerely means no harm to Miranda and while he is forceful he is never brutal or sadistic. As the film progresses however and the worlds from which Freddie and Miranda were born into seem to remain distant and unknown to the other Freddie get more and more frustrated and Miranda more and more terrified. In one scene Freddie tried to understand Miranda’s interest in Picasso and J.D Salinger and destroys the books he bough her. In another Miranda insults Freddie’s prize winning butterfly collection that he shyly reveals to her, hoping to show something of his true self to her.

As I said, the film ends not with the death of the captor but with the slow decline and death of the captive which was a bit of a shocker for the time. The last shots of the film show Freddie stalking his next victim, now more experienced and not apt to make the wrong choices as before, such as choosing someone he has nothing in common with. Freddie, while at times likable and almost naive in nature, in the end has little remorse left for Miranda and concludes she brought it all on herself. The movie is nicely shot and I may say it suffered a little from a lack of a truly claustrophobic atmosphere. It also suffered from a really inadequate soundtrack by the usually capable but sometimes inappropriate Maurice Jarre. The soundtrack is nice but too nice and at times a little goofy and seems like more of a soundtrack style for the films of the 40's and 50’s where the music tried accentuate every movement the actors made. The movie needed a score that was a little more tension creating, rather than, honestly, soothing and inappropriate.

Another great British movie that, like The Servant, uses the action and drama for a vehicle for other messages, here such as British class struggle, the basic problems of loneliness and men and women communicating in general. I am also preparing a post on what I call Miranda style movies, and have about eight films to try and pander. Some may seem a little odd and may stretch the category a little and I will see if I can manage to be convincing or not. I searched for some quotes from the film but could find none really and will see if I can get a script from online and select some of my own, as some of the lines are so unsettling and chilling. A truly creepy film that relies on acting and atmosphere and well written lines. I have never read the book by John Fowles and being in China I may have a hard time locating it unless I can back to Beijing or Shanghai. I would certainly like to read the book after seeing this film again the other night.


Delta said...

Great Film, Thanks.

Bill Courtney said...

Sorry, I didn't see your comment until 2018. Thank you for the nice comment. Leave more as I am prompt to get back obviously.

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