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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Collector

Alfred Hitchcock didn't have a picture out in 1965, but William Wyler, who made all sorts of films, filled in with the exceptionally creepy The Collector. Wyler turned down The Sound of Music to do it.

The film stars Terence Stamp as a meek bank clerk who collects butterflies. He is out with his net and comes across an old house with an old Roman basement that gives him an idea. He has won a large football betting lottery, so buys the house. This allows him to fulfill a long developing plan--to kidnap a woman.

His target is an art student, Samantha Eggar. Stamp drugs her (with chloroform--I've always wondered about that. Where do you get it? When you buy it, aren't you automatically a kidnapping suspect?) and takes her prisoner. He promises to keep her only for four weeks, and does not want to have sex with her--he just wants her to fall in love with him.

Needless to say, this film will give you the willies. Stamp, who was something of a heartthrob, makes an effective psychopath, who rationalizes everything. Eggar shows great skill in going through the stages of her captivity, trying defiance and then being friendly, all the while trying to escape at every turn. When a neighbor comes over while she's tied up in bathroom, she lets the water run so it will alert him. In a very Hitchcockian scene, Stamp tries to get rid of the man as the water slowly runs down the stairway.

Based on a novel by John Fowles, The Collector is basically a two-character story about the nature of love and obsession. In a pointed scene, Stamp shows Eggar his butterfly collection, of which he is very proud, but she is disgusted by all the death. "How many butterflies have you killed?" she asks him, and he shrugs and looks around. It doesn't occur to him that by owning something, he has essentially destroyed it. It's a fairly obvious metaphor, but a good one. He also has trouble understanding the appeal of Picasso. He's a very literal thinker.

The film also has a very powerful ending, which I don't dare reveal here. Needless to say, it doesn't satisfy Hollywood expectations.

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