Challenge Week 43: The Collector

The week before I watched this, its recommender Steve tried to scare me, warning me that it was pretty rough and that it surprising it got past the censors and whatnot. I knew it was about a man who kidnaps women, and that kind of storyline CAN go very wrong for me if it rubs me the wrong way. But on the other hand, it CAN go very right for me, and Steve will be pleased to know this is one of those times.

Terence Stamp is Freddie, a butterfly collector who also obsesses over a girl, Miranda (Samantha Eggar)…he wants her to love him, but really, he just wants to add her to his collection, like a rare butterfly that he would capture and pin for preservation. He buys a remote old country house with a large cellar, furnishes the cellar as a small apartment, and kidnaps Miranda and locks her in it.

tf-chloroform

The film is basically just the two of them conversing and playing a sort of terrifying cat and mouse game – she’s desperate to escape of course, but he offers her a thirty-day deal. She plays along and lives in the cellar for thirty days without trying to escape, and then he’ll let her go. She bides her time, though of course tries to take advantage of any opportunity she sees – like flooding the bathroom with a neighbor comes to call, or sneaking out a letter to her mother.

The fascinating thing is how the film manages to be full of tension and yes, often terrifying, without ever really being lewd or prurient. Freddie is emasculated in some ways, never really tries to rape her, yet can be brutally possessive and cruel when he fears she’s getting the upper hand. Late in the film, he even wants to marry her while promising never to touch her, as if the promise of a chaste marriage would make the whole thing more palatable to her. It’s a really interesting look at how messed up his head is about gender relations and sex.

tf-pair

I did have to laugh (nervously) at one point when he’s trying to be her intellectual equal and reads one of her favorite books, Catcher in the Rye, and hates it. I also really dislike that book, and honestly, for a lot of the same reasons he delineates. Heh. That whole section showed how much of his insecurity wasn’t just gender-related, but also class and education-related. In a way, he reverts to a very stereotypical form of masculinity because he feels that he’s perceived as intellectually inferior. This is actually pretty relevant today.

Carrying the movie by themselves, Stamp and Eggar have to be tremendous, and they are, both of them, absolutely riveting all the way through. It’s a rough movie in concept, and has a few VERY intense scenes punctuating a general feeling of unease, but it’s not cruel or sadistic, which is what usually tips me over to not liking a movie. It actually has sympathy for both people, which went a long way toward making the film more complex, interesting, and memorable.

tf-butterfly-reflection

Stats and stuff…

1965, UK
directed by William Wyler, written by John Kohn and Stanley Mann
starring Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how The Collector entered my chart:

The Collector > An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
The Collector > Raising Victor Vargas
The Collector < The Three Musketeers (1973)
The Collector > The Prestige
The Collector < Stand By Me
The Collector > Grave of the Fireflies
The Collector > Alien
The Collector > The World’s End
The Collector < Anne of Green Gables
The Collector > Two-Lane Blacktop
The Collector > A Christmas Story
The Collector > Ever After

Final #589 out of 3720 films on my chart (84%)

It is now my #4 William Wyler film, my #1 Terence Stamp film, my #34 Horror film, my #35 Psychological Thriller, my #10 Psychological Horror film, and my #7 film of 1965.

The Collector was recommended by Steve Honeywell, a film blogger friend. Averaging together this #589 ranking with my #1798 ranking of his other film, True Stories, gives Steve an average ranking of 1193.

A few more screenshots…

tf-capturing

tf-butterfly-jar

tf-following

tf-tea

tf-cell

tf-hope

tf-bathtub

tf-butterfly-room

tf-butterfly-chloroform

tf-stone-walls

tf-pair

  • SJHoneywell

    I can live with you being middle-of-the-road on True Stories because I’m very pleased that you ended up liking this one. I think this one does the story the right way. It’s uncomfortable and upsetting, but it never goes for gore or goes for the cheap, prurient route.

    I love Terrence Stamp in this, but it’s Eggar who really makes the movie for me. I was pretty invested throughout, but the moment that she wakes up in her basement prison and slowly discovers just how much planning has gone into this–the wardrobe of clothing her size, etc. is truly chilling, and it’s all reflected in her face as she scans the room.

    I don’t know how much research you do on the films after you’ve seen them. The story on The Collector is that since the ending doesn’t conform to the Hays Code, it shouldn’t have been approved, but allegedly the censor fell asleep before the end and passed it without going back and watching what was missed.

    • I remember you mentioning about the Code approval, but obviously you didn’t tell me exactly what the issue was. I assumed the suggestions of nudity in the bathroom scene, but you’re right, the ending isn’t compliant either. But the ending is perfect.