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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

The Collector

Way Ahead Of Its Time

Many consider the 1965 film, The Collector to be a horror film. I suppose it could be but I really see it more as a deeply upsetting, unsettling and disturbing work of art that was way ahead of its time. The novel by John Fowles that the film is based on was too of course but seeing the unthinkable on screen is quite different than seeing it in your head. With film, you always find yourself confronted with truths you can’t turn away from.

Frederick Clegg (Terence Stamp) is a lonely, psychopathic young man who purchases a large country house with money he won. He spends his time completely isolated as life has most likely left him incapable of living out in the real world. He begins stalking Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar), a London art student he finds interesting. He soon abducts Miranda on the street, incapacitating her with chloroform.

She wakes up inside the windowless cellar of Clegg’s home that has been decorated for her arrival. Clegg claims that he and Miranda used to ride the bus together years earlier and he followed her to London after she enrolled in art school. Clegg is convinced that Miranda will grow to love him and promises to let her go after four weeks, a period of time he believes will allow her to get to know him.

It doesn’t take long for Miranda to realize companionship is all Clegg wants but she makes several escape attempts all of which are unsuccessful. She and Clegg soon open up to each other but this doesn’t do as much good as Clegg has hoped. They both see the world completely differently and The Collector’s greatest scenes are often the ones when they are having deep discussions.

The massive difference in character contributes to the talented qualities of Stamp and Eggar’s performances. Stamp seems to zone himself out so as to observe the world from another perspective and in turn, need something to an unhealthy extent. He relies on what he sees while Eggar relies on what she feels.

Miranda sometimes tries to verbally convince Clegg to let her go. I thought this was important because it shows that Miranda is starting to know Clegg better. She knows he is capable of being asked for something even if he won’t follow through on it. She knows he’s a danger to her by holding her hostage but she doesn’t see him as dangerous generally speaking. He’s only physical with her when she tries to escape. She sees him as someone who out of need has done something unthinkable all the while thinking she can get through to him.

There’s a scene that really stayed with me where Clegg and Miranda are debating Miranda’s favorite book. Clegg dislikes how the main character behaves. Miranda insists that through all his faults, he’s still human and is struggling to fit in as we all do. Clegg thinks that she means him. Miranda says she didn’t mean it like that and that he’s not trying to understand another point of view. He senses she feels that he won’t understand the similarities because they frighten him. He calls her an elitist and says he was right to take her off the street because they could never have been friends in the real world.

This scene really stayed with me because it shows that Miranda doesn’t just know Clegg better. She sees him differently. There was a time at the beginning of her capture where she would never imagine that she would care what he thinks. That his opinion matters to her. That it’s important to her that he agrees with her. Clegg has officially become all Miranda has. She has to care what he thinks because she has no one else to care about. The very thought that she’s hurt him breaks her heart. She’s still frightened of him and she doesn’t know why. Things continue to fall apart between them and The Collector grows darker up until the brutal end.

Overall, The Collector is a disturbingly intense drama that’s only for those with open minds and the ability to tackle all subject matters. The very concept of The Collector astounds me. An abductor who doesn’t want sex, ransome or revenge. He simply wants companionship. I am not for one second suggesting what he did was ok but I do think this kind of character is worth exploring in other films. Films that are honest and not one-sided. Films that you’ll talk about after.

The Collector is one of these films. Many people will find it fascinating for different reasons and those thought provokers are often the best films. I’m not always fond of remakes but I’d be very curious to see what The Collector would be like in today’s world. I think that’s something people would talk about.

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