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Classic Film Review: "The Collector"

Before the home invasion flick, there was this tale of affection turned into obsession.

Movies about obsession are nothing new. It seems about 50 percent of made-for-TV Lifetime films are about a crazy man or woman obsessed with someone else. The obsession plot still permeates in cinema, with recent films like When The Bough Breaks and The Gift.

In the case of the 1965 film The Collector, introverted butterfly collector Frederick (Terence Stamp) becomes infatuated with Miranda (Samantha Eggar), a beautiful girl he went to school with. After following her to college, he learns her routine before drugging and kidnapping her, taking her back to his isolated cottage in an effort to help her "get to know him." Any other Lifetime fan can tell how well this will go.

While the plot is nothing groundbreaking or innovative (like the trailer's narrator tries to suggest), The Collector has suspenseful thrills and talented actors to carry the film above its' formulaic storyline. Samantha Eggar and Terence Stamp play well off each other in their "captive vs. imprisoner" dynamic. Stamp, in particular, gives a complex portrayal of the delusional and short-tempered abductor. In a similar vein to Kathy Bates' portrayal of legendary villain Annie Wilkes, Stamp can effortlessly switch from sweet but deluded to angry and dangerously violent.

On the other end of the character spectrum, Eggar gives a realistic and poignant portrayal as Stamp's object of obsession. Initially, when she realizes what has happened to her, Miranda is aggressive with Frederick in her demands to be set free and is brusque against his attempts to earn her affections. But over the course of her captivity, as she comes to realize how unhinged and cruel Frederick could be, Miranda's fiery determination is slowly and brutally diminished.

One particularly dynamic scene occurs when, after Frederick reneges an agreement he made with Miranda to let her go free after a month of being his prisoner, Frederick chases his terrified victim around the room when she attempts to flee and ultimately subdues her with chloroform. Eggar and Stamp excel in this scene, with Stamp exuding callous determination as he prepares to drug his hostage and Eggar's facial expressions clearly (and realistically) expressing Miranda's fear and desperation to escape. A lengthy struggle occurs between the two when Frederick succeeds in getting the doused cloth over Miranda's mouth, and the struggle excellently combines both the ferocity of  Frederick's twisted goal of having Miranda's love and the poignancy of seeing that, despite her best efforts, Miranda has once again failed to reclaim her freedom.

Spoiler Alert Below:

For those of you well-versed in this type of movie, you might expect a triumphant, female-empowering ending with Miranda escaping her disturbed abductor. But instead, a failed escape attempt results in a rain drenched Miranda becoming ill and dying, too ill to even attempt to flee when Frederick leaves the door to her prison unlocked when he runs to get her medicine. Even worse, Frederick ultimately decides that Miranda brought her fate on herself for not trying to love him and sets his sights on another target.

While this is no doubt a tragic end for Miranda, it's also a poignant fate for none other than our kidnapper. While Frederick's seemingly callous decision to blame Miranda and move on to another unsuspecting woman to obsess over may be hard to stomach, his chilling rationalization for Miranda's untimely demise solidifies the tragically broken state of his mind. Right before discovering that his captive/love interest has perished, Frederick delivers the agonizingly sincere, "I still love you, Miranda," followed by genuine heartbreak at realizing Miranda is dead. One can only imagine what kind of past trauma has warped Frederick's mind to believe his actions were that of love rather than twisted obsession. And sadly, his failure to accomplish his goal of finding love has left him with no revelation, as his mind deludes him into believing the failure is that of his victim and moves on to another.

The Collector, despite a well-worn storyline, is definitely a worthwhile movie to check out for anyone looking for an entertaining drama. The actors take what in less experienced hands would be unoriginal and bland and turn it into something painstakingly authentic and deep. This gem is one that many film buffs will no doubt cherish.

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