The Collector (1965) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Collector was quite a refreshing, black, little gem in 1965.

It is difficult for you younger guys to understand what 1965 was like, but it may help you to realize that The Sound of Music was awarded the Best Picture Oscar that year. It was a big bland year filled with big bland movies, none of which was even interesting enough to motivate people towards an usurpation of a syrupy Julie Andrews musical for the annual statuette. To be honest, I suppose the Best Picture should have been Dr Zhivago, a big bland historical epic which at least had some greater depth than the big bland musical.

There were two movies that year which lent people some hope for the future of films. One was The Pawnbroker, a decidedly unbig unbland movie about the psychological aftermath of concentration camp survival, which included nudity (exceedingly rare in 1965) and received the infamous "condemned" rating from the Catholic church, thus making it a must-see for horny 16 year olds like me.

Like The Pawnbroker, The Collector was neither big nor bland. Unlike the Pawnbroker, it had no serious aspirations to psychological analysis or social criticism. It was a creepy genre picture about a mad butterfly collector who decided to start collecting women instead of butterflies. It was shot mostly at an English countryside estate, and was virtually a two character play. Terence Stamp played the social misfit in his black-haired pre-Zod days. Samantha Eggar was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the victim.

And I've already told you pretty much the entire film. Stamp buys a secluded Elizabethan mansion, chloroforms Eggar, and imprisons her in a secret cellar which was once designed as a secret Catholic chapel. They negotiate the terms of her stay, and he explains why he has kidnapped her. It turns out that he's a simple clerk who has been a social pariah (he got all his money from winning a football lottery), and she's a beautiful art student whose daddy is a doctor. He thinks she will fall in love with him if she'll only give it a chance, but she would never give it a chance if they met in London. Of course, she doesn't fall in love with him, but she does come to empathize with him. She can see he's a complete loony who needs help and kindness. On the other hand, she can also see that she better escape before she ends up dying in his musty old cellar.

They go through a long ritual of near-escapes, pacts, broken promises, fights, false seductions, false illnesses, and the like, until ...

 ... well, I can't really tell you how it ends, can I?


In the full-screen, full negative VHS version, Eggar's left breast is visible about 99 minutes into the film. In the widescreen DVD version (presumably a very close reproduction of the theatrical experience), the same scene is cut off at her armpits. 
Hollywood legend William Wyler directed this film. Talk about a career. In the 30's, he directed Olivier in Wuthering Heights. In the early 40's, Mrs Miniver. Mid-40's, Best years of Our Lives. Early 50's, Roman Holiday. Late 50's - Ben Hur. And that just scratches the surface of his career. He was nominated for the best director statuette 12 times, and won three of them. He did serious drama, romances, genre pictures, epics, you name it.

He has 21 pictures rated 7.3 or higher at IMDb

  1. (8.39) - Best Years of Our Lives, The (1946)
  2. (8.10) - Ben-Hur (1959)
  3. (8.00) - Dodsworth (1936)
  4. (8.00) - Roman Holiday (1953)
  5. (7.87) - Heiress, The (1949)
  6. (7.81) - Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, The (1944)
  7. (7.74) - Good Fairy, The (1935)
  8. (7.72) - These Three (1936)
  9. (7.69) - Wuthering Heights (1939)
  10. (7.69) - Little Foxes, The (1941)
  11. (7.60) - Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  12. (7.60) - Letter, The (1940)
  13. (7.59) - Westerner, The (1940)
  14. (7.51) - Dead End (1937)
  15. (7.42) - Detective Story (1951)
  16. (7.42) - Children's Hour, The (1961)
  17. (7.41) - Desperate Hours, The (1955)
  18. (7.41) - Friendly Persuasion (1956)
  19. (7.41) - Big Country, The (1958)
  20. (7.32) - Collector, The (1965)
  21. (7.32) - Jezebel (1938)

He directed 30+ talkies, and a similar number of silent films.

His directing career started in 1925 and ended in 1970.

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I like The Collector. I like the creepy music and the ominous tone and Eggar's sense of desperation. The only thing that holds me back from a  wholehearted recommendation is that it is 119 minutes long, and that's a lot of running time for a two character play. It really kind of overstays its welcome, and the dialogue gets repetitive towards the end.

But I liked the ending, and found it completely appropriate.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews online

  • It was nominated for some significant Oscars: Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay (adapted from a book by John Fowles)

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.3/10. That rating places it in the Top 10 among 1965 films, and people felt the same way in those days as well.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Still quite a good psychological thriller after all these years, if somewhat slower in pace than today's films.

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