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As one of the greatest directors of Hollywood's golden age, William Wyler had a long and distinguished roster of films to his credit, among them a number of classics (including Wuthering Heights and The Heiress) that rank among the finest literary adaptations to emerge from the studio system. Near the end of his career, Wyler focused his veteran skills on John Fowles's novel The Collector, and it's easy to see how Wyler would be drawn to the story's resonant psychological underpinnings. It's conceivable that the director was also fascinated by the cinematic precedents set by Alfred Hitchock's Psycho and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom; like those films, Wyler's 1965 production of The Collector focuses on the obsessions of a young man whose need for a woman's affection leads him to desperate measures at the expense of his object of desire. Terence Stamp was a fine choice for the role of Freddie Clegg, a young, nondescript bank clerk who wins a fortune in a sports pool and is financially liberated to pursue his psychological fixation--specifically a lovely London art student named Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar) whom Freddie captures in the comfortably furnished cellar of his remote, newly purchased Tudor farmhouse. In many respects she is just another addition to Freddie's impressive and meticulously catalogued collection of butterflies--delicate and beautiful, and kept against her will. Freddie genuinely loves her and treats her with utmost respect, but she is his prisoner. Having been subdued by Freddie's use of chloroform, she later observes that he is responsible for "so much death," and of course she could never return his affection. Or could she? This richly psychological situation is handled by Wyler with understated grace, but the weight of Freddie's psychosis is never keenly felt; the film's subdued quality ultimately works against the thriller aspects of the story. And yet, the performances of Stamp and Eggar remain sharp and mutually sympathetic, and when Wyler brings the story full circle to yet another "butterfly" for Freddie's collection, the stalker theme leaves the viewer with a considerable chill. Where another movie like 1967's Wait Until Dark relied on more explicit and effective shocks, The Collector works on a subtler level of disturbing but undeniably human behavior.

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ID6856SPH Collector DVD (1965/William Wyler) $9.99