Collector, The (1965)

The Collector (1965), directed by William Wyler.

When a meek office clerk and avid butterfly collector wins a betting pool he buys a country house and acts on another passion. He stalks a pretty art student, kidnaps her in broad daylight and confines her in his cellar. He assures her he intends no ransom or rape, although he does become overexcited when he has to grapple with her. He wants her to love him.

He is in fact fastidious in matters of her modesty and she is more like part of his collection. Problem: she understandably objects to being a prisoner and is smart enough to see that all the butterflies are dead.

She tries all the clever stratagems to escape, without success. She settles into an agreement as to how long she will stay, but that is a mistake. Having reached an accommodation they now have a sort of marriage, albeit a rocky, treacherous one. It won't end well.

This continues a trend in those years of films that give us the psycho's perspective, villains that get at least a little sympathy, for example: Psycho (1960), Peeping Tom (1960), Lolita (1962). The tension is at its best when both leads are attractive, appealing people, confusing us as to our sympathies: the fox or the hound? The jailer or the jailed?

The story features the paradox of seduction in a way I haven't seen before. When a man triumphs, how does he know that it wasn't just a matter of successful technique rather than the appeal of his true self? When they reach an accommodation, how to know what she is really thinking, what compromises are part of her calculation?

Here we have two fine leads, the same age and both had their film debuts in 1962, just three years earlier:

Terence Stamp has that little boy lost look -- both yearning and nervous -- that smoothly turns into "well, maybe he just has a personality disorder" which becomes "oh, hell, he is dangerous and scary as hell".

Samantha Eggar is beautiful, brainy and fierce in a terrifying situation. As with Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960), she is the more sexually powerful of the pair. Eggar worked steadily after this but I am surprised she did not become a more prominent star.

The wikipedia article has a lot of background:

Maurice Jarre provides a quirky, off-kilter score. Often cheery, it tones the story in unexpected ways.

Available on Blu-ray.