Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Collector (1965)

The Collector tells the story of a young man (Terence Stamp), who after coming into some money, uses it to purchase a new home complete with a vast cellar. Intent on possessing the young girl (Samantha Eggar) of his dreams, he kidknaps her in an attempt to force her to love him.

A uniquely odd film built around two towering performances by Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar as a romantic psychopath and his prisoner.  Hardly anyone else is afforded any screen time whatsoever. Bookended by first character narration by the charming Stamp, the film feels like a documentary wedged into a looking glass. 

William Wyler’s movie benefits from meticulous set design and a psychological tension unusually hidden beneath an intelligent script. The attention to deail in Eggar’s ‘room’ in the cellar is haunting in its evidence of Stamp’s ludicrous degree of planning. Curiously, what’s more provocative is the refusal of the screenplay to elicit dislike for Stamp’s destructive insanity. We feel for him as Eggar slips away from his possessive grasp and despite our better judgement are knowlingly complicit in wanting Eggar to remain and fall in love with her charming, if schizophrenic, jailer. This is all the more perplexing as we are well-aware this can never happen, at least not in a way which could see Eggar survive her ordeal alive. 

Wyler uses frequent close-up shots of both Stamp and Eggar’s emotion-filled faces with Stamp’s quivering eyes and Eggar’s ‘rabbit-in-the-headlights’ look constantly thrown across the screen. You’d think the chemistry between the two would be dominated by negativity but that’s not the case. The score is largely responsible for this, being a touching melody more suited to a doomed romance than anything more macabre. At times, there are clear moments of ‘Stockholm syndrome’ which Stamp of course sees as incremental steps towards his goal but, in reality, are purely the consequence of emotional and physical dependency of a captive locked in a deep cellar. 

Given the time that the film was made, it is not surprising that it manages to avoid any themes of an overtly sexual nature. It is not carnal gratification that is sought but aesthetic beauty and timeless companionship. Indeed, the one scene in which sex is explicitly on-display is brought to an abrupt end by a vexed Stamp who decries Eggar as a mere lady of the night.

There are two scenes which are so well-orchestrated by Wyler that they require particular attention. The first is a grueling suspense set-up as we watch water spill over the bathtub and down the stairs towards a visitor to Stamp’s lair, threatening to expose his sinister exercise in imprisonment to the wider world. The second is a heightened argument between captive and captor as to the merits of modern art and ‘high-brow’ literature and its descent into a physically threatening tryst.  

The subject matter should make for an uncomfortable viewing experience but it’s a film which is ashamedly enjoyable; and every one of us, in our darkest moments, should be be able to see at least some vestigaes of a mirror image in Stamp’s pitifully lonesome character. The ‘unhappy’ ending is initially heart-breaking and subsequently menacing; but in an uncanny way, the audience is quietly envious of Stamp’s next victim. 

Brutally effective cinema.

hotdog rating : 9/10

Freddy night @ The Prince Charles

Last weekend, I attended an all night marathon of Freddy movies at The Prince Charles Cinema in London. Amongst the self indulgent nostalgia, it was a pleasure to revisit and re-evaluate my own thoughts on the series. So here they are:

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – a dark and imaginative slasher movie much-removed from the inane dead teenager genre. This film is now rightly entrenched in pop culture. Freddy, as an elusive phantom here, remains at his most threatening whilst Langenkamp’s gang are choice selections in Craven’s sprint of stalk ‘n’ slice. The wider cast are a joy (Johnny Depp and John Saxon being specific highlights) and Charles Bernstein’s chasing score positively inspired. The ‘home alone’ finale may be unaltered slapstick but what goes before is an adventure in genre entertainment.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 : Freddy’s Revenge (1985) – now legendary for the eye-popping homoeroticism, part 2 still manages to pull off a few bravo set-pieces not least of which involves a hideous transformation sequence of which Landis or Dante would be proud. This is a change of tack for the franchise and represents New Line Cinema’s most straighforward attempt at a ‘simple possession’ movie. Freddy spends more time in the real world here and the lack of genuine dreamscapes – aside from a cracking opening sequence on a school bus – holds the movie unimaginatively back. Jack Sholder’s tone is an unneasy and nervy one; all the better given this is the more linear film in the series. In the end, Freddy is destroyed by raw teenage love. aaaw. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987) – a more daring attempt than part 2, the franchise sets about making a home for itself in horror fantasy. It’s the best sequel, creating a band of multifarious and engaging “dream warriors” to battle Freddy in his own domain. Langenkamp reprises her role as Nancy to lead the “dream warriors” and to much satisfaction, John Saxon also returns as her father, the now broken and boozed Lt. Thompson. Saxon’s death at the hands of Krueger’s stop-motion skeleton gives apt closure to his story arc (“it’s really you…..I’ve killed you once before, you son of a bitch“) and Langenkamp’s own demise brings the series to what seems a natural end. For fans, Freddy’s background is developed further so we can piece together the origins of the dream demon and with Dokken’s hard-rock soundtrack heartily plastered onto proceedings, part 3 is 80s horror cinema at its best.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master (1988) – something of a paint-by-numbers sequel to the exhilarating part 3, Renny Harlin’s effort is still visually impressive.  What’s left of the story feels like an excuse for ever more inventive dream sequences and little else.  Too little attention is paid to some of the survivors from “Dream Warriors” and attempts to establish a mythos are badly misfired, with the resurrection scene at the beginning of the movie being laughably weak (Freddy is brought back to life by dog urine). But, Englund’s top billing allows Freddy’s wise-cracking and role-playing to be notched up for the MTV generation. If comedic Freddy is your bag, you’ll love this one. Notable also for another solid soundtrack.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child (1989) – brimming with interesting ideas and gothic themes, part 5 is not devoid of merit. For some reason, it just doesn’t hang together and plot escalates into circus territory.  Full marks for the special effects but the franchise’s decline became certain here with rocky performances and a rotten script (Freddy’s return is not even explained). That said, Amanda Krueger’s avenging nun was a star addition to the series in part 3 and she has lots to do in this film, deeping the history of Freddy and his damned conception.  The elaborate ‘comic book dream’ is another positive but overall this feels more like a comedy drama than a horror movie. Englund, again, may be the sole reason to seek this one out.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) – a promising start here goes disastrously wrong in a botched ‘made for 3D’ sequel. The idea of Springwood being childless brings an omnipresent sense of dread to the first half hour but the juxtaposition of Freddy’s now unstoppable stand-up routine belittles the movie into spoof territory. Maybe a spoof was the producer’s intention but it doesn’t come off. The franchise had been toying with the idea for a long time and both “The Dream Master” and “The Dream Child” had straddled the line between horror and comedy in a more sophisticated manner. On the plus side, aesthetically this is one of the more unique films in the series for its use of expressionist-like photography but not even cameos by Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper can save “Freddy’s Dead” from the tag of “major disappointment”.