Tag Archives: Maurice Jarre

The Collector (1965)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Collecting women like butterflies.

Freddie (Terence Stamp) is a withdrawn loner who collects butterflies for a hobby. One day he manages to win a lot of money in a football pool and uses it buy an old, isolated house in the English countryside. The place has a very large cellar, which gives him the idea that it can be used as a prison. It is then that he decides to kidnap beautiful art student Miranda (Samantha Eggar). He keeps her in the cellar, but fixes it up making it seem almost like an apartment. He treats her with the upmost respect and even knocks before entering her room. He buys her art supplies so she can continue her work and makes an agreement with her that he will let her go after 4-weeks, but hopes in between then that she will fall in love with him.

The film puts an interesting spin on the old ‘psycho kidnapping a beautiful woman’ theme and for the most part succeeds. The viewer ends up feeling almost as sorry for Freddie as they do his victim as it becomes clear that through his social awkwardness he is in even more of a prison than she. The way the two try to communicate and connect, which only ends up driving the them further apart is fascinating and their contrasting views about the book ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as well as the paintings of Picasso are equally revealing.

Stamp gives one of his greatest performances in his already illustrious career playing a character who weaves from being menacing to vulnerable and childlike. Eggar makes for an appealing victim and apparently turned Stamp down years earlier when he had asked for her date while the two were students in acting school.

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William Wyler’s direction is perfect as he wisely decides to pull back without adding any unnecessary Hitchcock touches and thus allowing the interactions between the two characters to propel the film. His superimposed, colorful shots of butterflies seen over the closing credits are a nice added touch. My only minor grievance is the Maurice Jarre score, which seemed too melodic without enough of the dark foreboding undertones that music for a thriller should have.

If you’re looking for the conventional thriller you may be disappointed as the emphasis is more on the psychological than the suspenseful. There are a few good tense moments including Miranda’s final attempt to escape during a nighttime rain storm, but for the most part the compelling element comes from the way these two multi-layered people deal with each other and ultimately reveal things about themselves that they didn’t know existed. The story also makes an excellent point of how everyone to a certain degree is trapped in a prison and the challenging if not impossible effort it can sometimes be to bond with others especially when reaching across different social-economic lines. The only thing that does get ruined is the ending, which no longer has the novelty or shock value that it once did.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Not Rated

Director: William Wyler

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Ash Wednesday (1973)

ash wednesday 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Liz gets a facelift.

Barbara (Elizabeth Taylor) is not aging gracefully. Her husband Mark (Henry Fonda) is having an affair with a much younger woman, but Barbara is determined to win him back. She decides to get a facelift and then spends her time afterwards at a winter resort in Italy where a young man name Erich (Helmut Berger) becomes intoxicated by her sudden youthful beauty and the two go to bed together. When her husband arrives she still strives to save the marriage, but finds that to him the facelift makes no difference.

The film’s biggest claim-to-fame is the graphic and vivid look at an actual facelift surgery that sickened many viewers who watched the film when it was first released. The footage is explicit, but fascinating as well as I never quite understood how this procedure worked, so seeing it from a medical viewpoint is to a certain extent educational. I also liked that during Barbara’s stay at the hospital she meets a middle-aged man named David (Keith Baxter) who has had several of the some procedures himself and showing that this wasn’t exclusively a woman’s issue although I was confused why a man would spend so much money having facelifts, but then not bother to dye his hair.

The effects of the procedure is a bit misleading because Liz was only 40 at the time and was put into heavy makeup to make her appear much older at the beginning, so the results of the surgery are really just her as she normally looked. The idea that a facelift would have such a galvanizing effect on everyone around her is also not realistic. A recent study found that many people who had the procedure ultimately only looked 3 to 5 years younger instead of the 10-plus that they had hoped for. Sometimes a facelift can make a person look even worse, or in my opinion a sort of ‘duckface’ that this movie doesn’t even hit on, but should’ve.

I also thought that the idea that this woman would want to stay with a man who is openly cheating on her was unrealistic. If this woman was poor, lonely and homely and he was her only source of a social outlet then maybe, but this guy was loaded and I would think most women would simply hire a good divorce lawyer and take the cheating cad to the cleaners and then merrily move on especially when she had already proven to herself that she could attract other more attractive men on her own anyways.

The role itself seems to be an extension of Taylor’s own personality in that of a woman living in an insular world obsessed with shallow problems because she has too much time and money on her hands and unable to either understand or portray an average person in a regular lifestyle even if she wanted to. The wide variety of big puffy hats and scarfs that she wears becomes a bit of a distraction and almost like a character into itself.

Fonda is wasted in another one his typical latter career roles that gives him very little to do. He doesn’t even appear onscreen until the final fifteen minutes and only then long enough to tell her he wants a divorce before promptly leaving.

The opening sequence showing the two stars aging through the years during the credits is interesting and well-done especially seeing Fonda when he was young. The musical score by Maurice Jarre has a nice classic flair to it and lifts this dreary production to a more classy level than it deserves, but unfortunately doesn’t get played much after the beginning.

The film probably would’ve worked better had the surgical procedure not happened right away, but instead been done in the middle and had more of a backstory at the beginning. The facelift scenes are actually the film’s highpoint and it goes rapidly downhill afterwards until it becomes a mind numbing train wreck that isn’t worth watching for any reason.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: November 1, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Peerce

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS