Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies


The Collector
The Collector

The Collector, a bestselling novel by John Fowles published in 1963, inspired a film (1965), directed by William Wyler and starring Terence Stamp and Samantha Egger. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, while Samantha Egger won a Golden Globe for Best Actress.

Frederick, a lonely entomologist (a London bank clerk in the film), abducts the beautiful Miranda, whom he has worshipped from afar, to hold her captive. He has the delusion that he can make her love him just as he can make her wear certain clothing or bathe at certain times. He views her like one of his butterfly specimens, something he can keep, admire, and do with as he likes. He is certain that eventually she will submit to him and accept that she belongs to him. Her former life is gone.

However, he hasn't counted on her own stubborn will. Miranda is frightened of him and wants to be free. She misses her life and her family. Even when she eventually feels a need for his company, she still cannot love him the way he wants, because he needs her total capitulation. In fact, as she gets the idea of what he intends, she tried to thwart him and then deceive him, all toward the end of getting away.

Eventually Miranda grows ill and dies, indicating to Frederick that he's made an error, but he quickly dismisses this unfortunate "accident" and looks for another captive — a woman from a lower social station who may be more submissive. Miranda's death is no more meaningful to him than the death of one of his butterflies. Similarly, actual collectors of humans feel the same way. Their victims are interchangeable with one another.

Many killers who've held victims captive for a period of time have expressed admiration for The Collector, sometimes citing this novel (and film) as support for their actions. The idea of having total control over another person appealed to them and so they put their own plans into motion: they wanted a sexual slave who would accede without resistance or complaint to their most deviant whims.

Robert Berdella
Robert Berdella

For example, Robert Berdella embraced the image of keeping someone around to do his bidding, and he often kept his victims for days, torturing them and photographing their suffering. He'd seen The Collector when he was a teenager and he claimed it had planted the dark fantasy in his mind. The main character is driven by the need to capture a woman and keep her imprisoned, forcing a relationship on her. The way he discarded her after she died apparently felt right to Berdella, because he did the same thing with several men that he'd trapped in his home. One of them escaped, bringing back the police, so Berdella was arrested. He admitted that the film had provided him with a framework for feelings he was already having. He confessed to the murder of six men.

Yet another cited by at least two killers provided them with a form of excuse for their crimes.

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