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Character Actor
Bill Lloyd Malcolm McDowell
Harry Laurence Olivier
James Alan Bates
Stella Helen Mirren

Directed by Michael Apted
Written by Harold Pinter


The unfortunate loss of those involved.

7/11/89 - Laurence Olivier of dermato-poly-myositis
12/28/03 - Alan Bates of cancer
12/25/08 - Harold Pinter of cancer


VHS - NTSC + PAL - Both OP
Released by Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1986, Hi Fi VHS #12122 ISBN 0-671-62506-3



VHS Cover - Front
VHS Cover - Back

Close up of Malcolm from the cover

Malcolm's Introduction

From New York 5/22/02

It has only aired one time in the US.

MM: I wonder why? 

Thank you for getting it.

MM: Well, we have to thank Michael Apted who directed it. He was a very young director. It was one of the first things that he did. I think he'd only done one film, I can't remember the title (Stardust - ed). It was with David Essex - very successful. He was one of the colors, weren't we all?

From my point of view I had just gotten a message from my agent 'Sir...wanted to see me'. Well, there was only one Sir and it was 'Oh, my god. What's it  about?' 'Well, Sir wants you to be in this Harold Pinter play.' 'Oh, my god. OK' 'You are going to be playing Sir's homosexual lover. You are in closet.' 'Woah! Good. Sounds like fun.' Anyway it is Harold Pinter, it is a beautifully written piece. You will judge for yourselves whether you think it is dated or not. I really don't know, I've only seen it once.

One of the press people called and said it was the "find of the series."

MM: Here we go! Oh, that's nice. Who was that?

It was in The Village Voice.

MM: A fine paper. Thank you yes, for that. I went to see Laurence Olivier who said, 'I heard you were frightfully good in that film.' I said, 'Thank you Sir.' 'I thought you might like to do this piece, there won't be much time...of course there is no money. But you don't mind, do you Malcolm? You are a rich movie star.' I said, 'OK, Sir. Who else is cast?' 'Oh, that fellow Alan Bates, that wonderfully sexy actor.' 'Oh, great.' That was the cast, a four hander. I do play his homosexual lover who is living with him. It is really because I did this play called "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" in London. Honestly, this is a complete crib of that part. It is exactly like "Entertaining Mr. Sloane", for my character anyway, very Sloanish. I don't know whether it was Harold Pinter who stole it from Joe Orton or the other way around. I have a feeling it was Joe Orton because he could care less and he would steal anything and he would make it better, which he did, and funnier. I was a great fan of Joe Orton's writing. I think he's wonderful, one of the great English writers of the period. Of course Harold is too, let's not knock the great Harold. But he has so much praise, especially in this city.

We are very lucky because it was not shown in the big retrospective they did on Harold.

MM: No, nobody could find it. I will tell you one story and then we'll get on with it. We all came to the reading of this thing. It was made for television by Grenada. Laurence Olivier was producing it, so he was the boss. The whole point of this play, as you will see, is that you do not know if they are homosexual, you just don't know and that is the whole plot - it is very important. You are not sure of anything, typical Pinter, of course you don't know what the hell is going on. 

We are all there, Harold Pinter himself, the great man of letters pained to come down to the Oval for the rehearsal. Sitting opposite me, the charming, who of course I worked with through Lindsay, Helen a great pal, who I just worked with on O Lucky Man! who I adored. I loved her and all the rest of it. Is that it? And Michael Apted of course. We start it and Larry starts off in the campest voice doing this whole thing and I was like 'you've got to be kidding'. I looked at Alan and I went, 'What the fuck do we do now? There is nowhere to go.' Larry was having such a good time doing it in what he thought was a homosexual, a great camp performance. He was like screaming off the walls and we had nowhere to go, nowhere at all. I had to pretend that I've slept with Alan Bates wife, Helen Mirren, what the hell...there's like no way right? I looked at Pinter and he was going puce, crossing his legs, uncrossing his legs. He felt very uncomfortable. But nobody is going to tell the greatest living actor that he is way off track. We go into rehearsal so I happen to say to Michael Apted our director, 'Michael, have you spoken to Sir?' 'No, no, no, no, not yet. It's going to be fine.'  'Oh, really? OK, fine.' So this went on for one day, two days...three days! And Sir is still doing a pantomime dame performance. Brilliant, funny, but dead in the water. Finally, this rehearsal room in the Oval, they had swinging doors like in a restaurant, Alan and I were like looking through the swinging doors and Olivier had his back to us and all we could see Michael Apted who was like this (slumping). We heard this voice saying, 'Of course dear boy. I always start big and bring it in!' Thank god for that, right? And we thought 'there's a great actor. Who has the balls to do that and make a complete fool of himself?' Unbelievable! I mean, what bravery. What are we doing us mini minimalist actors - boring.

So I'm sitting there the next morning with my coffee and Alan Bates comes in and he goes, 'Oh, Christ. Let's to do it, like Larry. I'm gonna do it camp." I said, 'But you're not supposed to do it camp! I'm the camp one! We can't do it like that.' He said, 'But it's so brave. I've got to try it, I'm trying it!' I said, 'Oh, geeze. OK, OK we'll do it.' He rang the doorbell, this is in rehearsal, and I open the door and just went, "yessss?' Well, we broke up, we laughed so hard and that was the end of that. Enjoy it. The Collection!

Q&A with Malcolm

From New York 5/22/02

Q: How do you get into a role?

MM: I think they asked an actor once, Gary Cooper I think, what do you look for in a script. He said, 'Days. off.' I'm a bit from that school. 

These haircuts (in the film) were disgusting. You know, The Beatles have a lot to answer for. Jesus, I can't believe I went around in anything like that. Staggering, really.

I'm a very intuitive actor, I'm not a method actor. Really there is no point to me. I was trained in the theater. I wasn't trained in a drama school, I just went into the theater. I was lucky I got offered a job when I was a very young man and so my technique was learned from working with great directors. It hones it, if you like. But the older I get, the more I realize that you've got to ditch the technique otherwise you get bored, they get bored and it really doesn't work. You've got to forget it, try to make it totally spontaneous and walk the tightrope almost as if you barely know the lines. If I have something difficult to do I know the lines extremely well. I'm very hard on the the text. So  hard on it, but it is second nature. I never have to think about it, the text comes out. Sometimes it doesn't and almighty panic comes on your face and you have to stop. It's very important to just channel through. I remember for instance I had to play H.G. Wells, in Time After Time, and I thought I suppose if I have to play H.G. Wells I better do some research on him. I called the BBC and asked them if they had any recordings of H.G. Wells' voice - I had to start somewhere. So, they send me a recording of his voice on a gramophone record which I played. In fact he had a very hi pitched Southeast London whine and I thought, 'My god...I can't play him like that. People will run out of the theater.' So you really have to serve the script is what I'm saying. Then obviously you break it down into the scenes that you are doing. Then you break that down into the ones that are important, maybe a line or between the lines. You make that decision. When working with people like Lindsay Anderson you know instinctively where you want the editors to cut, so you help the director make the choice perhaps. So that I can say a line, turn, and I know unless they want to show the back of my head that they'll have to cut. I could sort of gently persuade the director or the editor. It is usually the director on a film, of course a really good director will edit it himself with an editor. Just little things like that you learn over the years. It's an organic process really, it's not tremendous for me a method. Of course there are actors that do that and they are very successful at it and good luck to them is all I can say

Q: I guess none of them are in this film though?

MM: Nope, no, no. Listen, I'm so glad you went with my choice for this because I know it is a weird piece - an oddity. God bless Laurence Olivier who I thought gave a stunning performance. We all used to rag on Sir, as young actors as we were then, I'm sure young actors rag on us now. I used to go see him at The Vic - and my god was he chewing scenery! How brilliant to chew the scenery can you get. In the scene where he makes his entrance and he is looking through the crack  of the door and all that. He'd been waiting for 12 hours to make this entrance. Now Alan Bates and I are lounging, listening to music and eating olives, peanuts and god knows what. This giant bursting to get on. Alan, I think had a full page of text and he got halfway through it and literally BANG the doors practically came off the hinges and Sir walked in. I tell you it had never happened to me before, but the hairs on the back of my head stood up like this. The man was absolutely possessed and actually he had a problem with the lines and he had to undo a whiskey bottle and he was fuming at the prop man because he didn't make it one and a half turns and all this. It was just an excuse because he'd dried, he'd forgotten the lines. It's worth the price of admission just to hear him go through the (does Olivier) 'Slum slug you see!' He's just a Slum slug you see. I found him in the slum.' I mean just to hear him say that. He was gorgeous, he was a national institution, it was amazing to work with him. I've worked with the "Three Knights" they call them - John Gielgud, of course Olivier and Ralph Richardson. Three great, great actors of the English stage. They were all magnificent and very different in their ways. John would always say (doing his voice) "Larry is so physical I could never to it what it is with that lovely voice. So physical and pompas really." and Ralph would just nod. Ralph was very special too. So for me to work with the three of them is one of the highlights of my career. What else can you say? You've worked with the greatest there was, there ever was I think. Of course there are other great actors here too.


"It's Harold Pinter in the vocabulary of 'The Birthday Party' or 'The Room'. I always thought it was very good, and I loved working with Sir Laurence Olivier. It was one of his last really, truly wonderful performances just before he got the major illnesses." - Malcolm in New York Times Weekend 5/17/02

Summary - Official

Hailed by Lord Olivier as one of the outstanding plays of the 20th century, Harold's Pinter's "The Collection" is a raw, menacing drama that entangles two couples - Harry and Bill, James and Stella - in a bitter and violent emotional game. Each has a motive for hiding and perverting the truth about a seduction that may or may not have taken place at a fashion show in Leeds. Each is a pawn, yet at the same time a cunning manipulator in a power struggle marked by jealousy, pent-up rage and paranoia. While the reality of the event becomes increasingly blurred, its relevance is diminished as the reality of each character's obsessed motives is revealed. The corrupt undersides of love - cruelty and self-loathing - are laid bare by Harold's Pinter's relentless psychological scalpel and brought to electrifying life by four of Britain's finest stage and screen actors. This is a historic dramatic event that must not be missed.

My Summary

    An older man, Harry, returns to his home in the Chelsea district after a party at 4am and before he can even take his coat off the phone is ringing. He answers and the man on the phone asks to speak to his younger roommate Bill. Harry wants to know who it is and why he calling at that hour. He won't explain and just keeps asking for Bill. Harry asks if he even knows Bill. He tells him he will if he sees him and to just say that he called. He hangs up and goes to bed.
    The next morning Bill is sitting in the living room reading the paper and Harry comes up to him. He tells him of the strange call from the night before. When Harry mentions that he wouldn't say who is was Bill is just as perplexed. Bill is a dress designer and had spent last week in Leeds for a showing. Harry jealously asks if maybe he met anyone while he was away. Bill says he didn't talk to a soul while he was there. He really has no idea who it could be. Harry is suspicious, but realizes he isn't getting anywhere.
    Stella owns a dress shop in town and is shown working there. One of her employees takes a call from a customer looking for her order of black silk. She asks Stella about it and she seems distant, lost in thought. She says the order was sent last Wednesday, but will look into it and call her in the afternoon.
    Harry leaves the room and the phone rings soon after. Bill picks it up and soon realizes that it is the man from last night. He asks the same questions and the man is still evasive. The man tells Bill not to go anywhere because he'll be right over. Bill tells him he is busy and that wouldn't be possible. The man won't take no for an answer. Bill, taking no chances, runs out the door and drives away in case he does show up.
    Minutes later the man, James, does show up ringing the doorbell looking for Bill. Harry answers and says that Bill has left and he doesn't know where he has gone. James tells him that he will come back later. Harry confronts him saying he must be the man who phoned last night and again this morning. James assures him that is not the case and leaves.
    James then goes off to stake the place out. He hires a cab and waits down the block for Bill to return. By this time it is pouring rain and the meter has been running a while. The cab driver mentions this to him, but James doesn't care.
    Bill finally does return and the man is ready. He hurries over and knocks on the door and Bill answers. James wants to come in, but Bill won't have it. He doesn't know who he is or what he wants. James assures him he does know him and if he came in he would explain it all. Bill is not interested and tries to close the door on him, but James won't be dissuaded. Eventually Bill relents and lets him in. James asks Bill if he minds if he sits down. Bill tells him he does. James tells him he'll get over it and takes off his wet jacket and tosses it on the sofa. Bill picks it up and is not amused in the least. He demands to know what this is all about. James tells him that he is Bill Lloyd the dress maker and last week he went into Leeds for a fashion show. He checked into a hotel and got room 142, but barely used it at all the whole weekend. Instead he spent time in someone else's room. That other person was a woman he met in the lobby. He took the elevator up to their room and forced himself on her in the elevator. Then he went back to his room to put on his yellow pajamas and went back to her room were she tried to resist, but he finished the deed. Afterwards he even used her bath tub. That woman was James' wife Stella.
    Bill totally denies everything. He wants to know where he came up with the elaborate fantasy. James tells him that his wife confessed the whole thing to him. When someone uses his wife and treats her like a whore he has a right to know why. Bill asks him if he believes her. James says he does. Bill goes along with it, supplying details like the pajamas had black monogrammed initials on them.
    Even though he gives him these details he still denies the whole thing. James asks if he has any olives and Bill tells him he does not. James then goes over to the bar and offers to get Bill a drink. Bill gives him a mocking tone about how gracious he is and asks him if he has any vodka. The man pours him a glass and says he can understand how his wife could've been attracted to him. James tells him he is no movie star, but is good looking. Bill resents that and gets up and James crosses over to him, knocking him against an ottoman and Bill trips over it. He falls to the ground and James stands over him and won't let him get up until he reveals the truth. Bill says that he could kick him from there, but he doesn't. He tells him he will tell him the truth if he lets him up. James says to tell it from there. Bill explains that everything happened the way he had said, except that he didn't have to force himself on her. She also never said that she was married. James tells him he knew something was wrong because when he called the room she spoke in a whisper. James accuses Bill of sitting right next to here when he called. "No", Bill reveals "I was lying next to her."

End of Part 1

    James is sitting with his wife Stella at home. They are both quiet and there is tension in the air. He asks her if they have any olives and she says they don't. He wonders how she knows if they don't and she says she buys the food and knows what she has. He asks why they don't have olives and she says it is because he doesn't like them. James tells her that he wants to go over and see her suitor and talk to him. She says that isn't possible because he doesn't know who or where he is. He admits he does and tells her that he has already spoken to him. He explains how he confessed to the whole story and she begins to cry. James doesn't understand why she would do this to him after only two years of marriage. He thanks her though because now he has made a friend in which he has much in common.  He really likes him because he is witty, charming, shared a woman and in the same business as they are. Stella doesn't understand why he is doing this.
    Harry isn't too happy with Bill. He wants to talk to him, but Bill just sits and reads the paper like before. He says some crazy things and realizes that Bill isn't listening. He tells him to put the paper down, but Bill refuses. He eventually takes the paper out of his hand. Harry isn't happy about James coming over and hanging out. Bill sees no harm in it and can't understand what Harry's problem is. He won't argue with him and leaves the room.
    Soon after James leaves and the phone rings which Stella answers. It is Harry acting like James did when he called him. He tells her that she doesn't know him, but will when he arrives. He tells her to stay put as he is on his way over. Unlike Bill, she does stay until Harry shows up minutes later. Harry explains that he is Bill's roommate and and about her husband coming over because of his bizarre fantasy about their alleged affair. Harry and Bill both know it isn't true, but James doesn't. She admits they were both in Leeds last week on business, but that the whole story about the affair is a lie. Harry now figures this will get James out of his life if he knows the truth. He is so relieved to get confirmation that it was all a fantasy and goes back home.
    James goes over to Bill's place to hang out. They talk and drink like old chums while they sit and listen to classical music. Because the music is loud Harry returns from seeing Stella and enters unseen. He hides outside the door and listens in. Bill tells James that he a rather broad man and James doesn't think so. Bill says that is because he can't see himself. James asks if he has a mirror and Bill shows that there is a large one right in front of him. He looks into it and invites Bill over to do the same. They both look at themselves and James sits down. Bill offers him an olive from a bowl on the table, but James refuses. Bill can't understand why after he made such a big fuss about it last time. He tells him that he doesn't like olives. Bill cuts some pieces of cheese with a small cheese knife and offers it to him. He declines and picks up a knife of his own and wants to mock duel. Bill isn't interested and James says since they both have knives they should. Bill then puts his down and walks away. James then throws his knife to him and Bill cuts his hand trying to catch it. Harry finally jumps in to take care of Bill's hand and tells Bill he shouldn't try catching knives and is was all his fault. Bill sits down with his hand in his mouth sucking on the wound.
    Harry tells James he has just spoken to his wife and that this whole affair never happened. James is confused because Bill confessed to the whole thing. If he didn't do it, why did he confess to the whole thing? "Because it amused me to do so", Bill explains. He was just so bored with him that he thought it was fun to pretend he did. Harry explains how that Bill was nothing when he found him, just a slug from the slums and that is what slum slugs do. Bill finally admits the real truth. He did meet James' wife and the lobby in the hotel. They talked for two hours about what they would do if they did have an affair. They never did anything, never touched. Just talked.
    James returns home knowing the truth and confronts Stella. "That is the truth isn't it, you just talked?", he confronts her. He knows it is true, but she just sits there dejected. He can't understand why she went through this whole thing, but she doesn't explain herself. The End.

My Review

    The story opens up with some stock shots of London and very surprisingly the first one is the Albert Bridge and the railing where Alex is confronted by the tramp near the end of ACO! The exact spot. It must have been deliberate.    
    The collection is Olivier's baby. He brought the cast together since it played as part of his show "Laurence Oliver Presents". The story was converted to TV from a play and like a play most of the action takes place in one room. In this case it is Harry's living room. Nothing is really explained, but it is implied that Bill and Harry were lovers at one point. This explains why Harry is so jealous in the beginning and after James starts coming around. The whole show runs like a mystery and nothing is really known about anyone until the end and even then we still wonder. Was James over Bill's because he was coming on to him? Certainly Bill seemed to think so. Why did Stella trick James into thinking she had an affair when she didn't? It didn't seem like she wanted to make him jealous. When he talks about going over to see Bill she is crying and really hurt. Why would she hurt James and herself? If it was just a joke why wouldn't she eventually tell him instead of keeping up the charade?
    This is vintage stuff with Malcolm and one of his earliest roles. It is our first chance to see him doing a play if we never got a chance to see him in person as most of us haven't. He looks so 70s with his Beatles haircut and horrible blue pants with a purple sweater vest. Malcolm's evasive dialog and haunting facial expressions really make this film. He is so weird and quirky because there is no explanation of who he is and why. He doesn't have too many lines and therefore is more expressive. The highlight of the piece is when Harry goes into his slum slug speech and Bill just sits there and takes it.
    Everyone performs very well, but the men steal the show as Helen isn't given much to do. There isn't any motivation revealed behind tricking her husband with an affair either. A monolog for her explaining why she did it would've not only rounded out her character, but the entire piece as well. All in all it is very enjoyable to see three famous actors in early roles and a treat to see the great Olivier in one of his last performances.

Rating 8.5/10

Together Again

1979 - Malcolm and Helen Mirren were both in Caligula
1982 - Malcolm and Alan Bates were both in Britannia Hospital
1986 - Malcolm and Helen Mirren both did readings for The Great War
2000 - Malcolm and Alan Bates were both in St. Patrick: The Irish Legend

Together Before

1966 - Malcolm and Helen Mirren were both in the Royal Shakespeare Company
1973 - Malcolm and Helen Mirren were both in O Lucky Man!
1975 - Malcolm and Alan Bates were both in Royal Flash

Note: Alan Bates appeared in "Look Back and Anger" and "In Celebration" roles before Malcolm played in later versions.

This page 2002-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net