Peeping Tom (1960)

Peeping Tom (1960)

Static Mass Rating: 3/5

Release Date: November 19th 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 101 minutes

Director: Michael Powell

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley, Esmond Knight, Bartlett Mullins, Shirley Anne Field

“A camera holding an object is holding the rest of the world away.” – Stanely Cavell, philosopher.

To celebrate its 50 anniversary, the serial killer cult classic, Peeping Tom, returns to UK cinemas. Directed by Michael Powell, the movie was considered one of the most controversial films ever made in Britain but is now hailed as a masterpiece of psychological terror.

The film stars Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis, a mild-mannered young man who works by day as a focus-puller in a film studio and photographer for a seedy Soho newsagent. At night he walks the streets of London with his camera looking for victims to fulfil his obsession – filming the face of fear, moments before death.

Peeping Tom (1960)

The first victim we’re shown is a prostitute as Mark advances toward her with his camera hidden inside his coat. Shown from the camera’s point of view, we watch as he follows the woman into her house. As she settles down on the bed, she sees something and begins to panic, her face contorted in a scream and we then realise we’re watching his footage as he watches it in his den at home.

It’s a peculiar movie. One which invites the audience to share Mark’s fetish of voyeurism as he constantly searches for that “kick” which escapes him in his everyday life. It has a dirty feel to it with its hues of red; it’s almost intoxicating to look at and one can’t help but be drawn in to Mark’s world.

Peeping Tom (1960)

Although dubbed “the British Psycho”, Peeping Tom was released a few months prior to Hitchcock’s Psycho. Following its press screening, it suffered an incredible backlash when critics unanimously said they hated it. Of Peeping Tom, they wrote: ‘the sickest and filthiest film I can remember seeing’ (The Spectator); ‘stinks more than anything else in British films’ (New Statesman); ‘Frankly beastly’ (Financial Times); while Tribune wanted it ‘flushed swiftly down the nearest sewer’. It essentially ruined the career of director Michael Powell. But by the 1970’s Peeping Tom had picked up a cult following which included Martin Scorsese who has always talked very favourably about it, along with Fellini’s 8½,

“I have always felt that Peeping Tom and 8½ say everything that can be said about film-making, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. 8½ captures the glamour and enjoyment of film-making, while Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates… From studying them you can discover everything about people who make films, or at least people who express themselves through films.”

Peeping Tom (1960)

This is certainly true about Peeping Tom. There is much of Powell in the movie, not just in terms of his ideas and creativity in making the film, but also physically. The cameras shown in Mark’s room include Powell’s very first camera, a hand operated Eyemo, made by Bell which he won in a competition. The director also makes a cameo appearance, playing Mark’s father, Prof. A.N. Lewis, who is seen in an old home movie. Powell also cast his real-life son Columba Powell as little Mark and his wife Frankie Reidy as the lifeless mother lying on the bed in another one of Mark’s home movies.

The Blu-ray version will be released on 22nd November 2010 and features an introduction by Martin Scorsese along with brand new documentaries and a side-by-side comparison of the restored version against the original.

One Response to “Peeping Tom (1960)”

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