Peeping Tom

PEEPING TOM. 1960

Director: Michael Powell

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Peeping TomMichael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) is an old slasher film psychologically very twisted, gorgeously staged & acted, excellently photographed.

Powell is best known for The Red Shoes (1948) & was regarded as a "polite" romantic fantasy filmmaker. He was at the height of his popularity when he made Peeping Tom, but his "usual" audience was so shocked by the kill-the-hooker opening sequence (they were expecting another romantic fantasy) that it was kind of like going to see Santa Clause & seeing your dead mother instead.

It overnight destroyed Powell's career. He made a couple films afterward but never regained a popular audience.


Peeping TomThe international success of Alfred Hitchock's Psycho that same year must've struck Powell as a bewildering injustice. And it doesn't take much pondering to realize how weird & creepy even The Red Shoes really is. Nevertheless, people went to Hitchock to be shocked & they were. They went to see Powell not expecting what they got.

Beginning in 1979, Martin Scorcese started promoting Peeping Tom as an historically significant film. It has only been since that time that it has been viewed with honesty & appreciated for what it is.

In his childhood subjected to his father's psychologically cruel experiments, stammering Mark grows up a serial killer compelled to film his victims' final expressions of terror & death. Far from being "merely" for shock value (though shocking it is) this obsession for a filmic record questions the nature of reality & of emotion. It blurs the distinction between active participant & the observing audience. It contrasts experiencing life directly versus voyeuristic images. Mark, of course, is doing both.

Karlheinz Bohm (Carl Boehm) as Mark has the disconcertingly handsome demeanor of a nazi youth. A great deal of tension arises from Mark not acting out his sickness, as when he is befriended by Helen (Anna Massey) in a manner that could indicate a degree of redemption for our handsome psychopath, though we can't help but worry if or when he's going to get her too.

By today's slasher film standards it's not gorey but it remains psychologically very, very sick & disconcerting, I richly textured tale of sexual psychopathy.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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