Peeping Tom (1960)

Peeping Tom
Directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Michael Powell (Theatre)
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Arthur Baden: The silly bitch! She’s fainted in the wrong scene!

Michael Powell’s twisted psychological thriller ruined his career but has stood the test of time.

From the first frame, we are witnesses to murder.  Immediately thereafter we learn that cameraman Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is the culprit.  He enjoys filming the death throes of his victims and is one sick puppy.

Mark works for a film studio but spends his off hours taking naughty pictures of naughtier models.  He picks his victims from this class.  At home, he becomes friendly with one of his tenants, young and earnest Helen Stephens (Anna Massey).  He confides his traumatic childhood to her and they fall in love.  But Mark is too far gone to be redeemed by love. With Moira Shearer as one of the victims.
Only a true cinemaphile could have made this movie.  It is less a thriller (the mystery is almost an afterthought) than an exploration of the acts of movie-making and movie-watching.  The audience becomes a voyeur and thus implicated in the heinous acts of the anti-hero.  This is made more powerful by the sympathy that Powell shows for him.  The use of color is more muted than in other films by the Archers but just as powerful. Recommended.

It was not until I listened to the commentary that I realized that Anna Massey was Raymond Massey’s daughter!


2 thoughts on “Peeping Tom (1960)

  1. I know I’m in the minority on this, but I think Peeping Tom is a better film that Psycho in many ways. Psycho works because it leaves us with no one but Norman with whom to sympathize and reveals him to be the evil behind everything. Peeping Tom tells us in the opening scenes from whence the evil comes and still makes us sympathize with Mark. That it also essentially makes us complicit in the murders and the voyeurism is just icing on the cake.

    • I agree completely. It doesn’t help that the Psycho ending is so famous that it is almost impossible to see it with fresh eyes, even for the first time. I like the set pieces in Psycho but it’s not my favorite Hitchcock by far.

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