Movie Name: Peeping Tom
Studio: Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors
Release Date(s): May 16, 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is a loner. He lives life of a renter in a home owned by his family and works at a studio while picking up spare photography work. The son of a famed psychologist, Lewis has a secret…he likes to watch. Mark hides behind his camera in the shadows watching those around him, but Mark has a darker side as well. He has been driven to kill by an obsession which will lead to his death unless he can be saved by a girl named Helen (Anna Massey).
Directed by Michael Powell, Peeping Tom is a suspense thriller mixed with elements of horror. The movie was destroyed by critics at the time of its release, but over the years, it has been reevaluated and is considered a classic. Peeping Tom was released in a remastered edition by Criterion but is currently out-of-print (Criterion #58).
I heard about Peeping Tom in college and wanted to see it. The movie was having a return to fame at the time and the “wrong” of the critics was being righted. The story has a lot of stuff going on it…probably too much for the movie, but it still is an interesting study, partially due to the controversy surrounding it.
The real crux of the movie is voyeurism. Many critics pounced on the horror aspect, but modern reviews focus on the fact that the movie called out movie viewers as voyeurs. Here, Mark is out to capture intimate moments and real emotion on camera. It is misguided and deadly as he seeks to shoot death as it occurs. The love story is a bit contrite, but it is necessarily to keep him from being a completely unlikable character.
Carl Boehm is a bit too odd as Mark. Now, it is pretty typical to have the loner killer, but when Peeping Tom was made the introverted killer was probably a little less common place. Still, it would have been nice to see a character who is less creepy from the get-go. His German accent probably works to make him an outsider among the English costars. I like Anna Massey as Mark’s rather unlikely love interest. She’s very normal and like Boehm, she doesn’t fit in the classic lead role but was also later cast in Hitchcock’s Frenzy.
The movie is also rather experimental in its visuals. The movie within a movie opens up the idea of a filmmaker shooting a film and there are multiple cases of overlapping realities with Mark’s films, the film he’s shooting, and the movie itself. It is stylish and does resemble a lot of Hitchcock’s work.
Peeping Tom is credited to helping usher in a new style of horror film. Hitchcock supposedly admired Peeping Tom and refused to screen Psycho to critics because of how they reacted to Peeping Tom. The movie is good but slow and methodical. It is worth seeking out and an interesting study in horror.