PEEPING TOM (1960) Review

Directed by: Michael Powell
Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer

Widely remembered as the film which single-handedly ruined Michael Powell's career and often wrongly labeled as a 'slasher', PEEPING TOM is a brilliantly dark look at the voyeuristic and almost pornographic element in the act of filming. It has been over 50 years since it's release, but the film is perhaps more relevant now in a period of reality television and CCTV, than it ever has been. A movie well ahead of it's time.

Mark Lewis (Böhm) works as a focus puller at a film studio. After hours however he provides photographs for a small newsagent / porn store and creates his own special home movies while dabbling in a bit of murder.
A lonely, shy and quiet man, Mark has a strange obsession with fear and more importantly capturing that fear on somebody's face at the moment they are about to die. We learn that this obsession comes from the experiments his father conducted on him when he was just a young boy, trying to research fear and it's effect on the nervous system. 
He meets Helen (Massey), a woman who lives with her blind mother in his building and they begin a close relationship. But can he keep his deadly hobby a secret?

A lot of people consider this to be one of the first slasher films, but I'm not one of them. I definitely agree that this has heavily influenced a lot of horror movies including the slasher sub-genre but along with Psycho I don't believe that this should really be considered a slasher film.
One of the film's strengths is the great performance by German actor Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis, and indeed the rest of the cast are almost as good. Mark's character is likeable and there are some scenes where  it seems that he genuinely wants help, so it's easy to sympathize with him even though we all know he is a killer.
Other positive points include the use of color which reminded me almost of some of Dario Argento's work, and also the effective, mesmerizing piano score which creates a perfectly eerie atmosphere for the film.
Of course the film does have its negative point too. Some of the dialogue is awkward especially between Mark and Helen, and there are a few pacing problems with sections of the movie dragging on while others are tense and powerful.

Lots of comparisons are made between this movie and Psycho since they released around the same time, but in reality they are two completely different films and I actually prefer this one over Hitchcock's classic.
Although this movie is ultimately about a serial killer, don't expect to see blood and gore or a high body count. Do however expect to see a very bleak and very human film that unfortunately was ahead of it's time.

No comments:

Post a Comment