* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 1960, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 100 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Michael Powell
SCREENPLAY: Leo Marks
MUSIC: Brian Easdale
Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis
Annna Massey as Helen Stephens
Maxine Audley as Mrs Stephens, Helen's mother
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Mark Lewis is a keen photographer and film cameraman. He lives in his father's old house somewhere in the centre of London, and lets rooms out to Helen Stephens and her parents.
As shy, innocent and almost socially awkward Mark seems, he has a penchant for filming women (usually prostitutes) in various states of undress after first spying on them....then he kills them!
On the evening of Helen's 21st birthday, she takes time out from the party her parents are holding for her and pops along to Mark's flat. From the outset and to the viewer, it is obvious there is something not quite right about Mark, but Helen seems oblivious to any danger she may (or may not) ultimately be subjecting herself to.
As time goes by, Helen continues to try and build some sort of relationship with Mark, but her blind mother (Mrs Stephens) has a powerful sense that Mark isn't as sweet and lovely as he seems.
Peeping Tom is one of those films from an era when cinema was bravely stepping into experimental ground, perhaps even more so than music was at the time. From the outset, there is a mood of underground sleaze present, homing in on what goes on behind closed doors.
As far as the acting is concerned, I'm swaying either side of the line simply because Karlheinz Böhm, being German, seemed as if he was desperately trying to put on an English accent, but it simply didn't work. Almost as if she was coming out in sympathy with him, Anna Massey adopted a most peculiar accent - nowhere near resembling the way she speaks in her other films - and I can only assume she was attempting to sound 'posh'. If that is so, then I have no idea why, as not all Londoners in 1960 spoke with plums in their mouths. I'd have preferred Karlheinz Böhm to have naturally spoken with his German accent, as it isn't at all beyond the pale that a German person can own and live in a house in London. I can only (and possibly wrongly) assume there may have been a feeling from the direction/production team that some cinema-goers might suffer from a post-WW2 prejudice against all things German....and yes, some people still thought that way in those days, as I remember it myself. However, despite Karlheinz Böhm's and Anna Massey's rather odd style of speaking, their acting otherwise is very good from the point of view of body language and facial expression.
The music to Peeping Tom is rather good....a delicious combination of jazz and some angst-ridden pounding piano, which help both set the scene and enhance the atmosphere as the film progresses.
Peeping Tom isn't scary in the way that we've become used to (and possibly inured to?) in recent years, as there is no blood, gore, guts etc. Nobody's liver gets torn out by anyone else's teeth, but bonkers Mark Lewis' ultimate aim is more than hinted at.
There is something quite 'Hitchcockesque' about Peeping Tom, and in my own opinion, it is just as cleverly filmed and directed as anything from the master of suspense.
Lurking not too far underneath the façade of everyday London life, is a dark world of prostitution, murk and dirty old men waiting until the corner shop newsagent is free of women and children before asking to see the stock which is kept under the counter. I believe the viewer is led to assume that the under the counter produce is something more lurid than a few women posing for photographs in various stages of undress, which to me is at least partially indicative of the view that if you push something too far underground, it can spiral out of control.
For me, the most disturbing part of Peeping Tom is seeing little bits of home movies from Mark's childhood which he shows to Helen, where he was cruelly treated by his father; it seems that Mark is a chip off the old block, following in his father's footsteps and taking the concept of studying fear several steps onwards.
The overall mood of Peeping Tom is dark, fairly brooding, sleazy and tense...yet I was also able to tune into the world of my childhood...a world which seemed safe on the surface, although during 1960 when I was aged 5 and 6, I had no sense of whether Mr & Mrs B in our local corner newsagents were simply running a business selling copies of The Daily Herald, Beano comics, Jamboree Bags and Aniseed Twist....for all I know and with hindsight, this outwardly respectable couple may have been supplying the male population of the neighbourhood with whatever they wanted "for the weekend"... plus quite a bit more? I will never know, but Peeping Tom is a film which plants firmly into anyone's mind (anyone over a certain age) that society may not have been as innocent back in those days as we believed.
I strongly recommend Peeping Tom to anybody who enjoys a dark, taut psychological thriller that comes from an era when film makers didn't need to rely on blood, guts, entrails and special effects in order to grab a person's attention and ruffle their peace of mind.
My overall verdict is....this film is an all-time, perhaps in some circles ignored classic, which deserves a far higher status on the great movie ladder than it seems to have.
At the time of writing, Peeping Tom can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.96 to £16.99
Used: from £3.73 to £16.99
Collectible: Two copies available @ £6.00 and £7.00
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Title: Peeping Tom
Starring: Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley
Director: Michael Powell
Duration: 97 minutes
Released: On Blu-ray 22 November 2010
A 1960s Classic?:
This 1960s British psychological thriller film was directed by Michael Powell and written by Leo Marks it is about a voyeur named Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), who serially murders women just for the satisfaction of watching and video recording the expressions of terror on their faces while dying. It's a bit horrid to be honest. Not exactly graphic by today's standards, but still a bit gruesome in a campy way.
Comparisons to Psycho:
Despite receiving a very negative response from critics, upon its release, the film nevertheless quickly gained a cult following (can you guess what sort of audience enjoyed this film?) and, perhaps due to lowering standards over the years, is now considered by modern day critics to be a masterpiece. It is often considered to be a sort of British companion piece to the US classic Psycho and has gained many 5 star reviews in the UK press upon its re-release on Blu-ray. I however do not rate it anywhere near as highly a Psycho. Admittedly there is a fairly chilling twist at the end that explains the main character's obsession with inducing fear in others, linked to his father's profession as a psychologist, but it's not nearly as effective as Psycho. Indeed Psycho is hailed as one of the most influential suspense movies of all time, and is in fact nothing like Peeping Tom. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, had a profound effect on how future filmmakers made movies and shaped audience expectations for generations to come, Peepin Tom, did not, it just put it's director out of work. Anthony Perkins was stunning in Psycho, the same can not really be said for Carl Boehm in Peeping Tom and 50 years after its initial release Psycho is still as chilling and effective as the day it was released, where as despite the Blu-ray release to a large extent Peeping Tom has been long forgotten and rightly so.
There are some strong performances from the cast, steady direction and a decent amount of tension, however whilst some of the violence may look fairly tame by today's standards I still feel that the motive behind the violence in the film is overly, and perhaps needlessly, perverted.
Because of the negative press associated with the film upon its release, Michael Powell's career as a prominent director was effectively ended. Carl Boehm didn't fair so badly but that is perhaps because as he is Austrian he was therefore able to go back to his native country to continue his career, staying away from UK and US productions afterwards.
Blu-ray image and sound :
There is an audio commentary with Ian Christie and a couple of uninteresting featurettes: Eye of the Beholder and The Strange Gaze of Mark Lewis. Neither are very insightful or interesting. What is interesting is an introduction by Martin Scorsese, in which he gives his own views and opinions on the film. Rounding out the package is an interesting 'Restoration Comparison' as well as Trailers and a Stills Gallery.
As for the image, Peeping Tom has clearly had a lot of work done on it to bring it up to HD standards. It's clear and crisp and is free of any print defects. It's had a good restoration job done on it.
This film ruined Michael Powell's career, in 1959 this film about a serial killer was considered too disturbing to be released, nowadays its clear this is fairly tame by modern standards, yet retains a real element of fear and a terrifying performance from the clearly unbalanced main character.
So Whats it all about:
Mark Lewis works in a British Film studio, from the beginning it is clear he is a strange young loner, Mark has an obsession with the looks of fear on people's faces. This obsession is because his father carried out numerous scientific experiments on him, frightening him and recording the effects from a young age. Unfortunately the effect this has on Mark is it has turned him into an obsessive serial killer, he murders women and films their final moments as they die, voyeuristically holding this information for his own pleasure.
Mark is filming a documentary of these fearful deeds and his home is a macabre depiction of this, with terrifying pictures on the walls, taped screams, black and white home movies of his own terror, this is incredibly dark for its time and extremely disturbing.
Mark meets Helen who rents the flat downstairs with her blind mother, the film builds to its climax as Mark on occasions contemplates killing the defenceless mother and the question is raised will Mark kill Helen, has this compulsive man-made monster got compassion or is his overwhelming instinct to kill others.
My Opinion of the Film:
I love this film, I love that it took such a step into unknown territory, this is actually far more terrifying than Psycho which was made around the same time as the main character is almost devoid of emotions and is clearly destroyed by his fathers vindictive and selfish experiments. The film is wonderfully shot with Mark's room being something of a metaphor for the way the world was changing at that time becoming more voyeuristic and self-obsessed following the relative calm after the Second World War.
The home movies shown are different to anything i've ever seen of that time, grainy, realistic but bringing something entirely new to cinema, the cinematography shows the camera as a metaphor too, as an instrument of destruction as well as creation. I think its incredibly sad that the public outcry from this film meant Michael Powell didn't make anymore films as this stands up as a classic film of all time for me.
Carl Boehm is incredible as Mark, with dark bulging eyes, a polite shyness which hides an intensity and obsessive nature of quite frightening proportions, the film is entirely about him and everybody else is merely background, Anna Massey is suitably sweet, sassy and frightened as Helen. Mark's father in the home movies is played by the Director Michael Powell, for me I feel he's saying something about the monsters we create and comparing his characters experiments to his own films in someway. The younger Mark is played by Powell's real son and the mother in the home movie's by Powell's real partner.
Karlheinz Böhm ... Mark Lewis (as Carl Boehm)
Moira Shearer ... Vivian
Anna Massey ... Helen Stephens
Maxine Audley ... Mrs. Stephens
Brenda Bruce ... Dora
Miles Malleson ... Elderly gentleman customer
Esmond Knight ... Arthur Baden
Martin Miller ... Dr. Rosan
Michael Goodliffe ... Don Jarvis
Jack Watson ... Chief Insp. Gregg
Shirley Anne Field ... Diane Ashley
Pamela Green - Milly, the model
New and exclusive introduction by Martin Scorsese
New and exclusive commentary by Ian Christie (Michael Powell expert)
New and exclusive interview with Thelma Schoonmaker (editor and Michael Powell's widow)
Documentary 'The Eye of the Beholder'
Documentary 'The Strange Gaze of Mark Lewis'
Original theatrical trailer
Behind-the-scenes stills gallery
24-page booklet containing essay, interview with screenwriter Leo Marks and an extract from Michael Powell's autobiography 'Million Dollar Movie'
This films stands the test of time, today it would be considered a deep insight into the psyche of a psychopath, in its day it was considered too disturbing and warped to be shown and Powell was castigated, Directors such as Martin Scorcese have for sometime held Powell up as an inspiration and this film as a ground breaking step in Cinema.
Price - The DVD can be purchased as a special edition with the extra's listed on Play.com for £6.99 and is an absolute bargain for any fan of film or film history.
In the film Peeping Tom (1960) the main character, Mark Lewis, spent his childhood being filmed constantly by his father. Mark was an exhibition. His father was studying him sadistically in order to assist him with his scientific research. Mark had a camera scrutinizing his every move.
Mark's indulgence in scopophilia (pleasure in looking) is evident even at an early age, we see Mark's father filming him while he is looking at a happy couple hugging and kissing each other.
In his adult life Mark was a professional cinematographer who also did some freelance work photographing women for men's magazines.
In his childhood he would associate the camera with feeling uncomfortable, unhappy or scared (the scene where Mark's father films the fear on Mark's face when a lizard is placed on his bed gives us a good impression of how he might feel), whereas as an adult Mark cannot bear to be apart from his camera. He is visibly uncomfortable when a policeman has his camera and Helen (a neighbour whom he befriends) comments of his camera 'I don't think I've ever seen you without it'. He loves something which he once hated.
Mark's childhood involved him being the centre of attention all the time and it seems that he ends his life at the end of the film in a state of 'secondary narcissim' where he again sees himself as all important and the focus of attention. He films his own suicide as a way of completing the work that his father started.
Between his father filming him and him filming his death, Mark catalogued his actions without actually appearing in front of the camera. Where as a child he was an exhibition, as an adult he is a voyeur, yet in death he reverts back to being an exhibition.
Mark spends his adult life filming women's faces as he is killing them, though this is not all, as he moves in for the kill he attaches a mirror to the camera so that the victims are forced to watch their own fear-filled faces as they are being murdered. This seems like an attempt to recapture a stage from his childhood where it was him that was being filmed in a state of terror.
By attaching the mirror to the camera he is forcing the victims to be not only exhibitions but also voyeurs. They are being filmed but at the same time they are watching themselves. This is almost a parallel to Mark's own life where he is both an exhibition and a voyeur.
We the audience when watching Peeping Tom are also voyeurs, not just in the way we are watching the film but also in the way we see scenes through Mark's camera.
So we have the situation where Mark's active gaze through his camera at passive women becomes our gaze as we are forced to identify with him and we see exactly what he sees. The film highlights the voyeuristic tendencies in everybody; we are by definition voyeurs by watching the film.
The way in which Mark behaves towards his camera seems to suggest it is a metaphorical phallus and when he is separated from it he feels castrated. He only kills women, suggesting that he sees them as a threat of castration and so he must eliminate the threat.
Mark makes women the objects of his perversion and his control comes from his camera, they are at his mercy and he gains satisfaction from that..
An interesting motif in the film is that anybody that appears in front of the camera visibly suffers or obviously has suffered, that is they either die, faint have bruises or scars etc.
There are a few dry jokes in the film which acknowledge Mark's voyeurism, at one point he is asked which paper he is working for and after stalling he replies 'The Observer'. Another example is when a colleague of Mark's dead father comments 'You have your father's eyes'.
I have heard about the formidable team of Powell and Pressburger for some time, but as yet have not seen any of their films. As a partnership they directed such classics as 'A Matter Of Life And Death', 'The Red Shoes', 'The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp' and many others. This film was Powell's first away from that partnership, working with script writer Leo Marks. At the time of its release in 1960, the film caused an uproar among those British film critics that actually saw it, which wasn't many because it was pulled from the cinemas very quickly and only allowed to exist in the porn cinemas of Soho.
The story concerns a young photographer and budding film maker Mark, who films women and then kills them, capturing their 'death face'. It is understandable to see how a film with subject matter such as this would have been very controversial to an early 60's film critic. To say the film should be 'flushed down the sewer' and the various other sound bites presented from the era can be seen now as a gross over reaction, but those were very puritan times. All the more brave then was Powell to make such a film, seemingly fearless of what reaction it would provoke.
The result is superb, a 48 year old film which still has the power to shock a modern viewer despite the fact that many of the issues have been greatly diluted due to subsequent film makers tackling similar subject matter [mostly inferior]. The film contains some great cameos including Moira Shearer, of 'The Red Shoes' as a desperate actress trying to get her break, which she believes the deranged Mark may be able to present her.
Mark's character, well played by German actor Karl Bohm is an outsider. The thick German accent of the actor seems bizarre in the circumstances as he is supposed to be an English character, but that didn't matter too much. It helps to cement his role, and serves Powell's purpose well. Anna Massey provides good support as his young neighbour who is fascinated and ultimately in love with him.
The DVD provides two documentaries on the film which are both of interest. Both feature heavy contributions from film critics quick to dismiss the views of those of their profession who loathed the film so much in the early 60s. Also featured is Thelma Schoonmaker, widow of Powell and Martin Scorsese's editor and close friend. The film had a profound effect on Scorsese after he saw it and his championing of the film in the early 80s led to its critical re-evaluation. No real suprise that a film maker of Martin Scorsese's talent has good taste in films!. This critical re-evalution has led to this sparkling new transfer from 2005 which shows the film in all its lurid reds and bright colours.
'Peeping Tom' now takes its place in the canon of British film making, the BFI's top 100 British films of all time from 1999 features the film. There are many influential elements to the film, when the documentaries drew comparisons to the work of directors such as Brian De Palma it becomes obvious. De Palma's obsession with voyeurism and lurid colours for example can be seen clearly here.
The film can be snapped up on Amazon for around £5 and is well worth this price with a series of thoughtful extras and a comprehensive booklet.
A review of Optimum's special edition DVD.
Peeping Tom is a British horror movie from 1960. It was hugely controversial at the time, not least because it was directed by the acclaimed director Michael Powell. Nowadays, of course, it's a little difficult seeing what the fuss was about, but the film is still very good.
A young cameraman, Mark, is also a psychopath who gets his jollies murdering pretty young women while filming them. His downstairs neighbour, Helen, falls for him, blissfully unaware of his collection of home made snuff movies, but her blind mother isn't fooled for a second. Meanwhile, the police are closing in.
This was reviled by critics at the time, largely because its subject matter was seen as utterly disreputable. These are the same critics who regularly lambasted Hammer for their horror movies (in which there is a lot more explicit violence), but it never did them any harm at the box office. The critical reception of Peeping Tom effectively ended Michael Powell's career. It was only much later when Martin Scorsese rediscovered it that it acquired its current reputation.
As with other of Powell's films it's shot in very rich colours (and colour is used to tell us things about the story). This is a classy film, made extremely well considering its genre. It's debatable how surprising the film should have been - Powell's films often had an undercurrent of cruelty and sexual deviance running through them, from A Canterbury Tale to Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. I guess Peeping Tom just lets it all hang out a bit too much.
Mark is played by a German actor, Carl Boehm. He's very good, coming across as a combination of James Mason and Derren Nesbit in Where Eagles Dare. But he's so obviously a clammy-handed psycho you have to wonder why no one except the blind woman figures him out. It's also puzzling that his voice wasn't dubbed, as he's very obviously German, but is meant to be a Londoner born and bred.
Anna Massey is good as naïve young Helen, adding a nicely tragic element to what might otherwise just be a horror story. She's also the film's main source of suspense, as she's always walking in on Mark trying to watch his latest crimes. There are a few other familiar faces in the cast. Moira Shearer, star of The Red Shoes, is a potential victim. Miles Malleson, the great British comic relief actor (he looks like a thinner Alfred Hitchcock) has a nice bit as a man buying porn. And the chief cop is played by Jack Watson - if you've seen Edge of Darkness (and there's no excuse for not having done so) then you'll recognise him.
The film has a nice ambience of grimy despair, something it shares with many of the best British horrors (it can be seen as the start of a tradition in that respect). The cruelty of the killings and Mark's obviously sexual reactions are enough to make one feel a little uneasy even now. Another source of controversy at the time, I'd guess, is the fact that Mark moonlights as a porn photographer (one of his models is played by the damn sexy Pamela Green, a real-life nude model - if Britain had a Betty Page, it was her). There's a lovely down-at-heel feel to those bits, which are nicely balanced by the lustrous photography. Real London locations (Rathbone Place, which is just about recognisable) are made to look like sets.
This was made the same year as Psycho. But, like Psycho, we aren't yet allowed a murderer who is just generically mad. And, again like Psycho, it's all the fault of the parents. We find out early on that Mark was tortured by his father, all in the name of science. While this allows for some impressively unpleasant stuff (the collection of tapes of Mark crying at different ages is nice), it does come across as slightly naïve. Mark's a bit too blatant a cause-and-effect nutter, which doesn't feel entirely realistic. (It probably isn't meant to be, and it's not long before we get psychos who are just out to kill for no reason whatsoever.) Like Norman Bates, Mark is often a pitiable figure. In the old films of Mark as a child his evil father is played by Michael Powell himself.
I daresay all the film-making stuff in the film is intended to carry a message of some kind, but I'm not going to spell it out. It allows for some nicely perverse ideas about what people might want to put on film, though. And there's a great moment where we see someone's horrified reaction to a film, rather than the film itself, which should tell you what's going on here. All in all, this is one damn classy film.
There are quite a few extras. There's a two minute introduction to the film by Martin Scorsese, which is OK but he could do that kind of thing in his sleep. There's a trailer, which is fun, and a gallery of production stills. There's a (rather dry) commentary by a film historian, and an interview with Powell's widow (not as interesting as you'd hope). There are two documentaries: one new one, which is pretty informative; and one French one (subtitled) which deals more with the film's critical reception at the time, but is less interesting. There's also a pretty thick booklet included.
Cannibal Holocaust doesn't get that kind of treatment. Evidently to make it into the canon a horror film has to be directed by an art house giant and be packed full of meta-fiction. But Peeping Tom *is* a great film, and while it won't exactly make you jump (what films of its era do?) it's essential viewing for any aficionado of old films. As a horror fan I'd have to admit that this puts almost everything else in the genre to shame.
This is about £8 on amazon. It has a slightly mystifying 15 certificate; there's no nudity or substantial gore.