Newest Review: ... 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... more
A photographic study of fear
Peeping Tom (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
Peeping Tom (DVD)
Date: 12/01/12, updated on 12/01/12 (89 review reads)
Advantages: Gripping, a bit on the unusual side, good stuff in the grey areas
Disadvantages: The way the main two actors speak!
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 ~~
Summary: An interesting film which has more to it than immediately meets the eye