Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), works as a focus puller in a British film studio. On his off hours, he supplies a local porno shop with cheesecake photos and also dabbles in filmmaking. A lonely, unfriendly, sexually repressed fellow, Mark is obsessed with the effects of fear and how they are registered on the face and behavior of the frightened. This obsession dates from the time when, as a child, he served as the subject of some cold-blooded experiments in the psychology of terror conducted by his own scientist father. As a grown man, Mark becomes a compulsive murderer who kills women and records their contorted features and dying gasps on film. His ongoing project is a documentary on fear. With 16mm camera in hand, he accompanies a prostitute to her room and stabs her with a blade concealed in his tripod, all the while photographing her contorted face in the throes of terror and death. Alone in his room, he surrounds himself with the sights and sounds of terror taped screams, black-and-white home movies of convulsed faces. At his house, he meets Helen Stephens (Anna Massey), a young woman who lives with her blind mother in a downstairs flat. She visits his flat, where he shows her black-and-white films that were taken of him when he was a child. She is horrified to see that his father used him as a guinea pig in various experiments, taking movies of his reactions of fear.
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I didn't think "Peeping Tom" was all that great. It was maybe a decentB-movie but it is rather dated. In its time it may have been a shockerbutnow I found it hard not to fast forward through some of the maudlinscenes.It is way overrated but may have some interest for filmstudents.
This film was released the same year as "Psycho" and is very similar to"Rear Window". This guy was just ripping off Hitchcock's ideas. Thereis even a cameo of a Hichcock look alike. What a cheap shot. If thismovie is such a masterpiece why was it scrapped for decades? Lots ofbad movies are revered as "cult classics". This film was forgottenbecause it is terrible. The lead character is supposed to be Englishbut he has a German accent. The plot is unengaging. Powell repeatedlyuses the same shots. Like the nude shots of the pin up girls in thetobacco shop. His other movies like Black Narcissus and the Red Shoescan't be compared to this one. I think he was past his prime, he had tocopycat Hitchcock's work, and he was washed up anyway.
When describing genre films, sometimes the word "classic" gets bandiedabout way too much, losing its meaning when trying to express how greata horror film is. It's a little depressing to think that for thecurrent generation, it's movies like SCREAM or URBAN LEGENDS or evenFINAL DESTINATION that qualify as "classics."If you want to really get a gander at what real "classic" old-schoolhorror looks like, take a break from the Eighties or even the Seventiesstuff, open up your mind and go back even farther. That's where you'llfind PEEPING TOM waiting for you.PEEPING TOM is the only horror entry ever produced by theonce-acclaimed British producer Michael Powell. Powell, together withhis producing partner Emeric Pressburger, was responsible for some ofthe most remarkable and highly regarded "artistic dramas" ever made,the most famous of these being THE RED SHOES, which starred thebeyond-gorgeous Moira Shearer, and inspired God-only-knows-how-manylittle girls to become prima ballerinas when they grew up. Let's just say that when Powell did something, he never went about ithalf-assed. It was all the way, or no way, and when he read the scriptby Leo Marks for what eventually became his most personal movieyet...and his undoing, he attacked it with the same dedication andenergy that he had when making THE RED SHOES. Here was the problem: PSYCHO, the movie by his contemporary AlfredHitchcock, came out only months after TOM, and met with criticalacclaim, while Powell's once sterling career lay in ruins. The public,being familiar with Hitch and the kind of films he made, werethoroughly shocked but not surprised that he produced a work as extremefor the time as PSYCHO was. On the other hand, having Powell come outwith PEEPING TOM at that period, would be kind of like having WaltDisney produce THE EXORCIST, but at the beginning of the Sixties, notthe Seventies.One glance at the plot line can explain why, and also prove that Powellwas way ahead of his time with this shocker. Carl Boehm plays Mark Lewis, a good-looking, quiet, shy young man wholives alone in his flat with his equipment and his darkroom. He's aphotographer by trade, but just taking still pictures or even movies isnot his real passion in life. His real life's passion...is death. Heloves to photograph beautiful women, but with a difference...attachedto the tripod of his camera is a sharpened stake that he uses tocapture the death throes of the women he photographs - and murderssimultaneously.It's hard not to be horrified by his actions, but strangely enough,it's hard not to root for him, too. It seems that his father (played bydirector Powell) was obsessed with the nature of fear and its effect onthe human psyche, and guess who his favorite guinea pig was in hisexperiments? You guessed it right: MARK. So no wonder Mark is soscrewed up!But not too screwed up to get involved with an independent-mindedneighbor named Helen Stephens (Anna Massey), who is taken with Mark,even after she learns the horrifying secret of his upbringing, andbecomes closer to him as the more practical side of her common sensetells her to run like hell from this guy, if she won't listen to theominous warnings of her demanding invalid mom, (Maxine Audley.)Less an out-and-out gory horror thriller than a disturbingpsychological exercise, PEEPING TOM not only studies fear, but alsovoyeurism and duplicity. By witnessing his acts of torture and murderboth from outside and through the eye of the camera, the audiencebecomes just as guilty as Mark does of watching these women die...andgetting off on the rush of it. The Freudian undertones of associatingsex and death as similar must've been something that people at thattime (ESPECIALLY in uptight England) weren't ready for, and mostcertainly not from the man who made THE RED SHOES!PEEPING TOM was outright banned in many places, and cut to nonsensicalribbons in others, where it was shown in criminally censored versions.Powell was never again able to raise the kind of money or interest inanything else he wanted to produce. Financial backers considered hisname and influence as box office poison, forever tainted by his onenotorious horror opus.It was only decades later, when the movie was restored to its originalstate and shown at film festivals, that its status as an earlymasterpiece was realized and Powell was hailed as a visionaryfilmmaker.Subtle and sinister and definitely tragic, this is what the definitionof a TRUE "horror classic" is, and you owe it to yourself as a buff ofthe genre to see it at least once. You might regret the nightmares youmay have from seeing it, but not having seen the film itself.
It's about a photographer who films people as they are dying. He kills them with an attachment to his camera--they get to watch themselves dying too. Psychologically disturbing. One of the scariest movies ever. I saw it when I was seven years old, and again when I was 17. If I see it again today, it'll be just as good, if not great.
The film that did a large amount of damage to Michael Powell's film careerremains as a prime example of an intellectual British horror film. It hascertainly retained the power to shock over four decades later, and leavesthe viewer with more questions than have been answered during the fairlyshort running time.Carl Boehm plays Mark Lewis, a focus puller at a film studio who feeds hisvoyeuristic tendencies by filming people everyone he goes. Thispreoccupation takes a disturbing twist in his need to kill, and film womenas he kills them. So far, so unsavoury. Mark appears on the surface as apersonable young man who just has this dangerous, psychotic tendency hecan't always keep in check. The audience is thus invited to have somesympathy with him, especially after the discovery that the young Mark wasthe focus for his father's experiments on the nature of fear in children(show in part as the film within the film featuring Michael Powell and hisson Columba), and was filmed and recorded for the whole of his young life.No wonder, the film is saying, that he has grown into this disturbed personwho has no real life away from either recording things on a camera, orwatching the results in his darkened room.Anna Massey has perhaps the prime female role in the film, as Mark'sdownstairs neighbour Helen Stephens. She is both repelled and attracted byMark's movie-making, and perhaps she is closer to him that she would herselfadmit. It is a restrained performance of considerable power. Moira Shearerhas a brief appearance as the studio stand-in who becomes his victim, whileShirley Anne Field provides light relief as the film actress who can neverget her lines right and doesn't know how to faint on camera.ÂPeeping Tom' is a clever piece of work which perhaps came too soon to beacceptable to the establishment. After all, during Powell's collaborationswith Emeric Pressburger, they often pushed their luck with their subjectmatter and the way they presented it. This film was the natural progressionof that anarchistic spirit. It is humorous in places Â Mark is notpresented as a one-dimensional monster Â while being a very dark anddisturbing psychological thriller throughout.
I would like to have seen this film on "the big screen". The effectmust have been very powerful. I read several of the IMDb reviews, andlearned quite a bit about the history of the making of the movie. Ithink it's tragic and grossly unfair when film makers are crucified andtheir careers ruined (or almost) has happened to the likes of Powell,or to Lean. Just because the audience doesn't have the brains orinsight or ability to tolerate the story DOES NOT mean it's a poorfilm.I first saw the film in the 90's on t.v. and I caught it again lastyear. The first time I watched was because I'd never heard of it andbecause Moira Shearer was in it. I recognized Karl Boehm from otherfilms (4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse). The film is genuinely creepy andfull of food for thought. I think that in 1960 the public was generallystill avoiding thinking about social responsibility for perversion,crime, etc. Aberrant behavior was just "something that happens." Whatstands out the most is that the director does tell us what motivatesthis killer. Perhaps that is what audiences and critics didn't like--hewasn't just "a nut". Someone MADE him into one. A so-called sane andrespected man CREATED, deliberately, a serial killer.As appalling as his crimes were, what I felt for the Mark Lewischaracter was terrible pity.
A Freudian script of notable maturity teases limitless implications from this premise, while maintaining a healthy sense of humour.
Peeping Tom (1960) a British suspense thriller that a lot of peoplecall "The British Psycho". The story revolves around Mark a young manwho seems to have a major fascination with his camera and filming womenbut not just in anyway, you see Mark likes to film them as they watchin horror...their own deaths.Mark does this by having one of his tripod legs attached with whatlooks like a sharp spear-like end driving it into the woman's neckswhile getting that "moneyshot" for the camera. In comes a young girlwho is taken to him (for whatever reason who knows) and soon tries tomake him her main man. As the story progresses the girls motherrealizes that Mark is a bit off and advises him to seek help. Asexpected Mark does not and continues to use his job working on the setof a film to his advantage killing one of the lead actresses bodydoubles.All this leads to a twisted revelation about Marks past and a rathertragic ending. Peeping Tom is one of those films that if handled by ajuvenile director could have been a typical thriller lost in theshuffle however with the interesting back story of Marks character andhis reasonings for doing what he was doing and the solid actingthroughout I cannot help but recommend this to old school thrillerbuffs as well as fans of early exploitation as this film deserves thatbanner under its belt also for some of the more "graphic for theirtime" sequences that occur. In conclusion Peeping Tom is a classicwithin the thriller/horror genre and I give it a solid: 9/10 classic.Peeping Tom is out on DVD in the states through Criterion andStrait-Jacket from Columbia TriStar. Check it out pygmies as thoughthis does not pack the excessive gore punch that so many of the filmshave over the last several decades it still earns points just oncoolness factor alone not to mention very well crafted storytelling.
~Spoiler~Peeping Tom is a movie ahead of its time. Made in 1960, it's oftenunjustly compared to Psycho. The two could almost be companion pieces.But let me be honest and say Psycho is without a doubt the better film(see, I even just compared them). Michael Powell's film follows MarkLewis, a scoptophile who never leaves home without his trusty camera byhis side. But just looking is not enough. He begins a killing spreewhere he records his victims' final moments. The voyeuristic nature ofthe film is fantastic. We're watching a movie in which the killer iswatching his victims as they, in turn, are watching themselves die.Mark is such a tormented and dark character, yet, I almost wanted himto find a cure and continue his relationship with Helen. He's a bitlike Frankenstein's Monster. He's not evil by nature, his childhoodenvironment is responsible for many of his actions. Nonetheless, hisactions are still unforgivable and the ending of the film is veryfitting. I don't want to spoil it, but fans of classy, psychologicalhorror should definitely take a peep at this film.
Absolutely, positively BRILLIANT movie that single-handedly caused amajor earthquake in the, until then, overly politically correct Britishhorror industry. Many critics and audiences weren't ready for this typeof groundbreaking disturbance (I doubt they even are nowadays), whichregretfully meant an unfair boycott of the film, as well as of itsgenius director Michael Powell. The magnificence of "Peeping Tom"almost can't be described in words, since it's so all embracing andfrighteningly up-to-date. Every single detail in the productionÂ everysingle line in the scriptÂ every single movement by the actors &actresses reaches damn close to perfection. It already starts with acontroversial Â but hugely courageous Â basic premise: "Scoptophelia",or the morbid desire to watch, as explained by a psychiatrist in thefilm. Mark Lewis, the main character, can't live without registeringeverything he sees on camera. This hardly causes any problems in hisdaily life, as he works in the film-industry and gains some extra cashas the photographer of nude-pictures. But the complexity of Mark'spersona doesn't stop there. He constantly struggles with childhoodtraumas, brought on by his scientist-father who always used Mark as aguinea pig for his own psychological research regarding the study of"human fear". As a result of these inhuman tests, Mark grew up a verytimid and introvert man...but simultaneously with an insane andrestless mind that can only be calmed down by committing gruesomemurders...As you can read all over the Internet, "Peeping Tom" is often mentionedin one sentence along with Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", released thesame year. Supposedly because together they dragged horror-cinema intothe present tense by introducing "villains" that show no obviousphysical characteristics like these of typical horror monsters andmass-murderers. Indeed so, Norman Bates as well as Mark Lewis are bothordinary and colorless men that turn out mankind's most bizarreperverts, but that's pretty much where the comparison stops. "PeepingTom" continues in intensity and controversy where "Psycho" eventuallythrows the towel in the ring. Other than Mark Lewis being a highlyunlikely killer, the script successfully covers psychological eeriness(Mark's childhood is far more shocking than that of Norman Bates) ANDthe alarming confrontation with the omnipresent theme of voyeurism. Theuncontrollable desire of observing people is of all ages, but anincredible taboo around the time this film got released. Theprudishness and hypocrisy of society is masterfully illustrated nearthe beginning of the film, when a seemly prominent citizen quietlyrequests pictures of sexily dressed women in a newspaper shop. If yousee how embarrassed he is for buying sexy pictures, you get an idea ofhow awry and difficult it must have been to shoot a film that actuallyputs the viewer in the position of a voyeur.Apart from being very intelligent, very influential and very complexÂ "Peeping Tom" of course also is VERY frightening! Not in the leastbecause of Carl Boehm's creepy performance (I can't believe the sameguy played the fancy and well-behaving Austrian Prince in my mother'sfavorite epic film-series "Sissi Â Die Junge Kaiserin!!!), but alsobecause of the depressing atmosphere and the slow pacing. Not a singledrop of blood is shed throughout the entire film, and yet I rarely feltthis uncomfortable upon seeing simple 'suggestions'. Watching "PeepingTom" feels like unintentionally crashing into the set of a snuff filmand the only thing you can do is to close your eyes. ButÂ can you? Or,even worse, Â do you want to?
"Peeping Tom" Michael Powell's British shocker about a creepyphotographer/serial killer and his depraved approach to "art", this theresult of an abusive childhood, is disappointingly mild in approach andstyle. Despite the ravings of Coppola and Scorsese, it's a seriouslyunderwhelming "classic" with only a few scenes of suspense, longstretches of dialogue, and most of the victim's performances so stiltedand unlikeable, you don't necessarily disapprove of Carl Boehm knockingoff the various tarts and actresses. Another question: why are allthese women, both moral and immoral, so drawn to Boehm's barelytransparent neuroses? Knowing the U.K.'s penchant for creating nastythrillers with moments of atrocity and controversy, it's hard to fathomthe movie being banned and shunned by the masses back in 1960. Boehm asthe killer is easily the best part, and the man literally moves, lisps,trembles and (of course) murders like some specie of worm. Anunforgettable performance in a not so unforgettable thriller, despiteall the hype. Still, it can't be denied that Michael Mann's sleek"Manhunter" and practically EVERY billionth movie about serial killersto follow--most of them unwelcome and diluted trash--owe a monumentaldebt to Powell's exploration of the mind of a killer. It definitelysurpasses anything Hitchcock was doing at the time.
If you watch this as a horror movie (and the version I saw was labelled'Terror Vision The Crypt Collection'!) you are probably going to be sorelydisappointed. This is not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre here. However if youtreat it as a psychological study of a severely damaged human being you'llget a lot more out of it. Well written and directed for its time, it's apity that this movie hasn't found a wider audience. Well worth a look (punintended).
I saw Peeping tom after its re-release a year ago after it wasbanned.I was expecting it to be a frightening portrayal but instead there was noblood,no suspense or no thrills.What I did enjoy was the performances.Therewas a very good story among the killer and the characters that revolvearound him.The killer grows a taste for filming his victims as he killsthem.Peeping tom was a very good movie,I just don't see why it was banned.Psychowas alot more worse for blood (take the shower scene for example) and it gota lower certifecate.I would say Peeping tom was definitly worth thewatch,but don't be expecting too much gore if you're a horrorfan.I rate 4/5.
I've watched Michael Powell['s PEEPING TOM a couple of times on TV butI've yet to give my Criterion DVD a spin. Certainly one of the mostoriginal, challenging and bleakest films ever made and to have comefrom a British film-maker, albeit an iconoclastic one, makes theachievement all the more remarkable. While I do think that comparisonsto its contemporary PSYCHO (1960) are a bit tenuous, it has to be saidthat both films can be thought of as belonging to the horror genre Â infact, PEEPING TOM was the third British "slasher" movie in a row,following HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959) and CIRCUS OF HORRORS(1960) - but can also lay claim to being a very dark sort of blackcomedy. Besides, both films feature dysfunctional, immature, adult maleprotagonists haunted by a terrible upbringing which vents itself in aseries of murders. Furthermore, while both films have been harshlyreviled by critics when first released, in time, they have had theirreputations make a complete about face and nowadays are numbered amongtheir respective directors' unassailable masterpieces!
That first four minutes, with its surrealistic visuals, eerie music,and minimal dialogue, is terrific. Once the viewer sees the killer'sface, the film loses its mystery, my main motive for watching "PeepingTom".Still, the film has its merits, mostly in the form of clevercinematography, spooky sound effects and music. In the cavernous hallwhere Viv (lovely Moira Shearer) does her jazz dance, a bright lightflashes suddenly in her face, followed by a delay, then another brightlight, then repeated, suggesting some hidden menace. Echoes in the samesequence and elsewhere add to the suspense. The pounding piano scorelikewise contributes a sense of fear. So while the film may be devoidof mystery, through its non-script elements it does contain somesuspense.Yet, despite that, "Peeping Tom", for me, is far from being the"masterpiece" so described by its fans. The main problem is the script.The central character, Mark Lewis (Karl Bohm), is so bland andoutwardly neutral he's boring. The child psychology back-story muddlesthe plot. Too much dialogue dilutes suspense. Some scenes areunnecessary or too prolonged. And the deep themes, related tovoyeurism, fear, and movie-making, though significant, are confusingand convoluted.In addition, the garish colors set an inappropriate tone for apsychological thriller. B&W would have been more effective. Casting ofKarl Bohm may have been a mistake, as his subtly fey manner contradictsthe character of Mark. Actress Anna Massey, who plays Helen, annoyinglychirps and tweets her way through the plot as Mark's shockingly naÃ¯vegirlfriend.There is no humor at all in this film, which takes itself very, veryseriously. Its multidimensional cerebral subtext thus conveys theimpression that it was meant for an intellectual audience. Though thesuspense helps offset some of the film's weaknesses, I find "PeepingTom" just a tad pretentious.
In general, I am NOT a fan of suspense films involving sick and twistedpeople who are serial killers. Life just seems too short to me to spendmy time watching these disturbing films. It's because of this that Iavoided watching this film for so long. I knew it was about an evil manwho loved filming himself killing young woman AND I knew the originalversion of the film had been banned since it was so controversial anddisturbing--so I KNEW it was not for me. Then, for some odd reason, Iwatched just a bit of the film and found I was hooked. While it was arather yucky topic, the film itself didn't seem overly sensationalisticor make me feel embarrassed or "dirty" for having watched it. Instead,it was a thought-provoking and exceptionally well-made film that, whileNOT appropriate for the kids, is fine far for adults and even olderteens to watch.The biggest stand-out of the film is the writing. The script isexceptionally well-crafted and intelligently written. You gain realinsight into the killer plus the movie takes some genuinely surprisingtwists and turns. I really appreciate a movie that doesn't telegraphall its moves. Additionally, the direction is superb and it's a shamethat the negative public outcry from this film helped to kill thedirector's career. And finally, I really liked the acting. Not having"big name" stars in the film might have been due to having a lowerbudget, but it also really helped to make the film seem more real.Apart from Moira Shearer (not a household name in America), the otherswere all small-time actors. In particular, Karlheinz BÃ¶hm ("KarlBoehm") was great as the killer. His slight German accent and haltingstyle was super-effective and very believable. Too bad he isn't thatwell-known--he really could act! Overall, I would recommend this filmto most anyone except little kids and people who have no interest incrime films or psychological thrillers. The film is intense buttasteful and well-constructed,...as well as truly unique. In fact, forthe type of film it was, I much prefer this film to Hitchcock's superfamous film, PSYCHO. It was simply more believable and subtle.
Michael Powell, the distinguished English director, probablycontributed to his own demise from the film industry with "PeepingTom", a movie that proved to be well ahead of its times and amasterpiece by this man who gave so much to enhance the industry inGreat Britain. In fact, it's a shame this was almost the last film hedirected before going on to a kind of exile in Australia."Peeping Tom" is an exercise in voyeurism Mr. Powell, and his screenwriter, Leo Marks, created to prove to what extent how one is capableof watching things one shouldn't watch. At the same time, Mr. Powellcreated a psychological essay about what makes Mark Lewis, the centralcharacter of the film, act the way he acted. Mark has been scarred forlife thanks to what his own father did to him during a period of hisgrowing years that formed his character into the reclusive man whofeels at home doing the despicable crimes he commits.One of the strengths of the film is the amazing portrayal of Mark Lewisby the German actor, Carl Boehm, who made a superb contribution to themovie. Mr. Boehm is perfect because by just looking at him, one wouldnever guess what's inside his soul, or what motivates him to kill andrecord his crimes.Mr. Powell brought together an amazing cast that shines in the film.Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxime Audley, Brenda Bruce, BartlettMullins, are among the most prominent players one sees in the film.The newly restored copy we saw as part of the retrospective shown atthe Walter Reade this year has been enhanced in ways one didn't thinkwould be possible and it's a tribute to the great director, who shouldhave been proud of how today's audiences are reacting when theydiscover his movies that seem will live forever.It's ironic that Mr. Powell didn't get the recognition he deservedduring his lifetime.
This abundantly creepy, and always controversial, British movie never goes out of style.
Misplaced critical vitriol torpedoed the original 1960 release of director Michael Powell's psycho-horror. Fifty years later, it's an undisputed British masterpiece.
....says Anna Massey halfway through the film, and she's not wrong -with that ever so posh hot-potato-in-mouth affected English accent, youjust wish you could slap her aerodynamic face and send her off toaudition for other, better films. Thank god people don't speak likethat anymore. It's not the poor girl's fault, though - anyone who putsthis rubbish in the same brackets with "Psycho" must be as blind as herwhiskey gulping mother downstairs. With his bawdy lips and perfectlyparted hair, Boehm looks more like someone loitering in public toiletsthan a serial killer "with a soul" whom we're supposed to feel for(this apparently being the spin regarding the serial killer issue,cause, you see, Boehm's character suffered childhood abuse by hisscientist father who was obviously a nutter). So it's not Boehm's faulteither. At one point, when his character seems fascinated by one of thegirls' disfigured face, you almost think, in disbelief, that the filmis about to go down the path of "The Spiral Staircase" - anotherlukewarm horror/thriller which at least has some redeeming qualities.Well, mercifully it doesn't go that way, but that's hardly a plus -this is as horrific as a meowing cat and as thrilling as a wind in thetoilet bowl. The piano solo score sounds like it was composed by theleast talented student in Ravel's class, the one taken on board out ofsheer pity. I haven't seen any of Michael Powell's preceding,apparently acclaimed films - nor have I any desire to do so afterviewing this spineless lemonade. No small wonder everyone hated it -not because it's a misunderstood masterpiece ahead of its time, butbecause it's utterly and terminally bad, equally as bad today as it wasin 1960. True, the first two or three minutes of the film seem vaguelypromising - but then every film is good at the beginning, it's how itcarries on that counts. Hitchcock must have laughed out aloud - ifindeed he ever wasted time viewing this - and in his hands this filmmight actually have worked, subject to him agreeing to direct such anawful, awful script. View if you're particularly compelled to - there'sa cute little portable reel to reel tape recorder to be seen next toMoira Shearer, earning the two stars given - otherwise steer wellclear.