Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peeping Tom (1960)

Director: Michael Powell
Starring: Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley, Brenda Bruce, Miles Malleson, Esmond Knight, Martin Miller, Michael Goodliffe, Jack Watson, Shirley Anne Field, Pamela Green

A voyeuristic murderer takes the life of a prostitute and takes pleasure in watching the footage of her murder. Mark Lewis (Boehm), a reclusive filmmaker and photographer of pin-up women, meets a fellow tenant Helen (Massey) on her 21st birthday when he is found spying on her party. Intrigued by the man, she follows him to his apartment where he reveals his late fathers film experiments which left him psychologically disturbed.

Much has been said about this cult film, masterminded by expert filmmaker Powell (whose previous films include Black Narcissus and 49th Parallel) which effectively ended his movie career, but this clever piece - along with its spiritual brother in Hichcock's Psycho - is to thank for the 70's horror trends. In the same way we acknowledge the changes that Citizen Kane did for cinema, Peeping Tom can easily be described in the same category. Without it, there would be no Halloween and no slasher craze that overtook the horror genre till this day.

I doubt much can be made of Boehm's placid performance, it's really the camera and lightning that does much of the explaining which in itself pays tribute to Hitchcock's Vertigo that deals with similar themes. Massey's sincere Helen is lovely; she later worked with Hitch on '72s Frenzy. Dancer Shearer reached fame in Powell's wonderful ballet-themed film The Red Shoes. This is tough filmmaking at its best and cannot be dismissed, especially by those of us in the industry.


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