An early entry in the exploration of voyeurism and obsession in the horror genre, ‘Peeping Tom’ warrants a viewing. How is that for irony?
Our story begins with an unseen figure approaching a prostitute and going back to her place. He then proceeds to kill her, filming all the while.
We then meet Mark (Carl Boehm), a shy man who works on a film crew and hopes to direct one day. He also takes smutty photos of young women that sell very well. It becomes obvious that he is the killer as he returns to the scene of the crime and secretly films the removal of the body and the general unrest that ensues.
His downstairs neighbor, Helen (Anna Massey) takes pity on him and invites him to her birthday party. He declines, but she comes up to his apartment with cake and enters. They talk and she becomes intrigued by his films. He is reluctant but he shows her some of his father’s home videos from when he was a child. It is revealed that his father was running an experiment of observing a child’s growing up.
This disturbs Helen.
More disturbing is that Mark keeps killing people. Will poor, sweet Helen be next?
The film has a stately look to it, very much a product of the early 60s. The time period and region also dictate just how muted the film’s violence is. We barely get any hint of the aftermath aside from a few glimpses at a great distance. Forget about much in the way of on-screen violence or gore. There is a split second of nudity present which caused a great deal of hooplah at the time. All of that amounts to nothing today but it irrevocably damaged director Michael Powell’s career.
Since we know who the killer is right from the start, there is no mystery or surprise to be found here in that regard. The story clearly wanted to explore the obsession of a damaged figure and his difficulty concealing his secret from the rest of the world. Without subterfuge, we are given a remarkably straightforward story. It should be said that it has influenced a lot of directors, so that accounts for why here in 2014, dedicated viewers can recognize a lot of ingredients in here from other works.
Boehm and Massey form a nice point/counterpoint as the main dynamic here. He is shy and can barely communicate with anyone while she is extremely pushy. It is a small wonder why she is so intrigued by this obvious weirdo, but one can never account for taste.
Special features include: production stills and an entire documentary about the film.
‘Peeping Tom’ is one of those stories that is important in suspense/horror film history, but doesn’t necessarily hold up all of these years later.
Still, it should certainly be a part of anyone’s research when digging into slasher horror/suspense history.
Not Rated 101 minutes 1960