Peeping Tom (1960)

Article #109 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-3-2001
Posting date: 11-16-2001

A strange man finds himself compelled to murder women and photograph them at the time of their deaths to capture the look of fear in their eyes.

One of the benefits of trying to do a comprehensive review of fantastic cinema is that it causes me to finally get around to seeing certain films that up to now had been on my “I’ll watch it when I get around to it someday” list, and discovering a real gem. I’d read quite a bit about the film, but nothing I’d read prepared me for it. This is one amazing film, at least fifteen years ahead of its time. I’ve heard it described as a British PSYCHO, and even though it delves into a lot of Hitchcockian themes, I don’t think the description does it justice; the movie is playing an entirely different game than the one PSYCHO plays.

What is audacious about this movie is that it goes out of its way to make you really understand what this man is like as a human being, and why he does what he does. The movie is not exploitative; if it contains some elements of exploitation, it is only because these elements were essential in painting a portrait of the character. There is something deeply unnerving about getting this intimate with a character of this nature, and I think it was this intensity of experience which more than anything else contributed to the reception that the movie received upon its release, and its subsequent effect on the collapse of Michael Powell’s career; I don’t think people could handle the movie emotionally, and hated it for that reason.

I think this movie is a masterpiece, and I’m not surprised it had a real influence on the work of Martin Scorsese, whose work it most resembles. It will also, by its very nature, never be a popular favorite like PSYCHO.


1 Comment

  1. Furthermore, you can watch the movie not primarily as horror, but as an extended metaphor on the nature of cinema and its relationship to voyeurism. In fact, once you watch it that way, it’s hard to not see it primarily as such. Truly a masterpiece.

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