PEEPING TOM. (1960) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY MICHAEL POWELL. WRITTEN BY LEO MARKS.
STARRING CARL BOEHM, ANNA MASSEY, MOIRA SHEARER, MAXINE AUDLEY, MICHAEL POWELL, COLUMBA POWELL AND MILES MALLESON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
(Severe Warning: Written early on in my reviewing days and chock-a-block with spoilers!!! It’s virtually all spoilers, so read on at your peril and don’t come complaining to me, lol.)
Mark Lewis is a very, very naughty boy. Do you know what he does? Can you guess? You’ll never guess, so I suppose I’ll have to tell you, just this once. He murders women, but that’s not all.
He also likes to film their final moments, and the terror on their faces as he stabs them in the throat with a nasty spike that sticks out of his camera… That’s a new one, isn’t it? I bet you haven’t heard that one before.
He’s not just committing these atrocious deeds willy-nilly, however. Certainly not. He had an exceptionally messed-up childhood. Yes, yes, I know we all did, but Mark’s was more messed-up than most.
His father, a writer of dreary scientific tomes, filmed Mark constantly throughout his formative years. What’s wrong with that, you say? Nothing wrong with keeping a record of your son’s childhood. Is there…?
No, no. You don’t understand. Scientist Professor Lewis filmed his son’s reactions to the most sinister and inappropriate situations, like his mother’s death and subsequent burial, and having his father deposit a lizard in his bed without warning. Now do you see…?
Professor Lewis was one sick dude- you can take that to the bank- and he’s pretty much wholly responsible for his son Mark’s turning out the same way.
Mark has become a ‘scoptophiliac,’ a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, someone who gets pleasure out of watching someone else who is unaware that they are being watched.
The technical, textbook definition of a Peeping Tom is ‘a person who derives sexual pleasure from secretly watching people undressing or engaging in sexual activity.’
However, Mark Lewis in this film just seems to like filming people in general, and their reactions to things in particular, just like his own father did. Although Mark still suffers from a paraphilia, or sexual disorder, ie, voyeurism, we are not aware that he is thinking about sex the whole time he’s filming people. He is getting excited, however, so maybe that’s the same thing.
Anyway, he’s never seen without his camera. He’s made a career out of his passion. He works as a focus-puller for a film studio, and on the side he shoots so-called ‘glamour’ pics for a seedy Soho newsagent. Nudes, and so on.
The scene where a ‘respectable’ middle-aged, obviously married man (Hammer’s Miles Malleson) comes into the newsagent asking to see the shopkeeper’s ‘views’ and the shopkeeper produces a book of nudie photos from under the counter for the man to choose from is hilarious. Hilarious in the sense that that was how they did porn in the Fifties…! Nowadays porn is freely available at the touch of a button. Back then, you had to take what you could get.
Mark murders a hooker, a two-bit stand-in actress/dancer from the studio where he works and a stunning blonde nude model he was meant to be photographing. He films all three of their agonised deaths and watches the films back afterwards in his flat.
I think it’s safe to say that he masturbates while watching them and they’re how he attains his climax. I’d even venture to say that, without the stimulus of the voyeurism which is his particular paraphilia or sexual disorder, he might find it difficult or even impossible to ejaculate. I’m guessing, therefore, that, in such a situation, he’d have to fantasise about the voyeurism or a voyeuristic situation in order to achieve a successful conclusion, as it were.
He even attempts to murder the blind mother of his sort-of girlfriend, Helen, but he can’t quite go through with it. His sort-of girlfriend, Helen, played by the fantastically watchable Anna Massey (Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY, 1972, the story of another paraphiliac serial murderer!) lives in the flat underneath Mark’s one with her mother, in the house bequeathed to Mark by his father.
Helen, a writer of children’s stories, seems to have fallen pretty heavily for Mark’s extreme shyness and his blonde good looks. Mark’s quite taken with her too, to the point where he chooses to kill himself rather than Helen when she works out that he’s a psycho-killer extraordinaire and the local constabulary are banging his door down over the death of the actress, whose body he stuffed in a trunk in the studio where he works.
The film was savaged by British critics when it first came out for its shocking content (very different from what they’d come to expect from Michael Powell of A MATTER OR LIFE AND DEATH fame), but today it’s seen as something of a classic. Rightfully so, in my humble opinion.
It’s grim and it’s grisly and it won’t exactly cheer you up when you’re feeling down- well, not unless you’re seriously warped in the mind, lol- but if you’re looking to watch a film that’s intelligent, frightening and almost poetic in its execution, then watch this one. More Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself, it’s a goodie and a stand-out in its genre. Enjoy…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: