• Peeping Tom killed the career of the great auteur Michael Powell. The film was rediscovered, and its reputation was largely saved (or at least revived) by Martin Scorsese in the 1980s. But, I have enough pages dedicated to Scorsese here so I’ll stick to the text here- that’s how Scorsese would want it anyways.
  • I forgot it actually begins with The Archers (Powell and (former at this time) partner Pressburger) logo before saying “A Michael Powell production”.
  • There is a closeup of an eye for the first frame. The second frame is a stunning cinematic painting here below. This great oil painting of a composition (which, sadly, is not repeated in the film) always makes me think of Terry Pastor’s art on David Bowie’s album cover for “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. Powell pivots after that shot and goes right into the actual camera that Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Bohm) is wielding and then swiftly that flips to point of view sequence as Mark approaches a street walker. It is a hell of an opening first few minutes.

a sublime shot set up and sequence– wish this had been repeated

Freud, voyeurism, close-ups of the eyes– certainly Powell’s work in 1960 makes for a fascinating comparison with Hitchcock’s Psycho

  • Powell is one of the original geniuses of color in cinema dating back to the 1940s and Peeping Tom ranks behind maybe only Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) as far as an achievement of his in this regard. There are gorgeous pigments and tints exhibited in Mark’s dark room- greens and reds. This is a dark use of color—several scales darker than Powell’s earlier work—something as an ancestor to Gordon Willis and David Fincher.
  • The point of view camera used in Peeping Tom is often cited when talking about the importance this film has as far as shaping the horror genre – specifically the slasher subgenre. This is a whopping eighteen years prior to John Carpenter’s Halloween and fifteen years prior to Dario Argento’s Deep Red.

At the 21-minute mark the lights park up behind his head including yellow and red (which looks almost pink).

  • Both Helen Stephens (played by Anna Massey) and Vivian (Moira Shearer) have flowing red hair and that’s no mistake.
  • Peeping Tom is (along with Blue Velvet and Psycho) the definitive study on voyeurism in cinema- which is has such a fascinating layer to it. Cinema is a direct theme in this film- it is Mark’s vehicle for his fixations. It is such an innately voyeuristic medium/artform. It had to bother Hitch (maybe it didn’t- the happiness he seemed to have with his own work seemed tied to the financial success of the film, and this did poorly) that he didn’t make a direct film about voyeurism, Freud, scoptophilia (spelling in the film), psychosis and cinema. Hitchcock would have made the diabolical character the mother though instead of the father here.
  • The wild improvisational jazz score is by Brian Easdale (The Red Shoes) and it fills up the space as Mark stalks his victims.
  • Yellow pants, blue trunk, red light in the slaying of the Vivian character— lots of primary colors (Eastmancolor). Mark’s room has the darkly lit color accents…the house has a yellow lampshade on yellow wallpaper—there are blue sweaters, red hair, red scooters.

Karlheinz Bohm’s chilly performance fits perfectly for what Powell is going for. It is sort of an updated Peter Lorre in M performance/character.

  • One of the first mainstream British films with nudity—I also see the film as a bit of a dark cousin to Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966).
  • Must-See / Masterpiece border