Archive of films Peeping Tom / Peeping Tom
1960, 101 min
Section: Midnight Screenings
Filmmaker and pornographer Mark Lewis is a lonely voyeur, tormented by an irresistible desire to kill and catch the moment of death on camera. Savaged by the critics upon release, this was the shocking film that wrecked Michael Powell’s career as a director – but is now regarded as a masterpiece.
After a frightening childhood spent as the guinea-pig in his father’s scientific research, studio technician and dirty postcard pornographer Mark Lewis is a lonely voyeur, with a desire to kill and catch the moment of death on camera. Horrific yet intelligent, Peeping Tom was too much for the critics to stand in 1960. With Powell himself appearing as Mark’s bullying father, and his son as the child Mark, who grows up into Boehm’s tragic, sympathetic, middle class villain, it hinted at an inherent sickness within respectable suburban Britain, and at the heart of filmmaking itself. The critics were outraged – was this really the work of the director who collaborated with Pressburger on The Red Shoes (1948)? Savaged by critical hostility, Peeping Tom was withdrawn from cinemas. Powell’s reputation lay in tatters. Later, the film that wrecked Powell’s career was reappraised as a masterpiece of British cinema. Highly influential in the development of the horror genre, it retains the power to chill and disturb.
About the director
Michael Powell (b.1905, Bekesbourne, Kent; d. 1990) gave up his bank job in 1925 for a career in film. Stills photographer on Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929), he directed numerous cheaply produced B pictures, “Quota Quickies”, some of which are now lost. With Hungarian scriptwriter Emeric Pressburger he went on to collaborate on many films now considered British classics, including A Canterbury Tale (1944) and The Red Shoes (1948), before they separated in 1957. Critical outrage at Peeping Tom (1960) effectively wrecked Powell’s career as a major British director; afterwards he mainly worked abroad, or in television. The final decades of Powell’s life saw him gradually re-embraced by the critical establishment; by the time he died the rehabilitation of his artistic reputation was well underway.
About the film
Color, 35 mm
|Dir. of Photography:||Otto Heller|
|Production:||Michael Powell (Theatre) Ltd.|
|Cast:||Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley|
|Contact:||BFI, Connaissance du cinéma|
Film Institution Rep.