|Ad appearing in a 1981 college newspaper. By this time Peeping Tom |
had become the darling of the college/midnight-movie circuit
|Carl Boehm / Karlheinz Bohm as Mark Lewis|
|Anna Massey as Helen Stephens|
|Moira Shearer as Vivian|
|Maxine Audley as Mrs. Stephens|
|"But you walk about as if you haven't paid the rent!"|
Helen discovers that the shy fellow tiptoeing about and
peeking through windows is actually her landlord
Helen (Anna Massey) and her blind mother (Maxine Audley) are roomers in the house Mark inherited from his father. Helen is a librarian and budding author who has written a children's book about a magic camera that photographs adults as they were as children. Visiting Mark on the occasion of her 21st birthday, she finds herself attracted to his timid, gentle, nature. A constrained demeanor owing as much to his warped upbringing as it is indicative of the effort Mark must exert over himself to suppress and conceal his madness from others.
As bright light brought the audience’s faces into view, what I recall most vividly that the clearer they got, the more invisible I felt as I looked out at row after row of upturned faces staring beyond me …through me…to the movie screen. Different faces, but all with roughly the same expression: a kind of rapt, hyper-attentive stare that’s equal parts voracious scrutiny and blinkered immersion.
And there I stood, my face most likely wearing the exact same expression, lost in the process of watching people engaged in the act of watching.
That’s what it felt like seeing Peeping Tom for the first time.
|Looking Violence in the Eye|
Mark's macabre method of murder is to film his victims and have them witness their deaths in a distortion mirror attached to a spiked tripod. An idea borrowed by director Donald Cammell (Performance) in his thriller White of the Eye (1987).
In my opinion, it's close to impossible to be a true cineaste and film buff without also being a bit of an obsessive and possessed of a slight voyeuristic streak. Perhaps that’s why the film fan set embraced Peeping Tom for its insight into compulsion while the general public took umbrage at being asked to empathize with a necrophilic nosey parker.
The act of watching is what Peeping Tom is all about. Under the guise of making a psychological thriller, Michael Powell and screenwriter Leo Marks (Twisted Nerve -1968) crafted a disturbing film exploring the dark side of the obsessive power of the gaze. A film whose subtext examines the dysfunctional side of the synergistic relationship between filmmaker and the audience. The filmmaker: in attempting to reveal life’s truths, can, in the end, only reveal themselves; what we are shown always reveals more about the individual holding the camera than it does the events recorded. The audience: the presumptive seeker of truth who, should the filmmaker flatter their self-perceptions enough, is usually satisfied just being the person who sees themselves seeing themselves.
|Shirley Anne Field (still with us at 83) as Pauline Shields, and, still with us at age 88, an|
unbilled Roland Curram (Julie Christie's gay pal in Darling - 1965) as Young Man in Sports Car
|When I saw Peeping Tom I hadn't yet seen Moira Shearer in Powell-Pressburger's|
classic The Red Shoes: her film debut and legacy.
It's surprising to think Peeping Tom turns 60 this year. No longer a cause for scandal, it nevertheless remains a magnificent achievement and a very powerful film. Peeping Tom may not be to everyone’s taste as entertainment, but I can’t imagine anyone interested in cinema and film culture not fiding something intriguing and compelling in Peeping Tom’s ideas...if not its execution(s).
|"The sky is the limit. Art is worth dying for."|
In 1986 Michael Powell appeared on an episode of the arts-related Britsh TV program
The South Bank Show devoted to him and his works with Emeric Pressburger.
|You can't keep this guy away from cameras or London's Soho district.|
Carl Boehm played a reporter doing a story on strip clubs in the 1960
Jayne Mansfield film Too Hot to Handle (U.S. title: Playgirl After Dark).
Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2020