Take Me To Your Cinema
- Reaction score
- Trophy Points
Peeping Tom (1960)
Director: Michael Powell
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 101 minutes
'Peeping Tom' has become a highly influential and respected work of art after Martin Scorsese lionised it in the late 70s and having been included on the BFI's Top 100 British Films list but it was castigated on it's initial release. A contemporary reviewer said "flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer", another suggested it was "more nauseating and depressing" than a leper colony. The outrage was such that Director/Producer Michael Powell (who had been the foremost British Director in the 40s/50s) had to go to the other side of the planet to find somebody willing to hire him. It's been suggested that it was Alfred Hitchcock seeing that critical mauling which influenced his decision to not press screen his own proto-slasher film 'Psycho' two months later. It's also been said that Hitchcock's decision to shoot in black & white made his film more palatable to 1960 viewers, where as Powell's lurid colour schemes and bright red blood was too much. I'd never noticed before that in a brief shot after the final neck stabbing happens you can see that blood has just been sprayed way up the back wall, so I think the gore FX must have been filmed and then self censored. So it could've been even more provocative.
In Powell's hands the film camera becomes an eye, a sexual organ, a knife, an insect, a mirror. I doubt it's by accident that the psychopathic Mark's chosen model of camera has very testicle shaped magazines. In one of the early POV shots (of many, many POV shots) we see ourselves (from Mark's perspective) discard what is supposed to look like a packet of condoms into a bin but as the camera moves closer it's revealed to be a used up box of film. There's dark humour all the way through, like Mark claiming he's a photographer for "The Observer" (a long running British newspaper) while filming the aftermath of his crimes, or the hilarious scene where Miles Malleson is buying pornography (hidden under a newspaper) and the shopkeeper remarks "Well he won't be doing the crossword tonight". Maybe Powell wanting us to laugh and be truly disturbed by Mark's psychosis and to find him sympathetic (or at least pitiable) was too much for viewers then. Mark has clearly been tortured and broken by an abusive father (who it's implied has murdered his mother) and he's finding love with the kind Helen far too late to save him from his demons. Hitchcock just asked us to like Norman Bates before we find out he's a weirdo/killer, where as Powell shows us the truth about Mark from scene one and still makes us like him. I'm always fascinated by the creepy, dead, staccato way that the blind, alcoholic mother says "Take me to your cinema" to Mark. This time it occurred to be that Brian Easdale's avant garde piano score is not just unsettling but is also like that of an early improvised silent-movie piano accompaniment.
This original trailer is awful but I can't find anything better:
That's all films up to and including the year 1960 watched, rewatched and reviewed (367 films). Yay! If anybody wasn't already aware, this film is where I got this from :