In the 60s this film was really dumped on by the critics in the UK. I can sort of see why- some of it is almost uncomfortable to watch now, so what it must have been like then I’ve no idea.
Peeping Tom is the story of a young man called Mark, scarred by years of psychological abuse by his father, committing a series of murders which he captures on film. It’s heartbreaking in places. Mark is a character you start out being creeped out by (the opening sequence of the film is his murder of a prostute) but gradually you start to feel for him.
I think that’s what disturbed the critics; we want to think of murderers as inhuman monsters but Peeping Tom doesn’t let us think that. It shows us Mark’s life, his shyness, his cautiousness as he develops a relationship with a girl called Helen and it does it so intimately that you are forced to see him as something devastatingly human. It also puts us behind the camera for the murders. You see what the cameraman (and therefore the murderer) sees, again making an intimate experience for the viewer. Then of course you have the subject matter of the film: ultimately, it’s about watching films. Now, if that doesn’t make you feel a bit uncomfortable then I’ll have to direct you to Audition’s vomit scene.
Modern critics are much more favourable. Roger Ebert lists it in his great movies column, it has been suggested as the 18th greatest British film of all time and it is generally considered a masterpiece. I feel for Powell- having a film destroy your career then become a kind of cult phenonemon 30 years later must be one of the most irritating things ever.
So what did I think of Peeping Tom? I thought it was very good- it’s definitely a complex film, and I think if I watch it again I’ll find something else to comment on. about it. Karlheinz Böhm’s performance as Mark is truly excellent and well worth watching the film for. Powell’s direction is great too- it’s such a shame that this film basically destroyed his career, but it’s definitely one worth being remembered for.
In conclusion: highly reccomended.