Movie Review By Erik Petersen
Released in 1960 "Peeping Tom" is a psychological thriller filled with Freudian references. Debuting the same year as "Psycho," director Michael Powell even pulls a Hitchcock, appearing briefly in the film. It was a very personal film for Powell, who directed the "Thief of Bagdad and "The Red Shoes." It tells the story of a voyeuristic young filmmaker obsessed with capturing true fear on camera. At the time of its release the film was reviled by critics who labeled it sick and disgusting, effectively ending Powell's career.
Now don't get me wrong, I have respect for the classic thrillers. "Psycho" scared the hell out of me, I flooded the bathroom for months showering with the curtain open. But I found "Peeping Tom" dull and plodding. Carl Boehm plays Mark Lewis, the murderous filmmaker, with a shy creepiness. He acts as landlord to the young Helen Stephens, played by Raymond Massey's daughter Anna in her debut, and Helenis blind mother, played by Maxine Audley. While Mark is weird and introverted heis got nothing on Norman Bates. In fact after Norman, Jason and Freddy Kruger Mark is a perfect gentleman.
After all, I grew up with the slasher pics of the Eighties, films like "Friday The Thirteenth", "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Halloween." When Wes Craven revived the genre with the horrifying and satirical "Scream", along with a whole new generation of horror fans, was elated. This was the formulaic plot turned on its head, smart and self-aware but still terrifying.
"Peeping Tom" is meant to be a more cerebral thriller, mining the depths of the killer's subconscious and flashing back to his childhood to help us understand what motivates him to kill. The trouble is we never even see anyone murdered, I mean I know it was 1960 but even "Psycho" had Mrs. Bates wielding the butcher knife and Janet Leigh in the shower. There is nothing even remotely frightening in this entire film. Iive seen scarier episodes of the "Teletubbies." When I see a horror film I wanna see some carnage, damn it.
If you wanna see something scary try taking a close look at Linda Tripp, whew. But "Peeping Tom", strictly a cure for insomnia.
I'm Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 1999 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 2/24/99
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