Peeping Tom - Special Edition [DVD] 
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Michael Powell's controversial serial killer classic. A clean-cut focus puller (Carl Boehm) at the local film studio supplements his wages by taking girly photographs in a seedy studio above a newsagent. By night he is a sadistic killer, stalking his victims with his camera forever in his hand trying to capture the look of genuine, unadulterated fear. On its initial release the film, now regarded as a masterpiece of the British horror movement, was savaged by critics and public alike. The fearsome reaction went a long way to ruining director Powell's career and the movie was unavailable for many years.
Michael Powell lays bare the cinema's dark voyeuristic underside in this disturbing 1960 psychodrama thriller. Handsome young Carl Boehm is Mark Lewis, a shy, socially clumsy young man shaped by the psychic scars of an emotionally abusive parent, in this case a psychologist father (the director in a perverse cameo) who subjected his son to nightmarish experiments in fear and recorded every interaction with a movie camera. Now Mark continues his father's work, sadistically killing young women with a phallic-like blade attached to his movie camera and filming their final, terrified moments for his definitive documentary on fear. Set in contemporary London, which Powell evokes in a lush, colourful seediness, this film presents Mark as much victim as villain and implicates the audience in his scopophilic activities as we become the spectators to his snuff film screenings. Comparisons to Hitchcock's Psycho, released the same year, are inevitable. Powell's film was reviled upon release, and it practically destroyed his career, ironic in light of the acclaim and success that greeted Psycho, but Powell's picture hit a little too close to home with its urban setting, full colour photography, documentary techniques and especially its uneasy connections between sex, violence and the cinema. We can thank Martin Scorsese for sponsoring its 1979 re-release, which presented the complete, uncut version to appreciative audiences for the first time. This powerfully perverse film was years ahead of its time and remains one of the most disturbing and psychologically complex horror films ever made. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
A fantastic edition, which perfectly fits in the previous BD edition of other Powell's movies.
Fortunately more of his masterpieces have come out (Black Narcissus - Colonel Blimp. Waiting for A Matter of Life and Death).
This is his main film without Pressburger: a milestone in cinema history and maybe the most shocking film about serial killers, where morbid and disturbing atmosphere and scenes are not meant just to shock (which, btw, they did when it came out) but to project the viewer into the mind and twisted perception of a mysterious man, who's also the protagonist (another innovative, bold and crazy thing that made this film so groudbreaking). And whose reason we don't know and can't tell.
All is left to an unspoken, unexplained mystery: no sociology or psychology. Just cinema, great cinema.
Maybe, the pervert eye of the maniac, is that of Powell's himself
Yet, the subject matter of the two films, in my opinion, is equally dark. Extreme mental states - in both cases - originating from a troubled and disturbing childhood, leading to a psychopathic mindset.
The infamous shower scene from Psycho, is more graphic than the entirety of Peeping Tom. The blood draining down the plughole, more than the entirety of Peeping Tom as well. Of course the Psycho scene is in black & white so the "blood" is a dark grey, but so what. All the violence in Peeping Tom is off camera.
Also, Mark Lewis has feelings for Anna Massey's character. He also knows where his actions will lead and does not seek to try and prevent it. By this and by his conversation with the "psychiatrist" we know that he hates himself, but in Psycho, Norman Bates has no real redeeming features.
So with the benefit of hindsight and having seen many many horrific movies in the 50 year interim, Peeping Tom is no more offensive than Psycho which is thought of by many as a masterpiece. This DVD carries a 15 certificate to bear out that opinion.
Interesting, highly dated due to its age, and with minuscule shock value. A curiosity, and for its age, nothing out of the ordinary, but brave all the same - and unworthy of the negative treatment it received.
Frankly, it’s a film which scores equally highly on both thematic and sensorial fronts, which (for me, certainly) dispels any superficial impressions of the film being 'dated’ (one or two hammy acting turns – mainly by 'doomed models’ – plus some dodgy 60s 'disco music’!). Leo Marks’ screenplay is acutely perceptive, pointing up society’s hypocrisy as the masses bemoan a prostitute’s grisly murder ('I can’t help thinking of that poor girl’) whilst 'girly pics’ adorn a newsagent’s window and 'dirty old men’ acquire under the counter brown packages. Powell’s film is, of course, also steeped in the man’s lifelong trade, as his film pitches Mark as focus puller in a film studio (filled, in a nice touch, with cantankerous directors and film buffs, 'You don’t get that in Sight & Sound’), as well as doing part-time ‘glamour photography’ on the side – and the director makes the film even more personal, casting himself as Mark’s cruel father (and his son Columba as the young Mark).
Acting-wise, Böhm is solidly impressive as the shy, softly spoken, 'perverted obsessive’, whilst (in another connection with The Red Shoes) Moira Shearer is reliable as the flighty studio 'stand-in’, Vivian, and Anna Massey also impressive as kindly 'society girl’, Helen Stephens, whose affections offer Mark a potential escape route from his nefarious world. In another cinematic masterstroke, Powell also cast the excellent Maxine Audley as Helen’s blind mother, providing Mark with a nerve-wracking 'dilemma of the senses’. Which brings us to heart of Powell’s film – its (still, to this day) terrifyingly realistic depiction of the nature of fear. It’s impossible to avoid comparisons with Hitchcock here – as it is to be certain as to whether Leytonstone’s finest directly influenced Powell – but I am constantly reminded of the 'master of suspense’ throughout Peeping Tom (scenes such as the pencils falling from Mark’s pocket, the obsessive espying in the dark a courting couple, the blind Mrs Stephens’ 'reveal’ in Mark’s studio and Helen’s fascination with Mark’s projector (and the latter’s subsequent focus on the former’s watching, 'It’s just a film, isn’t it?’)).
Undoubtedly, a latter day masterpiece of the medium (plus the 50th anniversary DVD contains a plethora of interesting extras).
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