Peeping Tom – A Look at Mark Lewis

Carl Boehm

Filmmakers and photographers have one obsession in common. Well, they actually have more than one. However, the one obsession I ‘d like to point out here, and I have spoken about this before, is they like to watch! Just like the audience, everyone in the audience, no exceptions, they like to look, they are voyeurs. Come on, let’s face it, we all like watch and the safest way to watch others is by watching a movie or looking at a photograph.

We have seen voyeurism in many films as diverse as Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow Up” and Brian DePalma’s early black comedy “Greetings.” Taken to the extreme, voyeurism leads to invasion of privacy and even worst, murder as it does in Michael Powell’s 1960 film “Peeping Tom.”

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Peeping Tom (1960) Michael Powell

Voyeurism and the movies go hand in hand. After all what is looking at movies other than peeping into the lives of other people. The subject has been explored in many films, “The Conversation,” “Sliver,” “Blow-Up,”  and more so with directors like Brian DePalma in  “Hi Mom!, “Blow Out,” “Body Double” and with Alfred Hitchcock in “Rear Window” and  “Psycho.” More recently films like “Disturbia”, “Alone with Her” and “Vacancy’ have explored the topi c. However, no film connects voyeurism and film more than Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom.”

Powell is best known as one-half of “The Archers”, the other half being Emeric Pressburger. Powell and Pressburger , produced, directed and wrote or any combination thereof some of the classiest British films of the 1940’s and 1950’s including “49th Parallel”, “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”, “Black Narcissus”, “The Tales of Hoffman” and “The Red Shoes.” Therefore, when this ‘nasty’ psychological thriller called “Peeping Tom” was released it came as a shock to both the critics and the public that this film was directed by Michael Powell. Reaction from the media and the public was so hostile, (the London Tribune said “The only really satisfactory way to dispose of ‘Peeping Tom’ would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the sewer, even then the stench would remain”), the film was pulled from movie theaters in Britain quickly. When the film was released in the U.S. in May of 1962, it was a sliced and diced aborted version that did little business and died a quick death. Powell’s career was all but ruined. He managed to make a few more films, in Australia, which included “Age of Consent” with James Mason and a young Helen Mirren, but for all intent Powell’s career was ruined and pretty much over. Continue reading