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Reviews
Rating 9

Peeping Tom

April 30, 1999
by Dan Lybarger
Originally appeared in Pitch Weekly.

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In 1960, the British thriller Peeping Tom, about a psychotic cameraman named Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) who shoots film of himself killing people, opened to vitriolic reviews. One commentator said, "The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer. Even then, the stench would remain."

Anna Massey and Carl Boehm in Peeping Tom
Anna Massey and Carl Boehm in Peeping Tom.
1999 Rialto Pictures., used by permission.


One of the film's stars, Moira Shearer, still dismisses it. The hated film effectively ended the career of its director, Michael Powell (The Red Shoes). But maybe Powell did something right. Peeping Tom is as creepy as The Red Shoes is enchanting. Whereas many current films on voyeurism and violence (like Eight Millimeter) sweeten their titillation with sanctimonious moralizing, Peeping Tom has the audacity to assume that its audience knows better than to imitate its protagonist. Boehm's central performance is mesmerizing. While he is intimidating, Boehm makes Mark even more frightening by making him human. As the film progresses, his sick obsessions become more understandable and seductive. While there is no gore to speak of, the film remains unsettling because of what it says about Mark and ourselves. (N/R)

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