- Production stills gallery
- Channel 4 U.K. documentary A Very British Psycho directed by Chris Rodley
Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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A frank exploration of voyeurism and violence, Michael Powell's extraordinary film is the story of a psychopathic cameraman-his childhood traumas, sexual crises, and murderous revenge as an adult. Reviled by critics upon its initial release for its deeply unsettling subject matter, the film has since been hailed as a masterpiece.
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The film is bathed in 60's Technicolor, and Criterion's got this one looking delicious. It's as if Michael Powell wanted all the colors as pronounced and accentuated as possible, to give each aspect of each shot the ability to stand on its own. The sound is no different from any other movie of that era, and the piano score by Gordon Watson weaves in and out of the poignant "attack" music to the classic "crashing" chords after it's all over....almost a cliché in the horror/slasher genre.
That said, however, "Peeping Tom" is not a bloody film. In fact, there's very little carnage shown. Like "The Silence Of The Lambs", it's more of a psychological "profiler"-type film. What makes Mark Lewis do the things he does? That much is made clear to us when we view the movies he presents to Anna Massey in his upstairs screening room: he's been the lifelong subject of his father's experiments on the human reaction to fear. Even though his father is deceased, he still feels the desire to carry on his father's work. But he takes it a step further when he begins committing fetishistic homicide, developing his "snuff" films for his own enjoyment.
By today's standard's, "Peeping Tom" is no longer the travesty it was branded in 1960. Many movies since have followed the groundwork Powell laid, and have gone far deeper into the deeply disturbing tunnel of psychomania and murder. However, there are elements present in "Peeping Tom" which never go out of style and never get old.....those elements which, when mixed, form a spine-chilling concoction that doesn't quickly dissipate.
About the DVD: accompanying the movie is an audio essay by film theorist Laura Mulvey, in which she hyperanalyzes and maps out each section of the movie, the inside jokes (one of the early scenes shows a renowned British actor, known for playing stately roles, as a purchaser of pornography), etc. Also included is a fascinating Channel 4 UK documentary providing insight on the life of screenwriter Leo Marks. This program shows the evolution of the story of "Peeping Tom", reaching back to Marks' days in the war as a code breaker. The documentary also features appearances by Karl Boehm, Anna Massey, Columba Powell and others, as well as past-and-present journalists and film critics.
"Peeping Tom" is not for everyone. If you're into films about film, "PT" presents an interesting and risqué slant on the topic. If you're into blood and guts, you'll have to use your imagination on this one (though it wouldn't be hard....). But if you're into chilling, thought-provoking psychodrama presented in 60's Technicolor, "Peeping Tom" is one to check out.