From Michael Powell, the acclaimed director of A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes, Peeping Tom was, upon its release, one of the most controversial films ever made in Britain – a masterpiece of psychological terror.
By day, Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Böhm) works as a modest focus-puller in a film studio. But he also shoots glamour photographs for a seedy Soho newsagent, and by night he seeks victims for his most gruesome obsession – filming the face of mortal fear, moments before death. Written by British cryptographer and playwright Leo Marks, Peeping Tom also stars Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Shirley Anne Field, real-life Glamour Queen Pamela Green and Michael Powell’s son Columba as the young Mark. The film was shot by celebrated Director of Photography Otto Heller (The Queen of Spades, The Ladykillers, Victim).
Peeping Tom was originally released in 1960, shortly before Hitchcock’s equally shocking Psycho, and provoked British critics to a fury of disgust at its sympathetic portrayal of a serial killer and Powell’s revolutionary use of filmmaking to explore the voyeuristic nature of cinema. Powell’s career never recovered from the scandal. But twenty years later, Peeping Tom was hailed as a misunderstood masterpiece – thanks to the efforts of filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, who submitted the film to the New York Film Festival in 1979 and helped finance a US re-release, allowing it to be rediscovered by a new audience. Today its wit, beauty and power see it rightly celebrated as a classic.
Written by Leo Marks