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Peeping Tom (1960)

Mark is a bit of a dodgy geezer, and no mistake, with a passing resemblance to a 50s Jamie Oliver (rides around on a scooter, bit of a dickhead). He works as a cameraman for a film studio, and at night time takes dodgy pictures for a newsagent-cum-pornographer. As his evening boss tells him, people like "magazines with girls on the front covers and no front covers on the girls". That's about as saucy as you could get in 1959...

The opening scene sees a prostitute being approached by a punter (£2? Obviously these were the days when you could have a night out, down a few beers, shag and brutally murder a prostitute and still have change for the taxi home out of a fiver. Ah, happy days...) who proceeds to kill her. No pleasing some people. The murderer is Mark, who film the whole proceedings, enlivening his "snuff" movie with scenes of before and after as well as the dirty deed itself.

Mark lives in a big old house, which he lets out to a variety of people. One of his tenants is a mousy young gal called Helen who, against all sane reasoning, takes more than a shine to our "hero" (he's quite clearly a mentalist). In order to impress his new bird, he shows her film of him as a young boy, being terrified by his unseen father as part of an ongoing series of experiments (never fails to get 'em in the sack, that approach). The film includes young Mark being woken up in the middle of the night by having light shone in his eyes, having lizards chucked at him, "saying goodbye... to mother" (at her funeral) and being given a present of a camera(?). As the film runs, Mark photographs Helen's reaction to the film.

"He wanted a record of a growing child... complete. I never knew... one moment's privacy."

Mark tells Helen he was "one big experiment in fear". "I think he learned a lot from me..."

Far from running screaming from the room, the girl falls for our nutter. Women, eh? They're strange cattle and no mistake.

Mark (who works in a film studio during the day, remember?) then picks up an aspiring starlet for a bit of extra "film work". Frankly, after her "warm-up routine", the silly cow deserves everything she gets. Which is to be stabbed through the throat by the sharpened end of Mark's camera tripod.

He secretes the body on the film set, and then films it's discovery later on. By now, of course, the police have cottoned on that there's a serial killer at work - each victim has a particular look of fear on their face.

Of course, there's a lot of psychological bollocks going on here... I could go on all day about the object of the gaze, the significance of the camera etc, but that's not what this site's about. At one point Helen kisses Mark, and he kisses his camera. At another she forces him to go out for the evening without his ever-present camera, and he actually appears normal. And Mark can't kill Helen's alcoholic and overbearing mother, because she's blind and she can't see what he's up to - hence no look of fear (which is what he's after). All very clever, I'm sure (yawn).

Finally, the police close in. Mark offs another model, and eventually confesses to Helen how he has made people watch their own deaths, using a large mirror attached to the camera. Finally, the fruitcake plunges the spike into his own throat, camera flashes popping off and cine camera whirring, filming the look on his own face as he dies and completeing the work his father started...

This is the film that started it all... a taut thriller, intelligent psycho drama and very sick little puppy indeed, which understandably caused outrage when it was first released and probably knackered more than a few people's careers before they'd even started. Seek it out, and see what all the fuss is about.

Director: Michael Powell Writer(s): Leo Marks

Cast: Karlheinz Böhm - Mark Lewis (as Carl Boehm), Moira Shearer - Vivian, Anna Massey - Helen Stephens, Maxine Audley - Mrs. Stephens, Brenda Bruce - Dora, Miles Malleson - Elderly Gentleman, Esmond Knight - Arthur Baden, Martin Miller - Doctor Rosan, Bartlett Mullins - Mr. Peters, News Agent Shop Owner, Michael Goodliffe - Don Jarvis, Jack Watson - Chief Inspector Gregg, Nigel Davenport - Detective Sergeant Miller, Shirley Ann Field - Diane Ashley, Pamela Green - Milly, Model, Brian Wallace - Tony, Downstairs Lodger in Lewis' House, Susan Travers - Lorraine, Model, Maurice Durant - Publicity Chief, Brian Worth - Assistant Director, Veronica Hurst - Miss Simpson, Jarvis' Secretary, Alan Rolfe - Store Detective, John Dunbar - Police Doctor, Guy Kingsley Poynter - P. Tate the Cameraman, Keith Baxter - Detective Baxter, Peggy Thorpe-Bates - Mrs. Partridge, John Barrard - Small Man, Roland Curram - Young Man Extra, John Chappell - Clapper Boy, Michael Powell - A.N. Lewis, Mark's Father, Columba Powell - Mark as a Child, Paddy Edwardes - Girl Electrician, M. Le Compte - Lover in garden, Mme. Le Compte - Lover in garden, Peter Murray - Young Man embracing girl, Margaret Neal - Mark's Stepmother, Frankie Reidy - Mark's Mother on deathbed, Frank Singuineau - First Electrician

 

Last updated: February 25, 2010

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Sounds:

A crash course in 1950s pornography for Mark 31k

Mark: There... are some things... that I photograph for nothing 17k

Mark: You'll be safe as long as I can't see you're frightened... 18k

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All photos, posters, sounds and videos are reproduced in good faith with the sole intention of promoting these films. Why should I be the only one to suffer watching them? If any film makers feel particularly strongly about abuse of copyright on the site, they obviously haven't got anything better to do. You could try Watchdog, but frankly, I think they've got bigger fish to fry...