Peeping Tom (1960)

DVD Cover (Criterion Collection)
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Overall Rating 76%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,300
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Review by Crispy
Added: September 08, 2012
There's something special about a well-done psychological thriller. After all, there's very little in this world that's as disturbing as the twisted depravity the human mind is able to sink to.

A film studio camera man by profession, Mark Lewis also makes a little money on the side shooting smutty videos. In fact, his camera is on him at all times, and he films just about everything. You see, as Mark was growing up, his psychiatrist father would film him 24/7 while scaring the everliving shit out of the little tyke as part of his study on fear. Naturally, you can't do that to kids without royally fucking them up, and in Mark's case, he now spends his free time filming his murders. Nature vs. nurture indeed. Obviously, he lives a reclusive life watching all of his past nights of glory, until Helen, the cute little neighbor downstairs decides she's taken a fancy to the mysterious shy man.

Sure, the movie is about a serial killer, but the murders and ensuing investigation aren't really the forefront of the film. It's almost more of a character piece than anything else, delving into Mark's past and exploring what twisted him into the almost reluctant murderer he is today. And the addition of stable ground in the naive Helen is the perfect catalyst to launch the tension through the roof. You see, tension is the driving force that moves the film along. You know that Mark is the killer within the first five minute of the movie, yet Michael Powell sets up these scenes where Mark is alone with a woman and the viewer is holding their breath the whole time. It's beautiful technique, and it truly comes to a head when the little "gimmick" to his murders are revealed. Truth is, said gimmick is absolutely brilliant.

Peeping Tom isn't content to rely on just premise alone; the writing is great. Some screenwriters just have a knack for giving their characters great lines, and Leo Marks certainly seems to be one of them. Helen's mother in particular had some zingers, and no offense to Maxine Audley, but it was thanks to Marks that the character did so much in such a short amount of time.

Considering the way the movie is structured, it's obvious that the entirety of the movie rested on Carl Boehm's shoulders. Well, he absolutely excelled as Mark. He's a deranged man no doubt, but Boehm was able to add a whole new layer to him. You get the feeling that he's not exactly evil, but he broke under the strain of his father's torment, and somewhere deep down he knows what he's doing his wrong but he can't help himself. And kudos to all involved, Boehm was able to get all this and more across without the movie itself over-explaining the whole thing. Our other main star, Helen, was played by Anna Massey. Massey was, to be kind, not quite at Boehm's level. Had the character been more heavily featured in the movie, things could have turned out a lot worse. Fortunately, that wasn't the case.

I love gore and high kill counts as much as the next guy, but Peeping Tom excels on the power of sheer human depravity alone. It's a twisted little thriller, and I highly recommend it. 9/10.
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