Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom': the film that killed a career Half a century ago, in the early months of 1. Michael Powell enjoyed a reputation as one of Britain’s most respected and beloved filmmakers. Under the aegis of their production company The Archers, he and Emeric Pressburger made some 1.
To help make ends meet, Mark lets part of the house out, one of his tenants being Helen Stephens, a sweet young woman who befriends him out of pity.
British film history: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Powell split from Pressburger in 1. Peeping Tom ranks alongside David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate as a film that caused a disastrous setback to its director’s career. Its lead character, Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), works as a focus puller with a film crew, and in his spare time is an amateur filmmaker.
But he has a compulsion to murder women; he stabs them with a knife concealed in the tripod of his camera, and derives his kicks from filming the horrified expressions on their faces as they come to realise their fate. It gradually becomes apparent that, as a child, he was subjected to horrific, terrifying experiments in fear by his stern psychologist father. The Observer’s Caroline (CA) Lejeune pulled no punches: “It’s a long time since a film disgusted me as much as Peeping Tom.” This was a serious reverse – Lejeune had long been a champion of Powell’s work. Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times complained that Peeping Tom was “essentially vicious”. No one else stepped forward in Powell’s defence. The subject matter was disturbing, of course, yet other factors about Peeping Tom made it even more controversial. Powell himself played the father, and cast his own son Columba, then aged nine, as young Mark.
After murdering her, Mark stuffs her body into a props trunk. Critics and the public reacted with more shock and distaste to such themes; simply, the times were different. Yet they were also changing. Across the Atlantic, another British- born filmmaker was also suffering a critical backlash for a psychological horror thriller in which a woman meets a grisly fate. In Britain, the film opened in August 1.
CA Lejeune, perhaps seeing which way cultural winds were blowing, reportedly walked out before the end and promptly tendered her resignation from film criticism. He made half a dozen more films – a couple in Australia, one in Germany – but his glory days were over. His autobiography, stretching to more than 7.
The very title offers a hint: it’s a slang term for a voyeur, but who does it describe? Or maybe the audience watching it? Is there are a part of you that secretly enjoys the carnage being served up for your entertainment?
And, if so, who exactly is the voyeur here? He has remarked: “I have always felt that Peeping Tom and .
Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates.” Scorsese and other Powell admirers found an intact print of Peeping Tom, restored it and had it re- released in 1. Its re- appraisal had begun. Meanwhile, Powell became a member of Scorsese’s circle, and in 1. Scorsese’s long- time editor Thelma Schoonmaker. It is now regarded as a key film in British cinema history and one of the greatest horror movies of all time. If in some afterlife conversation is permitted, I shall think it my duty to seek out Michael Powell and apologise.” 'Peeping Tom: 5.
Anniversary’ will be released on DVD by Optimum on Oct 2.
Peeping Tom est une expression anglaise signifiant « voyeur », trouvant son origine dans la l.