Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom (1960)

Prying on the Past

Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Bhm) seems a nice enough chap, especially to his downstairs neighbour Helen (Anna Massey) who likes him quite a bit but is a timid soul and so is unsure especially when she learns that Mark is actually her landlord as the house was the one he grew up in and inherited from his father. But Mark has a darker side as not only does he take risque photos for a shop to sell under the counter but he has an even darker secret as late at night he films women he meets and goes on to kill. All of this is down to his father experimenting on him as a young child and recording it all.

Michael Powell directed around 60 movies during his career and some of those were astonishing movies with a stunning style but some despite that style were a miss rather than a hit. That is my issue with "Peeping Tom" as once again Powell has delivered a movie full of impressively constructed shots such as when we see Mark's eyes through a spinning film reel but the actual storyline didn't do it for me and found it hard to associate with a single character.

Moira Shearer in Peeping Tom (1960)

That seems to be the key to "Peeping Tom" as those reviewers who praise the movie seem to have felt some sort of connection to the characters and so felt part of what was going on in the movie. But without that connection what we have is a disturbed young man taking his psychological problems out on women whilst feeling conflicted because he actually feels something for Helen. It makes it very ordinary and no matter how nice the framing is of a shot and the use of light to create a weird visual look it doesn't make the storyline work and connect with the audience.

Unfortunately the acting didn't do it for me either and whilst Karlheinz Bhm's eyes have a piercing quality his performance was too stiff even for a character who is suppose to be awkward. Other performances including those of Moira Shearer and Anna Massey end up over the top which makes them jar and causes "peeping Tom" to feel like a collection of individual performances.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Peeping Tom" has a really good look the actual storyline and performances don't work for me and it ends up a movie which kept me at arms length the entire time. Maybe back in 1960 the subject of the movie made it more interesting but now 55 years later "Peeping Tom" is more of a movie to savour for its visuals more than anything.