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Peeping Tom (1960)

By Ian Grey | Posted

Mark (Karlheinz Böhm) is a soft-spoken, likable lad. When not assisting in the production of "real" movies, he shoots soft-core porn. He's also shooting a 16mm film highlighted by moments when he whips out his knife-tipped tripod and stabs young women. But then a comely lodger named Vivian (Moira Shearer) befriends him, and he shares the motivation for his psychosis and his filmmaking: His scientist father (played by director Michael Powell in a series of film-within-a-film clips) recorded every second of Mark's life--including some special moments, like when Dad dropped a lizard on the sleeping boy. Dad, you see, was making a magnum opus on the nature of fear. And now so is Mark. And, of course, so is Powell. Mordantly witty ("All this filming is unhealthy!" opines Vivian's blind mother) and incredibly tender, Peeping Tom is a passionate investigation into the deal we all strike with our fantasies as we hunker down in a dark room for some "entertainment." Critics were somewhat displeased by Powell's trashing of the traditional roles of filmmaker and viewer. ("Salacious . . . appallingly masochistic . . . wholly evil," sniffed The Daily Worker), leading to an abrupt downturn in director Powell's (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes) storied career. Which only underscored, with brackish irony, the validity of the points made in this sui generis classic.

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