Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Michael Powell.
Starring Carl Boehm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley.
UK 1960 101 mins Certificate: 15.


Released by Studio Canal on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on January 29th, 2024.


It began with a Freudian script by Poe fan, playwright and cryptographer Leo Marks, who considered his role as a (famous) WWII codebreaker a highly voyeuristic one. It was such a personal project for director Michael Powell that he cast himself and his son as (abusive) father and (disturbed) child. It was famously condemned by critics of the time: Sight & Sound’s Derek Hill likened it to concentration camp atrocities, while, in 1994, Dilys Powell boldly admitted it was a masterpiece, reversing the hatred she expressed decades earlier.


PEEPING TOM is almost at pension age and Studio Canal’s new restoration is accompanied by the obligatory warning of historical, potentially outdated / offensive attitudes. This misses the point of its relevance and power to disturb in any era. We’re implicated in the brutal murders perpetrated by a boyishly handsome, sympathetic serial killer from the start. Mark (Carl Boehm), whose eye is the film’s first image, grew up in a deeply dysfunctional family home and, as an adult, his obsession with cinema is fulfilled by filming the dying moments of the women he kills. Like PSYCHO, released just months later, its influence on modern horror is endless (not least the various subjective-killer shots), though few imitators have matched its wit, depth or impact.


Resurrected and restored by Martin Scorsese in the late 1970s, it has enjoyed assorted home video releases and TV showings over the decades, but this release towers above all. Scanned in 4K from the original 35mm Eastmancolor negative, it looks astonishingly good. Powell’s specific use of garish primary colours (particularly reds), his specific lighting of the murder scenes and the darkroom sequence have never been so arresting. In the new featurette “Restoring Peeping Tom”, we get to see the huge amount work undertaken in both the U.K. and U.S., painstakingly removing dirt, scratches, etc. while making every effort to capture PEEPING TOM as Powell intended. The importance of Scorsese’s long term editor – and Powell’s widow – Thelma Schoonmaker is highlighted.


There’s a treasure trove of other, new and archival features. Rhianna Dhillon and Anna Bogutskaya’s “Take Me to Your Cinema” is a lively discussion of its critical response, its influence on serial killer cinema and Mark’s characterisation. 2005’s “Eye of the Beholder” has valuable commentary about its making and Powell’s career from Scorsese, Schoonmaker and the late Carl Boehm, while Ian Christie’s commentary covers all facets of its conception, production and release. The standout is Christopher Frayling’s typically erudite, half-hour “Visions of Voyeurism”, positioning PEEPING TOM in the context of its director’s solo efforts, the rise of Hammer and other films fixated on voyeurism. Most importantly, Frayling passionately conveys how this once-reviled picture is also remarkably humane and moving.


Steven West.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans