Peeping Tom has quite a history, of course. Famously reviled upon its release, it became almost impossible for its legendary director Michael Powell (Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death) to ever work 'pon these shores again. Yep, people really disliked it.

Now of course, its rightly hailed as a classic by the like of Scorsese. And me. For Peeping Tom is a complex, nasty little piece of work that really does get under your skin. This is in no small part due to Karlheinz Bohm's portrayal of Mark, The Peeping Tom of the title, who has serious issues. Like the fact that his father used to manipulate his levels of fright and fear and film them for posterity. This is not the kind of thing you'll ever read about in good parenting manuals. And with good reason, because it certainly didn't helped Mark become a fully rounded adult.

In fact, he's far from fully rounded. Think Frank Spencer crossed with Norman Bates. With a German accent. Doesn't get much frightening than that does it?

"Muzzer! Blood! Blood!"

Throughout Peeping Tom we, the audience, are permitted to follow Mark on his murderous excursions, which are filmed first hand for his 'masterpiece'. By doing so, the movie asks questions about screen violence and the audience role as voyeur, that seem to be more pertinent now (with beheadings free to download for all) than ever before.

Peeping Tom was promptly branded as 'sick' and 'vile' upon its release, and shelved after a limited run. And it wasn't until almost 20 years later that it was rescued by a new wave of film-makers, Scorsese included. Unfortunately, a lot of previously cut material is now lost forever. Yet Patch Adams remains available in its entirety. go figure.


  1. Michael Powell is one of my favorite directors, and people who like Peeping Tom might also like Black Narcissus from 1947, a proto-nunsploitation picture with an excellent psycho performance by Kathleen Byron. Brian de Palma's Raising Cain is to a large extent a riff on Peeping Tom and pretty good in its own right.

  2. Nice piece. 'Peeping Tom' is a gem.