Michael Powell - Peeping Tom (1960), 6/10

The initial controversy of Peeping Tom is not surprising but its notoriety was perhaps worsened by the film achieving of its own goals. The child of Powell along with Leo Marks, cryptographer during World War II, the film explores many topics but primarily focuses on the consequences of a sympathetic murderer suffering from childhood trauma. This trauma, showcased early in the film, creates an uncomfortable bond between audience and subject, another reason fueling the hatred from reviewers who are directly coerced and therefore attacked by the film’s events. The story sought to exhibit a psychotic voyeur who is simultaneously sympathetic, and Böhm accomplishes this by finding the character sympathetic himself and playing the character through his own genuine sympathy. The visuals are expertly presented, hosting some creatively presented sequences and several moments of seriously thrilling suspense, again stemming from our sympathies for Mark’s character. Techniques sometimes fight beyond their weight, appearing very successful when they might not for these same reasons. Mark’s character is an early cinematic mixture of deplorable murderer and charmingly sympathetic juvenile, but the scales sway towards his hideous side because of his “unsupportable tensions” as Marks calls them. The suspense is only affecting because of our ties to Mark but the conclusion of the story has a very different impact because of this same phenomenon. The inception of the film forming a blend of Edgar Alan Poe, Psychoanalysis, horror, and real trauma is again unsurprising but effective in the end. Powell’s incorporation of himself and his family adds a layer of unease but says even more about his introspective interpretation of the script delivered to the screen. This British sister film to Psycho is successful in all of its aims, only inhibited by its technical limitations and a scattering of less than primally effective narrative sequences.