Peeping Tom

15 4K UHD, Blu-ray

There is a theory that has long been established, one that has been thoroughly explored in cinema, and continues to be so, and that is the exploration of the male gaze: it’s one that takes the point of view of the male, who looks upon the female as a sexual object.

One of the most notorious examples of this in film is Michael Powell’s 1960 controversial Peeping Tom, that not only embraces the male gaze throughout, but weaponizes it.

boom reviews Peeping Tom
So these next scenes are on the saucy side...

Living in a nice shared property in London is Mark (Carl Boehm). He’s a focus puller at a film studio, but likes to shoot his own films in his own time.

His films aren’t exactly commercial, as he often films women who are scantily clad. But for Mark, it doesn’t stop there, as his desire isn’t in aesthetics, but in the fear they show when he does what he has to do them.

One of the women in his building is a young woman by the name of Helen (Anna Massey). She’s intrigued by her neighbour, and slowly but surely they become friends, but little does she know of this darker, despicable side of Mark, that only his victims get to see.

boom reviews  Peeping Tom
Now Mrs brown, I've told you we're only taking a picture of the tooth that needs a crown.

There was such a backlash towards this film on its release in the UK, that it effectively ended the career of its director on home soil. And this from the man that had incredible success with films such as 1946’s A Matter of Life and Death, 1947’s Black Narcissus and 1948’s The Red Shoes, that cemented his partnership with Emeric Pressburger, making them a powerhouse film duo of the time.

It has taken some time, but the film has eventually become recognised as a cult classic. This is a film, after all, that was exploring themes in such a dark and sinister way, that they had never been seen on film ever before.

And even to this day it remains a strangely fascinating and troubling viewing experience.

There is certainly no getting away from the voyeurism, which the film displays with an almost perverse pleasure throughout. But it’s not the only theme.

Powell is also keen to explore the father and son relationship, as we soon realise it is exactly that that has made Mark the monster he has become. Every action he takes is a direct outcome from his difficult relationship with his father, who treated his son as a science experiment, almost acting as the origins of a super villain, when all Mark wanted was love.

This 4K restoration is mightily impressive, making the curious colour palette that Powell chose even more vivid and impactful.

It’s almost a backhanded compliment to suggest that the film was years ahead of its time, considering its dark, adult themes, and yet Peeping Tom is a remarkable piece of cinema even now, remaining the cinematic definition of voyeurism in all its sordid glory.

we give this four out of five