Friday, March 11, 2011

365. Peeping Tom (1960)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Michael Powell
Written By: Leo Marks
Main Cast: Carl Boehm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley, Brenda Bruce


Well for the conclusion of "Powell and Pressburger Week" we drop Emeric Pressburger and take a look at a film that Michael Powell tackled on his own. It was a turn for Powell, from his normally much more tame and innocent movies and delved into the world of murder, lust and fear.

The film opens with our main character, a man we later identify as Mark Lewis (Boehm), murdering a prostitute and using his handheld camera to film her as she takes her dying breath to scream. The entire scene is shot P.O.V. and was actually quite effective in roping me in and getting me ready for something very un-Powell. Later we finally see the face of our predator and we learn that he is a photographer/cameraman. He has many different irons on the fire. Sometimes he goes to the local newspaper shop and photographs lurid pictures of models for the owner of the shop to sell in his store. In fact, one of the best scenes in the film is that of a man purchasing racy photos and having them wrapped in a package marked "educational books". When Mark isn't being an amateur Playboy photographer, he works on the film crew of a movie that is being shot, in hopes of one day being a filmmaker himself. Mark lives in a house that he owns and leases out the extra rooms. One day our shy predator is forced into striking up a conversation with one of his neighbors/tenants Helen (Massey) and as the film progresses Mark becomes attached to her. Mark continues to film many different things - from the women he murders, to the police that carry away his victims.


I didn't like it! Sorry for being so blunt, but there's no use skipping around the facts. But don't worry, I can back up my opinion.

After seeing five movies that Michael Powell and his partner Emeric Pressburger did together and coming to the realization that these were men who made innocent films, that appealed to a very mature, classy and tame audience, I was really caught off guard when the opening scene of "Peeping Tom" showed a street straight out of "Nighthawks" and a prostitute about to get offed. I was excited, because in all of the P&P films there did lie an element of intrigue for me and in my mind, this was going to be the one that really made me realize what a visionary Michael Powell really was. I was, unfortunately, wrong. This movie was just a bunch of scenes thrown together and there really didn't seem to be any concept of linear storytelling. Not that the film wasn't straightforward, it just seemed to me like there were so many scenes that were just thrown in and made absolutely no sense. Take for instance, the VERY long scene where Moira Shearer dances around a cluttered movie set, alone in a dark room with Mark. It just seemed like a cheap way to write a part in for Moira and while I have no objections to watching the very beautiful Moira Shearer dance, it just seemed so out of place.

Then you have things that just don't make sense on a sense making level. Helen Stephens finds Mark peeping through her living room window and she responds by delivering a piece of her birthday cake to his door. Really? I mean, it just doesn't make sense. She should be frightened of Mark, because she has noticed him peeping at her and though she tries to communicate with him, he seems the type of character who would never allow her to get close to him, let alone allow her into his beloved dark room. Then you have Mark going from a film set to a newspaper shop and doing all these different things and then we get his back story, which is seemingly an effort to garner sympathy for Mark, but it didn't work with me. Mark was entirely too quiet too. I want a movie murderer like the guy in "Frenzy" who worked at the fruit market. It was so frustrating hearing Carl Boehm deliver his lines in a very halting, quiet tone. Anna Massey was annoying too and she seems to be the one that gets through to Mark the most. Honestly the character who finally breaks through Mark's wall should have been far less annoying.

Ultimately, the entire film was way too chaotic and random and unenjoyable. I think there was definite potential and if I had a chance to put in my input, I would've wished Powell would have kept it more simple. Mark kills women and films their dying reactions. That's all you need. Why does he do this? Because he's a sexual predator/pervert who gets off on such things. Don't give me all this mumbo jumbo about his father throwing lizards at him while he's in bed and shining flashlights in his eyes to wake him up. The character, in my opinion, should have been more perverse. I hate to sound like a total sicko, but a little more perversion on Mark's part, a little more nudity and a lot more P.O.V. shots would have given this movie the gritty feel that I felt it lacked big time. Don't get me wrong people, I don't NEED nudity in my films, but this was supposedly the first British film to feature nudity and so obviously Powell thought it was relevant too.

RATING: 3/10 A few scenes were good and it had all the potential in the world, but it was ultimately a MAJOR disappointment and a bad way to wrap up the week dedicated to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.


March 11, 2011 9:39pm

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