Arlecchino Cinema > 18:15


Michael Powell


Thursday 27/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

I always felt that Peeping Tom and Fellini’s are the two great films that deal with the philosophy and the danger of filmmaking.

Martin Scorsese

Peeping Tom was one of a series of low-budget “horror films” financed by Anglo-Amalgamated in the wake of Hammer’s success with their Quatermass, Frankenstein and Dracula titles between 1957 and 1960. These had already provoked an outcry from the guardians of public morality, who were inclined to link them with the menace of American horror comics and rock’n’roll, in a lament for the passing of traditional English popular culture…
Powell seems genuinely to have been taken aback by the reception of Peeping Tom, believing perhaps that its humour and avoidance of overt titillation would either distract from or sanction its profoundly shocking premise. The film’s myriad pointed jokes and references, however, went unremarked in the storm of outrage that it unleashed with allegations of “sickness”, “morbidity” and “perversion” running through all the reviews (arts and entertainment reviews, that is; the trade press comment was almost uniformly favourable)…
Much of the scandalised reaction can no doubt be attributed to the film’s disturbing authenticity. Unlike its immediate forerunners in the Anglo-Amalgamated cycle, Horrors of the Black Museum and Circus of Horrors, Peeping Tom is rooted in recognisable, contemporary London locations. The newsagent who employs Mark to photograph his “art studies”, for the benefit of respectable customers such as the man played by Miles Malleson, is the acceptable face of a vast unacknowledged industry catering to the “scopophilia” that is a condition of our society. Similarly, Powell, broke the unspoken rules when he cast the charming mild-mannered Carl Boehm (son of the famous German conductor Karl Boehm) as Mark, the shy psychopath who combines his job as a film studio focus-puller with a perverse extracurricular passion to film the mortal fear of his chosen victims. The connection between “normal cinema”, satirised mercilessly in the scenes where Mark is working on a routine thriller, The Walls Are Closing In, and his “secret cinema” become all too apparent: before the screen we are all voyeurs.

Ian Christie, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger: Arrows of Desire, Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián/Filmoteca Española, San Sebastián-Madrid 2002

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Leo Marks. F.: Otto Heller. M.: Noreen Ackland. Scgf.: Arthur Lawson. Mus.: Brian Easdale. Int.: Carl Boehm (Mark Lewis), Moira Shearer (Vivian), Anna Massey (Helen Stephens), Maxine Audley (signora Stephens), Brenda Bruce (Dora), Esmond Knight (Arthur Baden), Martin Miller (dottor Rosan), Michael Goodliffe (Don Jarvis), Jack Watson (ispettore Gregg), Shirley Ann Field (Diane Ashley). Prod.: Michael Powell per Michael Powell (Theatre) Ltd. DCP. D.: 101’.