Peeping Tom (15)

Starring: Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey
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The Independent Culture

Critically mauled on its release 50 years ago, Michael Powell's chilling study in torture stands as the fully achieved work of art it always was. I still recall the dread Peeping Tom inspired when I first saw it on TV, much as Psycho, another film of 1960, did.

Perhaps there was something in the air... Whereas Norman Bates was in disastrous thrall to his mother, Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) suffered as the tormented subject of his behavioural-scientist father. "You're a puzzle and a half," says one of the dolly-birds he photographs for a moonlighting pornographer.

Now a focus-puller on a film crew, Mark pursues his own obsession with fear by skewering women with a tripod dagger and capturing on film the moment of their murder. Boehm, practically unheard of since, is affecting as the nervous stalker, and Anna Massey is excellent, too, as the girl downstairs who sees a vulnerable soul beneath the psychotic damage. Was it that inkling of humanity inside a killer that so disgusted critics at the time? Powell pushed provocation to another level, and in its cold, unsparing gaze, his psycho-shocker offered a commentary not just on mania and illness but on filmmaking itself.