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Orange County Register (10/Jul/1992) - 'Peeping Tom' more disturbing than 'Psycho'



'Peeping Tom' more disturbing than 'Psycho'

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock made "Psycho" and suddenly horror movies would never be the same. The movie was a sensation.

The same year, another of Britain's most respected filmmakers, Michael Powell, released a somewhat similar movie about an introverted young man who becomes a serial killer. It was called "Peeping Tom."

In England, the press and public were outraged. 'Psycho" was greeted with a fair amount of critical disdain at the time, too, but nothing like the hostility that greeted Powell's film.

When released (barely) in US grind houses two years later, "Peeping Tom" was trimmed by several minutes to tone down its unsavory themes. The full cut of the picture was not available here until the 1979 New York Film Festival, when director Martin Scorsese took it upon himself to bankroll the restoration and rerelease of what he and many others now regard as one of the late Sir Michael Powell's greatest masterpieces.

Like "Psycho," "Peeping Tom" is a rather seedy walk on the psycho-sexual dark side. So it isn't exactly a pleasurable experience, but it's a terrific thriller — and a provocative movie about movies that explores the potent connections between sex and voyeurism.

As Danny Peary noted in his book "Cult Movies," "Peeping Tom" is "a fascinating film that was too far ahead of its time to be appreciated by the British in 1960. . . . It is full of cinema in-jokes, 'looks' more like a 'cult film' than any cult film around, and raises some interesting questions about the nature of film-goers and filmmakers. It's unique and a great subject for an argument. And it's part of film history."

"Peeping Tom" (1960) Stars: Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley Behind the scenes: Directed by Michael Powell, screenplay by Leo Marks Memorable moment: The startling opening image of an eye, followed by the filmed murder of a prostitute Detail: Powell himself plays the title character's sadistic father, who used his young son as a subject for cruel experiments and photographed them for a documentary.