Infamous Horror Thriller Ended Director’s Career, Gets Incredible New Upgrade

By Brian Myers | Published

The 1960 film that marked the end of a British film director’s storied career is being released with a 4K upgrade and a remastered soundtrack. Peeping Tom, though considered a masterpiece by many film critics today, so shocked audiences when it was first released more than 60 years ago that it barely grossed box office receipts over the production budget. In an era that included cinema violence from directors like Alfred Hitchcock, whose film Psycho was released within months of Peeping Tom, what could have made this movie so controversial that director Michael Powell was essentially blacklisted from the industry?

Peeping Tom Pushed The Envelope

Peeping Tom centers around mild-mannered Mark Lewis, a member of a London film crew. A shy young man, Lewis lives alone in the house his late father left him and aspires to one day be a filmmaker. In the meantime, Lewis gets side work taking softcore pornographic photos and videos of young women, selling them underground.

First Person Perspective Serial Killing

Lewis seems to always have his camera running, and part of the film is shown through this lens. When Lewis follows a sex worker back to her apartment and murders her, her grisly death is seen by viewers from this perspective. It quickly becomes apparent that Lewis is a budding serial murderer, whose constant stalking and filming of his unsuspecting prey gives the film Peeping Tom its name.

Graphic Violence Shocked Audiences

The film’s graphic depiction of violence toward women from a first-person perspective was quite unsettling for moviegoers in 1960, leading to Powell struggling to find work in its aftermath. The number of film credits to his name severely dwindled after Peeping Tom was released, with just a handful of television and films being attributed to the once well-respected director.

Re-Release Includes Amazing Extras

The Criterion Collection release of Peeping Tom is not only a 4K upgrade but comes with a ton of extras that fans will appreciate. Included is an introduction to the film by Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, an interview with the film’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and two separate audio commentaries. One commentary is from film historian Laura Mulvey, while the other one features film historian Ian Christie.

A Making Of Documentary

But there’s so much more. This two-disc set also contains a documentary about the making of Peeping Tom, which includes an interview with the film’s star Carl Boehm. The original theatrical trailer for the film is also available to watch, as is an entire program that covers the 1960 film’s restoration.

Forgotten Piece Of Horror History

Peeping Tom stars Carl Boehm in the role of killer Mark Lewis, Anna Massey as Helen Stephens, Moira Shearer as Vivian, and Maxine Audley as Mrs. Stephens. Screenwriter Leo Marks penned the script, which was based on his original story. The film’s chilling score was written by Brian Easdale.

Recognized As A Historical Achievement

Though Powell, who died in 1990, didn’t live to see it, Peeping Tom was finally recognized in his native Britain as a worthy film. The Guardian awarded the film by listing it in The Guardian’s Best Films in 2010, giving Powell the posthumous accolades for his horror masterpiece that evaded him during his career.

Sources: The Criterion Collection