It rarely peeped into anything after that. This movie is considered to be both Powell’s beginning and end to finding himself in cinema wizardry.
This is why.
Sadly ,this movie is so ahead of its time and sense that it got severely boo-ed from the theatres and into sickening dark corners of movie libraries ,where , Psycho was in the limelight and frequently borrowed for aesthetic references.
Powell subsided himself from creating anything drastic after that. It is no doubt that Psycho was a cinematic genius.
But it gets interesting when it is known that Scorsese was one of the well known,very few admirers of Powell’s work.
The early 60s paved way to great asthetic knowledge of lights and montage cinema from both Hitchcock and Powell.
Peeping Tom was reacted with such disgust since it suggested looking rather than mere watching/seeing.
Scopophilic Macabre Voyeurism.
Mark Lewis is a shy photographer who is working to become a director some day. But as a hobby he takes pictures of hookers on top of an agent store, which sell these pictures to people for penis pleasure.
One day in his own house,he meets Helen who lives downstairs (he lets out rooms)with her mom on her 21st birthday and she nearly meets him, his heart and his deranged mind.
Mark’s dad (played by Powell) was a brilliant man.
A scientist who studied the faces of fear.
He was amidst a study of the nervous system and its stimuli for fear.He used his own son as a subject and recorded his reactions for shocks.. Such as waking him up from sleep by flasing light on him, throwing a lizard on bed etc.
Mark’s childhood miseries were recorded and voyeured to every minute sensory detail. But he is soon obssessed with the camera ,his dad gift’s him.
Its an inane part of him now.
A tool to help him continue what his dad had seen and studied.
He studies the faces of fear by killing people while simultaneously recording their faces . (He has a knife/sharp-end arrangement at the foot of his tripod)
Powell achieved intangibilty by making the audience see what he saw and this is real psyche study he has done.
It was groundbreaking and literally made people sick not for his implied murder scenes, but making the audience enter Mark’s head and vision. Implying horror might be easy , but implying the audience into a part of a sick voyeur is ingenius.
There is a scene where Helen sees what Mark has been doing . For all this while, the camera which had been telling us a story via the screen in Mark’s room ,turns a complete curve and fetches the face of the horrorstruck Helen. We are/become Mark for that instant and witness pure horror.
The movie crosses the boundary of aesthetic rules ,and mere implications and suggestions have become a brute reality.
Peeping Tom achieves the unachievable.
Mark’s dark screening room where he sits and watches his movies is similar to the dark theatre where we sit and watch.
Films are repeated acts of perspective shifts .
Theater is the dark place where we voyuer on the people we see, we hear and listen .
We are quiet while we witness it.
Now ,even though all this was not recognised in his time ,it was repeatedly and passionately tried to revive by Scorsese.
He remastered and re-released some of Powell’s earlier lost works. Scorsese’s editor Thelma Schoonmaker (won 3 oscars) who later fell in love with him and his work , was married to him till his death.
Scorsese was/is also one of those who believe that film-making is a violent practice and that photographing someone is like taking a part of that someone’s soul.
That is why ,he makes movies as though his life depends on it. In his commentary in Goodfellas Blue ray , Thelma Schoonmaker the editor says that Marty used to worry so much about each and every thing that he rarely used to sleep.
Both in Roger Ebert’s book about Scorsese and in James Lipton’s guest in the show Inside the Actor’s Studio, he was questioned about his deep involvements in his projects physically , mentally and psychologically and Scorsese was seen quietly nodding with guilty acceptance.
This is where Peeping Tom transcends in to more than just film
No wonder why his movies release such energy. and Michael Powell was his infamous idol.
So if anyone is interested in how he managed to paint the roads of the Taxi Driver or from where he learnt his lighting tricks in Mean Streets,
Peeping Tom is your source.
“Whatever I photograph, I always lose.”