Branded as "sick", "nasty", and "beastly" by major critics upon its 1960 release, "Peeping Tom" was consigned to a public dustbin of disdain, along with the career of director Michael Powell. These were rash and despicable responses to a film that is nothing of the kind. If those comments serve any purpose, it is to remind us that while some movies mature and improve over the years, film criticism sometimes doesn't date well.
This British serial killer picture came out in the same year as "Psycho", but it wasn't until it was re-released in 1979 (with the influence of such notables as Martin Scorsese) that it received due merit. Compared to other films being made in Britain at the time, this is an audacious, clinical, and ruthlessly frank thriller.
Carl Boehm plays a murderer who films women at the moment of their death. Abused as a child by his father's experiments in the study of fear, he has become a voyeur with a morbid desire to capture the murders of his female victims. It is a sick obsession, born from a desire to seek revenge for his robbed youth. Despite this he is outwardly gentle, and upon meeting Anna Massey he desperately tries to ensure that she should not become his next sacrifice to celluloid.
Boehm succeeds in a difficult role where he has to convince as a killer, while eliciting sympathy for the trauma of his past that haunts the struggle of his present. Powell judiciously treads this fine line, while manipulating an unsettling atmosphere with roving camera work that exploits Otto Heller's shadowy cinematography. The end effect is memorable, and among other serial killer films this is a rarity of thoughtfulness.
Read a review of the DVD.