A seedy photographer who works in under-the-counter strip photography aspires to make a film –
He calls it his documentary.
We realize from the very beginning, however, that this is no March of the Penguins.
Because Mark Lewis is a murderer.
In the opening scene, he kills a lady of the night and films the whole thing.
Back in the dark room which doubles as his lair, he watches the footage to ensure it is up to his satisfaction.
Sounds breezy, right?
Releasing a movie this morally ambiguous and oftentimes suggestive (the title alone implicates voyeurism) in 1960 meant a great deal of boundaries were pushed.
As a matter of fact, this movie killed its director’s career.
It only became recognized and appreciated as an important film after being rereleased with Martin Scorsese’s advocation many years later.
Maybe the actual depiction of the murders might seem tame by today’s standards, but its subject matter is no less disturbing.
We find out certain things about our main character through the innocent eyes of his flatmate and romantic interest as the movie progresses …
Things that are actually shown to us by Lewis on a projector …
Instead of breaking momentum, these horrible flashbacks are played out in real time, on a real reel, which actually makes their presence all the more frightening.
Here is where Peeping Tom moves beyond the slasher genre and tackles a really interesting theme:
The subjectivity and sheer power of film as a medium.
We realize how dangerous it can be in the hands of someone as mentally scarred as Lewis, but at the same time, we the audience are watching a film about this man.
Our hero is a deranged killer!
What does that say about us?
Besides the innovative story material, the movie looks fantastic.
A lot of shots and scenes rely on clever reveals;
One in particular near the end featuring a wildly appropriate weapon of murder.
I feel like this is a film that would be carefully studied if it weren’t so overlooked, not only for its exploration of troubled minds, but for the radical effects filmmaking has put upon the general audience.