The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Submitted by Dibyaduti Purkayastha (Tipu)

Peeping Tom (1960)
From "The 100 Best Films To Rent You've Never Heard Of"
By: David N. Meyer

ATTITUDE: Voyeuristic weirdness
MOOD: 1950's style psychosexual thriller

Michael Powell, apparently tired of being oblique, wrote & directed this exercise in sadism & irresistable compulsion. [Leo Marks wrote it] Upon release, the film seemed a wilful act of subversion designed to undo all of Powell's credibility, & it damn near succeeded. Once a banned scandal, it's now rightly regarded as a classic. A film with the guts to name the unnamable, an obsessive portrait of obsession. It is filmed without mercy for the hero, the director, or the audience. And written with a cold, misanthropic wit to rival Mark Twain's.

What many mistook as a straightforward paean to the worst urges of man is actually a rather heartbreaking tale of an innocent gone awry, a gentle soul turned horrible by vicious paternal attentions - attentions detailed in nightmarish flashback. Those familiar with Powell's sense of humor will not be surprised that Powell himself plays the terrible daddy.

The protagonist is a murderer of women, who kills with a movie camera to which he has attached a long knife & a big mirror - representing Sex & Self-consciousness, respectively. He stabs his victimes & films them as they watch themselves die in the mirror. Naturally, being a film-maker, our murderer's true pleasure lies not in murder nor even in filming, but in watching the film later. Its a commentary on the vouyerism & the power of cinema, a telling parable of the relationship between the filmer & the filmed, & its packed with more cooky strangeness than 3 Coen Brothers pictures combined.

It is told in bright clear hues of Technicolor - not a single shadow in this whole shadowy tale - at a pace suitable for a cough-syrup addict. It's not for the squeamish, though it's perversely funny in its own awful way. Also quite prescient in its depiction of a society dominated by the idea that watching something equals controlling it.

The scenes of the killer running the footage of his murders launched a thousand dumber horror movies (and 3 or 4 dazzling ones, like Manhunter) but Powell cared not about similarities between his & lesser works. He had a message regarding compulsion to deliver, & deliver it he did, without compromise. Underlying the carnage is quite a moral lession in the responsibilities in pointing a camera. And as in all of Powell's films, every technical aspect is simply perfect.

Varied & amusing subtext for the film sophisticate &, it must be said, plenty of cheap thrills for the horror junkie.

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