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.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

  Steve's Logo

Translation of Swedish review of Peeping Tom

Submitted by: Nicky Smith

Translation done by Kate Lambert

Here is my friend's translation of the Peeping Tom review -

Peeping Tom

PEEPING TOM was one of the first major films to take Snuff as its theme. As the year was 1960, the audience, and above all the critics, weren't exactly ready for it and Powell, for whom a great career was predicted, was slaughtered by reviewers. It became incredibly difficult for him to obtain funding to make films in the years that followed.

Using his small camera Mark films his victims during the chase and at the moment of death. The subjectively filmed sequences focusing on the victims are completely fantastic and terrifying. But it is Mark's obsession with ultimate terror and the images which give the film its strength. You can't take voyeurism any further than this.

Mark's eager developing and viewing of his short films are reminiscent of a small boy with a new toy. While this toy allows him to explore the areas which fascinate him, as in all games there is a risk of disappointment. We are enticed into empathising with Mark because of his background history and it is possibly that which made the film repugnant to the critics. Naturally there must be a reason why people murder and when it is the obsession of a timid individual like Mark we feel little other than empathy with him. Although what he does to women is repulsive, the film is far more about Mark's internal world and possibly even more about our need or thirst to see, to watch.

Michael Powell himself said in 1978: "Peeping Tom is a very tender film, a very nice one. Almost a romantic film. I was immediately fascinated by the idea: I felt very close to the hero, who is an 'absolute' director, someone who approaches life like a director, who is conscious and suffers from it. He is a technician of emotion. And I am someone who is thrilled by technique, always mentally editing the scene in front of me in the street, so I was able to share this anguish." (Powell, Pressburger and Others).

Because the film was hated when it first came out there are a number of incredible/funny** reviews of PEEPING TOM which show that even if you have a high reputation there are some themes you just can't deal with. I find it totally absurd that someone should cease to be talented just because, for example, they choose to depict madmen who throw glue in people's hair (see below).

So those were the old reviews: "The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer. Even then, the stench would remain..." (Tribune, 1960). [That was the famous damning review by Derek Hill]

"It is made by a director of skill and sensibility (...) Then one remembers that even in his best period Michael Powell would suddenly devote his gift to a story about a maniac who poured glue over girls' hair. He has got beyond glue here. He has got to the trick knife lovingly embedded in the throat, to the voyeur with sound effects, to a nauseating emphasis on the preliminaries and the practice of sadism - and I mean sadism..." (The Sunday Times, 1960). [And that one was from Dilys Powell (no relation), although she later apologised]

In 1989 Martin Scorsese praised PEEPING TOM and in recent years the film has not only been a cult (or popular in horror film circles) but also been recognised by the majority of critics.

Made in the same year as PSYCHO, both these films bring fear closer to everyday life and into the human psyche. "Evil" is closer than we would care to realise. PEEPING TOM is a masterwork and absolutely just as relevant today, if not more, with all our documentaries and news images which bring the nastiest and most perverted things that society is capable of producing into our living rooms. What do we want to see? Or an even more relevant question, why do we want to see it?

** Swedish pun (ot)rolig: otrolig means incredible, rolig means amusing

Back to index