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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Director: Michael Powell. Screenwriter: Leo Marks. Cinematographers (in Eastman Colour): Otto Heller, (camera operator) Gerry Turpin. Art directors: Arthur Lawson, (assistant) Ivor Beddoes. Editor: Noreen Ackland. Music composer and conductor: Brian Easdale. Solo piano: Gordon Watson. Percussion number: Wally Stott. Dance music: Freddie Phillips. Set decorator: Don Picton. Sound: (recordists) C. C. Stevens, Gordon K. McCullum, (editor) Malcolm Cooke. Assistant director: Ted Sturgis.

Cast: Carl Boehm (Mark Lewis) Moira Shearer (Vivian), Anna Massey (Helen Stephens), Maxine Audley (Mrs. Stephens), Brenda Bruce (Dora), Miles Malleson (Elderly gentleman), Esmond Knight (Arthur Baden), Martin Miller (Dr. Rosen), Michael Goodliffe (Don Jarvis), Jack Watson (Inspector Gregg), Shirley Ann Field (Diane Ashley), Nigel Davenport (Sgt. Miller), Pamela Green (Milly), Bartlett Mullins (Mr. Peters), Brian Wallace (Tony), Susan Travers (Lorraine), Maurice Durant (Publicity chief), Brian Worth (Assistant director), Veronica Hurst (Miss Simpson), Alan Rolfe (Store detective), John Dunbar (Police doctor), Guy Kinsley-Poynter (P. Tate, the cameraman), Keith Baxter (Baxter), Peggy Thorpe-Bates (Mrs. Partridge), John Barrard (Small man), Roland Curram (Young man extra), John Chappell (Clapper boy), Michael Powell (Mark's father), Columba Powell (Mark as a child).

Producer: Michael Powell. Associate producer: Albert Fennell. Production manager: Al Marcus. Production company: Michael Powell (Theatre). Original distributor: Anglo Amalgamated. Length: 101 mins. First shown (London): 7 April 1960.

This print was specially acquired for the Treasures from the National Film and Television Archive series from Lumière Pictures.

"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 of 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 his anguish." - Michael Powell, quoted in Powell, Pressburger And Others (1978, British Film Institute).

"It's a long time since a film disgusted me as much as Peeping Tom... I don't propose to name the players in this beastly picture." - C. A. Lejeune, The Observer, 10 April 1960.

"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..." - Derek Hill, Tribune, 1960.

"It is made by a director of skill and sensibility: the director whose daring and inquiring eye gave us the superb camera obscura sequence and the entry into the operating room in A Matter of Life and Death Then one remembers that even in his best period Michael Powell would suddenly devote his gifts 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. He did not write Peeping Tom; but he cannot wash his hands of responsibility for this essentially vicious film." - Dilys Powell, The Sunday Times, 10 April 1960.

"The reception of the film was a disaster for me. A whole generation of distributors wouldn't have anything to do with me because of it. This film ruined me. After Peeping Tom, it was impossible to get backing for other projects." - Michael Powell, 1977.

"For all its sickness, and despite its undoubted and doubtful commercial intentions, Peeping Tom is a sad and beautiful film. Part of its charm is that the characters are immensely sympathetic, and for part of the time, at least, it is not too difficult to identify with Mark. As such it is part of a tradition of the cinema to perform the all but impossible task of making us forgive and pity the sadist (viz. the child murderer in M [Lang and Losey versions], The Sniper, jack the Ripper ... )
Undoubtedly this is partly through Carl Boehm's delicate portrayal of Mark and part of the exhilaration of the film is that we want to hate Mark for his victims' sake, but cannot. Poor Mark is so desperately overshadowed by his father, whose influence he tries to, but cannot escape: it's his father's house, his father's laboratory, and as we shall see, his father's compulsions, which put him in his present desperate position. When Mark seeks advice from a psychiatrist the man is only impressed by the achievements of Professor Lewis. And so to the sick ending, heard only as a recording from long ago: 'Don't be a silly boy there's nothing to be afraid of, and the pity and tenderness of Mark's reply, 'All right, daddy, hold my hand', as he joins his father in some sort of hell cum heaven where sad sadists go.
"When we watch Peeping Tom we are really watching four films. One is Mark's documentary. The other three are by three different directors, who are all really the same man. There is Mark's father who makes films of the experiments on Mark, and who is played by Michael Powell. There is the director at Mark's film studio (played by Esmond Knight) whose name is Arthur Baden = Baden-Powell = the man who looked after the welfare of little boys. And there is Michael Powell, the director of Peeping Tom...
"Actually, the problem in Peeping Tom is to know who is the voyeur. Is it Mark? [... ] Or is it us, the cinema audience? For Michael Powell often takes us behind Mark's camera, thus making voyeurs of us all. One might feel a little uneasy over Mark's dark room cum projection room, too, for, filled with all his atrocious documents, doesn't it represent the secret place for all our own secret, dark, perverted thoughts? Magic mirror on the wall, who is the nastiest of us all? - it's folks like you and me, who came to see a film called Peeping Tom." - Ian Johnson, Motion, February 1963.
"I have always felt that Peeping Tom and 8 1/2 say everything that can be said about film-making, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. 8 1/2 captures the glamour and enjoyment of film-making, while Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates. These are the two great films that deal with the philosophy and the danger of filmmaking. From studying them you can discover everything about people who make films, or at least people who express themselves through films." - Martin Scorsese, in Scorsese on Scorsese, 1989.

"...when, in 1960, [Powell] made a horror film, I hated the piece and, together with a great many other British critics, said so. Today, I find I am convinced that it is a masterpiece. If in some afterlife conversation is permitted, I shall think it my duty to seek out Michael Powell and apologise... With so gifted a director this can hardly be anything but a frightening movie, but its object is the examination of emotion and not titillation." - Dilys Powell, The Sunday Times, 19 June 1994.

"Why did critics and audiences so vehemently reject this story of a serial killer who works in a movie studio and films his victims at the moment of death? Was it because they did not wish to hear, or acknowledge, that they were voyeurs, peeping toms? It is inconceivable that one of the most intelligent, witty and imaginative pictures about the cinema itself could have been rejected because of a few inadequate supporting performances and some indifferent dialogue." - Philip French, The Observer, 18 September 1994.

"It's an astonishing movie, overflowing with interlinked ideas to do with sight and blindness, sexuality and voyeurism, death and desire, murder and the movies: the desire to see (both Mark's and ours) is acknowledged as a furtive, manipulative impulse of distinctly sexuallsadistic dimensions. Freudian motifs and movie gags abound, while Powell's direction displays an attention to colour and composition that again shows him to have been one of the cinema's great visual stylists... If Anna Massey's nice girl downstairs now looks too prim, Maxine Audley, Esmond Knight, Moira Shearer and Shirley Anne Field lend strong support to Boehm, who brings just the right mix of tenderness, gauche vulnerability and strangeness to the hapless protagonist. Incidentally, the film first emerged at about the same time as Psycho (which also had many critics fuming); and if Hitchcock's is the scarier movie, Powell's is arguably the richer." - Geoff Andrew, Time Out, 14 September 1974.

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