Decades haven't diminished creepiness of `Peeping Tom'

June 04, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Usually when controversial films from the 1960s and 1970s are re-released, they look laughably dated, but "Peeping Tom," Michael Powell's psychological thriller from 1960, can still give you the willies. The movie opens at the Charles Theatre today for a four-day run.

The film portrays Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), who works as a film technician, moonlights as a pornographer and in his spare time films women while he murders them, so he can watch the homemade "snuff" movies later. "Peeping Tom" is a graphic descent into the life of a sadistic pervert that effectively ended Powell's career (this was, after all, the man who made "The Red Shoes").

Almost forty years later, Powell's audaciousness, satirical wit and dazzling color sense still crackle with life.

Indeed, from its opening shot of a woman caught in the cross-hairs of a camera, it's designed to be a darkly playful comment on the film director as predator, women as the victims of his morbidly fetishistic gaze, and the audience as the filmmaker's vicarious -- and voracious -- proxy.

Among Boehm's co-stars are Anna Massey as Mark's sweet-natured neighbor, and Powell himself, who plays Mark's sadistic father in the young man's eerily realistic home movies. And yes, that's "Red Shoes" star Moira Shearer as Mark's third victim, in Powell's most sneakily funny in-joke of the film.

Her dance sequence will give fans of Powell's more tame work reason to cheer, but prepare for the worst -- she'll be sent packing.

"Peeping Tom." Starring Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey. Directed by Michael Powell. This film is not rated (suggestive sexuality and violence). Running time 101 minutes. Released by Rialto Pictures. Sun score: * * *.

Pub Date: 6/04/99

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