Peeping Tom (UK - BD RB)
Marcus doesn't like his picture taken at the best of times, the spike ain't helping
Highly controversial sixties psychological thriller Peeping Tom tells the tale of Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) whose overwhelming desire to capture fear on camera leads him to kill.
When befriending his neighbour Helen (Anna Massey) from downstairs, Mark begins to let another person into his world and sees the possibility of a normal life, but with the grasp of his perverted needs tightening, it isn’t long before the police get closer to finding the out about Mark’s dark secret and even Helen may be in danger.
I'm sort of ashamed to say that I’d never seen or heard of Peeping Tom before this review disc arrived at my door and I decided to go in blind to the experience, with only the knowledge of the year the movie was made. Starting with the Martin Scorsese introduction (more on that later) I was immediately intrigued, having a fondness for the sixties psychological thriller anyway and finding the subject matter far darker and relevant than I thought it would be.
Anyway, after seeing the movie I found it to be a slick, dark and ultimately a brilliant take on a subject that modern movies and TV seem to thrive on. The attention to detail when depicting this fractured character of Mark Lewis was well ahead of its time, especially when comparing it to modern thrillers and their paint by numbers psycho origin stories. The sixties filmmaking style, with a total lack of any blood or gore just made it get under my skin and feel a whole lot creepier.
Carl Boehm’s performance keeps the whole thing intriguing. I wanted to know what he was doing, what drove him to do it, and of course what he was shining in his victims eyes (and more so the point of it, which actually reminded me of modern Japanese horrors in the end). Boehm plays it wonderfully with a real sense of unease when we’re around him, yet it’s understandable why Helen and the stand in actress he offs like being around him (though it has to be said, there are distinct moments where his victims should have seen that Mark Lewis wasn't quite right).
Everything builds at a pace that’s just right, with the creeping details of Mark’s life slowly coming to light, and giving the audience even more reason to worry about what he’ll do next. Peeping Tom really did prove to be a movie ahead of its time, other than the styles of filmmaking and the obvious sixties settings, it works in a modern movie climate and in many ways delves deeper to depict a believable story of psychosis than most modern horror/thrillers manage to do. It was certainly one of the most enjoyable thrillers I’ve seen of late and I generally don't consider myself a thriller kinda guy at all, so all in all Peeping Tom was a fifty year old breath of fresh air.
Colour. That’s what strikes you from the get go. Bold red and blue clothing, beautiful orange lighting and a transfer that simply pops off of the screen. Next is the realisation that this is a fifty year old movie and it looks amazing in HD. Yes, there’s the odd bit of flicker, or a softer frame here and there, but all of these minor (and probably unavoidable) inconstancies are forgivable when the transfer as a whole looks this great.
Details are rich and are shown off in close ups. Shadows are well used and deep (though it has to be said sometimes they find a middle ground with any blues near them in a shot and can lose their edge a bit) and both the on-set scenes and the handful of location shots barely look their age (especially when compared to the pre-restoration footage on the extras—again more on that later). For a fifty year old movie Peeping Tom looks absolutely fantastic.
The LPCM 2.0 audio doesn’t lend itself to outshining a modern 5.1 mix, but at the same time it shows off the desired feel of this sixties movie well. The odd music pieces while Mark watches his films build a keen sense of creepiness and the shrill sixties sound really makes it an uneasy watch (especially in the murder scenes).
Dialogue is clear throughout and as is the way with older films, sound effects can feel a little loud in the mix or oddly placed, but honestly Peeping Tom is not the worst offender in this case. Generally speaking the track here is good, it’s not trying to be more than it was intended to be and in regards to setting a mood the 2.0 track works well.
As I mentioned earlier there’s an introduction from Martin Scorsese (02:05 SD), which is well worth watching before the flick if you’re a newcomer like me. I was immediately up for the viewing after Marty’s little intro.
The commentary with Ian Christie is good if you’re after a lecture on Peeping Tom. It has a very ‘off script’ feeling and is detailed in a teacher teaching a class sort of a way but it can sometimes feel a little impersonal. In regards to finding a lot out about the movie it’s a triumph but I feel that it’s not a track for a casual commentary listener.
‘Eye of the Beholder’ (18:47 SD) is a great featurette regarding the history of the film with more Martin Scorsese input and a whole host of standard definition scenes to show off how much better this Blu-ray looks.
‘The Strange Tale of Mark Lewis'(24:50 SD) is another making of but from the French perspective and the ‘Interview with Thelma Schoomaker’ (10:19 SD) is good, but starts to walk over already trodden ground.
The Restoration Comparison’ (06:13 HD) shows off the power of a good clean up and the trailer (02:27 HD) and ‘Photo Gallery’ finish up the disc.
Peeping Tom is a thriller that gets under the skin in all the best ways. It reminded me how much I like this genre in this era and will more than likely set me off on a revisit to some oldies over the next few months.
The Blu-ray itself looks great, has satisfying audio and a nice set of features. Fans of psychological outings with killers who are this well depicted and awkward to be around should totally consider a blind buy because this really is a movie that I'd consider a master class in how to do it right... where has this perverted/psychotic camera operator movie been all my life?
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 22nd November 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Commentary, Introduction from Martin Scorcese, , Interview with Thelma Schoonmaker , Featurette, Trailer, Behind the scenes stills gallery, Restoration Comparison
Easter Egg: No
Director: Michael Powell
Cast: Karlheiz Bohm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer
Length: 101 minutes
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