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A PEEP AT PEEPING TOM (1 Viewer)

haineshisway

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Got the new Criterion release of this yesterday and watched it last night. I know there was an overseas release of this from someone, but I don't think it included a Blu-ray - not sure - but I didn't get it because I was waiting for comments, not a single one of which ever came on this site - I just looked. People said they bought it - and then radio silence.

Let's begin with with the movie itself - it is astonishing that the best contemporaneous review I read when the film was released in the UK in 1960 said the best thing to do with the movie would be to shovel it up and flush it down the sewer. It has a likable protagonist who also happens to kill women, photographing them looking at themselves as the die. He has his mental issues because of an overbearing parental figure. It is well-written and brilliantly directed, and features terrific performances and yet it was a huge flop and basically killed the career of its director, such was the vitriol spewed at it. Psycho, released just weeks later in the US, has a likable protagonist who also happens to kill people, who has mental issues because of an overbearing parental figure. It, too, was well-written and brilliantly directed, and features terrific performances and yet it was a huge success and basically made its director more successful and famous than he already was and he was as famous and successful as it gets. Yes, there was some vitriol spewed at Psycho, most notably from Bosley Crowther in The New York Times and it didn't hurt the film one bit. It would take two years before Peeping Tom would get to the US. In LA, as far as I can see, it played two theaters for a week, with not a single review that I can find. In NY, it played one theater in Brooklyn, at least that's all I could find, and received no reviews there either. Scorsese remembers that it was a black-and-white print, but not according to the small ads in the NY papers, which clearly say color.

Psycho's reputation over the decades has remained firm and strong. Peeping Tom's reputation, as people began discovering it in the later 1970s and then through the ensuing decades, suddenly got better and better, thanks to people that people respected, like Scorsese, talking it up and raving about it. The Powell resurgence was especially strong in the 1980s when he came to the US. Was Peeping Tom an envelope pusher? Of course. Was Psycho? Of course. And lest we forget, there were two other envelope-pushing films of that same year, Eyes Without a Face and Black Sunday.

I first saw Peeping Tom in the early eighties, I think, courtesy of a 16mm print that had excellent color. I loved it immediately, every second of it. Carl Boehm (son of conductor Karl Bohm) gives a nuanced and fantastic performance as does the wonderful Anna Massey and Moira Shearer and the rest of the large cast. There are many memorable moments and images in the film that are unforgettable. The mostly solo piano score by Brian Easdale is perfect. The lighting is classic Powell - garish, vivid colors everywhere you look. Of course, I bought the overseas DVD and then the Criterion, neither of which was that pleasing. Then I got the Blu-ray, which was certainly a step up but, as others pointed out, waxy looking, some of which BTW, is very much part of the look of the film, as you'll see on the new 4K Blu-ray, which, admittedly, I've only watched on the included Blu of this new transfer from the OCN. I was very pleased with it - they did smooth out the opticals a bit, so they're more of a piece with what comes before and after them. The movie remains as great as it's always been. There's a little puff piece about the "restoration", too.

If you love film, I cannot imagine you would not love Peeping Tom, which is about the very nature of cinema. It's a great, great movie and I should think people will be very happy with this disc.
 

Robert Crawford

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Thanks for reminding me to watch it again on The Criterion Channel. Yes, a fine film! Some of us would talk about this release but are waiting on 50% off sale in July for this 4K/UHD release. The more monies I can save on such releases, the more of them I can purchase later on.
 

jayembee

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Got the new Criterion release of this yesterday and watched it last night. I know there was an overseas release of this from someone, but I don't think it included a Blu-ray - not sure - but I didn't get it because I was waiting for comments, not a single one of which ever came on this site - I just looked. People said they bought it - and then radio silence.

It was Studio Canal, and yes, there was a BD included. I bought it, but haven't watched it yet. Too many other things getting in the way.
 

lark144

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Bruce, I bought the Studio Canal 2 disc from the UK late last year--yes, there was a Blu-Ray, and it was absolutely dazzling, which I imagine was the same as the Criterion. The SC also appears to have the same extras, except for that long form doc on screenwriter Leo Marks which was on the Criterion DVD.

I've always been a student of paradox, and Mr. Marks cinematic presence has been innately paradoxical. Not only was he responsible for PEEPING TOM, but the secret codes he composed during WWII in the form of lyric poems appear in CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE and THE LONGEST DAY; plus he's a character in 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD, played by Anthony Hopkins, for Mr. Marks day job was running an antiquary bookstore he inherited from his father.

I thought the color on the UK disc was amazing. In terms of tonal contrast, it's now of a piece with RED SHOES and TALES OF HOFFMAN. Not at all garish, as it appeared on the DVD, but rich and strange and innately painterly. Also, what appeared flat and cartoonish on the DVD now has extraordinary depth of field and subtlety; for instance, the way the wash from colored gels are used to bring out details on faces and also create a kind of romanticism, similar to A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. Of course, in A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, that romaticism enhances the theme of the film, while in PEEPING TOM, it comes across as a contradiction. In terms of color, you can see the whole gamut of Michael Powell's career referenced and transformed. Just for one example, the dress Anna Massey wears in the end is the same shade of turquoise that Moria Shearer wears to her audition in THE RED SHOES.

Believe it or not, I saw this film when it came out, probably 1961 or 62, not in Brooklyn but Syracuse, NY, at a neighborhood theater on South Salina Street called the Cameo, on a double bill with a Hammer film, possibly THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. And yes, it was definitely in color, which was beyond dazzling. The film also traumatized me so profoundly--I was already making amateur super 8mm film at the time--I was unable to watch the film all the way through again, though I bought the Criterion DVD and looked at bits of it, until recently. The quality of the SC disc really helps. We've been getting so many remarkable masters of late, but PEEPING TOM is truly extraodinary, because of the color design and the way that brings out the film's larger themes.

Yes, PSYCHO, which was released in the UK six months after PEEPING TOM, was a huge success, while the later was a scandal and box office bomb which effectively destroyed its director's career. While both films concern a man who kills women because of a parental fixation, they're quite different. PSYCHO, to quote Hitchcock, is more of a funhouse ride, whereas PEEPING TOM'S themes go deeper, attacking the very act of viewing cinema itself, implying it's part and parcel of an antisocial and potentially violent act; in other words, implicating the audience. Because of this, PEEPING TOM, though very uncomfortable to watch, is the far greater film, both in terms of artistry as well as thematically. In fact, that estimable British critic, who in 1959 opined that PEEPING TOM should be flushed down the toilet, rewatched it 20 years later and changed her mind, writing that it was one of the greatest British films ever made.
 
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lark144

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BTW, and though Bosley Crowther of the NYTimes did indeed criticize PSYCHO during its initial release, calling the subject matter seedy and the technique tawdry, " a blot on an otherwise honorable career", by the time December rolled around, he had apparently changed his mind, for it ended up on the top of his ten best list.
 
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Peter Apruzzese

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Believe it or not, I saw this film when it came out, probably 1961 or 62, not in Brooklyn but Syracuse, NY, at a neighborhood theater on South Salina Street called the Cameo, on a double bill with a Hammer film, possibly THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. And yes, it was definitely in color, which was beyond dazzling.

Mark, I was researching the US play dates for Peeping Tom and looked this up. The only Syracuse play date I found was at the Riviera Theatre, also on South Salina Street, in late December 1962. It was the bottom of a double bill with “Phaedra.” The Cameo was closed in 1959.
 

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lark144

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Mark, I was researching the US play dates for Peeping Tom and looked this up. The only Syracuse play date I found was at the Riviera Theatre, also on South Salina Street, in late December 1962. It was the bottom of a double bill with “Phaedra.” The Cameo was closed in 1959.
Yes. You're right. It was at the Riviera, which wasn't that far from the Cameo, which did close in 1959. I used to go either to the Riviera or Cameo every Saturday afternoon when I was growing up. But I thought it was a little closer to downtown. That's what I remember. The Xmas decorations were up on Salina Street, in the business section, about a mile and a half from the Riviera, and I remember passing them after the movie. Guess I must have walked. In fact, I almost wrote Riviera but wasn't sure. Thanks for looking it up. Nice to know it wasn't my imagination. It was a long time ago. I went for the first show, so that would be PEEPING TOM. Don't think I stayed for PHARDRA. But you never know, since I did see it around that time. What a weird double bill. That's when all the neighborhood theatres were turning into art houses.
 

haineshisway

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BTW, and though Bosley Crowther of the NYTimes did indeed criticize PSYCHO during its initial release, calling the subject matter seedy and the technique tawdry, " a blot on an otherwise honorable career", by the time December rolled around, he had apparently changed his mind, for it ended up on the top of his ten best list.
And I don't ever recall seeing an apology or an explanation of why he turned around.
 

lark144

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And I don't ever recall seeing an apology or an explanation of why he turned around.
Crowther could be a curmudgeon, destroying the chances for a successful New York run for many independent films with a single negative review, but he was also opposed to censorship, having defended in print Rossellini's THE MIRACLE, Michael Wilson & Herbert Biberman's SALT OF THE EARTH and D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterly's Lover. Though he initially panned PSYCHO when it opened, two months later he wrote a column in the Sunday Times entitled "An Answer to Those Filmgoers Who Think Psycho Should Be Banned." In that column he defended PSYCHO, comparing the film favorably with Lang's M and also said the following: "It was made by Mr. Hitchcock with conspicuous cinematic artistry, in which the power of visual suggestion is used more often than the full-view attack. What one thinks one sees in this picture is likely to be more than one does see. How much depends upon how helpful one's imagination and sophistication are." So clearly he was in the process of changing his mind, possibly because PSYCHO was in danger of being censored, something he was opposed to, and in the process of defending the film, it rose considerably in his estimation, ending up on his ten best list at the end of the year.
 

haineshisway

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Then he should have flat out said he was wrong in his initial estimation. But he didn't. That said, many critics have done turnarounds years later and completely forget the pans they initially wrote.
 

EricSchulz

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I’m pretty sure I saw this years ago. I’m always intrigued by banned movies (especially horror/suspense) and try to see what all the fuss is about. I’ll definitely be rewatching this soon.
 

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