Peeping Tom (film)

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Peeping Tom is a 1960 British psychological thriller and horror film that revolves around a serial killer who murders women while using a portable movie camera to record their dying expressions of terror. Its derives from the slang expression 'Peeping Tom', which describes a voyeur.

Directed by Michael Powell, written by Leo Marks.


Carl Boehm as Mark
  • Whatever I photograph, I always lose.
  • Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It's fear. So I did something very simple. Very simple. When they felt the spike... touching their throat, and knew I was going to kill them, I made them watch their own deaths. I made them see... their own terror as the spike went in. And if death has a face, they saw that too. But not you. I promised I'd never photograph you. Not you.
  • I'm afraid. And I'm glad I'm afraid.

Mrs. Stephens[edit]

  • Take me to your cinema.
  • Instinct's a wonderful thing, isn't it, Mark? A pity it can't be photographed. [...] So, I'm listening to my instinct now. And it says all this filming isn't healthy, and that you need help.


  • The silly bitch! She's fainted in the wrong scene!


Helen: Mark, what was he trying to do to you?
Mark: Watch me grow up. He wanted a record of a growing child, complete in every detail, if such a thing were possible. And he tried to make it possible by training a camera on me at all times. I never knew the whole of my childhood one moment's privacy. And those lights in your eyes and that thing. He was interested in the reactions... of the nervous system to... to fear.

Vivian: Now what are you doing?
Mark: Photographing you photographing me.

Vivian: What would frighten me to death? Oh, set the mood for me, Mark.
Mark: Imagine... someone coming towards you... who wants to kill you... regardless of the consequences.
Vivian: A madman?
Mark: Yes. But he knows it, and you don't. And just to kill you isn't enough for him. Stay there, Viv. You're just right.
Vivian: But I can't imagine what you've thought of.
Mark: [he opens the tripod of his movie camera] Imagine... this would be one of his weapon.

Mrs. Stephens: Helen?
Helen: Yes?
Mrs. Stephens: Doesn't matter.
Helen: Mother, what's worrying you?
Mrs. Stephens: The price of whiskey.

Mrs. Stephens: I don't trust a man who walks quietly.
Helen: He's shy.
Mrs. Stephens: His footsteps aren't. They're stealthy.

Mark: The lights fade too soon!
Mrs. Stephens: They always do.

Mrs. Stephens: Why don't we make him a present of that window? He practically lives there.
Helen: How did you know he was there?
Mrs. Stephens: The back of my neck told me. The part that I talk out of.

Mark: I-I don't remember what he called it, but it has something to do with what... what causes people to be Peeping Toms.
Dr. Rosan: Scoptophilia, that would interest him. Most fertile mind.
Mark: Scopto...
Dr. Rosan: ...philia. The morbid urge to gaze.

About Peeping Tom[edit]

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • Perhaps one would not be so disagreeably affected by this exercise in the lower regions of the psychopathic, were it handled in a more bluntly debased fashion. One does not, after all, waste much indignation on the Draculas and Mummies and Stranglers of the last few years.
  • He [Powell] 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 in The Sunday Times (10 April 1960), as cited in "The Killer Reviews",
    • The cycle of gothic horror films from Hammer Films, including new Dracula features, had begun a few years earlier.
  • 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. Something more than a change of taste must exist.
  • Reading now what I wrote in 1960 I find that, despite my efforts to express revulsion, nearly everything I said conceals the extraordinary quality of Peeping Tom. See it, and spare a moment to respect the camerawork of Otto Heller.
    • Dilys Powell "Misunderstood: Carl Boehm's cameraman is obsessed with death: Dilys Powell's film of the week", The Sunday Times (June 1994), as cited at
  • The way you feel for this man who’s been tortured by his father and can’t help what he’s doing. Scorsese investigates that same area — they’re never heroes or villains in his movies, they’re something in between. And the critics at the time just couldn’t handle feeling sympathy for this serial killer. They wanted it to go away.
  • [Powell's reported reaction to Leo Marks' script] Michael said, "Oh, that's me, a man who kills people with his camera".
  • For a morbid desire to gaze is one of the commonest obsessions in life.
    Unfortunately Michael Powell's new film is just a clever but corrupt and empty exercise in shock tactics which displays a nervous fascination with the perversion it illustrates.
  • Even brilliant colour photography by Otto Heller cannot reconcile me to a film as loathesome as this. It exploits fears and Inhibitions for the lowest motives. It trades In the self-same kind of obsession that it relates.

External links[edit]

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