Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Peeping Tom (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Peeping Tom (1960, UK)

In director Michael Powell's highly-disturbing, British psychological horror film about voyeurism - one of the earliest slasher films and a variation on Psycho (1960), about a sexually-repressed and childhood-traumatized photographer who used his camera as a weapon to kill women; it was a film that was savaged by critics and nearly destroyed Powell's directorial career:

  • in the shocking opening title credits sequence filmed from the point-of-view of the voyeuristic camera's cross-haired viewfinder, Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) stalked and filmed the murder of call-girl/prostitute Dora (Brenda Bruce) who he met on a dark London street; after she negotiated for two quid ("It'll be two quid"), she walked upstairs to her cheap apartment, disrobed, and then gave a look of horror as she was being murdered by the spiked leg of his camera tripod that was closing in on her - from the POV of the killer
The Film's Opening Title Credits - Murder of Prostitute Dora
  • the whole scene was repeated - as photographer Mark watched the projected grisly footage over and over in the darkness of his lab-studio in his apartment; his viewing of the film's title and credits sequence implicated the audience-viewer as a complicit 'peeping tom' voyeur or murderer who was as guilty as Mark
  • the film's plot was the 'voyeuristic' chilling story of shy, reclusive and disturbed young studio cameraman (and psychopath) Mark Lewis who murdered women with his 16mm camera (with a cross-haired viewfinder creating a POV shot) at the time of their deaths with an ingenious mirror device attached so that his screaming, red-headed female victims could watch themselves die (after being impaled by the sharp spiked leg of his camera tripod that was plunged into their throats); he was also perversely obsessed with voyeuristically capturing the moment of death and the fear it caused (the look of distorted, fearful faces in a mirror); it was an affliction termed scopophilia, the morbid urge to gaze
  • Mark viewed his own childhood's b/w home movies with his red-haired female friend Helen Stephens (Anna Massey) on her 21st birthday in the upstairs level of his later father's flat; she was his downstairs neighbor/tenant who lived with her blind mother Mrs. Stephens (Maxine Audley) - they were films of Mark's abused childhood when he was mentally tormented by his scientist professor-father A.N. Lewis (director Michael Powell himself) and bizarre experiments about fear were conducted on him as a guinea pig (e.g., his reaction to the lizard dropped on his bed, his speaking to his mother on her deathbed, or his father's new young wife); he explained to Helen: "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"
  • on the side in addition to his British film studio work, Mark sold cheesecake photographs ("views") of his soft-core, nude pin-up photo shoots to round-faced neighborhood news-agent store-owner Mr. Peters (Bartlett Mullins), who pedaled the pornography to an elderly gentleman customer (Miles Malleson)
  • after the murder of Dora, the film presented a continuing unsavory view of Mark's obsessive, perverted and morbid crimes perpetrated (and witnessed almost as "snuff films") upon unsuspecting female victims (all perceived as loose women or whores), with his camera serving as a substitute phallus that was unsheathed at the moment of stabbing-penetration into their throats; Mark was both recreating and releasing his childhood trauma upon his subjects, including:

    • Dora (Brenda Bruce), a prostitute in the opening titles sequence
    • Vivian (Moira Shearer), an actress-dancer and studio stand-in
    • Milly (Pamela Green), a pin-up model
The Second of Mark's Spiked Tripod Leg Murders - Red Haired Actress/Dancer Vivian (Moira Shearer)
  • in the second murder scene with actress/dancer Vivian, Mark had promised to make a genuine film with her on the closed set of the film studio; as she stood before him, she said that she didn't feel frightened about being stuffed into a trunk behind her on the floor, and wanted to be inspired: ("What would frighten me to death? Oh, set the mood for me, Mark"); to help her acting, he described a situation of total fear: "Imagine someone coming towards you who wants to kill you, regardless of the consequences"; she asked: "A madman?" and he agreed: "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"; she was having trouble with feeling fearful: "But I can't imagine what you've thought of"; he opened the collapsible tripod of his movie camera (without the sharp tip exposed): "Imagine this would be one of his weapons"; she was unphased by the plain camera leg: "That?"; he then unsheathed the pointed sharp tip of the camera leg aimed directly at her neck: "Yes, that"; she was taken aback: "Mark, yes, that would be frightening"; he continued: "There's something else"; as she asked, "Well, what is it?", and he began filming her as he slowly approached closer with the sharp spike blade; she objected: "That? Mark. Mark, no. Take it away! Take it away! Mark! Mark!!" and screamed as she stumbled backward into the trunk after being impaled in the neck (off-screen)
  • in the final murder scene, model Milly (Pamela Green, a real-life 50s pin-up) asked herself as she reclined backward (while Mark closed the blinds): "I might as well talk to a zombie. Is it safe to be alone with you, I wonder? It might be more fun if I wasn't." His shadow covered her face, as he moved and stood above her nude body, when she momentarily revealed one nude breast [Note: It was reportedly the first nudity in British film history]; the film faded to black with loud piano chords on the soundtrack, before she was murdered (off-screen)
  • in the film's dramatic conclusion, Mark experienced his own suicidal death (in the same horrific manner that he often used with a concealed blade in his camera's tripod leg) when he impaled himself in the neck with his own spiked device, as he spoke to the spared Helen: "Helen, Helen, I'm afraid...And I'm glad I'm afraid," and then slumped to the floor before the police arrived
  • the last lines of the film were from a tape recording of his childhood, made by his father (Father: "Don't be a silly boy. There's nothing to be afraid of!" Young Mark: "Good night, Daddy. Hold my hand")

Viewing B/W Home Movies with Downstairs Neighbor Helen of Mark's Own Abused Childhood

Threatening Blind Mrs. Stephens

POV of Threatened Victim: "I made them watch their own deaths"

Murder of Nude Model Milly

Threatening but Sparing Helen - Then Mark's Own Suicide


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