Upon its initial release in 1960, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom was met with a degree of vitriol uncommon to most British movies. Pulled from theaters after only five days, it gained a reputation over the years as a vile, subversive piece of work, a film not meant for public consumption.

As with most talk such as this, a great deal of hyperbole was used, which only increased its reputation and the desire for cinephiles to seek out this notorious piece of work.  Martin Scorsese was instrumental in resurrecting it as he was approached by the distributors who held the rights to Tom with the proposition he present it at the 1979 New York Film Festival. He agreed to do so, spearheading a national release. This led to a reevaluation that helped elevate Powell’s work to its rightful place in the horror genre.

Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is a filmmaker incapable of making a human connection. Scarred by experiments his father conducted upon him, he keeps others at a distance by hiding behind his movie camera, filming them at every turn. He has taken this to a dangerous new level as his psychosis has taken hold of him and he’s taken to filming women while killing them.

British audiences weren’t prepared for such lurid subject matter. Ironically, Hitchcock’s Psycho was released the same year and was embraced by critics and fans alike. Perhaps most off-putting for viewers was the sympathetic portrayal of Lewis. Used to seeing characters in stark black-and-white terms, Powell and screenwriter Leo Marks’ efforts to humanize the “villain” of the piece was far ahead of its time. That Boehm is able to generate a degree of sympathy is a credit to his performance as well as Powell’s intent on pushing this narrative.

One of the first releases under the Criterion Collection label, Peeping Tom gets a significant upgrade with the company’s latest edition that features both 4K and Blu-Ray versions of the film. The difference in picture quality is striking and has an immediate impact on the viewer. The realism of the 4K format creates an immediacy to the horrors we see on screen, rendered all the more disturbing by the POV approach employed during these shocking scenes. For good or ill, we’re in Lewis’s shoes, sharing in and at the mercy of his deadly compulsion.

Rounding out the package is an introduction from Martin Scorsese, as well as a brief interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, the filmmaker’s go-to editor and Powell’s widow. Audio commentaries by film historians Ian Christie and Laura Mulvey, as well as a essay by critic Megan Abbott, put the film in context regarding its impact and meaning. Three documentaries, one focusing on the restoration process employed, another on the critical reputation and history of the movie and a fascinating piece on Leo Marks make for a complete package, one that will ensure future cinephiles have full access to this resurrected classic.

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