Anglo-Amalgamated unloaded around $560,000 on making Peeping Tom, the biggest load of coin it had ever invested in one picture. It’s as well, for stripped of its color and some excellent photography plus imaginative direction by Michael Powell, the plot itself would have emerged as a shoddy yarn.
Story concerns a young man who, as a boy, was used as a guinea-pig by his father [played by Powell himself], a noted professor studying the symptoms of fear. The boy grows up to become an insane killer obsessed with the desire to photograph the terror on the faces of his victims as he kills them. He also has an unhealthy craving for peeping at young lovers, hence the title. In between these activities, he has a regular job as an assistant cameraman in a film studio and a part time job of photographing saucy pictures.
This mixed-up young man is played rather stolidly by Karl Boehm. It is more the fault of the screenplay than the actor himself that one gets only a very superficial glimpse into the workings of his mind. Anna Massey is charming as the girl who is one of his tenants and befriends him before she realizes that he is a killer. Maxine Audley, as her blind mother, tackles a difficult, unrewarding role very well.
Brenda Bruce has a few good moments at the beginning of the film as a streetwalker who is his first victim while Moira Shearer is effective as another of his victims, an ambitious bit player who is murdered while he is pretending to give her a screen test on a deserted studio lot.
Powell has directed with imagination but he might well have tightened up the story line. The standout feature of Peeping Tom is some fascinating photography by Otto Heller, particularly in the film studio sequences. His use of color and shadow is most effective. Heller does much to give Peeping Tom a veneer which the story by Leo Marks does not entirely deserve.