Peeping Tom is a film that was too much for British moviegoers in 1960. Horror had never gone this far, and the ladies in the film are anything but modest. The resulting backlash obliterated Michael Powell's career, and got this film banned after just five days in theaters. Now, it's in the Criterion Collection and is considered a horror pioneer, doing for British horror what Psycho did for American horror. While not as good as its American counterpart, Peeping Tom is an entertaining and at times, psychologically disturbing horror flick that was decades ahead of its time.
The best thing this film has going for it is Karlheinz Böhm, who is beyond unsettling as camera buff, voyeur, and serial killer Mark Lewis. His movements, his stilted dialogue, and his facial expressions all work together to build a character that's so ghastly and reprehensible. But there's also something so human about the guy. You sort of hope he'll find help and end up with Helen (Massey). But of course, monsters can't change. The murder scenes are likely the reason this film got banned in the U.K. They are very real, and quite disturbing.
Peeping Tom has grown a significant legacy since 1960. It's a film that acted as the predecessor for films like Black Christmas, Halloween, Hush, and so many more. While the middle of the film does have a bit of a lull, the pulse-pounding ending makes up for it. I hate that Michael Powell was cast aside for a film that ended up defining his career. Just think what else he could've done.