Monday, February 01, 2010

Britain's answer to "Psycho" was "Peeping Tom", also in 1960

The Criterion Collection offers a British film, directed by Michael Powell, also originally released by Janus in 1960, that amounts to a UK counterpart of “Psycho”. The troubled young man (corresponding to Norman Bates) is Mark Lewis, played by Karlheinz Bohm, son of the famous German conductor. The movie is “Peeping Tom”, and the young man takes movies of his snuff victims. But except for a few brief scenes, the movie is mostly psychological drama, in rather glaring Technicolor, with lots of sound stages and miniatures, even the opening scene.

What’s interesting is the 1960 film technology, when today a horror film like this would be based on camcorders, cell phones, or webcams. There’s a lot more hardware to look at, and it’s photogenically interesting, fitting in to the stage-like sets of the film. And the structure of the somewhat cumbersome hardware (by today’s standards) fits into the climax of the film, where daggers are attached to the devices. The police have to get through his make believe world to get at him.

Of course, today’s film industry does use big cameras, like Panavision and Arri, and one wonders if one could write a horror film somehow premised on their use. But the gradual miniaturization of cameras over time, especially in the 1970s when TV cameras became handheld, actually formed the basis of a strike against NBC in 1976 by cameramen; as a computer programmer, I actually worked on strike duty! I also took a projectionist course in the Army, and the equipment was similar to what appears in this film.

Brian Easdale composed the somewhat impressionistic keyboard score (Easdale wrote the music for "The Red Shoes").

The film could be compared to "One Hour Photo" and "Darkroom".

Lionsgate has apparent purchased rights for this film, and offers a video trailer here (no embed offered).

Update: Feb 2, Groundhog Day:

The Oscar nominations are available here. This year, there are ten nominations for Best Picture.

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