Throwing Darts in Lovers’ Eyes



An odd thing.

Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM begins with the Archers’ target logo, and then a giant closeup of an  eye (a painful juxtaposition). The eye pops open wide via jump-cut. Then we see a street, then the lenses of a cine-camera, concealed within the folds of a duffel coat, peering glassily out at the world.


Next, a POV of the street, with superimposed markings implying clearly that this is what the camera sees.

We approach a lady of the night — and she looks directly into the lens, which is eye-level with her, and says “It’ll be two quid.”


The thing nobody ever seems to point out is that, if Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) has really hidden the camera in his coat at chest level, he must be about seven feet tall if the lady is looking straight into it. And why doesn’t she remark upon the fact that he’s filming her? And if his camera were really hidden effectively, surely she would NOT be speaking straight into it?

It would seem like a peculiar mistake, but I kind of like it. There’s something implied about Lewis’s psychotic identification with his movie camera: a suggestion that he sees the world as if through a camera lens. So this shot isn’t the actual POV of his camera, it’s an expressionistic take on his own POV. Possibly. At any rate, I thought it was worth pointing out that it doesn’t make any rational sense but is cool.

As my friend Lawrie said, “I laughed like a drain when I saw he’d made PEEPING TOM, because, of course, Mickey was the sadist of all time!”


13 Responses to “Throwing Darts in Lovers’ Eyes”

  1. Isn’t the point that she’s not looking Lewis in the eye, or the lens in the eye, but the audience in the cinema in the eye…’s OUR POV……????

  2. Yes, in a way. The point is, whatever the point is, it’s not a point that makes literal cinematic sense, but only poetic sense.

  3. I hope you’ve seen Finding Vivian Maier. While she never killed anyone she was very like Mark Lewis. She held her camera at chest level and was thus able to take pictures of people without their really noticing it. She called herself a “spy.”

    What’s always been most striking to me about the opening of Peeping Tom is that these presumed-to-be “real streets” are obviously sets. There’s no difference between them and the sets of the film-within-the-film entitled “The Walls Are Closing In” directed by the blind Esmond Knight.

    All this and Moira Shearer getting murdered. Quel Film!

  4. The fakey sets are close copies of real places known to Powell — you could retrace the killer’s steps to this day, walking in real streets rather than imaginary ones. And Powell situated his murderous filmmaker in HIS OWN HOUSE.

  5. He also played Mark’s father. He’s clearly visible in the “home movies”

  6. The sadist of all time? Care to elaborate?

  7. chris schneider Says:

    I still love it when Pamela Green says to Boehm “Well if it isn’t Cecil Beaton …” Given the sordid circumstances and all, it’s as camp as the “starved for Technicolor” remark in A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

  8. Pamela Green said Powell photographed her without the glass on the lights to deliberately inflict “Klieg eyes” upon her — ultraviolet ray damage. She was practically blind the next day.

    He seems to have sounded out prospective collaborators by attempting to bully them. If you stood up to him, you were OK. But he was always very nice to Lawrie because he loved Scotland.

    May Hallatt, who played the housekeeper in Black Narcissus, was reduced to tears by Powell’s direction on a near-daily basis. The crew reassured her that the reviews would vindicate her work. The first review to appear likened her performance, not entirely unjustly, to Widow Twanky in a Christmas panto.

    Moira Shearer had a complicated relationship with Powell, disliking him for the most part, but always seemed to be there for him when he needed her.

  9. No wonder. After all in The Red Shoes he made her the very essence of ballet.

  10. Great blog: what an inspired title for this entry!

  11. Thanks!

    I think Shearer may have had doubts about Powell’s depiction of ballet — but she became the role model for thousands of ballet school girls to this day.

  12. You and your David Bowie lyrics…

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