Peeping Tom | 1960
Reviled on release, Michael Powell’s disturbing, London-set serial killer movie is now rightly lauded as one of the great British films. The unprecedented critical hammering (the hysterical over-reaction has to be read to be believed) virtually ended the career of Michael Powell, until his reputation was restored by the enthusiastic championing of Martin Scorsese.
Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), the disturbed son of a sadistic film-maker, has a fear fixation and a lethal movie camera, which he uses to kill women while filming their reaction to their own deaths. Like I said, disturbing.
Mark Lewis’s house stood at 5 Melbury Road, off High Street Kensington near Holland Park. Although its neighbour, number 7, still stands, number 5 was demolished to make way for a block of anonymously glum flats.
Director Powell brings a creepy self-involvement to the film. He not only plays Mark's unfeelingly obsessed father, who wields the camera in the film's ‘home movie’ scenes, but used the garden of his own home for this footage. The house stands unchanged at 8 Melbury Road, an impressive Norman Shaw Victorian artist’s property with enormous windows – just across the street from the site of the killer’s house.
Mark’s first victim, Dora (Brenda Bruce), is picked up in Newman Passage, just off Oxford Street, W1, and takes the killer up to her room above the Newman Arms, 23 Rathbone Street alongside. As an homage, the Newman Arms and the passage alongside can be seen in Edgar Wright's Last Night In Soho.
The newsagent, where apparently respectable gent Miles Malleson (whom you might recognise as the Caliph in a much lighter Michael Powell classic, The Thief of Bagdad) buys The Times and The Telegraph – plus a selection of adult photographs for five shillings each – and above which Mark Lewis has his studio, is now unrecognisable as a hot chocolate bar, Italian Bear Chocolate, 29 Rathbone Place at the southwest corner of Percy Street.