At the Movies

Michael Wood

Fear, like happiness, has its anniversaries, and 1960 was a good year for watching frightened women’s faces: first Peeping Tom and then Psycho. The second movie is far more famous and more violent, but unsettling only in the ways Hitchcock intended. People walked out of Peeping Tom, distinguished critics were disgusted (Dilys Powell wrote that the director, her namesake, could not ‘wash his hands of responsibility for this essentially vicious film’), and Michael Powell’s career went into a slump. You can see the film on a Criterion Collection DVD with an excellent commentary by Laura Mulvey, or you can walk out yourselves from the Curzon and other cinemas, where it is now showing in a restored print. Martin Scorsese, a great admirer of the film, says it is about the ‘madness of making movies’, a view not entirely at odds with all the disgust, just more interested in comparative madness.

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