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October 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
David McCallum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 24 Oct 1996 16:15:13 -0700
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (47 lines)
Peter Latham wrote:
> Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" were both
> released in 1960. Both films concern mentally ill young adult males who
> were made so by parental abuse. Both are living in the houses of their
> childhoods, both are homicidal and both experience crises when confronted
> with the attractions and fears generated by meeting and relating to a young
> woman.My questions for the list are how did these two very different (but
> British born) directors come to share so similar a view?
First off, let me say - what an interesting thread!  These two films are
both superb and I hadn't really thought deeply about the comparisons you
listed.  I'd add the obvious similarity that you seem to have passed
- the voyeurism and subjective camera and the self-reflexivity that
with it.  The audience squirms because of the borderline "snuff film"
quality in moments in each film.
> And with such
> similar views, how could these films have had such directly opposite
> results for the careers of their directors? In this regard, it should be
> noted that "Psycho" augmented Hitchcock's already magnificent reputation,
> while "Peeping Tom" badly damaged Michael Powell's for a time.
An obvious possibility would be that "Psycho" was produced in America
released to American audiences (where it too was blasted by critics and
"moral leaders," actually - it didn't enhance Hitch's rep until years
after its release and a little critical revisitation began.)  My thought
is that by 1960 Hitchcock was an "American" director - having directed
many films in Hollywood.  I don't know how "Psycho" did overseas but I
can almost imagine "Peeping Tom" doing better business in America than
in the U.K. because of the famous British repression - and yes, I know,
that is a broad generalization.  ("No sex please, we're British.")  One
still cannot watch "A Clockwork Orange" there - because the director was
giving such a hassle by the "moralists" of that country.
Once again, cheers for an interesting topic, and I hope others have
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