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October 1996, Week 4


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 27 Oct 1996 11:18:31 -0600
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Peter Latham inquires:
"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? 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."
I don't know of the source material for Powell's film, but Hitchcock's of course
was based on the book by Robert Bloch, which was in turn inspired by the
notorious Ed Gein of northern Wisconsin.  I do think that the metaphors about
"cages" that Marion and Norman discuss are in some ways central to most of
Hitchcock's best films.
It should be noted that PSYCHO was a big box-office hit for Hitchcock, but he
didn't fare that well critically.  Some of the mainstream press were quite
scathing about the movie.  It may be that Hitchcock (who often had a good
nose for business) knew that his material was more likely to sell.  Powell,
in this respect, may have been ahead of his time.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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