Peeping Toms Everywhere

A nice 35mm print of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) is making the theatrical rounds thanks to Rialto Pictures. (Its next three screening engagements are in Boulder, Chicago, and Charlottesville.) Peeping Tom has interesting similarities to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Both were released the same year and feature seemingly shy and timid protagonists with murderous issues. More importantly, both films show venerated directors working at the peak of their powers and delivering an artistic tour-de-force on that core subject that weds an audience to any film: voyeurism. There are also some very important differences. Psycho was shot in black-and-white with a budget of under one million dollars and reaped profits that skyrocketed to a worldwide gross beyond the $50 million mark. Peeping Tom had a similar production budget, but was shot in Powell’s preferred color-saturated medium of Technicolor and was a financial disaster. Even worse, it dealt Powell’s career a crippling blow. Both have now long been studied and revered as masterpieces, so what went wrong for Peeping Tom? [...MORE]

Silent Whoopee Pictures

A friend recently brought my attention to a Craigslist posting for some 16mm films that were being sold by a private collector in Denver who was offering a 16mm Kodak Pageant 2505 projector, take-up reels, plus a collection of vintage 16mm shorts. Titles listed included: Grand Hotel, Matinee, The Plumber, and Krazy Kat. It seemed like a screaming deal, so I instructed my assistant to make the purchase for the Film Studies Program and then anxiously awaited their delivery to screen some of these shorts as part of my backyard cinema series. I did, and I’m lucky my neighbors didn’t call the police. The Krazy Kat short was actually titled Krazy Kat House, and while it did hearken back to the silent-era, the only thing animated about this was the sexual libidos of the lesbians engaging in various graphic and explicit acts. Grand Hotel? This was no excerpt of the John Barrymore classic but rather the sexcapades of four people in a hotel room. Although it was hard to tell, due to the angles and the way it was shot, I’m pretty sure it did not involve Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. These women, however, were certainly ready for their close-ups, but mainly in the gynecological sense. [...MORE]

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