Watched: 16 January
Hugely enjoyable and pulpy Brian De Palma thriller, in which John Travolta’s sound artist witnesses and manages to record the murder of a high-profile politician, subsequently launching his own investigation when the authorities seek to cover up the killing. Travolta is really good here, and although John Lithgow’s performance as a brutal hired killer veers from silly to terrifying (sometimes within the space of a scene), the villain does seem to fit snugly with the piece as a whole, which is lurid and menacing, hinting occasionally at giallo and American exploitation cinema.
De Palma’s adoration for the work of Alfred Hitchcock is evident throughout, but particularly during the tense set pieces, and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond is on good form, using a variety of canted angles to signify all is not well with the world. Cheapo exploitation flicks are crucial to the story and dealt with wittily at times (in fact, from the very first scene), and you get the sense that De Palma is having some fun at his own expense here, while the ‘peeping tom’ theme, the name of the film, the overriding sense of paranoia and the shots of tape being wound back and forth etc. recall suspense-heavy mysteries from the previous two decades like Blow-Up, Klute and The Conversation. (****)