What the Peeper Saw / Diabólica malicia (1972)

3.0 out of 5

Twenty-two-year-old Elise, played by Britt Ekland, is married to a wealthy older man whose previous wife died under very strange circumstances. She spends the beginning of the film getting acquainted with her 12 year-old step-son Marcus, who quickly reveals himself to be a pervert and a liar, amongst other things. Eventually believing Marcus had something to do with his own mother's death, Elise goes out of her way to prove to her husband that young Marcus is a liar and, above all else, a mentally disturbed child capable of murder. Of course Marcus' father doesn't believe her, and as the film progresses, the outer layers of the family are slowly stripped away to reveal the dark and perverse secrets that tie the three of them together.

The film constantly hints at going to some very taboo places involving young Marcus, but director Andrea Bianchi, Strip Nude for Your Killer and Cry of a Prostitute, is surprisingly restrained in what he reveals to the audience, content and story-wise. It's not to say that the film is without its risqué scenes, some of which will come as a shock to those who aren't familiar with Bianchi's penchant for sleaze and seemingly recurring theme of incest. But, ultimately, it's that initial restraint that makes the film's revelations all the more effective and, in some cases, disturbing.

What the Peeper Saw builds up to a great twist ending, but almost everything leading up to it might be a bit too talky to hold the attention of most audiences. Cautiously recommended.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics