Director/Teleplay – John Carpenter, Producer – Anna Cottle, Photography – Robert B. Hauser, Music – Harry Sukman, Art Direction – Philip Barber. Production Company – Warner Brothers
Lauren Hutton (Leigh Michaels), David Birney (Paul Winkless), Adrienne Barbeau (Sophie), Charles Cyphers (Gary Hunt), Grainger Hines (Steve)
Leigh Michaels take up a new job and moves into an apartment in L.A.’s Arkham Towers. Immediately after she moves in, she is subject to a series of harassments, including gifts in the mail, anonymous phone-calls and mysterious power fluctuations inside her apartment. The police refuse to believe her complaint. Eventually Leigh works out that the caller is in the apartment block opposite her and is spying on her with a telescope. When she calls the police with her suspicions, the mystery man changes his apartment so that they find no evidence. Leigh realizes that the only recourse is for her to fight back against her stalker.
Someone’s Watching Me – not to be confused with the Ridley Scott thriller Someone To Watch Over Me (1987) – is one of the early films made by John Carpenter, who has since gone on to become a genre legend. At the time that Someone’s Watching Me was made, Carpenter had had a modest cult hit with the witty sf spoof Dark Star (1974), had directed the little-seen but acclaimed Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and written the script for Eyes of Laura Mars (1978). A month before Someone’s Watching Me aired on NBC, Carpenter’s low-budget film Halloween (1978) was released. Halloween became a major hit, created the slasher movie genre and suddenly made John Carpenter into a hot name. At the time that Someone’s Watching Me was commissioned though, Carpenter had not even started making Halloween and was a relative nobody. (See below for John Carpenter’s other films).
Someone’s Watching Me lacks the suspenseful impact that Halloween had. To his disadvantage, John Carpenter is working in the medium of television where the ability to sustain tension is constantly being disrupted by the need for commercial breaks. Nevertheless, Carpenter does succeed in keeping the film at a frequently high degree of tension. As he did in Halloween, Carpenter does not spend too much time fleshing out the characters but quickly heads to the suspense. He uses the familiar peripheral shots and fluidly mobile camerawork that he did in Halloween. He also has an unparalleled ability in setting up red herrings, where he more than ably hold the attention, eventually arriving at a nail-biting climax. While made for television, Someone’s Watching Me is certainly a film that is much more lively and visually exciting than the usual made-for-tv movie. In many ways, in terms of what Carpenter does here, creating a slick, finely tuned work of suspense for the tv medium, Someone’s Watching Me is not unakin to Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971), another film that was made as a throwaway effort for tv but ended up surpassing itself due to the calibre of the then-unknown director assigned to it.
The main thing that Someone’s Watching Me will probably be remembered for is its setting up the blueprint for the psycho-voyeur themes that many of the slasher films of the 1980s tediously copied – see the likes of Eyes of a Stranger (1981), The Seduction (1982), Visiting Hours (1982) and Lady Beware (1987). The set-up in Someone’s Watching Me owes more than a good debt to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window (1954), which had James Stewart as a housebound man who spots a murder occurring in the apartment opposite.
Someone’s Watching Me was also the place where John Carpenter and later wife Adrienne Barbeau met – she having a part here as Lauren Hutton’s lesbian co-worker. Aside from Adrienne Barbeau, there are several other John Carpenter regulars here, including actor Charles Cyphers and Carpenter’s regular producer Richard Kobritz.
John Carpenter’s other genre films are:– Dark Star (1974); the urban siege film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976); Halloween (1978); the ghost story The Fog (1980); the sf action film Escape from New York (1981); the remake of The Thing (1982); the Stephen King killer car adaptation Christine (1983); the alien visitor effort Starman (1984); the Hong Kong-styled martial arts fantasy Big Trouble in Little China (1986); Prince of Darkness (1987), an interesting conceptual blend of quantum physics and religion; the alien takeover film They Live (1988); Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992); the horror anthology Body Bags (tv movie, 1993), which Carpenter also hosted; the H.P. Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the remake of Village of the Damned (1995); Escape from L.A. (1996); the vampire hunter film Vampires (1998); the sf film Ghosts of Mars (2001); and the haunted asylum film The Ward (2010). Carpenter has also written the screenplays for the psychic thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Halloween II (1981), the hi-tech thriller Black Moon Rising (1985) and the killer snake tv movie Silent Predators (1999), as well as produced Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the time-travel film The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), Vampires: Los Muertos (2002) and the remake of The Fog (2005).