Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2009-10-23 19:59

Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones and Brad Dourif

Reviewed by: Josh G.

“This is Lulu, and Michele,
We’re not home, so go to Hell,
But if you’re not a horny creep,
Leave a message when you hear the beep.”

This taught thriller from the late 70s is sometimes referred to as the film that ultimately killed Faye Dunaway’s career. That’s a little harsh, considering it’s pretty good stalker fair. A cast of relatively well-knowns (including the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play series) makes Eyes of Laura Mars a semi-classic, even when not well received by big name critics. It’s stylish, sleek, sexy, and did I mention suspenseful? Blood doesn’t always have to be in bulk. You just need an engrossing plot, a good twist, pretty models and some sleazy pizzaz to go with it.

Faye Dunaway plays a middle-aged woman, Laura Mars, a New York chic photographer who takes pictures of models in controversial situations involving violence. She soon finds a major error in her profession when a dream of hers about a mysterious person killing her model Doris (Meg Mundy) with a pick turns out to be real. She can see through the killer’s eyes! And this phenomenon has been happening to her for two years now. Laura’s friends try to get past the dampened predicament, when no sooner does someone say ‘murder’, Laura’s close friend Elaine (Rose Gregorio) is also dispatched, stabbed in the eyes. And Mars saw the whole thing in her head! Laura can’t work under these stressful events, and takes a break in between shootings. Flamboyant friend Donald Phelps (Rene Auberjonois) can’t seem to figure out Laura’s problem, chauffeur Tommy Ludlow (Brad Dourif) has his own troubles, and top models Lulu (Darlanne Fluegel) and Michele (Lisa Taylor) are just trying to avoid their own demise. Laura’s ex-husband Michael (Raul Julia of The Addams Family movies) is thrown back into her path to make things even harder on her, and Detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) won’t take any focus off the case. What’s the reasoning behind these sick attacks? Does someone hate the models, or are they punishing Laura for something she has done? Mars will need more than just her eyes to save her from this maniac.

The color tone in the film changes from scene to scene, but it’s all stunningly shot. The writing is usually clever too, thanks to Halloween and The Thing director John Carpenter, who also wrote the story for Eyes. John, along with the actors themselves make the story work, where if one section was lacking, the people in Eyes would probably be disposable. What little we see of Elaine is just enough to make us feel bad for her death. She’s funny, crass, and defenseless. Lulu and Michele are great characters. They are beautiful, always happy, and shine light to wherever present. Faye as the lead is glamorous and eye-catching. Even in her late thirties, she’s a peach. From all of the heat of the murders, Laura and John grow closer, and by the last third of the movie, they love each other. People have always said love works in mysterious ways...or maybe it was ‘God’, but still, Laura’s elegant charisma flows onto John and we have a pair of fine leads. Nearly everyone is polished, but the film is set in high class modeling New York, so the good-looking faces are to be expected. An exception would be Tommy Lee Jones’ ghastly uni-brow. But look past the exterior.

Eyes of Laura Mars contains one of the most addictive, lively and fun soundtracks ever! Barbara Streisand sings the theme song (yes, it has its own theme song), and the classics “Shake Your Booty”, “Boogie Nights”, and “Native New Yorker” make a splash. But the absolute best is Odyssey’s “Let’s All Chant”, playing during a photo shoot. It adds class to the feature, even when boobs and scantily clad clothes appear. Sexy and respectable? Now that’s movie making. The scenes with Laura having a vision of another murder are very repetitive. The same thing happens. She’s doing whatever, freezes in place, eyes go wide, mouth drops, and we see a blurred killer’s-eye-view of who is dying. It’s all very funny, but startling, because we know what Mars must be going through to endure such an eerie thing. To watch your friends die in front of you, and not be able to do anything about it is tragic. Laura tries to help out, but she’s always late. Oops! Elaine is already gouged. Blast! Doris won’t pick up the phone. Shit! Message machine. Nothing can go right for her. But how? How does this happen? After all, there is a bodyguard now aiding the people close to her, and still, they end up dead by the hands of an ice pick killer with black gloves! You can never escape the giallo killers.

True suspense jumps when Laura is running through a storage building from the killer, who she can see is coming after her from his point of view. Since Mars can only see what the killer sees, she has to run away blindly. An awful position for our heroine. Maybe the murderer is the chauffeur, Tommy, who dropped off Laura at the warehouse. Mars found out that he was arrested for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon before being hired for her. Suspicion suddenly looms over him. But he’s just a dirty bum, right? It can’t possibly be him. What I can hardly muster is the fact that Tommy actually works for Mars. She’s a respectable photographer, and yet her driver is a lowlife poor man. Way to use logic, Carpenter! It doesn’t really hurt the story though. There is an abundance of red herrings everywhere. Anyone and everyone is suspect to the murders. Even Faye herself! The bodycount reaches over half a dozen, and even though it is far from a traditional slasher movie, it’s full of giallo tendencies. The stalking scenes and close-ups of the ice pick are just enough to add a psycho’s tough to this underrated piece.

As said, Dunaway performs excellently. Not the best she could have done, but it’s an award winner. Nothing for the Oscars; more low-key. If only we found out why Laura can see the things she does. Or how on earth she can run down a flight of stairs when she can’t see a damn thing in front of her. It’s a good thing she doesn’t get a vision when she’s driving, or she’d get into a car crash. Oh! My mistake. That does happen. But she still drives surprisingly well (until the crash) for someone who sees nothing. Eyes has some of the best costumes ever! So vogue; a la mode. Although the pictures taken by Mars are violent, they are fantastic, just like the cinematography. The only major fault of Eyes is the halt of action in some cases. We slow the storyline too much in parts, like after a murder. The ending is also lacking in thrills. We find out who the killer is before we are supposed. Two people, whose faces we see, are in the elevator, and soon, Laura has a vision of one of the people being killed. We can’t see who. But it becomes aggravatingly obvious when the only other person who was in the elevator pops up to Laura’s room to solace her. It’s a few minutes before the big killer monologue that explains it all, which is uneffective since at that point, we know one of the two people in the elevator is dead, and the other has to be the murderer. Shame. The identity is a wonderful twist, but it fails to shock you because of the slow lead up, that almost takes its audience for being dummies.

This film is so fashionable! I first picked it up overseas in Europe, but when my dumbness faded away, I realized, “Hey, I don’t own a Region 2 DVD player, and my player is one of the few that can’t be altered to play all DVD types. Such an idiot is I!” Well, luckily in Ontario, I found the 2000 DVD packed with extras (Region 1. Yes!). Sure, the picture is pixelish compared to what can be released today, and the color isn’t as vibrant as one would hope. At least it sounds good, even if it’s mono. It can be viewed in widescreen and full screen, and comes with a director’s commentary, a making-of featurette, a photo gallery, talent files, and even production notes. What a set! Thank you Columbia Pictures. Cheesy at times, and slow for some viewers, Eyes of Laura Mars is still at the top of its game. You can’t afford to miss out if you are a fan of slashers, American gialli, or just good supernatural thrillers to begin with. “Let’s All Chant.” Buy it!

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