Film Review: Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

in #aaa6 months ago


For many New Yorkers, at least until the latest pandemic, 1970s were the worst era in living memory. However, for those who lived in that city while being young, beautiful and talented enough to earn their living in more glamorous branches of show business, those times were quite exciting. That included even people who provided crucial services to that elite world, like the protagonist of Eyes of Laura Mars, 1978 thriller directed by Irvin Kershner.

Laura Mars (played by Faye Dunaway) is elite fashion photographer, whose work brought her fame and fortune, but also a great deal of controversy, because she likes to use motives of death and violence in her photos. She is partly inspired by brief, unexplained visions, but they suddenly become more vivid and include gruesome murders which she witnesses like she is watching through killer’s eyes. One such vision coincides with the actual murder of her book editor and Laura quickly becomes convinced that she has a psychic connection with the killer. Police is initially sceptical towards her claims, but when her friends and associates begin to die at the hands of unknown killer, NYPD detective Lt. John Neville (played by Tommy Lee Jones) fears that she might be next and decides to serve as her unofficial bodyguard, leaving them plenty of opportunity to discover attraction to each other.

Eyes of Laura Mars, although made with relatively high budget and with Faye Dunaway, then at the zenith of her stardom, in title role, is these days best known for launching some prominent Hollywood careers. The script was originally written by John Carpenter and later sold with the proceeds use to make Halloween, one of the greatest hits of the time. Kershner’s direction left strong impression on George Lucas who would later hired him to direct The Empire Strikes Back, the best film in Star Wars saga. The film started its production as a vehicle for Barbra Streisand, girlfriend of producer Jon Peters, who would later become one of the most powerful and influential names in Hollywood.

For the audience at time, Eyes of Laura Mars represented flawed but adequate piece of genre cinema which was rewarded with decent results at the box-office. The film works today, despite scriptwriters not bothering to give any kind of explanation for protagonist’s “gift”, problems with pacing in second part, mishandled romantic subplot, somewhat too obvious “red herring” (like the character of Laura’s driver and possible suspect being played by delightfully creepy Brad Dourif) and the weak and not particularly convincing “twist” ending. The achievement is even more remarkable in light of troubled production, which was marked by creative differences at the set and constant script rewrites that made Kershner shoot the film without actually knowing the end. The cast is very good, even when lacking experience – like real life models Lisa Taylor and Darlane Fleugel – or when faced with thankless role like young Tommy Lee Jones. The most interesting aspect of Eyes of Laura Mars, at least from today’s perspective, is the insight into 1970s decadence, brought by use of disco music and erotic photography by Rebecca Black and Helmut Newton. The decade perhaps didn’t bring too much fun to people living during it, but films like this might provide fun for today’s audience.

RATING: 6/10 (++)

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Critic: AA