Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)


A fashion photographer, Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway, Chinatown), develops the ability to see through the eyes of a serial killer who happens to be targeting people from her inner cycle. Laura tries to convince a jaded cop, John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive), of her new-found psychic abilities, but he has trouble believing her.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I’m completely out of control!”

Alfred Hitchcock always said that Psycho was an experiment of sorts; he wanted to see what would happen if a Class-A filmmaker made a B-movie. While watching Eyes of Laura Mars, I had the impression that the filmmakers were attempting to do the same thing; a giallo (aka Italian slasher) done by people who weren’t normally associated with the subgenre. The end result is no masterpiece, but the combination of Hollywood sensibilities and schlock is, at the very least, a great curiosity.

Eyes of Laura Mars gets many things right, but this is ultimately an experiment that doesn’t work all that well. There is an erratic flow to the narrative — the movie is unable to maintain the edge-of-your-seat suspense that’s required in these kind of movies. In addition, the love scenes feel a bit intrusive. The killings are a bit repetitive too.

That being said, the professionalism of the people involved in the production helps hide the film’s most glaring flaws. The movie’s pedigree is pretty impressive: Eyes of Laura Mars was co-produced by Laura Ziskin (Pretty Woman) and Jon Peters (Flashdance) (both producers went on to make some of the most successful movies of the ’80s and ’90s), and director John Carpenter (Halloween) co-wrote the screenplay.

Director Irvin Kershner is today better known for helming The Empire Strikes Back, now universally accepted as the best Star Wars movie. Barbra Streisand sings the theme song, “Prisoner,” written by Karen Lawrence and John Desautels. The costumes were created by Oscar-winning designer Theoni V. Aldredge (The Great Gatsby). They all try hard to make you forget that you are watching something violent and tawdry.

Faye Dunaway’s old-style star turn further hides the cracks on the floor. This was Dunaway’s first project since her Oscar-winning role in Network (1976). Considering the fact that she was a last-minute choice — Streisand was scheduled to do the film, but she pulled out at the last moment — Dunaway does a fine job in the title role. She gives a multi-layered performance, a rarity in a movie of this type.

A great supporting cast is at hand to provide a series of red-herrings. In addition to Tommy Lee Jones, the cast also includes Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as Dunaway’s shady chauffeur. Raul Julia (Kiss of the Spider Woman) is Dunaway’s brooding ex-husband. Rene Auberjonois (Odo in TV’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Rose Gregorio (True Confessions) play Dunaway’s friends.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Eyes of Laura Mars doesn’t accomplish what it set out to achieve, but there is something irresistible about schlock trying to pass for high art. It does help that Faye Dunaway doesn’t phone it in; it is as if she was told that this was a play by Ibsen or Chekhov. Dunaway makes the movie watchable, and she’s surrounded by the best team money can buy — it’s a fun thriller! Recommended. Color, 104 minutes, Rated R.

13 responses to “Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

  1. I’m glad to see this film represented on a creditable blog. I’ve always admired it. I like the glam feel of it and I think Dunaway and Jones did fine jobs of acting. To me, it is a precursor to De Palma’s Dressed To Kill; the latter being the superior film, in my opinion. De Palma made a fine living from a solid cannon of schlock films trimmed in high art. He is one of my favorite directors.

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  2. Absolutely. Bow Out is much better than Blow Up, the film that inspired it, in my opinion.Carrie is fantastic. The Untouchables is very, very good. I even like Snake Eyes–much more for its potential–I can vividly imagine the film it could have been.

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