Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Synopsis:

A controversial fashion photographer, Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway, Chinatown), known for her provocative pictures, develops the ability to see through the eyes of a serial killer who happens to be bumping off people from her inner cycle. Laura tries to convince a jaded police detective, John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive), of her new-found psychic abilities, but he has trouble believing her. Can Laura prevent the next murder?

Reaction & Thoughts:

Alfred Hitchcock always said that Psycho was an experiment of sorts; he wanted to see what would happened if a Class-A filmmaker made a B-movie. While watching Eyes of Laura Mars, I often 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 mainstream Hollywood sensibilities and schlock is, at the very least, a great curiosity.

It was just a matter of time before Hollywood tried their hands at the giallo craze of the ’70s. 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. The insertion of love scenes into the mayhem is a bit off-putting. The killings are a bit repetitive too. However, the professionalism of the people involved in the production help hide the film’s most glaring flaws.

The film’s pedigree is pretty impressive. Eyes of Laura Mars was co-produced by Laura Ziskin (Murphy’s Romance and Pretty Woman) and Jon Peters (Flashdance and Tim Burton’s Batman) — both producers went on to make some of the most successful movies of the ’80s and ’90s. John Carpenter (Halloween and Escape from New York) — yes, that John Carpenter! — 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 and Network). They all try hard to make you forget that you are watching something tawdry and silly.

Faye Dunaway’s old-style star turn further hides the cracks on the floor. This was Dunaway’s first project after 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.

A great supporting cast is at hand to provide a series of red-herrings. In addition to 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, and Rene Auberjonois (M*A*S*H), and Rose Gregorio (True Confessions) plays Dunaway’s friends.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Eyes of Laura Mars doesn’t accomplish what it set out to achieve (it comes close, though), but there is something irresistible about schlock trying to pass for high art — isn’t it funny to see a pig wearing lipstick? It helps a great deal that Dunaway doesn’t phone it in; it is as if she was told that this was a play by Ibsen or Chekhov. She makes the movie watchable, and she’s surrounded by the best team money can buy — it a fun thriller! Color, 104 minutes, Rated R.

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