Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) / Thriller-Mystery

MPAA Rated: R for nudity, strong violence, and language
Running time: 104 min.

Cast: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Auberjonois, Brad Dourif, Raul Julia, Frank Adonis, Lisa Taylor, Darlanne Fluegel, Rose Gregorio, Meg Mundy
Director: Irvin Kershner
Screenplay: John Carpenter, David Zelag Goodman
Review published May 11, 2005

Eyes of Laura Mars had been originally planned as a vehicle for Barbra Streisand, who later ended up passing on it, although she did later contribute the theme song (the only one she has ever done for a movie she wasn't in).  All things considered, it's hard to imagine someone doing a more superb job than Faye Dunaway (Network, Three Days of the Condor) here, as she evokes genuine looking fright and a disconnect with the people around her that is crucial to give the essence of her sheltered, pampered existence.  Pre-stardom Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Batman Forever) shows early signs here of the superb character actor he'd eventually become, displaying strength and gentleness in equal measure, which would be the type of character he'd play in almost every successful role since.

Dunaway stars as controversial fashion photographer Laura Mars, who has been creating a huge buzz in the entertainment news with her brand of stylized violent imagery used in the photographs she takes, which are readily used in advertising products.  Critics and reporters hound her wherever she goes, but even more disturbing is the fact that Laura thinks she has had the vision of the murder of one of her models, and that she witnessed the deed through the eyes of the killer.  Lo and behold, the woman of her vision has been killed for real, and the similarity of the murder and one of the pictures with the same woman in one of her photography books sends sales skyrocketing.  Soon she sees more of the visions, and she reports the incident to the police, but most give her an incredulous look.  The only helpful hand comes in the form of hunky detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) who also finds himself getting too close to the woman he is sworn to protect, although Laura doesn't seem to mind.  With more models out there for the killer, can Laura and John get to the killer before he commits any more murders?

Red herrings abound, but savvy genre fanatics should have no trouble weeding down the suspects to the most obvious culprit.  Eyes of Laura Mars was written by famed director John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween) , although David Z. Goodman (Logan's Run, Straw Dogs) would come in later to try to spruce it up by changing the identity of the killer.  Irvin Kersher (The Empire Strikes Back, Never Say Never Again) directs in competent fashion, with good use of the camera and sound to evoke some genuine scares as we see the horror in the eyes of the victims as if they were through the eyes of the killer.  There is a chic look to the entire production, perfectly in step with the glitzy days of disco that were popular at the time of the making of this film, but the music selection, for what it is, is top notch.

Despite the strong performances and the occasional scare, Eyes of Laura Mars never evolves to become anything more than a slick, gimmicky thriller, titillating for the moment, but forgotten soon after.  Perhaps if the film had started out centered on the character of the killer, instead of Laura Mars, there would have been at least some freshness, and it would also have made the ending seem far less preposterous.  Riveting to a point, until the silliness quotient finally sinks it.  For Dunaway fans and thriller junkies only.

Qwipster's rating::

2005 Vince Leo