Director: Irvin Kershner
Screenplay: John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif
Duration: 104 min
BBFC Certification: 15
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter. It’s also no secret that I have a soft spot for the Italian Giallo’s of the 70’s. So, Eyes Of Laura Mars, should be up there on my list of favourite films. Carpenter’s original screenplay was a love letter to the sleazy Italian thrillers, but he left the project after 9 months and the numerous rewrites led to a finished film which suffers from his absence. As it was, Eyes Of Laura Mars, was directed by Irvin Kershner, who would next go on to direct The Empire Strikes Back.
Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is an artistic photographer whose vivid, glamorous in-your-face photos depicting scenes of violence and sex are all the rage in the New York art scene. As the film opens, she awakes from a nightmare in which her friend, Doris, is viciously stabbed in her eyes with an ice pick. Going through a soon-to-be-published coffee table book of her photos called The Eyes of Mars, she turns to a picture of Doris, identical to an image she had in the dream. That evening, she attends an exhibition of her work and is besieged by questions from reporters about whether her photos glorify violence and are demeaning to women. The evening is soon disrupted by the news that Doris has been found dead and before too long, Laura starts having visions of her friends being murdered as she witnesses the actions through the killer’s eyes.
The cast is nothing short of stellar – Faye Dunaway, straight from winning an Oscar for Network, carries the film with an effortless performance (I can’t see originally cast leading lady, Barbara Streisand working in the role). Tommy Lee Jones plays John Neville, the police lieutenant in charge of solving the murders, in an early role which shows the talent we’ve all come to know. Rene Auberjonois is deliciously camp as Laura’s agent and Brad Dourif brings his usual intensity as her ex-con driver.
Eyes Of Laura Mars is a beautifully and stylishly shot, perfectly capturing the glamorous and lurid fashions of disco, along with the gritty and filthy New York of the late ‘70s – credit goes to Indicator for the crystal clear and vibrant Blu-ray transfer. The set design is fantastic from the galleries and studios that Laura inhabits and her chic apartment which includes a bedroom where all the walls are mirrored!
As well acted, directed and stylish as the film is, it’s Achilles heel is the script. John Carpenter’s original script had a different killer, which I feel would have led to a more satisfying ending. When the killer is revealed in the finished film, you can’t help but feel cheated, and their motivation is just laughable. Also missing is any kind of explanation as to why and how Laura is having the visions. I would have loved to have seen Carpenter’s original vision on screen, but then he might not have made Halloween, which was released the same year.
Eyes Of Laura Mars is out now on Blu-ray and released by Indicator. There is an audio commentary with Irvin Kershner. Three short featurettes, including the original making-of from 1978, and a visual essay from critic Kat Ellinger produced exclusively for this release. There is also the original trailer, image galleries from on the set, and an exclusive booklet with a new essay and historical articles on the film.