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RELEASED: 1978, Cert. AA
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 104 mins
DIRECTOR: Irvin Kershner
PRODUCER: Jon Peters
SCREENPLAY: John Carpenter & David Zelag Goodman
MUSIC: Artie Kane
Faye Dunaway as Laura Mars
Tommy Lee Jones as Lt. John Neville
Brad Dourif as Tommy
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Laura Mars is a successful photographer. Her work centres around the fashion/glamour industry, and she is encountering some disapproval by one group of people who feel she is exploiting women, and another group sees what she creates as a glorification of violence and murder, as her photos are mostly about freezing the moment within make-believe scenes of violence.
Laura becomes very troubled by dreams and waking images, almost of a prophetic nature, where she can sense and predict when a series of murders - of people connected to her - are about to happen and are in progress, almost as if she is seeing them happen inside of her own eyes. One of Laura's main concerns is when the police point out to her that the murders are being committed in a style which copycats some of her photos.
In addition to her disturbing dreams and visions of murders taking place, Laura is also being pestered by her somewhat unhinged and demanding ex-husband.
The police department is cynical of Laura's 'psychic' claims, but gradually Lt. John Neville, who is in charge of the murder cases, starts to believe her, and they strike up a friendship which develops romantic undertones.
The killer, however, is still on the loose, with one of the suspects being Laura's personal driver, ex-con Tommy, who is helpful and obliging, but a bit of a loose cannon. As Laura's work colleagues and friends are being bumped off by the truckload, can the police get any closer to identifying and capturing the culprit?
The Eyes Of Laura Mars is one of these late 1970s films which strongly resembles a string of American cop shows that were infesting our TV screens at the time.
The opening to the film is rather bitty and noisy, with loud disco music being played at Laura's various photo-shoots, and parties that are held by her group of flashy, arty-farty friends. I found this rather tedious, as the songs used are very poor covers of the originals. Whilst these parts of the film were happening, I had to turn the volume down several notches, as this music really was getting on my nerves.
The acting in The Eyes Of Laura Mars is a mixture of seriously questionable and moderately passable. Faye Dunaway's performance is very uneven throughout, in that she does play some scenes fairly well, but her input in others just marginally falls short of dreary, and definitely nowhere near up to the standard she has achieved in some other films. Tommy Lee Jones merely scrapes being OK as Lt. John Neville, playing the character of a smooth-talking cop with very little sparkle. The best of a not too good bunch is Brad Dourif as Tommy, Laura's driver. Normally I am very impressed with Dourif's acting abilities, but in this film, although his performance is far more acceptable than the other cast members, I felt it to be bland compared to what I know he is otherwise capable of.
The dialogue which lacks depth is merely average, and I consider its lacklustre could have contributed to the actors coming across less favourably than would normally be expected of them.
The whole mood of The Eyes Of Laura Mars is so very late 1970s, being liberally tinged with a tackiness and throwaway quality which for me was so reminiscent of the middle and latter part of that decade. All of the male actors (apart from Brad Dourif) seemed to strongly resemble Barry Manilow, and there is something cheap to the point of almost embarrassment in the way that the female cast members are presented.
For the most part, the actual story of The Eyes Of Laura Mars isn't too bad, but for me it doesn't hit the spot in film format. The book (which I have read, just the once, before the film was made) is a lot better, tying up some loose ends that the direction/production team left hanging in this borderline trashy movie.
Despite me finding re-makes totally abhorrent for the most part, I want to stick my neck out here and say that The Eyes Of Laura Mars is screaming out to be taken hold of, polished up and turned into a good thriller/mystery. As it stands, it falls way down the ladder of competence, but the elements are present which could, managed differently, be worked upon in order to create something quite chilling. It would have to be handled with care though.....possibly, and in my personal opinion, with the storyline being set in the present, rather than any potential re-make keeping it in the 1970s.
Some of the storyline is quite predictable, and the format is typical of this type of film from the cheaper end of the market - e.g. a serial killer on the loose, with a small handful of suspects, and at the end of the day it's a case of merely waiting to see who the bad guy is. The problem with this film is that whilst waiting, the viewer could end up nodding off on the remote control! I found the antics of Laura's work colleagues (who also form the backbone of her social life) to be mind-numbingly tedious, trashy, shallow, characterless and dreary. Interestingly though, bearing in mind The Eyes Of Laura Mars is about a serial killer, the term 'serial killer' hadn't yet been invented in 1978 when this film was released. Of course serial killers existed, but they hadn't yet been given their own label...that came in the early to mid-1980s.
Being as I did quite enjoy the book of The Eyes Of Laura Mars when I read it just the once back in the mid-1970s (yet only saw the film for the first time recently), I did have reasonably high hopes for it transferring well onto celluloid, but it sadly for me falls flat on its face. The suspense levels are weak, the acting is uneven at best and terrible at worst, the characterisation is poor to the point of almost being ludicrous, the arrangement is bitty, there are large tedious swathes, the script is dull and the music is a tenth-rate raucous noise.
All in all, I really wouldn't recommend The Eyes Of Laura Mars, although if a good modern-day director got hold of it and created a re-make, I'd be interested to see the results. For this one though, which is the original and at least for now and as far as I'm aware the only production, it's a real turkey and a total waste of time.....as for the ending, well, words fail me! I am awarding two stars, those merely being for untapped potential and Brad Dourif (even though he wasn't as good as usual)....no more!
At the time of writing, The Eyes Of Laura Mars can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £15.99 to £48.13
Used: from £3.44 to £12.99
Collectible: only one copy currently available @ £7.99 (appears to be used)
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
"Eyes Of Laura Mars" was released in 1978 with a classy looking, three-tone publicity poster. Looking at it, you would not know exactly what to expect from the movie. This sure was part of the attraction. How fitting that Faye Dunaway should interpret the role of Joan Crawford a couple of years later in "Mommie Dearest": "Eyes Of Laura Mars" is indeed a sort of up-do-date 'woman's picture' for the Seventies, the kind of stuff you would get from Crawford in the Forties (say, Curtis Berhardt's "Possessed"). True to the 'woman's picture' genre, this murder mystery melodrama adopted (in a literal way) the point of view of its heroine. It framed it in lavish production values: the sublime costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge and the rich, deep-toned cinematography by Victor J. Kemper are standouts. Somehow, Kershner and Kemper manage to make darkness and morbidity totally tangible while shooting the vast majority of the sequences in plain daylight, without expressionistic camera angles and lighting. It works because of the color palette - 'black', in this movie, is a real color; the low-key scenes seem always natural and never the result of fancy, post-modernist 'noir' lighting techniques. Back in 1978 you certainly would go and see "Eyes Of Laura Mars" for Dunaway - a total icon. You would get slightly disappointed by the staging of the murders, which did seem a bit goofy. You would not dream that 25 years later it would become a true time-capsule experience, but it has, thanks to the massive use of on-location shooting and the disco soundtrack. It is a technically superb piece of film-making: check out the whole Tommy-Lee Jones/Brad Dourif confrontation/pursuit scene in the third act, and simply wish they would still make 'em like that. The DVD has a picture portfolio, a behind the scenes featurette and an interesting commentary by Kershner
. The man is a genius.
An interesting film. I'll be brief on the outline of the plot because the juicy bits to ponder derive from the issue it tackles. Laura Marrs is a photographer, arty and controversial. Not for her the bog standard nice piccies of top models, she opts for violence, destruction and anger to portay her shots, and as a result she has become famous and much debated. During a photoshoot she becomes alarmed by a vision that overtakes her. She can see someone as they are being murdered. And more confusingly for her, she sees them as though she herself is carrying out the murder. And it gets worse. She knows the victim. Upon finding out that it has taken place, exactly as she had foreseen it, Laura is shaken to her core. But it won't be the first time. Little does Laura know, but she's going to have to get used to witnessing the horrific acts. There will be a few. And they will all have connections with her. A rather handsome detective is assigned to the murder case, and a hint of romance is in the air as he tries to solve the killings, and help Laura in the process. The movie itself is well acted with some fine performances from Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones. It's written well enough for the unbelievable plot to be believed whilst the film is playing, but as I said, the real gem is the issue of using women in degrading circumstances to portray fashion. The shots are not explicit, lets face it, this was to be mainstream cinema in the late 70's, so as shocking as they may have seemed back then, it's nothing to what they'd show now. But having said that, the context of the argument is still forceful and will have the ability to inflame impassioned debate to this day. Is there a case for letting fashion overstep the boundaries into controversial areas? Benetton toe-tested this idea not that long ago and found that people still had their limits of tolerance for what is acceptable adverti
sing. Considering some of the shock tactics that have been used since then, although granted not specifically with the fashion industry, maybe boundaries have been pushed far enough back for the ideas shown in this film to be deemed suitable. It may well already have been done - I am not a fashion guru or victim and don't buy the necessary magazines enough to keep my finger on the pulse. However, I'm banking on the fact that moral outrage would have made a dint in the other media for me to have picked up on it. But this film all hinges on the vision of degraded women and the effects it has on those who view or interacts with the images. It puts forward the argument outlined above, and also, does the visual violence encourage a physical violence? The story works along the lines of every good thriller. More than a few red herrings, a couple of twists here, a number of turns there and you're kept reasonably in the dark as to who the killer is. It's all very 70's in it's feel, obviously helped along by the style of the clothes and make-up, but it has enough stamina to be watched today and still enjoyed. The film's soundtrack is "Prisoner" by Barbara Streisand and which helped make the film popular just by the very sound of her belting this little ditty out. A good track. A good film. A good evening in with friends to watch and debate the issues therein.
Featuring major award-winning actors Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones, as well as other recognisable names and faces such as Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois and Raul Julia, ‘Eyes of Laura Mars’ is a reasonably prestigious production from 1978 which seems to have been largely forgotten since its initial release. Now, with DVD release, comes an opportunity to rectify that situation… THE FILM Laura Mars is a fashion photographer currently causing much controversy with her violent and provocative pictures taken for both photo galleries and advertising concerns. When, suddenly, people she knows start being murdered, Mars begins to suffer frightening visions in which she sees through the killer’s eyes in the moments prior to his committing the crime. Only homicide detective John Neville believes that what Mars claims is happening to her is true, and only he can save her from the deadly assassin now on her trail… THE DISC · Distributor: Columbia Tristar Home Video [CDR 10016]. Columbia Tristar seem to be flooding the market at the moment; at least, a huge percentage of the DVDs I have bought in the past few weeks seem to have been released by thus company. This release seems to be par for the course for a CT DVD at the moment, comprising a nice anamorphic print of the film with generally poor sound, together with an adequate if not exceptional range of extra features. · Rating: 15. This film is does not contain a particularly large amount of violence or actual nudity, although implied violent and sexual imagery is implicit in the very narrative of the film, and so this rating is probably about right. · Region: 2 (PAL encoding). This disc I am reviewing here is the standard UK release of the film, suitable for most UK DVD players (specifically, any region 2, region 0 or multi-region players which support PAL playback; all players bought within Britain should fall within one of
these categories). · Type and case: DVD9 with black Amaray keepcase. Single-sided, dual layered disc. I did notice a slight pause at layer change, which I have to say is rather rare on my equipment and signifies a rather poorly judged position at which to place the change. · Running time: feature 99 minutes approx. · Picture format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Based upon the 1.85:1 original exhibition ratio, this is a nice approximation and a nice print. Okay, so the film looks rather murky and the colours are certainly not modern, but this is caused by the film’s nature, which is “very Seventies” — walls are brown, certain rooms are much darker than those in which filming would take place today. None of this can be blamed upon the DVD transfer, however, and the reproduction here is quite faithful, including both blacks and fleshtones. Due to the fact that this transfer is both anamorphic and PAL screen resolution is excellent throughout, especially for those of us with widescreen TVs. · Audio: Mono. A slight disappointment is likely to be felt at the mono soundtrack, however despite lacking the subtleties and nuances of a surround soundtrack the sound here is crisp and clear enough to enjoy the film, and the viewer is unlikely to miss the other 4.1 sound channels for long. · Subtitles: English, French, German, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Arabic, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian. · Extras: Filmographies, Photo Gallery, “Visions” featurette, Director’s Commentary. The filmographies, in the menu referred to as ‘Talent Profiles’, consist of the usual text screens and have sections on director Irvin Kershner, Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones and Raul Julia. The Photo Gallery is not presented in the usual way, and is all the better for it. Rather than a se
ries of simple stills which can be navigated by selecting some kind of ‘next’ button, the photo gallery here is an actual video of stills, along with a running commentary from Lauren Bousreau [spelling unsure], the DVD producer, who talks about the various differences between the different scrip draft of Eyes of Laura Mars. This feature lasts just over 8 minutes and is probably the best photo gallery I have yet seen on a DVD. The Vision featurette is a ten-minute 4:3 short, whose origins are contemporary with the film, comprising clips from the film together with brief snippets of interviews with actors and various other individuals related to the project. The Director’s Commentary is a full-length audio monologue with director Irvin Kershner (also responsible for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Never Say Never Again’ and ‘RoboCop 2’). Kershner is obviously proud of and interested in his film, but he does have the annoying tendency to point out the astoundingly obvious. Despite that, this is a welcome inclusion. · Menus: the menus are not animated but are tastefully designed, consisting of a montage of sketches based upon scenes from the film surrounding a negative version of the ‘eyes’ image from the front of the DVD cover. They are also functional to the task at hand and no obvious problems are apparent. CONCLUSION Whilst it cannot compete with the prestige DVD productions being awarded to contemporary popular films, this is actually a reasonably impressive DVD for a film of this age and current obscurity. Although the soundtrack is only mono, this is not such a major drawback to the effectiveness of this particular film, and is in fact more than made up for by the excellent print and good range of extras — including the first photo gallery on DVD I have ever encountered which I actually thought was worthwhile. In general, then, a good job well done.