Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
What’s It About: Faye Dunaway is famous fashion photographer, Laura Mars, who’s niche is violent imagery and death. Even if she’s trying to sell coats in her photographs the coat wearing models are causing some type of violence. Early on, we learn that she has some sort of second sight, literally seeing a future event. Too bad its the death of a friend or colleague though. Its never explained why she gained this extraordinary power nor does she seek some type of medical or professional help for it. It never really comes in handy because she sees the deaths as they happen. The only time it helps is when she’s the victim in the finale.
At one of her photo art shows, Laura meets John Neville, played by a young Tommy Lee Jones, who is a detective and he inadvertently teases her about her style of photography. He’s also there because he’s in charge of the case surrounding the murders involving Mars’ friends and staff. After Laura “sees” the death of one of her best friends and runs to the scene at her apartment, Laura is taken in for questioning when she tries to explain that she saw the murder.
Neville shows Laura unpublished murder photographs that very closely resemble her past photographs of models’ posing death. Neville suspects someone on her staff to be the killer but at any rate Mars is highly important to this case. As far as the second sight goes, no one really believes her. Neville also reveals to Laura that her friend was recently dating Laura’s ex-husband (Raul Julia, in a thankless role) and he is a chief suspect. Later on, her husband asks Laura for help (and some lovin’) but is just given a measly $50.
As the body count continues, Neville and Laura have a romantic affair. Not sure how or why but it happens as romantic affairs ought to happen in these stylish thrillers. Anyway, he becomes increasingly protected of her and gives her a small firearm. After Laura’s right-hand man (Rene Auberjonois) is killed, her driver Tommy (Brad Dourif) is sought as the new chief suspect when one of Tommy’s playing cards is found with the last victim. Tommy, its revealed earlier that he served time in prison and he wants to meet Neville to express his innocence. But when he’s going to go downtown for observation he attacks some cops and flees the scene. He is then shot and killed.
Neville tells Laura that she is now safe and can leave the hotel she was staying at for protection. While entering the hotel to get her, Neville meets her ex in the elevator. Moments later Laura “sees” that the killer is in the hotel and now after her. The killer tries to enter through the front door but stops. Soon after Neville crashes through the balcony’s window. He goes on to tell Laura that Tommy is dead and that he had mental issues and a very bad upbringing. Laura knows Tommy’s life story well enough to know Neville is talking about someone else—HIM! Turns out Neville has a split personality and is the killer after all but also Laura’s lover at the same time. After she tells him she loves him, Neville calms down and asks Laura to kill him because she is unsafe with him. She reluctantly shoots him in the gut and he dies.
Is It Actually Scary: A decently done thriller directed by Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and written by John Carpenter! Seems strange it was written by Carpenter since he never wrote or directed another thriller of this sort ever again. It was essentially a mystery more than a horror film so not really scary to the viewer. Tommy Lee Jones’ hair style and unibrow was the scariest thing in the film.
How Much Gore: Very little actually. All the murders are done with looked like an ice pick jabbed in the victims’ eyes but nothing graphic was shown.
Dumb Moments: Two things stood out for me. One, was what I mentioned earlier and that’s why didn’t Mars seek an explanation for her new second sight? While all the murders happen within a short span of time she continues to work and socialize as best she can. In her free time she should’ve figured out why she only sees murders. Second dumb moment was how did a man with looked to be a very bad case of split personality ascend to the rank of police lieutenant? Seems like a nasty handicap to have. Anyway, a bonus dumb moment is when they are at the art show/party in the beginning, we see a dwarf walk up a small flight of stairs so he’s at the height of Laura Mars and others and stands there and doesn’t say a word to them. He didn’t have a purpose at all in the scene and he’s never seen again in the film. It was so odd to me to see a little person prominently shown and then amount to absolutely nothing. Bizarre.
Any Nudity: Quite a bit. The models are shown changing in the dressing room and some times in the photo shoots there’s a nip-slip or two.
Overall: For a 70’s thriller, this is quite entertaining and well done. I was really interested and invested in the story for most of the running time. It started to lose me a bit when Neville and Mars starting falling in love but it picked up again after that. The twist is weak however. I cannot stand split personality characters being killers. Its such a cheap and lame way to have a twist in a horror or thriller movie. The film also fails a bit on its red herrings not really being convincing enough. I kinda guessed it was Neville early on probably because he fell in love with her. Oh well, its worth a look though with its decent script and pacing, great acting and for Barbra Streisand’s theme song of course! (of course!)
Score: 7 murders seen through the eyes of Laura Mars (out of 10)