John Carpenter. Faye Dunaway. Tommy Lee Jones. What do these three distinct, seemingly unrelated names have in common? They were all involved in a 1978 movie called Eyes of Laura Mars. I had never heard of this movie before I came across it on HD-Movie Net. I was willing to give it a look when I read the intriguing premise: “an acclaimed photographer begins to see through the eyes of a serial killer.”
1978, the year of my birth. And what an over the top, campy movie I share that year with. To expand on the premise a bit, Laura Mars is a fashion photographer who is making headlines with her latest project: photos of models posed in violent, dangerous, and macabre situations, many set up to look like crime scenes. The trouble begins when people involved in the project (her book publisher, her publicist, some of the models, etc.) start turning up dead. Even worse, Ms. Mars is “witnessing” these murders as she goes into sudden trances during which she sees what the killer is seeing. As the movie progresses, she tries to help the police discover the killer before he comes after her or any more of her colleagues.
I was thoroughly entertained by the movie, but there was a lot to laugh at, despite it being a thriller. One reason I enjoy watching movies from the 70s and 80s is to see the cultural differences: the clothes, the hair, the music, and even the language. It’s also fun to see recognizable actors in their earlier roles.
Eyes of Laura Mars is a movie that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to capturing late 70s culture. In particular, the photo shoot scenes were quite a spectacle, giving the models a chance to strut around to disco tunes (including “Shake Your Booty” and “Boogie Nights”) while wearing very skimpy outfits. I’m sure it was all very hip for its time, but now these scenes come across as super cheeseball. Also campy are the scenes in which Laura Mars goes into her trance-like state while witnessing the murders. The music is over the top. The edges of the picture are blurred to create the effect of looking through someone’s eyes (as in Being John Malkovich). And Faye Dunaway’s panicked screaming could win her a Razzie.
Yes, Faye Dunaway plays the main character, Laura Mars. She is nearly unrecognizable, compared to the older, more plastic Faye Dunaway that I am familiar with. Despite her exaggerated acting, she was well cast as the glamorous, self-assured, artsy photographer. She was beautiful in this movie.
Tommy Lee Jones plays John Neville, the detective assigned to the case. It is interesting to watch his relationship with Laura Mars evolve. I’m sure this movie isn’t one of Mr. Jones’ proudest moments, but he did an admirable job with the part. And I couldn’t get over how young he looked! I always enjoy watching movies that he is in.
There were a few other actors that I recognized. Brad Dourif played a shifty-eyed chauffeur. He has been in many movies, including the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (he was Grima Wormtongue). He is also the voice of Chucky the doll in the Child’s Play movies. I also recognized Rene Auberjonois, as Laura’s friend and manager Donald. He has done a lot of voice over work, but he may be well known by some for his role as Clayton Endicott on the sitcom Benson, and as Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And finally, Raul Julia played Laura’s ex-husband. I knew Raul Julia best for his role as Gomez Adamms in the early 90s Adamms Family movies. I am sure he starred in much better movies, though, before his untimely death at age 54.
Is this movie worth watching? Sure, if you have extra time on your hands. There are some plot holes, and there’s never an explanation for why Laura Mars has visions of the murders. But, it keeps you guessing until the very end. John Carpenter wrote the screenplay, and despite the campy 70s moments, there is also plenty of suspense. I would say it’s one of his better screenplays – better than his much more well known Halloween movies.
I’ll leave you with this tidbit. Today’s suspense movies typically end with some edgy guitar-based song or creepy sounding music. Not Eyes of Laura Mars. As the credits roll, the audience is serenaded by Barbra Streisand, singing “Prisoner.” Weird stuff.