Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#708. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Directed By: Irvin Kershner

Starring: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif

Tag line: "She saw all life through the camera's eye. Then suddenly she saw death!"

Trivia: The Laura Mars character is mentioned in Tori Amos' song 'Gold Dust' released on the 2002 album "Scarlet's Walk"

Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is New York City’s hottest, and most controversial, fashion photographer. Her photos, featuring scantily-clad women set against ultra-violent backdrops, have simultaneously stirred the admiration and incited the fury of the New York elite. But for Laura Mars, the violence in her photos is more than mere sensationalism. Laura possesses a unique psychic power, one that allows her to witness, in her mind’s eye, actual slayings as they're taking place, seeing every terrifying detail from the perspective of the murderer himself. Recently, these killings have been of people close to her, and police detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to find the connection. As the bodies pile up, Laura begins to suspect the killer is someone she knows, and that she herself may be the ultimate target of his murderous spree.

Eyes Of Laura Mars is based on a script written by John Carpenter, and was originally going to star Barbra Streisand (Carpenter was even asked to alter the title character to better suit Streisand, a task he found extremely difficult). Following a number of re-writes (made by several different writers), the lead was given to Faye Dunaway, a casting move I believe hurt the film. In the right part, Dunaway has shown she's a tremendous actress (shining in both Bonnie & Clyde and Network), but in Eyes Of Laura Mars, her performance never strays from a single note, best described as total despair for her situation. Weak and feeble, her Laura Mars was the least interesting character in the movie, and some potentially intriguing aspects of her personality (after all, she's a an accomplished artist, a scorned wife, and even a potential love interest) were under-explored. As for the supporting players, most are exceptional, especially Brad Dourif as the chauffeur with a troubled past. But let’s face it: The film is going to sink or swim based solely on Laura Mars, and with that being the case, Eyes Of Laura Mars sinks pretty quickly.

Dunaway’s performance wasn't the only problem I had with Eyes Of Laura Mars. There were also inconsistencies in the way Laura’s visions affected her. In one scene, where she’s ‘watching’ the killer stalk 2 victims, Laura is left temporarily blinded, stumbling around her apartment looking for a phone. Then, during another vision, she's driving a car, which she navigates well enough through the streets until the moment the murder is complete, when she crashes into a wall. Finally, there’s the identity of the killer himself, which was certainly a surprise, but raised many more questions than it answered.

Eyes Of Laura Mars contains moments of suspense that are mildly effective, yet not enough of them to lift it beyond a level of mediocrity. As it stands, the legacy of Eyes Of Laura Mars is one of a fascinating concept, an interesting story, and a missed opportunity.

1 comment:

PooBahSpiel said...

I read the book Eyes of Laura Mars before the movie came out. And the movie was okay enough adaptation. And an okay enough horror movie. In 1994 another 'vision' related horror flick came along called "Blink". I found the "physical symptom" premise a bit more intriguing. And I liked the soundtrack enough that I went out and bought the CD straight away.