The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Never say never, but I think this will be the only movie we ever feature on this site that has a love theme by Barbara Streisand in it. I could be wrong, but I just get the feeling that there aren’t going to be many more crossovers quite like this one.

Eyes of Laura Mars was adapted from a spec script titled Eyes, written by John Carpenter; making this Carpenter’s first major studio film. Producer Jon Peters, the beau of Barbra Streisand in this era, bought the screenplay as a vehicle for her, but Babs felt that it was too “kinky” and passed. However, she felt that “Prisoner,” the song that she lent to the film, would be a great single. She wasn’t wrong — it peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Instead of Ms. Streisand, we get Faye Dunaway, who had just won an Oscar for Network and had not yet become Mommie Dearest. She plays Laura Mars, a fashion photographer whose Chris Von Wangenheim by way of Helmut Newton-style photos (Newton and Rebecca Blake supplied the actual photos for the film) glamorize violence. As she’s due to release the first coffee table collection of her work, she begins seeing the murders of her friends and co-workers through the eyes of the killer. I love how until now, she’s only been detached and seen things through the eye of a camera.

John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) is the cop in charge. After she rushes to a murder scene exclaiming that she saw who did it blocks away, the cops keep her in custody, showing her numerous unpublished crime scene photos that match her new fashion photos perfectly. Throughout the film, Larua and Neville fall in love as her visions — and the murders — increase in intensity and violence.

This is a great example of an American giallo filled with the twists, turns and red herrings of the genre. It’s done with a much higher budget and way better locations than you’re used to. And it gets closer to the psychosexual elements, but as great a director as Irvin Kershner is, he isn’t a maniac like Argento and his ilk. It’s also packed with talent, like Raul Julia, Battle Beyond the Stars Darlanne Fluegel, Rene Auberjonois and Chucky himself, Brad Dourif.

The Eyes of Laura Mars would be parodied as The Eyes of Lurid Mess in MAD Magazine #206, with art by Angelo Torres. As was often the case with R rated movies when I was six years old, I first experienced this movie through the black and white ink lens of MAD.

Want to see it for yourself? It’s free with an Amazon Prime subscription.

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