We’re big fans of Good Bad Flicks on YouTube and are often inspired to either check out a movie or revisit one after Cecil dissects it. That was the case here and the fact that Mill Creek was re-releasing it — Indicator had put out a limited edition and all we had was a very old DVD — seemed like the perfect opportunity to go back and savor this film.
When seen through the lens of the giallo form, The Eyes of Laura Mars reminds me of post-Deep Red era Argento — taking the basics of the detective form and grafting on one supernatural element. Here, it’s the fact that Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway), a high glam fashion photographer, can see the violent deaths of people as she takes photos. The images that they inspire lead her to great success and controversy, creating an intriguing narrative of the violent and at times bloody battle of inspiration for artists. I’m also struck by how detached Mars is from the art and fashion world in which she lives, until she’s in the midst of shooting. Then, she finally opens not just herself up, but her posture. She spreads low to the ground, sexualizing herself when she’s often covered by clothing throughout the film that hides her body from the world.
Going from an independent picture produced by Jack H. Harris to big studio affair by Jon Peters (who dreamed of then-girlfriend Barbara Streisand in the lead), The Eyes of Laura Mars struggled with a new writer being brought in to adjust John Carpenter’s script (the auteur said “The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon.”) and the production lasted 7 long months, including a 4 day shoot in the middle of New York City to capture a major fashion shoot with models, wrecked cars and fire everywhere.
It has assured direction by Irvin Kershner (whose commentary track is on this new release), which led to him being hired for The Empire Strikes Back. After watching so much giallo, I’ve noticed that the America versions of the form are very much like Laura Mars herself: detached, cold and not all that interested in the murder as art that native Italian creators like the aforementioned Argento immerse themselves in. This film is made in hues of black and white when their world is neon and always the most red possible.
Upon a new view of this film, I was also struck by just how great the cast is. Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly cast, with his final speech near-perfect. In truth, he wrote that ending monologue, but credited it to Tommy Lee Jones actually wrote his own monologue, crediting it to Kershner, unbeknownst to the Writers’ Guild. Brad Dourif is routinely amazing in movies and his small role here is still a stand-out, as is the acting of Rene Auberjonois and Raul Julia.
This movie also features one of my favorite settings: New York City at the end of the 1970’s, which I feel is the closest place to Hell on Earth that has ever existed. As a child, I watched WOR Channel 9 news from the safety of being a few hundred miles away in Pittsburgh and wondered who would ever want to live in this city. You can almost smell the garbage and desperation in the air here, which is in sharp contrast to the cold, metallic and not so real world of fashion and art.
If you’ve seen this, it’s worth a rewatch. If you haven’t, by all means, grab this new re-release and discover it for yourself.
DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Mill Creek for sending this our way.