If The Eyes of Laura Mars was a phrase in the thesaurus, you’d probably see these words listed next to it “glitzy, glossy, glamorous and oh-so-fabulous.” Unfortunately, you’d also notice vapid, over-the-top and silly in the same category. Yes, this 70s thriller is all that and so much more.
Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is the female answer to Helmut Newton (who supplied some of the magnificent photographs). Her photos featuring stick thin models in violent situations are the toast of New York’s art district. Unfortunately, they’ve also caught the attention of a dangerous killer who begins depicting the scenes displayed in Laura’s photos. The twist here is that Laura can see the murders as they occur through the killer’s eyes. This strange front row seat of the carnage leaves her stumbling around New York in a tizzy saying things like “I saw the murder. I was two blocks away.” Enter Detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) who finds Laura’s photos abhorrent but decides she ain’t such a bad piece of meat, thus making him an attractive love interest. He clumsily pulls every red herring he can out of his little police officer hat while more and more of Laura’s loved ones fall prey to the elusive killer.
Originally penned by John Carpenter (who claims that much of the story has changed from his original incarnation), The Eyes of Laura Mars is a sensational A-List thriller that dips just deep enough into slasher waters to get its feet wet. The deaths are toned down, due to the very nature of big-budget genre fare, but the sadistic photographs help make up for the ill conceived posturing.
Truly, The Eyes of Laura Mars is more giallo-esque than slasher, with its black-gloved scissor-wielding maniac killing Euro trash looking babes and the like (Nothing Underneath, anyone?), but there’s enough gritty photography to give it a Maniac feel in all the right places. And the cast is inspired. From a fey Rene Auberjonois to the slightly creepy (yet still sexy) Brad Dourif (who likes to call Laura “Mzzz. Maaars”), the professional cast and outrageously catchy disco tunes are guaranteed to pull the nostalgically inclined over to the dark side.
Directed with an eye for style by Irvin Kershner but with a few potholes along the way, The Eyes of Laura Mars is a must for fans of 70s trash cinema. It may serve up its kills cold, but there’s enough White Hot to keep you feeling all warm inside.