Cult Movie: The Eyes of Laura Mars a vision of 70s cinema that's slightly out of focus

Fay Dunaway in The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
Ralph McLean

ON THE surface, our cult offering this week should be considered a 1970s classic. It’s got a top notch cast headed up by Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones, was written by John Carpenter and directed by Irvin Kershner, who would head directly from this to making The Empire Strikes Back for George Lucas.

With all those pieces in place it should have been a mainstream hit. But it wasn’t and, watching the beautiful new Blu-ray issue of it from Indicator, it’s easy to see why.

A kind of 'women in peril' film – very popular in the 1970s I’m sorry to say – it’s compelling in its own grimy and garish way but it’s far from a psycho thriller classic.

That said, it’s got something going on for it in its look and in the central performances that screams cult classic in waiting and there’s enough oddness to hold your attention.

Dunaway is Laura Mars, a hip and happening fashion photographer whose work stylishly plays about with images of sex and violence. Her life, though, is starting to unravel as she suffers a series of increasingly strange visions that allow her to see through the eyes of a serial killer as he commits his bloody crimes.

All the victims of these crimes that are happening in real time are friends and co-workers of Laura and it seems only a matter of time before she herself starts turning up in her murderous dreams. Where that all leads to is where The Eyes Of Laura Mars really has its fun.

The great Tommy Lee Jones is the detective charged with investigating the murders and he imbues his performance with that utterly world weary attitude that he gives to everything he does. Further down the cast there are supporting roles for the likes of Brad Dourif, Raul Julia and Rene Auberjonois that also impress.

The film lurches around like a standard Italian Giallo murder mystery where beautiful people are rubbed out on an almost frame by frame basis and that makes for great 70s fun even if the whole thing feels a little formulaic at times.

Where it falls short, and the comparisons with the classic 70s Giallo movies end, is in the execution of the murders. Perhaps we’re just a bit too used to images of sex and violence these days to be thrilled by the fairly tame visuals that Kershner uses here. As a slightly perverse sexual thriller it’s never really perverse or sexy or thrilling enough.

There is much fun to be had, however, in watching Faye Dunaway do her thing. She is wildly over the top and chews every inch of scenery she can get her teeth into. Fans of garish 1978 fashion and eyeball-hurting decor will also find much to love in the film.

Full marks to Indicator for turning in a vast array of extras here including an audio commentary from Kershner and a whole range of contemporary and modern featurettes.

It’s just a shame the film itself isn’t better.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access