MOVIE: The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

lauramarsIn my continued quest to see all the movies John Carpenter has ever written or directed (see my recent review of Someone’s Watching Me for more on the plan), I picked this one up recently and plopped it into the machine this afternoon.  Rainy days are great for scary movies, and I was hoping this one would fill that role nicely.

And it did, sort of.  That is, this is not really a “scary movie” so much as it’s a psychological thriller.  But, as with Someone’s Watching Me, it’s pretty effective at what it’s trying to do, which is put you on the edge of your seat.  Plus,  it’s got a lot of really cool camera effects, some seriously fun 70’s hair and clothes, and, added bonus!  A REALLY young Tommy Lee Jones.  Complete with dashing 70’s (pre-“Manscaping”) unibrow action!  Mrrrowl!

Laura Mars (an also very-young Faye Dunaway) is a rich-and-famous photographer, whose photos are both compelling and extremely controversial.  Her subjects tend to be scantily clad young women posed in horrifying scenes of violence:  being beaten, being attacked by animals, looking like they’re dead, stuff like that.  Some of her critics say she’s glorifying violence against women, death, and even murder.  But Mars contends her aim is actually the opposite: to make people stop thinking of violence as anything worthy of “glory” to begin with.

For some reason, and I wasn’t clear on just why (though it’s probably better not to ask, I suppose), Laura suddenly starts getting psychic visions.  It begins with the vision of a young woman being viciously murdered, one of her models.  At first, she doesn’t trust what she’s seeing and assumes it was a hallucination of some kind.  But when it happens again — again she sees a murder through what appear to be the eyes of the killer himself — she goes to the police.  Detective John Neville (Jones and his brow) is assigned to her case and initially believes her to be a complete crackpot.  But when the serial killer continues, knocking off people progressively closer and closer to Mars herself, Mars continues to witness every single attack while it is taking place.  She has details she clearly could only have gotten one of two ways:  she’s either the murderer herself, or she’s having the psychic visions she says she’s having.

Eventually, Neville starts to believe her, and the two become close (and then fall in love) while they struggle to find the killer and stop him before he gets to Laura herself.  Now, the ending of this film had a twist I confess I found pretty hokey, in part because I’ve seen that same twist done at least a half-dozen times over the years and so I saw it coming and wasn’t too pleased when it actually arrived.   But I would imagine that in 1978, it was a fairly startling surprise to most movie-goers.  And the thing is, it was filmed with grace and acted well by both Dunaway and Jones, which went a long way towards making it swallow-able for me.

In fact, there are a lot of scenes in this movie that I felt were both filmed and acted beautifully.  The scene in which Laura and John first become intimate, for example, I found extremely moving and absolutely gorgeous.  Wonderful angles, lots of authentic tenderness for each other, etc.  The only problem was that it went on about five minutes too long, as did several semi-sluggish scenes in the middle of the film.   However, when the movie is “on,” it’s extremely suspenseful and entertaining.  A lot of it may feel somewhat cheesy to modern viewers, as would a lot of the scenes and acting in Someone’s Watching Me, I’m sure.  But, overall, I thought this was a very satisfying psychological thriller.  And dazam if Tommy Lee Jones wasn’t just sexy as hell in 1978.  Hottie McYummerson.

Definitely recommended, especially for viewers who like thrillers that aren’t crazy with the gory violence.  The murders are pretty tame compared to what we’re used to seeing these days.  And the best part?  You can actually watch this movie for free online — legally!  The full movie is available on the IMDb page (via a link to Crackle.com), and it’s also available for streaming on Watch Now for Netflix subscribers.  If you are in the mood for a good thriller this weekend, look no further!  (And then come back here and let me know what you thought!)

[Netflix me | Watch me online | Buy me]

Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois, Raul Julia

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3 Responses to “MOVIE: The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Hey, speaking of Tommy Lee Jones, films written by John Carpenter, and 1980’s super-vehicle movies, isn’t Black Moon Rising calling to you right about now?

  2. megwood Says:

    Funny you should mention that, Trip. It’s the next film in my Netflix queue!

    Great minds, and such.

  3. jo Says:

    Since I am way old, I remember this movie from when it first came out, and it really creeped me out. For the 70’s, it was pretty graphic.

    This movie was also the start of my TLJ love. Even my 17-year-old self could recognize what an amazing actor he was.

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