Eyes of Laura Mars

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Eyes of Laura Mars
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrvin Kershner
Screenplay by
Story byJohn Carpenter
Produced byJon Peters
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited byMichael Kahn
Music byArtie Kane
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • August 2, 1978 (1978-08-02)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[1]
Box office$20 million[2]

Eyes of Laura Mars is a 1978 American supernatural horror[3] thriller film directed by Irvin Kershner and starring Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, and René Auberjonois. It follows a New York City fashion photographer (Dunaway) who suddenly develops clairvoyant ability to witness disturbing serial murders from the point of view of the killer. The screenplay was adapted (in collaboration with David Zelag Goodman) from a spec script titled Eyes, written by John Carpenter; it was Carpenter's first major studio film. H. B. Gilmour later wrote a novelization.

Producer Jon Peters, who was dating Barbra Streisand at the time, bought the screenplay as a starring vehicle for her, but Streisand eventually decided not to take the role because of "the kinky nature of the story", as Peters later explained. As a result, the role went to Dunaway, who had just won an Oscar for her performance in Network. Streisand nevertheless felt that "Prisoner", the torch song from the film, would be a good power ballad vehicle for her. She sang it on the soundtrack and garnered a moderate hit as a result (the record peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100). Peters commissioned photographer Helmut Newton to provide the images that stand in for Laura Mars' portfolio in the film.[4]

Released in August 1978 by Columbia Pictures, the film was a box-office hit, grossing $20 million domestically. Some critics and film scholars have noted Eyes of Laura Mars as an American version of the Italian giallo[5] with elements of the slasher film,[6][7] and it has gone on to develop a small cult following.[8]


Laura Mars is a glamorous New York City fashion photographer who specializes in photographs featuring stylized violence which attract controversy from the press and feminists who feel her work is exploitative. The night before the release of her photography book, Laura has a dream about an assailant entering a woman's apartment, which she observes from the first-person perspective of the intruder. The following night at the book release party, Laura is notified that her photo editor, Doris, has been found murdered, her eyes gouged with an ice pick.

Shortly after, during a photoshoot in Columbus Circle, Laura has another disturbing vision of a woman being stabbed to death outside her apartment, and stumbles upon the crime scene while passing by on the street. Laura informs police she witnessed the crime, but is unable to rationalize how. She later learns that the victim, Elaine, has been romantically involved with her ex-husband Michael, a writer who had been living in San Francisco but returned to New York.

John Neville, the lieutenant in charge of the case, shows Laura unpublished police photographs of unsolved murders that very closely mirror Laura's fashion shoots. Laura's visions continue, including visions of the killer stalking her and continuing to murder those around her. While developing photographs in her darkroom, Laura has another vision of her models Lulu and Michelle being brutally murdered. After attending Lulu and Michelle's funerals, Laura finds herself growing close to Neville, and the two become romantic. He gives her a gun for her own protection.

Meanwhile, police consider Laura's driver Tommy, an ex-convict, and Michael to be their prime suspects in the string of serial killings. While attending a birthday party for her agent Donald, Laura receives a phone call from a drunken Michael, who is threatening suicide. Donald urges her against helping him, but Laura leaves the party. While driving to meet Michael, Laura has a vision of Donald being murdered by the killer, which causes her to crash her car. Later, Neville is informed that photographs of the murdered models have been found in Tommy's apartment. Police try to arrest him but shoot him dead when he tries to escape.

At her apartment, Laura is affected by a vision of the killer murdering Michael. The killer attempts to break in through her front door, but Laura deadbolts it before the killer can enter. Upon hearing her distress, Neville (who had been on his way to meet her) breaks through her balcony window. He proceeds to tell Laura that Tommy was the killer and begins an elaborate explanation of his motivations and back story. Knowing Tommy well, Laura recognizes this as a lie. Neville, still talking about the killer, uses "I". Laura realizes that Neville is the killer. Neville details more of his own story, slipping between multiple personalities. When the violent personality tries to kill Laura, his more sensitive personality reasserts dominance. He takes her hand, which holds the gun he gave her, and asks her to kill him. Distraught, she does so then calls the police.




The film's source story was written by John Carpenter, as was the earliest version of the screenplay.[3] Producer Jack H. Harris had worked with Carpenter on the latter's feature-film directorial debut, Dark Star, and it was Harris who optioned Carpenter's 11-page treatment, then titled simply Eyes.[9]

Harris planned to make the film independently of the major studios with privately raised finance and Roberta Collins in the lead. But Harris's friend Jon Peters read the treatment, and upon reading it, he became enthusiastic about its potential as a vehicle for Peters's then-girlfriend Barbra Streisand. Peters got interest from Peter Guber at Columbia and they agreed to finance the project's development. Streisand pulled out of the film, but Columbia were sufficiently enthusiastic about the script to move forward with another actress, and Faye Dunaway was cast. However, as a condition of this, the studio insisted on the script being rewritten, hiring David Zelag Goodman to undertake the rewrites.[10] "It wasn't a pleasant experience", said Carpenter. "The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon."[11]


Filming took place over 56 days from October 17, 1977 to early January 1978.[12] The film was shot entirely in New York and New Jersey, with filming locations including New York City; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.[12] A sequence where the Laura Mars character photographs a group of models against a backdrop of two burning cars was filmed over four days at New York's Columbus Circle. It was reported that Peters and Dunaway had a tense relationship while making the film.


Box office[edit]

Eyes of Laura Mars premiered in Los Angeles on August 2, 1978.[12] The film was a box-office hit, grossing $20 million in the United States.[2][13]

Critical response[edit]

On its release, the film received mixed critical reviews. The movie received a broadly positive review in The New York Times, in which Janet Maslin called the ending of the film "dumb", but otherwise liked it. She wrote of it: "It's the cleverness of Eyes of Laura Mars that counts, cleverness that manifests itself in superlative casting, drily controlled direction from Irvin Kershner, and spectacular settings that turn New York into the kind of eerie, lavish dreamland that could exist only in the idle noodlings of the very, very hip."[14]

Roger Ebert was less enthusiastic, giving the film one-and-a-half stars out of four and criticizing what he called the film's clichéd "woman in trouble" plot.[15]

In his book Historical Dictionary of Horror Films (2017), writer Peter Hutchings describes Eyes of Laura Mars as an "upmarket slasher film."[6]

As of May 2023, the film has an approval rating of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's critics' consensus states: "Eyes of Laura Mars hints at interesting possibilities, but they're frittered away by a predictable story that settles for superficial thrills."[16]

George Lucas hired director Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back because he was impressed after seeing a rough cut of the film.[17]

A parody of the film titled Eyes of Lurid Mess was published in Mad Magazine. It was illustrated by Angelo Torres and written by Larry Siegel in regular issue #206, April 1979.[18]

Home media[edit]

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment first released the film on DVD in 2000.[19] Mill Creek Entertainment released a Blu-ray edition in 2019,[20] while Kino Lorber issued a special edition Blu-ray in October 2022.[21]


Eyes of Laura Mars (Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released by Columbia Records (PS 35487) in 1978 ahead of the film's release.[22] It was produced by Gary Klein with executive producers Jon Peters and Charles Koppelman.

Mark Iskowitz of The Barbra Streisand Music Guide wrote: "The side one 'Prisoner' track is actually identical to the single and Greatest Hits Volume 2 version. The side two reprise version does contain instrumentation from the film score at the beginning and during the first sections of the song, which is featured in its entirety. Track 3 opens with Barbra singing the first four lines from 'Prisoner' with a sparse, spooky film score backing."

The Eyes of Laura Mars LP is out of print; it was never released on CD.

Track listing[edit]

Side One
1."Prisoner (Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars)"Karen Lawrence, John DeSautelsBarbra Streisand3:53
2."Laura's Nightmare"Artie KaneArtie Kane2:06
3."Burn"George Michalski, Nikki OosterveenMichalski & Oosterveen4:16
4."Elaine"Artie KaneArtie Kane1:25
5."Laura & Neville (Instrumental)"Artie KaneArtie Kane2:33
Native New Yorker
(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty
Prisoner (Disco Instrumental)"
Sandy Linzer & Denny Randell
Harry Wayne Casey & Richard Finch
Artie Kane
KC & The Sunshine Band
Artie Kane
Side Two
1."Laura – Warehouse"Artie KaneArtie Kane1:11
2."Let's All Chant"Michael Zager, Alvin FieldsMichael Zager Band4:05
3."Laura & Neville (Dialogue & Vocal)"Artie KaneArtie Kane2:33
4."Lulu & Michelle"Artie KaneArtie Kane3:06
5."Love & Pity"Artie KaneArtie Kane4:10
6."Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars (Prisoner) – Reprise"Karen Lawrence, John DeSautelsBarbra Streisand3:56


In the years since its release, film scholars have likened Eyes of Laura Mars to the American equivalent of the Italian giallo film.[5] It has also developed a small cult following[8] and had retrospective revival screenings, including at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2023.[7]


  1. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (August 2, 1978). "Jon Peters Org Develops 16 Features". Variety. p. 7.
  2. ^ a b Nowell 2010, p. 257.
  3. ^ a b Muir 2015, p. 195.
  4. ^ Griffin & Masters 1996, p. 54.
  5. ^ a b Edwards & Berns 2023, p. 235.
  6. ^ a b Hutchings 2017, p. 63.
  7. ^ a b "Movie Club: Eyes of Laura Mars". Seattle International Film Festival. October 4, 2023. Archived from the original on May 21, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Barson, Michael (April 25, 2023). "Irvin Kershner Biography". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on May 21, 2023.
  9. ^ Muir 2015, pp. 16, 195.
  10. ^ Muir 2015, p. 196.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January–February 1980). "Trick and Treat". Film Comment. New York City, New York. 16 (1): 17–24.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: date format (link)
  12. ^ a b c "Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  13. ^ "Eyes of Laura Mars". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 21, 2023.
  14. ^ "Screen: 'Eyes of Laura Mars':In The Netherworld", Janet Maslin, The New York Times, August 4, 1978
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (1978). "Eyes of Laura Mars". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 30, 2020 – via RogerEbert.com.
  16. ^ "Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  17. ^ Trachtenberg, Cecil. "Exploring Eyes of Laura Mars - The Disco Giallo". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  18. ^ MAD Cover Site, MAD #206 April 1979.
  19. ^ "Eyes of Laura Mars DVD". WorldCat. Archived from the original on May 21, 2023.
  20. ^ Khan, Imran (January 30, 2020). "'Eyes of Laura Mars' is Best as a Document of '70s New York". PopMatters. Archived from the original on May 21, 2023.
  21. ^ "Eyes of Laura Mars Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2023.
  22. ^ Graham, Chuck (August 1, 1978). "Debby Boone offers a bomb". Tucson Citizen. p. 4B – via Newspapers.com.


  • Edwards, Matthew; Berns, Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni, eds. (2023). Bloodstained Narratives: The Giallo Film in Italy and Abroad. Jackson, Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-496-84449-1.
  • Griffin, Nancy; Masters, Kim (1996). Hit & Run How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood. New York City, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80931-1.
  • Hutchings, Peter (2017). Historical Dictionary of Horror Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-538-10244-2.
  • Muir, John Kenneth (2007). Horror Films of the 1970s. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-49156-8.
  • Muir, John Kenneth (2015). The Films of John Carpenter. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9348-7.
  • Nowell, Richard (2010). Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle. London, England: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-441-12496-8.

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