Eyes of Laura Mars

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Eyes of Laura Mars
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIrvin Kershner
Produced byJack H. Harris
Jon Peters
Laura Ziskin
Screenplay byJohn Carpenter
David Zelag Goodman
Story byJohn Carpenter
StarringFaye Dunaway
Tommy Lee Jones
Brad Dourif
René Auberjonois
Raúl Juliá
Music byArtie Kane
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited byMichael Kahn
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 neo noir mystery-thriller film starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones and directed by Irvin Kershner. 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).

Eyes of Laura Mars is said to be an example of an American version of the Italian giallo genre. The film is also noted for its use of red herrings and its twist ending.


Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a glamorous fashion photographer who specializes in stylized violence (based upon the work of Helmut Newton, who provided some of the photos used for the film while others were shot by Rebecca Blake). In the middle of controversy over whether her photographs glorify violence and are demeaning to women, Laura begins seeing, in first person through the eyes of the killer, real-time visions of the murders of her friends and colleagues.

John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones), the lieutenant in charge of the case, shows Laura unpublished police photographs of unsolved murders that very closely mirror Laura's fashion shoots.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. Meanwhile, Laura and Neville fall in love. The murders continue as Laura's various colleagues, acquaintances and past romantic interests come in and out of focus as potential suspects or victims, until a final confrontation between Laura and the killer occurs.

At her apartment, Laura is affected by one last vision of the killer, who has now come for her. The killer attempts to break in through her front door, but Laura deadbolts it before he/she 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 they have caught the killer, a troubled colleague of hers named Tommy, and begins an elaborate explanation of Tommy's 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 talking about himself and that Neville himself is the killer. As Neville details more of his own story, it is implied that he may have multiple personalities. Because of this, and his love for her, he cannot bring himself to murder her and instead asks that she end his life. He takes her hand, pointing the gun at him as she begs him not to and kills him, calling the police as the camera view closes in on her eyes.



The film's source story was written by John Carpenter, as was the earliest version of the screenplay. 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 eleven-page treatment, then titled simply Eyes.

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; David Zelag Goodman shouldered that burden.[3]

"It wasn't a pleasant experience", said Carpenter. "The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon."[4]

Filming took place over 56 days from October 17, 1977 to early January 1978.[5] 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.[5] 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.


On its release, the film received mixed critical reviews, but it was a box office hit, earning $20 million from a $7 million budget.

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."[6]

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.[7]

As of April 2020, the film has an approval rating of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 5.22/10. The site's critics' consensus: "Eyes of Laura Mars hints at interesting possibilities, but they're frittered away by a predictable story that settles for superficial thrills."[8]

George Lucas hired director Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back because he was very impressed after seeing an early rough cut of the film.[9]

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.[10]


Eyes of Laura Mars (Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released by Columbia Records (PS 35487) in July 1978. 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


  1. ^ Ginsberg, Steven (August 2, 1978). "Jon Peters Org Develops 16 Features". Variety. p. 7.
  2. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 257
  3. ^ Jack H Harris, FATHER OF THE BLOB: The Making Of A Monster Smash & Other Hollywood Tales 2015
  4. ^ Trick and Treat McCarthy, Todd. Film Comment; New York Vol. 16, Iss. 1, (Jan/Feb 1980): 17-24.
  5. ^ a b "Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  6. ^ "Screen: 'Eyes of Laura Mars':In The Netherworld", Janet Maslin, The New York Times, August 4, 1978
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (1978). "Eyes of Laura Mars". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  9. ^ Trachtenberg, Cecil. "Exploring Eyes of Laura Mars - The Disco Giallo". YouTube. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  10. ^ MAD Cover Site, MAD #206 April 1979.

External links[edit]