Eyes of Laura Mars

Eyes of Laura Mars

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Produced by Jack H. Harris
Jon Peters
Laura Ziskin
Written by John Carpenter
David Zelag Goodman
Starring Faye Dunaway
Tommy Lee Jones
Brad Dourif
René Auberjonois
Raúl Juliá
Music by Artie Kane
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by Michael Kahn
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 2, 1978 (1978-08-02)
Running time
104 minutes
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box office $20 million[1]

Eyes of Laura Mars is a 1978 American 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, and would become Carpenter's first major studio film of his career. The late H. B. Gilmour would later write the novelization, one of at least six that marked her literary career.

Producer Jon Peters, who was dating Barbra Streisand at the time, bought the screenplay as a starring vehicle for the actress, 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 the photos used for the film.) 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John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones), the lieutenant in charge of the case, shows Laura unpublished police photographs of unsolved murders that very closely mirror Laura's fashion shoots.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 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. She shoots him to death, 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.[2]

Production began on October 17, 1977. The film was shot entirely in New York and New Jersey. A memorable 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. The $7 million production wrapped on January 9, 1978, after 56 days of filming. It was reported that Peters and Dunaway had a tense relationship while making the film.


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."[3]

Roger Ebert was less enthusiastic, and pointed out what he called the film's clichéd "woman in trouble" plot.[4]

As of May of 2010, the film had only a 47% rotten rating on the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website.[5]

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

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


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

Side One
No. TitleWriter(s)Artist Length
1. "Prisoner (Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars)"  Karen Lawrence, John DeSautelsBarbra Streisand 3:53
2. "Laura's Nightmare"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 2:06
3. "Burn"  George Michalski, Nikki OosterveenMichalski & Oosterveen 4:16
4. "Elaine"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 1:25
5. "Laura & Neville (Instrumental)"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 2:33
6. "Medley:
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
No. TitleWriter(s)Artist Length
1. "Laura – Warehouse"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 1:11
2. "Let's All Chant"  Michael Zager, Alvin FieldsMichael Zager Band 4:05
3. "Laura & Neville (Dialogue & Vocal)"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 2:33
4. "Lulu & Michelle"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 3:06
5. "Love & Pity"  Artie KaneArtie Kane 4:10
6. "Love Theme from Eyes of Laura Mars (Prisoner) – Reprise"  Karen Lawrence, John DeSautelsBarbra Streisand 3:56


  1. Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 257
  2. Jack H Harris, FATHER OF THE BLOB: The Making Of A Monster Smash & Other Hollywood Tales 2015
  3. "Screen: 'Eyes of Laura Mars':In The Netherworld," Janet Maslin, The New York Times, August 4, 1978
  4. Ebert's review
  5. Rotten Tomatoes.com
  6. MAD Cover Site, MAD #206 April 1979.

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