Eyes of Laura Mars (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Artful Trash

There has been a lot of Internet chatter over the last couple of years about the death of eroticism in movies. About how movies are so sexless these days. Call it the MCU-ification of movies. Studios are so desperate for that international money they are afraid to face the wrath of censors in countries like China and so they have removed all hints of sex and the erotic and nudity. Marvel has proven you can make giant sack loads of money that way and it seems almost everyone has followed suit. It wasn’t always like that. When the studio system started to crumble in the 1960s and with it, the Production Code, movies became more daring. They were starting to deal with taboo subjects and became more extreme in their violence, sex, and every other vice that had previously not been allowed. As films moved into the 1970s, they were happily getting graphic. I miss those days. Not because I need the titillation for the internet granted us all of that a person could need. No, I miss movies that were allowed to be mature, that dealt with adult themes, and weren’t afraid to put it all on the screen.

Perhaps I’m getting a bit too wistful for a time that hasn’t entirely left. There are still films being made today that deal with adult situations and contain various amounts of sexuality. But they do seem few and far between. They do rarely make it to the big cineplexes.

I’m definitely getting too high-minded for Eyes of Laura Mars, a movie that revels in half-naked women, and images of extreme violence. It is basically an American version of an Italian giallo with a black-gloved killer, POV shots, some silly supernatural hocus pocus, and a twist ending that comes out of nowhere. Nobody is going to mistake this for high-minded art that deals with seriously mature subjects with a serious mind.

It does have a pretty great pedigree though. Based on a story by John Carpenter and directed by Irvin Kershner (you know, the guy behind the Greatest Star Wars Movie Ever!) the film stars Faye Dunaway (just off her Oscar-winning performance in Network) as Laura Mars, a photographer who made a sensation out of taking photos of mostly naked women committing acts of violence against men. The film enjoys lingering on these photos which are beautifully shot – Playboy style with soft lighting and glossy paper. As the film begins, she begins having visions of real-life murders happening to people she knows. Her visions are from the killer’s POV and are quite disturbing.

Tommy Lee Jones, sporting long, feathered hair and turtleneck sweaters, plays John Neville, the police detective assigned to the case. After a bit of verbal sparring with Laura, they fall for each other as the murders pile up. René Auberjonois and Brad Douriff (also sporting some fantastic ’70s style hair) steal the show. The former is Laura’s flashy assistant; the latter her badass driver who looks like he spent his youth at the Fillmore Auditorium listening to psychedelic rock (his apartment does sport an envious poster of Jerry Garcia).

The film spends a lot of time on Laura’s work. We find her at a gallery opening featuring her photos, we see her at photoshoots (filled with beautiful women in satin underwear, red stockings, fur coats, and little else) and in her galleries. She doesn’t seem to have much of social life. One of the few times we see her not working is when she attends a birthday party for her assistant and most of the guests are coworkers. It’s no wonder that when Neville pays a little attention to her (even if it is because he thinks she might be the murderer), she immediately falls for him.

For a movie filled with so much copious bare flesh, it is surprisingly chaste about actual sex. The only romance we get is a bit of lip-locking between John and Laura and that quickly skips to the post-coital dressing sequence. The giallo reference I made earlier is apt as is most of Brian De Palma’s 1980s output. It is an odd mix of high art and trash. It completely works for me.

I mean, the story is mostly nonsense and the ending is rather baffling, but it is an eyeful to look at and its artful trashiness is completely up my alley. I wish somebody, anybody was still making films like this.

Extras on this Kino Lorber Blu-ray include the theatrical trailer, a vintage making-of featurette, TV and radio spots and an audio commentary from director Irvin Kershner.

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Mat Brewster

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