APES ON FILM: Mars Ain’t the Kinda Place…

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

EYES OF LAURA MARS – 1978
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Faye Dunaway , Tommy Lee Jones , Brad Dourif , Rene Auberjonois , Raul Julia
Director: Irvin Kershner
Rated: R
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: October 18, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 103 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

With a screenplay by John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman  and a cast featuring one recent and one future Academy Award™ winner as well as several multiple-time nominees, EYES OF LAURA MARS should be a classic of the thriller genre, a notable pin on the map of suspense films. So why isn’t it? Producer Jon Peters and director Irvin Kershner. This is a film made by a hairdresser with a big-shot girlfriend and his yes man, and it shows.

Which is not to say that either of them never improved or did better work; on the contrary. Peters went on to produce many great films, and Kershner went on to direct better films. Eyes was Peters’ second film as producer, after mega-hit A STAR IS BORN (1976), so he might be forgiven a bit of brash egotism after being given carte blanche by the studio for his next effort. As he matured into the role of executive producer, his work improved and includes AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), RAIN MAN (1988), and BATMAN (1989). Kershner was at the beginning of a string of films for which he was hired specifically for his reputation for pliability and his willingness to let strong-willed producers take the reins. His follow-ups for this picture were STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for George Lucas and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN for Kevin McClory. He spent the final years of his career directing television and the lackluster ROBOCOP 2 (1990).

The duo’s faults are evident in self-indulgent story choices, stilted performances from a stellar cast, ham-fisted attempts at creating suspense, endless exposition scenes, and a hand-wave of a plot device – Mars “sees” murders of her friends and colleagues through the eyes of the killer, psychically – that’s never questioned nor explained. I’m certain the screenplay was a taut thriller and it might have been done justice by a more experienced producer and a director like Brian De Palma, at the height of his powers in 1978. As it stands, what we get is a soggy mess of a disco era mystery that mystifies the viewer, with protagonists who are far less interesting than the supporting characters. The most watchable and entertaining people in the film are Rene Auberjonois as Mars’ manager Donald, and Darlanne Fluegel  as doomed model Lulu. The photographic tableaus by Helmut Newton are dazzling as well.

Kino Lorber’s presentation of the movie on Blu-ray seems a bit of shovel-ware, to be honest. Sourced from an existing master that’s been released twice already by competitors, the picture has some issues with color and contrast balance, especially in darker scenes. Film grain bloom is distractingly evident. The single audio track is quite good, and in fact seems better than the one included on the disc released by Mill Creek Entertainment in 2019. Though listed as a “Special Edition” on the Kino website, the only special features on this single disc are a legacy commentary by Kershner (natch, as he passed away in 2010), a making-of featurette from 1978, a featurette with commentary on the photographs in the film, and trailers. Not a very special edition at all.

EYES OF LAURA MARS has a pedigree that should have delivered a better viewing experience, and Kino Lorber has a reputation for releasing better product than this. It’s hard not to be disappointed on all levels by this presentation. Give it a pass.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

 

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