Eyes of Laura Mars
Mystery, Thriller | USA, 1978 | 15 | 20th November 2017 (UK) | Powerhouse Films |Dir. Irvin Kershner Irving Kirshner | Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif,Rene Auberjonois | Buy: Eyes of Laura Mars (Blu Ray)
A thriller with a twist (of course) but depending too much on the first impression of that twist, and not developing it as we go. What always pains me about thrillers like this is they assume we are happy to watch and have things unfold for us, without our involvement. Not that we aren’t shocked by blood and death, but we are not given clues or hints, even false hints, to make us start to figure out what is going on and who did what. Instead, we just watch another and another of these quirky awful murders. And watching isn’t enough.
Beauty is what it is, but Faye Dunaway struts as if she’s the creme de la creme, and in fact her stiff haughtiness bleeds into her part. Some depth and surprise in her performance would have helped a lot. It’s fun seeing Tommy Lee Jones in a young, hunky role, and he’s pretty good, if not loosened up and amazing as he would later be.
A lot of this might be traced to the director, who, like it or not, is responsible for pulling it all together and getting the most out of everyone. Irvin Kerschner has a short resume and no particular style. The trick of this film, the photographer’s visions, are scary and a little inventive, but their effect is dampened by effects. That is, the visual dimming and blurring is what it is, easily digested, and the events don’t add up to anything more than just a quick murder each time. No fun at all, and slightly sad.
In the end, the movie survives on style, and it does have a really nice feel to it, not in how it was filmed, but in the subject matter.
Eyes of Laura Mars
• Audio commentary with director Irvin Kershner
• The Eyes Have It (2017): an appreciation by critic Kat Ellinger
• Visions (1978): original ‘making of’ documentary
• Eyes on Laura Mars (1999): on-set photography with commentary
• Original theatrical trailer and image gallery
• David DeCoteau trailer commentary (2013, 4 mins): a short critical appreciation
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Rebecca Nicole Williams, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film
Horror, Drama | USA, 1994 |20th November 2017 (UK) | Powerhouse FIlms | Dir.Mike Nicholla | Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer | Buy: Wolf (Blu Ray)
“Wolf” is the werewolf movie as character study. Mike Nichols isn’t much interested in bloody horror action. Instead, he focuses on how Will’s predicament changes his life. At first, his new status as a werewolf improves things. His cut-throat attitudes leave him better prepare to handle his downsizing. A literal animal magnetism attracts a new woman that looks like Michelle Pfeiffer circa 1994. Their sex life doesn’t suffer any. When his nighttime adventures become bloody, it weights on Randall’s mind. He angsts about the murder of his wife and chewing off a mugger’s fingers. In the latter half, the focus is squarely on his struggle to contain the beast within.
The film’s strength as a character study is mostly thanks to an A-list cast. By this point in his career, Jack Nicholson had started coasting on his reputation. He’s more engaged then usual in “Wolf.” Amusingly, the movie puts a leash on Nicholson’s typical theatrics for most of its runtime. He does a good job playing bored domestic schmuck for the film’s first half. As the werewolf transformations begin to affect him more, Nicholson allows more of his typical style to shine through. It helps that Nicholson has strong chemistry with a smolderingly sexy Pfeiffer. Another ace bit of casting is James Spader as the villain. He clearly has no concerns for anyone but himself even if he claims otherwise. His attempts to make nice are so obnoxious that you can’t help but hate the guy. These qualities play to Spader’s strength as an actor. You honestly wish you could have seen more of Spader and Nicholson going at each other, two hammy actors competing to see who’s hammier.
Those looking to “Wolf” for typical monster movie thrills are likely to be disappointed. Rick Baker created gruesome, mind-blowing werewolf transformations in “American Werewolf in London.” “Wolf” is a much more low-key affair. Nicholson’s werewolf amounts to contact lens, fangs, and some hair on his face and hands. It invokes the classical werewolf style while also giving you a good idea of what Jack Nicholson would look like as Wolverine. Nichols is obviously not comfortable working in the horror genre. The one attack scene, where Jack tears loose on some muggers, is awkwardly directed. He often punctuates the werewolf scenes with melodramatic slow motion.
Helped along by an elegant Ennio Morricone score, “Wolf” proves a decently compelling film. It has one or two interesting takes on the werewolf legend while providing some good actors with solid material. Patient horror fans might enjoy it while Nicholson or Spader devotees are bound to get a real kick out of it.
• The Beast Inside: Creating ‘Wolf’ (2017): a new documentary on the making of the film with new interviews from SFX legend Rick Baker, screenwriter Wesley Strick and producer Douglas Wick
• Never-before-seen archival interviews with various members of the cast and crew
• B-roll footage
• Original theatrical trailer and the image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Brad Stevens, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and historic articles on the film