Thursday, July 16, 2009

An American Giallo

I forget where I first heard it but supposedly John Carpenter was influenced by my favorite genre when he wrote the screenplay for Eyes of Laura Mars, released in 1978. The other night, I decided to watch the film again and make a list of how the film resembled a giallo. Here's what I came up with:

1. Shots of the killer wearing gloves (brown in this film) and wielding their choice of weapon (an icepick) in a lurid and fetishistic manner.

2. An Ennio Morricone-like soundtrack (courtesy of Artie Kane in this case).

3. The main character (Laura Mars) has a gaudy apartment which went out of style the day after the film was released.

4. At least one stereotypically gay character (Laura's best bud Donald Phelps played by Rene Auberjonois).

5. Models as victims (the more catty and vacuous the better).

6. Gratuitous nudity.

7. Psychic phenomenon that makes everyone think the main character is crazy.

8. Lots of red herrings.

9. Eye violence!

10. Characters who have just met and yet fall into a deep and meaningful (serious boning) relationship.

There's ten. And now... A couple more!

11. A sleazy and kinky storyline (though we are talking about the 70s here).

12. The killer's POV (though it is part of the plot and would become standard in slasher flicks very, very shortly after this was released (and by the same writer no less)).

Well, there you go. I think that says it all right there. Eyes of Laura Mars is both an effective thriller and a great American giallo (though not quite as good as Dressed to Kill) with a great ending. Hell, I'm even tempted to include it in a Giallo Meltdown.

My biggest criticism of Eyes of Laura Mars (besides that loathsome Barbara Streisand song) has to be Faye Dunaway's hilariously overwrought portrayal of the title character. It's almost as if she's doing a caricature of herself. The funniest scene is when she goes for a drive and then has a vision of the killer claiming another victim. Instead of pulling over to the side of the road, I think she tries to go and save the person. This results in a comical calamity of her driving like a maniac and crashing into a warehouse. Silly woman, it is illegal to drive under the influence of your telepathic abilities.


  1. Weird, I like this one and even own it on DVD (from Columbia, not some bootleg or obscure reissue), but my version contains neither nudity nor eye violence.

    How about "Alice, sweet Alice" btw., would be a great choice if you want to include an American giallo (or is it Canadian? Not sure).

  2. #3 the gaudy apartment is so giallo! Awesome breakdown of the genre.

  3. The eye violence isn't really shown (unfortunately) but the killer does go after the eyes of several victims. As for the nudity, there was at least a couple of boob shots. Plus, there were a lot of models in various states of undress.

    I forgot about Alice, Sweet, Alice! That is very much an American giallo.