Day 15: ‘Mystery’
The Eyes Of Laura Mars (1978)
A bit of prep goes into making a solid 31 Days Of Horror list, having the prompt ‘Mystery’ on the list left the field wide open and why not choose an American version of a giallo for mid-month? The Eyes Of Laura Mars (1978) on paper looks great, a script from John Carpenter, directed by Irvin Kershner and starring Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois and Raul Julia. But then a certain name involved when looking further leaves a bit of a bad taste with Jon Peters, the Jon Peters who went from a hair dresser, to dating Barbara Streisand to Hollywood Producer and this was one of the earliest films he was involved with originally planning to star Barbara herself (who does perform the main song ‘Prisoner’ for the film) and then things kept changing. The script by Carpenter called ‘Eyes’ went through rewrites and Peters pretty much controlled the set resulting in this bizarre film.
Set in the world of high art and photography, Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a controversial photographer producing eye catching work that includes violence who suddenly begins to see visions through her lens of a murderer. Those around her start dropping and everyone becomes a suspect from her driver Tommy (Brad Dourif) to her ex husband Michael (Raul Julia) with Lieutenant John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) in charge of the case but also forming a romantic bond with Laura. As the vision increase and more bodies pile up will Laura find out the truth?
This is not Blood and Black Lace (1964) even though they do have similarities, the story is a bit more predictable than that classic and isn’t as stylised either with the main point of engagement with this film is the performances because they are really good and it’s such an incredible cast to see play off of each other. The potential for a really strong film was there but it does fall some what flat at times with poor pacing that interrupts the really engaging scenes by dragging out too long. Knowing that parts of the film were written very late into the game does show with a struggle to get to the conclusion. The Eyes Of Laura Mars is still a fairly solid film and a shining example of when too much interference can ultimately turn a potentially great film into a good one.
Day 16: ‘Italy’
Baron Blood (1972)
No horror journey would feel quite right here at The Super Network without some Italian flavour, as 31 Days Of Horror moves towards exploring films by country it’s only right it starts Italy with Mario Bava. Bava has been a filmmaker that gets a lot of love with 31 Days Of Horror (and even Junesploitation this year) and deservedly so as he truly was a master of the craft and the films are generally always quite memorable. Going with a title that often gets left out when discussing Bava, Baron Blood (1972) is a supernatural horror gothic tale set in the 70’s and is a little different for Bava as a whole but it is still a worth while watch.
Baron Blood sees a young man Peter Kleist arrive in Austria to discover more about his family history, he learns his great grandfather was known as Baron Blood who was a sadist who murdered villagers. There are legends about the Baron and his castle still stands and is being changed into a hotel, his ghost seems to haunt the area. Peter diving deeper into the mystery unleashes chaos for everyone and it all leads back to the Baron. The story is more complex than that but to say much more gives away a little too much and this is a film that is best watched with little knowledge going in.
The ride the film takes is visually stunning as one would expect from Bava and it oozes with this gothic atmosphere that really sets the tone and keeps it there. Where it perhaps doesn’t quite work is the plot takes some time to really kick off and the pacing does not quite keep up either. There are some striking scenes that show just how masterful Bava was. Perhaps the script needed more work and the supernatural elements hinder the mystery a little, the overall experience of Baron Blood however is still mesmerising and very much a must see film for those who enjoy Italian cinema and Mario Bava.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea