"Dorothy Stratten received considerable attention for her 1980 Playboy centerfold spread, which showcased her girl-next-door beauty and personality to remarkable effect. Most who knew her described her as a very sweet, kind, and strangely innocent young woman, and although her name as such was not well known to the public at large, many industry insiders felt she was on the fast-track to Hollywood stardom. We will never know if she could have made the career many expected of her, for little more than a year after her debut in Playboy her promoter, manager, and husband Paul Snider blew her head off with a shotgun.Mariel Hemingway gives the performance of her career as Stratten, capturing the mixture of wholesome beauty and vulnerability that so many of Stratten's acquaintances described. But STAR 80 is actually less about Stratten than it is about Paul Snider, the small-time hustler who discovered, promoted, and married her--and then lost her through a combination of his own hysterical insecurity and her rising fame. Eric Roberts is simply bone-chilling in the role; it is a performance that should have earned him an Academy Award. The supporting cast is equally fine, with Cliff Robertson and Carroll Baker as Hugh Hefner and Dorothy's mother respectively. But the film goes beyond offering exceptional performances in a tragic story of promising youth cut short.Director and writer Bob Fosse begins his story with Stratten's death and then presents the history of the Stratton-Snider relationship in a semi-documentary style through flashbacks and flash-forwards. The style serves him very well, for the film quickly develops such intensity that at times it becomes extremely difficult to watch. As it progresses, the story itself becomes a metaphor for hedonism of the 1970s surging into the 1980s: a poisonous mixture of superficial appearances, selfishness, user-mentalities, and disposability. As viewers, we are trapped in a count-down to death, unable to alter a single misstep in Stratten's final days and horrified by the inextoriable drift toward violence. The final ten minutes of the film are certainly among the most powerful, disturbing, and upsetting ever put to film.STAR 80 proved too unpleasantly real for box office success. This is not an "entertaining" film. But it is a brilliantly done film, one undimmed by the passage of twenty years--and one that, sadly, will likely be as valid twenty years from now as it is today. Strongly recommended."
Eric Roberts is riveting!!
Gary F. Taylor | 08/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The reason I think Eric Roberts is one of the most underappreciated actors in Hollywood is due to this film. His performance as the husband of doomed Playboy Playmate, Dorothy Stratten, is one of the most psychologically disturbing and eerie portrayals that I have ever seen. It is the masculine counterpart to that of Glenn Close's portrayal in "Fatal Attraction". If you enjoyed that film, this is a "must see". Although the movie is primarily about the late Dorothy Stratten, it is really about Paul Snider, her obsessed and self centered husband. Snider, a small time promoter and part time pimp, discovered Dorothy Stratten in 1978 when she was working at a ice cream parlor in Vancouver B.C.. He courted the naive young beauty, dated her and convinced her to pose for nude pictures that he would send in to Playboy. Playboy, impressed with what they saw, made her the Playboy Playmate of the Year. This landed her television and motion picture work. Because she felt she "owed" him, Dorothy married Paul Snider; however, she fell in love with the director of her last movie (I won't mention this director's name here but he is quite famous and his name was changed in "Star 80"). When Snider found out she was having an affair and he was losing her, he brutally raped and murdered her and subsequently killed himself. All of this, from her discovery, rise to stardom and death happened only in the span of two years. This is an amazingly short time frame for any talented beauty looking for a career in Hollywood.Mariel Hemmingway delivers a lighter role as Dorothy and portrays her as the quintessential child-woman (Dorothy Stratten was only 20 when she died). Although Stratten posed nude for Playboy and was hailed as a sex godess, she was still a sweet, unsophisticated and naive "kid" who suffered from forays with her husband. That is the extent of Hemmingway's performance and she did it well. However, the contrasting underworld of Paul Snider was explored and propogated throughout the film. You saw the universe through his eyes. You felt the humiliation and insecurity he felt when accompanying his dazzling wife at the Playboy mansion. You were sickened by him and yet you felt his humiliation when Hugh Hefner looked down on this small time loser. And, finally, as he was realizing that he was losing his meal ticket, "Dorothy", you felt the agony and desparation he felt. That was how powerful a performance that Eric Roberts delivered. In most breakups, either person eventually has to let go. Unfortunately for Dorothy Stratten, Paul Snider refused to let her go and you knew he never would, even if he had to destroy them both."
An unnerving, haunting film.....Eric Roberts gives a devasta
John H. Rasmussen II | Middletown, PA United States | 07/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"** Dec08 UPDATE NOTE regarding WIDESCREEN FORMAT DVD ** At the time of this writing, the only widescreen format DVD available of this incredible film is the Australian version (I don't know the region number, but it is indeed the "Land Down Under" version). I waited 25 years to once again see the film in all it's widescreen splendor and it did not disappoint: sharp, beautiful picture transfer and superb, highly-nuanced audio. I should note that the speed of the transfer is a touch faster than the theatrical, VHS & previous DVD releases. It's most noticable in the audio, particularly when music is playing in the background. The added speed pitches the audio a whole step higher and shortens the film by several minutes. As someone who has seen this film literally 50 times, I noticed it immediately and was somewhat dismayed....but as the film rolled along, I felt less-and-less troubled by this. It's just SO GOOD to have "Star 80" in widescreen!! ** END of UPDATE NOTE **
I went to see this film in the theatre literally a dozen times and over 20+ years I've watched it on VHS/DVD probably three dozen times more. With the exception of the films of James Dean, I don't believe I've obsessed over any other films to the degree that I did with "Star 80". Admittedly, the film is rather grim and, on one hand, is an awful thing to become fixated with; on the other hand, the film's haunting power and the terrible beauty of Eric Roberts' performance was & is a pretty potent combination and definitely justifies the repeated viewings. I remember being quite shaken and virtually unable to speak coming out of the movie theatre the first time I saw it. I spent the next several weeks chasing it all over central PA, from theatre to theatre, and dragging along anyone I could find to go with me.
Mariel Hemingway brings a spooky stillness to her portrayal of Dorothy Stratten; the performance can be called a "celluloid lullaby". She's almost TOO gentle & innocent (as indeed was Dorothy herself) and it can be painful to watch the film knowing the gruesome ending to Ms. Stratten's life. A unique, superb, career-defining performance for Mariel Hemingway. The combination of her performance and the flawless, sensitive direction of Bob Fosse give the film it's cushiony, dream-like layers. Fosse's direction is astounding, a true master at work: tender & brutal, charming & terrifying, all at the same time. Additionally, MAJOR high marks for the film's editing and the spine-tingling music soundtrack. Spooky stuff, that music.....a dead-on bullseye.
The absolute centerpiece of the film is Eric Roberts' gut-wrenching, devastating performance as Paul Snider, Dorothy's starmaker/husband/killer. This was the first time I had ever seen Eric Roberts so his characterization was not in the least bit diluted by recognition of the actor. Again, with the exception of James Dean, I have NEVER been so flabbergasted over an actor's performance.....and, to this day, the Twin Titans of movie performances remain (in my opinion) James Dean in "East Of Eden" and Eric Roberts in "Star 80" (....with Jeremy Irons in "Dead Ringers" hot on their heels). Why Mr. Roberts wasn't nominated for and WIN the Best Actor Oscar is something I'll never understand. (He was, however, given the Best Actor prize by [I believe] something called the Boston Film Critics Society.)
With every viewing of the film I still feel deeply conflicted watching this character: he's the epitome of the sleazeball that everyone dislikes instantly but, as the film progresses, he becomes so emotionally shattered that it's difficult not to feel some sympathy for him as a human being....but just when you're wishing someone would offer a helping hand, the brutal climax of the film hits like a tidal wave.
Eric Roberts got deeply into Paul Snider's head and it must have been a punishing experience. For the brutalization to his nervous system, Mr. Roberts has left us with a film role that will retain it's shockingly profound power as long as there are movies. It's practically an act of criminality that there are no "extras" on the DVD; I'd love to hear Mr. Roberts recollections of playing this role.
The last 10 minutes of the film are incredibly powerful; they are also very disturbing and may leave you in stunned silence.....and I challenge anyone to shake loose Eric Roberts' performance from their mind in just a day or two.
I personally consider "Star 80" to be a true classic of cinema and hope it will someday be rediscovered and re-evaluated as such. It's a difficult film to get out of your mind and actually grows more powerful with repeated viewings.
"Star 80" gets my absolute highest recommendation, but with it's sensitive subject matter and shockingly gruesome climax, please be advised the film is not for everyone. "
A distinctive and disturbing film.
R. J. Claster | Van Nuys, CA United States | 08/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a highly original and unsettling film. Although Mariel Hemingway as Dorothy Stratten effectively conveys her innocence and vulnerability, it is Eric Roberts as Paul Snider, the seedy small time loser and user of women, who is the focus of this film. What Roberts does so effectively is to make clear to the viewer why his awareness that he is losing Dorothy to a big name director leads to him committing his horrible rape-murder-suicide. It is more than just losing a meal ticket; it is instead the total self-negation it represents to him as someone who is dominated by feelings of worthlessness and a corrosive mixture of inadequacy, insecurity and hatred towards those he perceives as successful, rich and powerful. It is Roberts's delineation of these aspects of his character that makes his terrible act seem like the inevitable outcome of the forces that drive him, and leaves the viewer experiencing a mixture of horror and pity, even though one feels revulsion towards him. Moreover, the supporting performances by Cliff Robertson and Carroll Baker are excellent.
A definite recommendation."
The Centerfold, the Pimp and the Pornographer
The JuRK | Our Vast, Cultural Desert | 09/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I got married in Las Vegas in 1999, I chose the Silver Bell Wedding Chapel on the Strip because it offered a fun Elvis wedding. In the lobby were photos of famous people who'd also got married there (Rodney Dangerfield, sports figures) and next to the front door was a large photo of Dorothy Stratten standing outside the Silver Bell. All smiles, gorgeous, alone. When I asked about the photo, I was told, "Yes, she got married here. Such a beautiful girl...we refuse to hang any photos of him." The "him" whose name was never mentioned was Paul Snider, the man she married that day. He was also the monster who blew her head off with a shotgun and raped her dead body before killing himself in the summer of 1980.
STAR 80 is the unflinching movie about the life and horrible death of Dorothy Stratten. It's written and directed by Bob Fosse (he'd turned the same dazzling but bleak eye on his own life in 1979's ALL THAT JAZZ) and it feels at time exactly like a documentary. I believe the source material was a Village Voice article by Teresa Carpenter called "Life & Death of a Centerfold."
Mariel Hemingway has always been a competent actress but I didn't feel that she was beautiful enough to be Dorothy Stratten. I hate to say that. To be fair, I'm not sure any woman could've done Dorothy justice. If you've never seen her, do a web search or something. She really was one of the most naturally magnificent examples of beauty I've ever seen. I used to look at her pictorials and marvel at every curve on the woman. I know Ms. Hemingway had a breast enhancement prior to the role--but I kept thinking of the real thing(s) and it (they) were distracting. Sorry. Everything about her--eyes, lips, hips, legs, everything--looked like finely-crafted perfection.
I don't remember if Eric Roberts was nominated for anything, but he definitely deserved some award for committing to film the most realistic depiction of a complete and utter scumbag up to that point. That Fosse could include scenes that even made Snider somewhat sympathetic--how far would you go to find fame?--makes the movie that much more powerful and even numbing.
Much was made at the time of the perfect casting of Cliff Robertson as Hugh M. Hefner. Robertson had been involved in a huge money scandal at Columbia Pictures and offers for roles quickly dried up for a while until Fosse cast him as Hef. A great move as well as a brave one. (Robertson went on to work more, most recently as Spider-man's Uncle Ben in that blockbuster franchise). Plus, he's a great Hef.
Look fast for a young Keenen Ivory Wayans as a young comic and Liz Sheridan as a makeup girl (she went on to play Jerry Seinfeld's mom on "Seinfeld" and she's also claimed to be one of James Dean's lovers!).
This is a much better film than BOOGIE NIGHTS and WONDERLAND (both of those were based on the sordid life of John Holmes, a biography still waiting for a honest treatment as far as I'm concerned). Check it out.
By the way, the Silver Bell Wedding Chapel burned to the ground a couple of years ago. I don't know if the picture of Dorothy Stratten went with it."