Star 80 (1983) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

One thumb up, one down .

Scoop's comments in white:

This is the true story of a woman named Dorothy Stratten.

Stratten was a wide-eyed, innocent high schooler when she was "discovered" (working at a McDonald's in Canada) by a would-be manager/promoter named Paul Snider. Snider was a slimy underclass type obsessed with stardom and with Playboy Magazine. He read them, collected them, memorized them, and hoped to contribute a discovery of his own. He ended up dragging Stratten away from her family, marrying her, submitting her photos to Playboy, and eventually pushing her to a stardom which she never coveted.


Mariel Hemingway showed her breasts constantly throughout the film, including in reproductions of Strattens still photos. There are one or two indistinct shots of her buns, and no meaningful pubic exposure.

Right or wrong, crazy or sane, Snider was right about Dorothy. She had the right stuff and became Playmate of the Year in 1980.

Unfortunately, fame and stardom took Dorothy into a world where Snider didn't belong, and couldn't fit in. He was obviously an uneducated Vancouver cowboy, none-too-bright, and a star-struck two-bit hustler. He was roundly avoided by Hef and the crowd. Dorothy herself became involved with more sophisticated people, and this led to sexual and emotional involvements.

Snider couldn't stand to see his protégé outgrow him, and the jealousy snapped him. He ended killing them both in a tragic murder-suicide.

This is quite a fascinating movie, meticulous in its recreation of their lives and personalities. Eric Roberts was uncanny in creating the Paul Snyder character, making the presentation so complex and close to the bone that one never knows whether to pity him or despise him. Creepy and pathetic, often both at once, and completely unaware of his own deficiencies, he has no idea why he doesn't fit in at the mansion. The script doesn't try to make him a satanic villain, but allows the audience to see the reality: Dorothy realized that if it had not been for Snider, she would still have been working at McDonald's. Sleazeball or not, he really was the one responsible for her fame, and she was overwhelmed with guilt by the fact that she had to leave him behind.

DVD info from Amazon.

from the first generation of DVDs - no widescreen, no meaningful features, mono sound

Mariel Hemingway, although nothing like Dorothy physically, seemed nonetheless to be her very resurrection. Disguising Mariel's thick calves and heavy eyebrows, the illusion was thorough. (Mariel overcame her flat chest with implants, although she later asserted that the implant decision was unrelated to this role). Mariel managed to capture the sense of innocence that the real Dorothy apparently never lost, the embarrassment for her husband when he didn't fit in, and her overwhelming shame at having no choice but to abandon the man who was her husband and creator.

It is a complex and emotionally powerful story, told and acted well.  The verisimilitude went so far is to film the final scene in the very apartment where the real-life incident happened.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Star 80 (1983) was director Bob Fosse's final film. It tells the true story of Dorothy Stratten, Playmate of the year in 1980. It is packaged somewhat like a docudrama, but features a strong performance (Golden Globe nominated) by Eric Roberts as Paul Snider, a petty hustler who discovered Dorothy, seduced her, helped launch her career, then killed her in a jealous rage. Mariel Hemingway is not given as much credit for her performance, but I liked the way she subtly transformed from young, naive hick to mature sophisticate.

It is based on a book called Death of a Centerfold by Theresa Carpenter. The problem with the story is that we pretty much know how it is going to end practically from the first scene, and everyone in the film, as well as everyone in the audience, can tell from the beginning that Snider is an asshole except Hemingway's character.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews on line

  • Eric Roberts was nominated for a Golden Globe

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: domestic gross $7 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this film is a B-. This could easily have been a shallow melodrama, but it isn't. It is multi-dimensional, and many moments will make you squirm with discomfort and embarrassment." Tuna says, "This is not at all well made, and feels more like a TV movie of the week than a major film. Still, it is watchable, and has excellent nudity. C-."

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