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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
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  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, English - Hearing Impaired

    Star 80

    Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . M15+ . PAL


    Fame is a fleeting thing. And that’s just for the famous. Imagine the hangers-on and background people behind the scenes. They get close enough to touch it but never quite do (except maybe Sinbad...)

    So is the story with Star 80, the life and times of Playboy 'Pet of the Year' for 1980, Dorothy Stratten. ‘Discovered’ by creepy Paul Snider while working in a Dairy Queen, he took her from nobody to the exulted reaches of the Playboy centrefold, and then on into B-grade movies. Naturally, he is just the kind of loser to make someone else famous because he doesn’t have the talent or balls to do it for himself and, as history records, it all goes horribly wrong.

    After finding her, Snider forges her mother’s signature (as Dorothy is only 18) to get her to Los Angeles to meet the Playboy people. After a successful trip that ensures she will appear as Miss August that year, Snider’s jealousy and paranoia begin surfacing as she starts climbing the ladder of success. These ill-effects just increase after he marries her, and as she begins to realise the type of sleazy character he really is, his mental state begins to decay very rapidly. Finally living apart on separate coasts, Snider’s jealousy becomes all-consuming and ends with horrific and tragic consequences.

    Told in the format of a running documentary, with supposed ‘real-life’ interviews that are actually actors in character, the film tells the story of Dorothy well. Eric Roberts as the barely contained Snider is perfectly frightening and is a perfect contrast to Mariel Hemingway’s Dorothy. However, the film lacks any real warmth for Dorothy’s character, instead turning our attentions to Snider’s growing mania. Also told in flashback, we learn the awful truth very early in the film, so I don’t feel I’m giving anything away here. As far as biographies go, this one is interesting in its method of switching between genres, and for a 1983 film, is perhaps a little ahead of its time. It works in its favour, as the hopping from interview to star footage to re-enactment plus being all out of sequence actually does contribute to maintaining interest, however, the script itself and the lack of warmth toward the characters ruins that effect somewhat.


    While the picture quality is fairly good, there are particular instances of very old looking film stock. A scene inside Dorothy’s mother’s house at 28:21 to 29:51 appears blotchy and grainy, with the blacks suddenly turning greenish. This occurs again at 30:19-34. For the most part the blacks are okay but for these instances, while colours are fairly even if occasionally garish throughout.

    Flesh tones (important in a film about nude models) are quite nice and even. This works between re-enacted photographs of Dorothy by Hemingway as well as live action. The picture has been transferred in the aspect of 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement and based on the low recommended selling price is pretty good.


    Powerhouse Mono’s what we’re talkin’ about here and it does a reasonable job, if nothing dramatic. Dialogue is mostly clear, although some lines are a little garbled and even upon a couple of rewinds I still couldn’t figure out what was said. The barely used sound effects range is okay, as is the 1983 style of film score. A bit soft pornish in most parts and usually understated, this is absolutely nothing to get excited about.


    Nope. Not a stitch.


    Fans of Ms Stratten’s work will no doubt find this biography of sorts quite fascinating, although it had an overall midday movie feel to me. Whether this was in part due to its 1983 origin, or just the deliberately soft-edged quality it had in parts, I dunno. I was looking at the clock frequently from about 40 minutes in though, if that helps.

    Both Roberts’ and Hemingway’s performances are fabulous, but their character development is shallow, giving us only a little information about each before the main events of the film. So, naturally, we don’t know (or care) much about them as the film goes along. This is hardly their fault though, as each has done the best they could with the given material. Try renting it first, though I doubt the rather affordable price will dissuade many that are keen enough to own it.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3263
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      And I quote...
    "Part documentary, part docu-drama, this is a rather sleepy film, given the amount of nudity in it."
    - Jules Faber
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