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USA 1983
Directed by
Bob Fosse
103 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Star 80

Bob Fosse made his name with musicals, notably Cabaret (1972) and All That Jazz (1979) but don’t look for sequins and glitter in this very dark tale of the sordid underbelly of LA's soft-core sex industry. Mariel Hemingway plays the real-life Dorothy Stratten, a wide-eyed unworldly teenager from Vancouver, CA who falls into the clutches of a small-time hustler and emotionally unstable sleazebag, Paul Snider (Eric Roberts), who masterminds her journey to notoriety, if not exactly fame, by transforming her into a Playmate centrefold and sexploitation “actress” before killing her when she tried to make something better of her life.

Fosse’s film may be kind to Stratten (and her mother, played by Carroll Baker) with Hemingway, who had already made a controversial appearance as Woody Allen’s very young screen girlfriend in Manhattan (1979), and who was 22 at the time of making this film, incredibly sweet (and none too bright) but it gives no such indulgences to Snider, played to perfection by Roberts as a desperate, even unhinged, slimeball. As the film opens with him gruesomely murdering Stratten in their North Hollywood bungalow everything we see of the innocently air-headed girl is tainted by her brutal death. Tawdry as is its subject matter is, Star 80 is a sorely under-rated chapter torn from the disillusioning pages of Hollywood Babylon (Hugh Hefner, played by Cliff Robertson, in his silk pyjamas is sleazy in his own way) with writer-director Fosse adapting a Pulitzer Prize-winning article by Teresa Carpenter that appeared in 'The Village Voice',  doing a fine job of helming it, 

Both Hemingway and Roberts continued to work in film in television with Roberts being one of those actors who seem to prepared to resign themselves to a journeyman career (he has appeared since in over 350 films, including coming to Australia to play the lead in The Coca-Cola Kid in 1985) but for both Star 80 represents the apogee of their fame. 

FYI: The same events had been filmed (and rather badly) for television in 1981 as Death Of A Centerfold. with Jamie Lee Curtis playing Stratten. For related subject matter see 2013's Lovelace, the story of Deep Throat "star" Linda Lovelace and 2002's Auto Focus Paul Schrader's under-rated real-life story of 1960s TV star Bob Crane.

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