STAR 80 – 1983 Dir. Bob Fosse.

“Star 80” – 1983. Dir. Bob Fosse.  With Eric Roberts, Mariel Hemingway, Carroll Baker, and Cliff Robertson

In “Star 80” Bob Fosse chronicles the true story of the short rise and fall of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten. She was the embodiment of a Playmate: wholesome, naive, and the perfect girl next door. Mariel Hemingway (granddaughter of Ernest) plays Stratten and Eric Roberts, in a star making performance, portrays Dorothy’s boyfriend turned husband Paul Snider who kills Dorothy (I didn’t spoil anything, it’s told to you in the opening). Snider is a self obsessed small time hustler who is always looking for the perfect opportunity to strike it big. Snider accidentally stumbles upon Stratten while she’s working at a Dairy Queen in Vancouver and it’s love at first sight for Snider. Their relationship soon blossoms as Snider spoils Stratten with attention and lavish gifts. Snider then begins taking nude pictures of Dorothy, and sends them to Playboy. Dorothy is soon after summoned to the Mansion but there’s one road block – her Mother (played to perfection by Carroll Baker). Snider pleads with Mrs. Stratten to allow her daughter to travel to the Playboy Mansion and become a Playmate. She refuses, because she can see through Snider’s phoniness. She knows that Snider’s love for her daughter is more opportunity than real love. The film has interviews with characters from the film, chronicling Dorothy and

Eric Roberts as Paul Snider, hissing his dirty feelings to himself.

Snider’s life (as Fosse previously did in LENNY) and the film cross cuts between Dorothy’s story and to current time where we see Snider naked in their bedroom covered in blood. The film itself is edited much like ALL THAT JAZZ with Alan Heim returning as Fosse’s editor. The film is a pleasant mixture with the way it flows between ALL THAT JAZZ and LENNY. The murder scene consists of Snider speaking a monologue of contempt, self loathing, hatred and jealously of Dorothy’s stardom. It’s very Shakespearian the way the film allows Roberts to convey his emotions to the audience, allowing him the inner dialogue with the audience while he stands alone, bloody and naked in the room he murdered Dorothy in. It reminded me much of Richard III or Iago’s sadistic monologue from OTHELLO.

Eric Roberts brings down the house in this film.

STAR 80 is a true story, some events and characters are slightly fictionalized which gave the studio a blanket to help prevent a lawsuit, which didn’t stop Hugh Hefner from suing for deformation of character. Veteran actor Cliff Robertson (Uncle Ben from Raimi’s

Mariel Hemingway and Cliff Robertson.

Spiderman franchise) plays Hugh Hefner. Robertson doesn’t necessarily look like Hefner, but his mannerisms and delivery tricks you into thinking it really is Hefner. The way Hefner is portrayed is that of a father figure, yet he’s just as much of an opportunist as Snider. Fosse explores, as he did in LENNY and ALL THAT JAZZ, the dark side of show business and humanity. He glamorizes it to a certain extent, but the pitfalls that are shown bring the film to a much darker and deeper emotional feel.

As Dorothy expands her horizons with Playboy and films, Snider begins to be left in the dust. He’s Dorothy’s self proclaimed manager and is sucking money from her to buy cars, houses and other materialistic items. He buys a vanity license plate for their new car entitled: Star 80. Snider is convinced that he and Dorothy is the new power couple and proposes marriage to Dorothy. Hefner is skeptical of Snider and sees him as a low level pimp and hustler and warns Dorothy about him and his intentions. As Dorothy’s star rises, Snider is convinced that he is rising along with her – until he realizes that he’s not ascending with Dorothy and he begins to become jaded and bitter.

Dorothy’s huge break comes from film director Aram Nicholas (who is a fictionalized version of Peter Bogdanovich director of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and PAPER MOON) who is played by Roger Rees. As Dorothy spends more time in New York with Aram and less time with Paul who’s still in LA, she begins to see things more clearly. She is sucked in by Aram’s thoughtfulness, charm and attention. She begins to drift closer to Aram and further away from Paul. Paul begins to suspect something is amiss, and hires a private investigator and buys a gun. The way Bogdanovich is displayed in the film is much like Hefner and Snider. They are sweet men at first, and then they begin to manipulate Dorothy for their benefit and personal gain. Quick note: Bogdanovich was dating Dorothy at the time of her death, and then proceeded to marry Dorothy’s younger sister (of whom was 29 years younger than Bogdanovich) after Dorothy’s death. This is the main reason that caused the fast decline of Bogdanovich’s career.

Roger Rees as Aram Nicholas the fictionalized Peter Bogdanovich.

Dorothy leaves Paul and moves in with Aram. She files for divorce and Aram begs Dorothy not to see Paul anymore. She agrees, but gets sucked back in and goes to see Paul one last time to propose him half of everything she’s worth so they can finalize their divorce. Dorothy returns to her old home with Paul, and the entire home is covered in pictures of Paul and Dorothy. Paul is at his weakest and most vulnerable point. He begins to beg Dorothy not to leave him, he threatens to kill himself (as I watched this scene, do we all think this when we are at our weakest?) and Dorothy begins to feel sorry for him, she touches him and he pushes her. He becomes spiteful and angry and yells at Dorothy with envious anger. The bedroom in the film that is the scene of Dorothy’s death is that actual bedroom she was murdered in.

It’s interesting how the film is structured; it’s almost as if Snider is the lead character. During my research of the film, I found an interview with Eric Roberts where he stated that Fosse told him that he decided to make Snider the main focus of the film, because if Fosse himself wouldn’t have become famous – he would have become Paul Snider. Damn Fosse – that’s honesty!

The climax of the film is much like ALL THAT JAZZ, but where as climax is a beautiful sadness; STAR 80’s is graphically violent and disturbing. This film should have been nominated across the board. Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay (Bob Fosse for basing his film on Theresa Carpenter’s “Death of a Playmate” article), Best Actor: Eric Roberts, Actress: Mariel Hemmingway, Best Supporting: Cliff Robertson and Carroll Baker, and Alan Heim for Best Achievement in Editing. This was Bob Fosse’s follow up to ALL THAT JAZZ and his final film. ALL THAT JAZZ will always remain as Fosse’s masterpiece and as a filmmaker Fosse never had one misstep, and “Star 80” is my new staple for a filmmaker’s swan song. What makes this film even more interesting is that Fosse and Hefner were friends in real life, and there was a rumored love triangle between Fosse, Hefner and Stratten. As I said earlier Hefner sued for the way he was portrayed in the film. This film banished Fosse and Hefner’s friendship.

What I love about Bob Fosse is that he just doesn’t give a fuck.

Review: 9/10

I wanted to share something with YOU.

Firstly, expect an in-depth review of Bob Fosse’s final film, “Star 80”.  That is all for this PBA, now here is the clip:

I wanted to share this, it’s a very special film to me.  This is the best trailer I could find, the audio is slightly out of synch, and it’s 2 minutes, but please bear with this.

This is my favorite film.

Expanded Review: “All That Jazz” – 1979 Dir. Bob Fosse


“To be on the wire is life – the rest – is waiting.”

I find “All That Jazz” utterly remarkable. The film is the biggest example of self-indulgence I have ever seen in a film, and it screams brilliance. The premises of the film came as a near death experience to director and co-writer Bob Fosse. Bob Fosse spent the his early career as a dancer on stage and screen, but due to his receding hairline he was forced to stay backstage, and became an acclaimed choreographer and stage director. In 1972 Fosse did something that in retrospect is nearly unthinkable, his film “Cabaret” was nominated for the major awards at the annual Academy Awards, and he won best director over Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather”, and Joel Grey won best supporting actor over, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan. “Cabaret” also won best actress for Liza Manelli, best cinematography, best art direction-set decoration, best sound, best editing, and best original score. So all in all the film won eight Oscars, five more then “The Godfather” – isn’t that remarkable? Fosse then followed that up with “Lenny” starring Dustin Hoffman as the legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce (Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor and Fosse was once again nominated across the board). During the post-production of “Lenny” and the pre-production of Fosse’s Broadway production of “Chicago” he had a near fatal heart attack. It was during this time that, “All That Jazz” was born.

It's Showtime, folks!

“All That Jazz” is the story of Joe Gideon: a pill popping, chain smoking, workaholic and sexaholic played marvelously by Roy Scheider (who passed away last year). We find Gideon in the midst of editing his new film, “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”), and beginning tryouts, rehearsals, and pre-production for his new Broadway play (it’s untitled, but the musical number Gideon “re-arranges” is much like the cell block number from “Chicago”). In what little spare time Gideon has between the studio breathing down his neck about how long overdue “The Stand-Up” is, and the production team of the Broadway musical overbearing him with new musical numbers, how he has to stay within the budget – Gideon finds time for his wife, and their young daughter, his mistress, and a new girl he chose for the new Broadway play just so he could have sex with her. While we are watching this complex story unravel Fosse brilliantly crosscuts the story with Joe Gideon literally flirting with The Angel of Death played by Jessica Lange. While plot arcs unfold we are taken to this mystical place where Gideon is the most honest, as he talks to Lange about his life, and how he’s screwed up certain aspects of it. Death has never looked so beautiful, as Jessica Lange smiles, and flirts with Gideon.

The film’s opening ranks up with some of the greatest opening scenes in film history (“Kill Bill Volume 1”, “Goodfellas”, and “The Wild Bunch” – just to name a few). Gideon is walking a tight rope and says in a voice over, “To be on the wire is life – the rest is waiting.” Lange compliments Gideon on the line, saying it’s very “theatrical” and asked if he came up with it.

Gideon's mistress telling him, "I just wish you weren't so generous with your cock!"

Gideon says he wishes he did. The next scene is a quick cutting mash up of Gideon’s morning routine that is re-shot over the period of the film. It begins with a cassette tape being put into a tape deck and a classical song beings to play. Gideon then applies Visen into his eyes, drops two Alkazelser in a glass of water, takes a shower, applies more Visen and looks at himself in the mirror and says with a smug and smooth tone, “It’s Showtime folks!” – but as the film progress and the more wear and grinding that gets put on Gideon, the “It’s Showtime, folks!” become less enthusiastic, and less soothing and reaches a point where he can barely muster the words.

What makes this film brilliant and amazing is that it works on every possible front it can. The direction is unbelievably tight and masterfully commanded by Bob Fosse, the editing by Alan Heim (which he won an Oscar for) is flawless and has trumped my personal examples of perfect editing in “The Graduate” and “Ed Wood”. The script is so unbelievably compelling and so full of detail and perfection that it amazes me when I read excerpts from it. But what really is very remarkable about the film is Roy Scheider. I’ve always had a fondness for Scheider since I was young and saw him in “Jaws”, his role in “The French Connection” and “The Punisher” are the only other roles I have thought he was solid in. Scheider spent most of his career as a character actor and never really made it as a leading man, but as Joe Gideon he gives one of the best performances I have ever seen on scene, and that ranks him up there with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and William Hurt. Scheider becomes transparent, and you are truly watching Joe Gideon, not the actor Roy Scheider playing Gideon – but Gideon himself. Think about how in 1979 all the other bankable stars and actors there were to play this self obsessed, womanizing man of Godlike talent: Warren Beatty, Michael Douglass, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Richard Gere – those are just a few actors who I think could have played Gideon – but none of them would have been as effective as Scheider

Joe Gideon and Bob Fosse

The other element that makes this film great is Bob Fosse. This film had to have been a slap in the face to most people in his life. The actor who plays Dennis Newman (supposed to be Dustin Hoffman), the actor in “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”) was the original actor who played Lenny Bruce on the Broadway play (which Fosse directed). The studio made Fosse get a name for the title role, and they gave him Dustin Hoffman. The Dustin Hoffman-esq character in the movie is degrading and thinks he knows absolutely everything about anything. It’s obvious from this portrayal that Fosse had nothing then contempt and utter dislike for Hoffman, and his ego. The stage and screen actress Ann Reinking who plays his mistress Kate in the film, dated Dustin Hoffman prior to filming (isn’t Fosse just the man!?) The direction of “All That Jazz” has got to be one of the greatest examples of a director not caring what his audience thinks, or even understands. We’re taken on this journey by Fosse to explore his life changing heart attack, and his fantasy of death. Fosse made this movie for himself, and no one else. That’s what makes it perfect.

"I think I'm gonna die!"

The film builds itself up to an earth shattering climax that is the biggest tour-de-force of an ending I have ever had the pleasure of watching. My heart was racing the entire time. The climax slowly starts to build with Gideon’s wife, mistress and daughter performing their own musical numbers to Gideon as he lays in his hospital bed, while a healthy Gideon is directing everything. Where the film really makes your heart race is Gideon’s command performance that lasts for the last 20 minutes of the film. It is a great song, and an amazing display of talent by Scheider that he never utilized before that, or since. What solidified the greatest of the ending for me was the subtle stationary dolly shot of Scheider as the second to last shot of the film (the ending actually inspired the best dream I have ever had).

The film was nominated in all major categories, and was up against “Apocalypse Now”, “Breaking Away”, “Kramer vs Kramer” and “Norma Rae”. The films was overshadowed and engulfed by “Kramer”. I could almost imagine the contempt the Academy had for Fosse for making a film such as this. How much they resented him for making it so perfect and so self indulgent. I recently watched “Kramer vs Kramer” because it beat “All That Jazz” in mainly every category. It’s a good film, but it’s mediocre compared to “Jazz” and I want to believe they gave Best Actor to Dustin Hoffman for “Kramer” instead of Scheider for “Jazz” as a fuck you to Fosse for making such an egotistical film.

“All That Jazz” remains to be a truly original film. It stands alone, and it holds up excellent to repeat viewings. This is one very rare cinematic treasure that not too many have encountered, especially from my generation and that’s a shame – it truly is. This film will always stand as both Fosse and Scheider’s masterpiece and is not only one of the best films from the 1970’s, but one of the best films I have EVER seen. After viewing this film for a tenth time in a week and a half I have re-evaluated my rating system, and makes me hold films up to the standards that Bob Fosse has put on me, all I can say is thank you Bob Fosse.

Review: 10/10