Let's get the bad news out of the way first: the fourth Playboy Video is a clear step down from the superior previous volume, and reaffirms that the series has yet to strike upon a consistently entertaining formula. Nevertheless, there is sufficient content in this latest package to not simply dismiss it.
The featured segment is a retrospective concerning Dorothy Stratten, whose tragic odyssey is now on view filmically (and not very coincidentally) in the major theatrical release Star 80. The Playboy production staff has assembled a very nice selection of promotional film and video clips taken circa Miss Stratten's coronation as Playmate of the Year. While the unfortunate implications of the magazine and its mythos with their level of style. That is about as far as I can go with my praise. I still get more that Stratten was a strikingly beautiful woman, and the footage presented here suffices to explain the cult of interest that she has engendered, and highlights the depth of her tragedy.
Video centerfold Barbara Edwards contributes an arresting dance piece that provides an erotically upbeat capper to the standard and fast-becoming-hackneyed playmate presentation. Meanwhile, Grand Dame of porn, Marilyn Chambers, evokes laughter and interest in a far-too-brief interview. The Ribald Classic, a feature I've always preferred on the printed page rather than a vasalined lens, is fortunately the most palatable to date. The comic segments in the Playboy Videos have never been uniformly strong; in this edition, they have plumbed a new low. The sole bright moment was provided by the Firesign Theatre's commercial parody. I'd have rathered more time devoted to the veteran comedy troupe and less to the opening segment shot at L.A.'s Comedy Store. The labored skit about a citywide hookers' strike was funnier than a barium enema, though not by a real lot.
The Playboy crew have constructed an undeniably slick video entertainment spotlighting equally undeniably gorgeous women. However, they don't begin to provide a level of substance commensurate with their level of style. That is about as far as I can go with my praise. I still get more fulfillment out of my latest newsstand issue. Video just can't replicate that slick newsprint smell. And besides, have you ever tried holding up a 19" color TV with one hand...?
P.S. Willie Nelson came across as amiable and frank during his interview segment, although the question I'd have asked first, when he'd washed his hair last, had been skirted.