Sex is disgusting, at least according to Paul and Mary Bland, the ‘heroes’ in Paul Bartel’s wonderfully perverse black comedy. The film originally premiered at the New York Film Festival in late September 1982 and a week later opened at the 69th Street Playhouse in Manhattan for a healthy run.
Starring Bartel and Mary Woronov as Paul and Mary Bland, “Eating Raoul” is about a straight laced couple, who may be duller to spend a night with than watching paint peel off a wall, are surrounded by the wild sex scene of 1980’s Hollywood. The Los Angeles apartment complex the Blands live is filled with sleazy party goers, swingers and connoisseurs of S&M. Not exactly an environment for a couple who find sex a foul deed. Among the depraved your will find Buck Henry and Ed Begley Jr. in small but memorable roles. Not surprisingly, the Blands have no children.
Paul and Mary do have their own dreams though, specifically a restaurant in the country. Paul, who considers himself a connoisseur of wines, works in a dumpy liquor store where the owner is more interested in selling bottles of any old hooch, no matter how cheap or bad, than providing the customer with a fine tasting vintage bottle of vino. The owner’s crass economic reasoning offends Paul high sense of taste. Mary meanwhile works as a hospital nutritionist. Both desire to quit their jobs, flea the disgusting perverts in the city for the cleanliness of the country. The problem is the couple have no savings to pursue their dream. The solution arrives when one of the pervs, as Paul refers with distain to their swinging neighbors, attempts to ‘teach’ Mary the art of swinging. Paul protectively reacts by grabbing a nearby heavy duty frying pan and bopping the guy on his head. Mary, her nursing instincts kicking in, checks the guy’s pulse only to pronounce him dead! Neither seem too concerned that Paul just snuffed out a man’s life. However, they are elated to find a wad of money in the victim’s wallet which they decide to keep and put toward their dream of opening the restaurant. The problem is what to do with the body? Wait, isn’t there a trash compactor that can be use to rid them of this unwanted mess? You betcha!
Thus begins a plan. Why can’t they lure unsuspecting swingers and fetish freaks to their apartment promising them that nothing is off limits! Just before Mary, who is the sexy lure here, is ‘compromised,’ Paul comes to her rescue and another swinger bites the dust.
And then there is Raoul, who arrives at their front door one day when they needed a security lock specialist. What they got instead was a small time con man who discovers just exactly what the prissy couple is up too and wants in on the action. The Blands will lure the local perverts, Paul will knock off the sleazebags with his killer frying pan and Raoul will dispose of the bodies, splitting the victims’ money. What the amateur killers don’t know is Raoul has expanded his side of the business by selling off the bodies for dog food. In between killings, Raoul, the handsome, pot smoking Latino is attracted to Mary, whose prudish behavior contrasts with her alluring looks, awaken Mary’s dormant sexuality. In the end, it all turns out okay for our couple, they get their country restaurant and Raoul; well let’s just say he gets his just desserts.
The film unexpectedly made the rounds of the film festivals and became a cult favorite for years. As an independent filmmaker, Paul Bartel always took a ride on the wild side. He made two shorts in the late 1960’s, “Secret Cinema” and “Naughty Nurse,” both of which are included in the recently released Criterion Blu-Ray and DVD. His first feature film was “Private Parts”, not to be confused with the Howard Stern’s film with the same name, followed by the futuristic and satirical, Roger Corman produced, “Death Race 2000,” the first film he worked on with actress Mary Woronov. Bartel, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Eating Raoul” with Richard Blackburn, tried and failed to get Corman to finance “Eating Raoul.” Working with scrapes of leftover film and eventually financing from his parents, who sold their home in New Jersey to help, Bartel made the film for a paltry $500,000.
Bartel has an interesting off kilter view of life but his main problem as a filmmaker is he lacks any sort of visual style. The camera is there, and like in most TV shows, it’s flat and visually uninteresting.
Mary Woronov began her film career with Andy Warhol’s Factory where she made a series of films including “The Chelsea Girls” and a filmed version of Michael McClure’s play, “The Beard” in which she portrayed Jean Harlow. Since then she has had a healthy career in mostly low budget films ranging from the soft core flick “Sugar Cookies,” directed by her then husband Theodore Gershuny, to horror flicks like “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and Roger Corman produced films like “Jackson County Jail,” “Cannonball” (also directed by Bartel) and “Rock and Roll High School.” She also had roles in “A” productions like “Black Widow” and “Dick Tracy” as well as many TV series and TV films.
“Eating Raoul” is not for those with a delicate stomach as the topics of Bartel’s humor here is obviously on the dark side. The film is not laugh out loud funny but you will find yourself consistently smiling slyly throughout the film as one wicked, tasty delight after another follows.
John, I remember seeing EATING RAOUL a couple of years after it was released–since then, I’ve never quite trusted my wife with the big frying pan. Certainly, it’s a movie that only appeals to some viewers, but I recall thinking it was pretty funny. I think PRIVATE PARTS is a better film, though not one I’d show to many people. It certainly featured one of the creepiest hotels on celluloid.
Rick, I have not seen PRIVATE PARTS but hope to catch it some day. Yeah, it’s not a film for everyone’s taste but if you like dark humor it’s a lot of fun.
John, I remember when EATING RAOUL came out in movie theaters, though I never actually got to see it in a movie theater, darn it.If I recall correctly, I was 19, and my mom talked me out of it; it was one of the few “mature” films my brother DIDN’T take me to see! 😉 I wouldn’t mind seeing it to see what all the fuss was about. But your review was great fun, so I’ll have to catch up with it! Happy Holidays to you and Dorothy from all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ!
It’s probably not as “shocking” as it once was but it’s a lot of off beat fun. Here’s hoping you and your family have a great Christmas!!!