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EATING RAOUL (director/writer: Paul Bartel; screenwriter: Richard Blackburn; cinematographer: Gary Thieltges; editor: Alan Toomayan; music: Arlon Ober; cast: Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary), Robert Beltran (Raoul), Susan Saiger (Doris the Dominatrix), Ed Begley, Jr. (Hippy), Buck Henry (Mr. Leech); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Anne Kimmel; 20th Century Fox; 1982)
It’s hard to resist this sardonically riotous black comedy, even if you know the ingredients in the gourmet meal are disgusting.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul has become a classic in black comedy, carrying on about sex, food, and murder. Bartel is co-screenwriter with Richard Blackburn, as they whip up a delicious script about a straight-laced Hollywood couple aptly named the Blands, Paul and Mary (Mary Woronov & Paul Bartel). Mary’s a nurse and Paul is a wine salesman. The uptight couple live in a building of swingers and hipsters. Their wish is to just be left alone. They also want to purchase their dream restaurant and head for the ‘burbs, but need $20,000 for their dream to materialize as Paul and Mary’s Country Kitchen.

When a swinger from the party next door enters the Blands’ apartment and tries to rape Mary, Paul conks him on the noggin with a frying pan and the pervert dies. It doesn’t take the Blands long to come up with a scheme to dispose of the body and get rich at the same time, as they are surprised how much dough the pervert had on him. The Blands hit upon an idea of luring sex perverts to their home via a classified ad and then killing them. Mary poses as a hooker into all kinds of kinky sex and Paul is there to whack them over the head with a frying pan. Then they steal their valuables and chop up their body and sell it for dog food. Their thinking is, this will allow them to finance their dream and clean up society. But their scheme is foiled, however, when an Hispanic hustler named Raoul catches on and blackmails them into making him a partner.

The sick joke is played seriously without camp, making it all the more amusing. Raoul’s role as the delivery man to the dog emporiums is expendable, so the gourmet loving couple create Raoul in way that makes him taste better. There’s an odd sweetness to their cold-hearted plan that crosses the line between a crowd-pleasing mainstream and a subversive avant garde “underground” film. Woronov is a regular from Warhol’s Factory in the ’60s and couldn’t be better suited for this bizarre role. Bartel earned his wings in the Roger Corman exploitation film factory, where he was the designated clown. There’s also a riotous bit with Susan Saiger as Doris the Dominatrix, who pops up in the Blands’ residence and gets more than what she ordered.

It’s hard to resist this sardonically riotous black comedy, even if you know the ingredients in the gourmet meal are disgusting.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”