Friday, March 27, 2009

Eating Raoul (Paul Bartel, 1982)

Nowadays, people are killed, or, as my combat instructor Tiffany likes to say, "dispatched," by guns, axes, hellfire missiles, and sharpened toilet bowl handles laced with plutonium. But twenty-five years ago, everyday items like hippie beads, fine-toothed combs, bug zappers, and frying pans were employed out of respect to the victim. I mean, who doesn't want to be murdered by a frying pan? I know I wouldn't mind. In the darkly humourous, Eating Raoul, that's the question debauched swingers across Los Angeles repeatedly ask themselves during their final moments of brain activity, as the trauma that comes with being hit in the head with a frying pan catches up with them and death consumes their immoral shells. I'd say a solid eighty percent of filmed entertainment is rendered unwatchable because of its high-principled stance against murder. The seemingly unending lesson that Hollywood and their overly earnest allies having been teaching us... you know, that the taking of a human life is wrong and stuff, has plagued me for a good chunk of two centuries. The only instance where homicide is accepted seems to be then perpetrator is wearing a tin hat. Well, in this deeply satirical film about Paul and Mary Bland, murder is not only rewarded, it's glamourized. Deadpan to the point of nonexistence, Paul Bartel and Richard Blackburn have created a script so wicked, so spiritually enriching, that I still can't believe they were allowed to get way it after all these years. Promoting the unlawful slaying of deviants and miscreants from start to finish, Eating Raoul is one of my all-time favourites because it makes its predators, the Bland's, seem so normal on the surface.

However, underneath lies a subtle layer of flavourless perversion. All it takes is just one look at the Bland's apartment and you'll begin to notice that something just ain't right. The erotic artwork, their fabulous collection of 1950s furniture, the matching pajamas, and the twin beds make one stop and pretend to think.

Summed up in a succinct manner by Paul Bland (played by writer, director, and male pattern baldness enthusiast Paul Bartel) at an orgy, the unsuspecting couple lure swingers to their apartment and murder them for their money.

Now this murderous binge may have been brought on by accident (their flat is crawling with swingers and a couple end up getting bludgeoned to death after straying into their place of residence), but the desire to acquire enough capital to open a restaurant causes them to ditch conventional means of raising money and to focus on killing full-time.

Only problem is a professional thief named Raoul Mendoza (a hunky Robert Beltran) is onto to the Bland's scheme. And since Raoul isn't a card carrying pervert, the Bland's don't kill him. Instead, they team up with him. (The Bland's kill, while Raoul is in charge of disposing of the bodies at the dog food factory.) Of course, to Paul, this awkward alliance is a tad shaky from the get-go, as indicated by the shameless flirting that takes place between Raoul and Mary Bland. You can't really blame Raoul in that regard. I mean, if I found myself suddenly thrust into the shapely presence of the sexy Mary Woronov, I, too, would be engaging in a nonstop barrage of lame come-ons and ill-conceived wooing.

The sublime, extremely talented, wonderfully gap-toothed Susan Saiger plays Doris The Dominatrix, a woman Paul employs in order to help him expose Mary and Raoul's secret sexual alliance.

Giving what I consider to be one of the leggiest performances in cinematic history, Mary Woronov wields her extra leggy gams like they were a pair of deadly weapons. Fraudulently seducing the likes of hippies, middle-aged weekend Nazis, a creepy man-child, unruly patients, and fake Latino locksmiths (the locksmith part is fake, not the Latino part), the svelte superstar proves that even the squarest of squares can induce erections in the pants of others with a nonchalant ease. Sure, she can't seem to tell the difference between a dead swinger and a merely unconscious swinger (which is weird being a nurse and all), but as a Naughty Nancy and Cruel Carla, she's the bee's knees.

Seriously, her knees alone are actually worthy of a couple of grammatically obtuse sonnets.

The brilliance of Eating Raoul is plainly obvious during the murder scenes (they evoke a time when murder was fun and a valued activity). However, it's seemingly throwaway scenes, like the one that takes place in the sex shop, that make the film purr so efficiently. The repartee Paul Bartel engages with an apple devouring sex shop salesmen (John Paragon), for example, is wonderfully perverse. I like how Paul offends the clerk by asking for the cheapest vibrator he's got "Hey, there's nothing cheap about my store, don't you mean inexpensive?" It's those kind of touches that keep me coming back to this twisted masterpiece at least once year.

video uploaded by Aussie Road Show


  1. Mary Woronov, huh? I can't say I ever found her attractive... But, she was pretty great in Warlock... By the way, thanks for the Cool As Ice review. I love that movie!


  2. I had never even heard of this movie before. Great writeup on it. You post such interesting things up here. Hope you've had a good weekend. Cheers!

  3. Tower Farm: Yeah, I think she's a total babe. (Even as Miss Togar in Rock 'N Roll High School.)

    People who love Cool As Ice are all right.

    Keith: Thanks, Keith. Eating Raoul is a must for fans of dark comedy.

  4. I always found Mary Woronov very attractive as well. Especially those long legs of hers and it's easily one of the most memorable parts of the movie for me. Great film and it's a favorite of mine, too. One of the best ever dark comedies.

  5. Aside from Mary Woronov, whom I adore with every fiber of my being, I think Susan Saiger darn near steals the show as Doris the Dominatrix. The 'acting jobs' she perpetrated on Raoul were hilarious.

    "Lick my boot, you little worm."

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  7. If I were going to take another stab at typing words about Eating Raoul, I would definitely lavish a huge chunk of praise on Susan Saiger's performance as the multi-talented Doris the Dominatrix.

  8. Watched this out of curiosity after noticing that curious couple in Chopping Mall. Expected something different, got a nice surprise! Darkly humourous and great acting! Just too many giraffe mics getting in the way though...

  9. Brad here: FYI, Eating Raoul is now available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection, thru Amazon. Link:

  10. Mary was also dynamite in the WiP feature, HELL HOLE.

  11. Great blog with funny and perceptive writing. However, am I the only one on earth who noticed Bartel's car (a 1955 Buick Century) is identical to Olga's ride in the trash-classic "White Slaves of Chinatown" (1964)? This is either the most sly reference/homage of all time or the weirdest coincidence ever. And wouldn't Woronov (who only pretends to be a dominatrix in this film) be a perfect Olga? Someone please remake that film.