Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Movie – Eating Raoul (1982)

In my prior review I noted that that film (The Insatiable) was probably the least overtly comedic of the films I had written about for my horror comedies category.  This time up the film I am going to recommend is probably the least horrific – at least in terms of what appears on screen.  Eating Raoul is a dark comedy about an ultraconservative couple who find they can kill people for profit and rid the world of “perverts” at the same time.  The film is played straight, not as a spoof.  In other words, it is filled with deadpan humor (and that was a pun, but if you haven’t seen the film, you won’t get it yet.)

Co-writer/director/star Paul Bartel (1975’s Death Race 2000, 1976’s Cannonball!, 1989’s Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills) concocted this funny, nasty little piece of business without much funding.  He shot when and where he could.  He plays Paul Bland, a wine seller who loses his job.  Long time Bartel collaborator Mary Woronov plays his wife Mary.  Paul and Mary have had a dream of opening their own restaurant, but do not have the money for a down payment.  Now that Paul is out of work that dream has pretty much disappeared.

To make matters worse for them they are an extremely prudish couple.  They sleep in separate beds and do not believe in sex.  The most they do is some kissing and cuddling.  This would only be their private problem except for the fact that the building they live in is a haven for an entire community of sexual swingers.  Paul and Mary try to avoid these “perverts” as best they can, but one evening a man wanders into their apartment by mistake, thinks Mary is pretending to play hard to get, and starts to try to get physical.  Paul comes to the rescue by killing the man with a frying pan blow to the head.  Paul and Mary dispose of the body, but not before going through the man’s wallet and finding a lot of money.  When a second man comes there for the same reason, Paul utilizes his frying pan again, and he and Mary suddenly realize they’ve got a great new source of income.  And as they see it, they are also improving the world by getting rid of these deviants.

They consult with their neighbor, Doris the Dominatrix (Susan Saiger), on how to enter this world that is foreign to them.  They start advertising for sex partners, these people show up, Paul gets out his trusty frying pan, and the Blands keep getting richer.  (And now you know why “deadpan humor” is a pun.)

They decide that they need to improve their security so people don’t continue to just wander in.  They hire Raoul Mendoza (Robert Beltran – Star Trek: Voyager) to put in better door locks.  Unfortunately for them, Raoul’s legitimate job is just a cover for his real source of income – breaking into the homes of the people he’s just put the locks in for.  He shows up at the worst possible time, right when Paul has killed another person.  Surprisingly, he doesn’t have an issue with that.  In fact, if they cut him in on the deal he knows how the three can make even more money – by selling the bodies to a dog food company.  Raoul makes some money of his own by secretly selling the cars of the people being killed.

Things are going great (except from the perspective of the people being killed, of course), until one day when Paul makes a shopping trip.  Mary wants him to buy a new frying pan because she’s a little squeamish about cooking with the one Paul has been killing all these people with.  While Paul is gone, a client/victim shows up ahead of time.  Mary tries to fight him off, but Raoul is the one to come to her rescue and kill the man this time.  Something awakens in Mary and she and Raoul have sex.

Things are now out of balance in this bizarre three-way partnership and two-way sort-of-marriage.  Emotions start getting the better of all three.  Needless to say, Raoul and Paul start escalating their attempts to win Mary over to their side and to eliminate the other.  Who will come out on top?

I mentioned earlier that this is the least horrific movie in this category in terms of what appears on screen.  There’s no gore and not even much violence other than the frying pan killings.  It’s the concept of what is happening that is both funny and horrific at the same time.  There is also a scene at the end of the film that really puts it into macabre territory.

In addition to the principals in this film, keep yours eyes peeled for Buck Henry, Ed Begley, Jr., Edie McClurg, and John Landis in small roles.  This movie also has a connection to another film I reviewed for this category – Night of the Comet (1984).  Both Woronov and Beltran appeared together in that movie two years after doing Eating Raoul, although as different characters.  Bartel and Woronov did do a cameo as their Bland characters from this film in Chopping Mall (1986).  I’ve read that there was some talk about doing a sequel to Eating Raoul, but funding didn’t come through and Bartel succumbed to health issues.

Eating Raoul is not for everyone.  The humor comes from some macabre scenes, and from the dichotomy between this boring married couple (their surname of Bland is very apropos) and their chosen method of making money.  If this sounds interesting, then I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. I remember when this movie came out. I dismissed it as cinematic junk, and never watched it, but I noticed it was picked for Criterion Collection. :-)

    Your review makes this movie sound interesting, and I have developed a taste for dark comedy. Maybe I'll give it a go one of these days.

    1. I believe I first saw it on Cinemax back in the mid to late 80s. They showed a lot of "strange" movies. I remember another titled How to Get Ahead in Advertising.

      "Maybe I'll give it a go one of these days."

      If you do, please let me know what you thought. I'm curious what other people think of it. No one I know, other than myself, has seen it.

  2. This is one of those films I've always intended to see but never have. I'll put this on the ever-growing list for when I finish the 1001.

    1. That list is probably getting as long as the one you are trying to complete. :-)

  3. I watched Eating Raoul a number of years ago, and wasn't very impressed at the time, but based on your review I think it's ripe for re-assessment.

    1. It's definitely not for everyone. The humor is very dry and tongue in cheek.