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Eating Raoul – The Criterion Collection #625 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 16, 2012 by  



Overall, “Eating Raoul” is a sinfully, entertaining, absurd, hilarious but very enjoyable black comedy from Paul Bartel.   A wonderful Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © Mercury Film Inc. 2012 THE CRITERION COLLECTION. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Eating Raoul – The Criterion Collection #625

YEAR OF FILM: 1982

DURATION: 83 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, Monaural

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2012

Directed by Paul Bartel

Written by Paul Bartel, Richard Blackburn

Producer: Anne Kimmel

Associate Producer: Richard Blackburn

Music by Arlon Ober

Cinematography by Gary Thieltges

Edited by Alan Toomayan

Production Design by Robert Schulenberg

Starring:

Paul Bartel as Paul Bland

Mary Woronov as Mary Bland

Robert Beltran as Raoul Mendoza

Susan Saiger as Doris the Dominatrix/Nurse Sally Cumings

Lynn Hobart as Lady Customr

Richard Paul as Mr. Cray – Liquor Store Owner

Buck Henry as Mr. Leech

A sleeper hit of the early 1980s, Eating Raoul is a bawdy, gleefully amoral tale of conspicuous consumption. Warhol superstar Mary Woronov and cult legend Paul Bartel (who also directed) portray a prudish married couple who feel put upon by the swingers living in their apartment building. One night, by accident, they discover a way to simultaneously rid themselves of the “perverts” down the hall and realize their dream of opening a restaurant. A mix of hilarious, anything-goes slapstick and biting satire of me-generation self-indulgence, Eating Raoul marked the end of the sexual revolution with a thwack.

Paul Bartel has starred in many television shows and films.  While playing judge or doctor roles in television shows like “L.A. Law”, “Ally McBeal and “Snoops”, he also starred in films such as “European Vacation”, “Escape from L.A.” and “The Usual Suspects”.  But he is also known for his short films in the ’60s such as “The Secret Cinema” and his ’70s films “Death Race 2000” and “Cannonball!”.

While as an actor, the majority of his Hollywood roles were not a main character, sometimes in Hollywood, you need to create our own opportunities.  And sure enough Paul Bartel created the opportunity by directing the 1982 film “Eating Raoul” which he co-wrote with Richard Blackburn.

With an anything goes way of directing the film and because it was low-budget, actors having to adapt to the schedule.  “Eating Raoul” is a film that will be remembered for its characters.  Along with Bartel, starring in the film was Mary Woronov (“Death Race 2000”, “Warlock”), Robert Beltran (“Star Trek: Voyager”, “Night of the Comet”), Susan Saiger, Buck Henry (“The Graduate”, “Catch-22”), Ed Begly Jr. (“St. Elsewhere”, “Spinal Tap”), Allan Rich (“Amistad”, “Serpico”) and Edie McClurg (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Natural Born Killers”).

A low-budget black comedy, “Eating Raoul” made over a million dollars in the box office and would inspire a stage musical production  via off-broadway in 1992 and played in London in 2000.

While this black comedy has received a cult following, the original DVD has been out of print since 2004.  But now the Criterion Collection will be releasing “Eating Raoul” in Sept. 2012 on Blu-ray and DVD.

“Eating Raoul” is a film that is set in Los Angeles and revolves around a traditional married couple, Paul (portrayed by Paul Bartel) and Mary (portrayed by Mary Woronov) Bland.

Paul is a wine dealer who has an impressive wine collection, knows his wine but is unable to keep his job at the convenience store because he tries to get his customers to consider buying better wine.

Mary is a nurse that men are attracted to but is dedicated to her marriage to Paul.

Both have one dream and that is to open a restaurant.  But because Paul’s inability to keep a job and the fact that they live in a building where people have swinger/sex parties, they know their financial status is not so good.  And to make things worse, they are told that in order to get their dream restaurant, they must come up with $20,000.

One night, a drunken man looking for the swinger party in the building ends up coming into Paul and Mary’s apartment and wants them to join the party, but the man immediately wants to have sex with Mary.  Paul is upset with the man’s comments that he punches him in the stomach and the man pukes all over their carpet.  At first they think that Paul may have killed him with the punch, but the man is still alive and wants Paul to take him to the swinger party.

While at the party, Doris the Dominatrix (portrayed by Susan Saiger) keeps Paul busy with her whip, while the drunken man goes back to Paul’s apartment in hopes to rape her.

And as the man forces himself on Mary, Paul managing to escape the party, hears his wife screaming and hits the drunken man in the head with a frying pan, instantly killing him.  They notice the man has a lot of money and dump his body in the trash compactor.

Another person comes into their apartment again and once again, Paul hits the man with the frying pan and Mary comes up with an idea.  If all these men are coming to the building for sexual favors, why not kill them and take their money, so they can pay the $20,000 needed for the down payment for the restaurant of their dreams.

With advice from Doris the Dominatrix, Paul and Mary come up with a plan that Mary will pretend she is a dominatrix and when the men start to get aggressive, Paul will hit them on the head with a frying pan and kill them.  And they can take all the money from the “rich perverts” wallets.

But first, they must invest in good locks and possibly put handcuffs on the walls.  So, they hire Raoul Mendoza (portrayed by Robert Beltran), a thief who uses his lock business to scope out the interior of people’s homes.

After installing new locks, Raoul sneaks into the Bland’s home and he is smitten with Mary.  But as he goes through the home and steals their money, he is caught by both Paul and Mary.  And as Raoul explains his role as a thief and the Bland’s explain to Raoul of how they murder “rich perverts” for money, they decide to become business partners.  The deal is that the Bland’s can keep making money, the way they want.  And Raoul will take the bodies of the people and dispose of them (in reality, taking their vehicles and reselling the car or parts to the black market and making more money).

As the three begin to make money, one night, a scheduled client has not come.  So, Paul goes out to get some groceries.  But the scheduled client ends up coming late and without Paul there to knock the man in the head, the man tries to sexually assault Mary but Raoul manages to come out of nowhere and kills the man and rescues Mary in the process.

Knowing Paul is gone, Raoul uses his charm on Mary and the two have sex and begin having a sexual affair behind’s Paul’s back.

And now Raoul, who wants Mary all to himself, wants Paul out of the picture.  But Paul suspects Raoul is after his wife and wants him out of the picture.

Which man will end up with Mary?

VIDEO:

“Eating Raoul” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio).  The Criterion Collection Blu-ray release overshadows the previous release with a more clearer and detailed picture.  There is no darkening, no softness or blurring which is great for an early ’80s film.  I detected no artifacts or any problems during my viewing of “Eating Raoul”.  If anything, I highly recommend upgrading to the Blu-ray release as the picture quality is clean and impressive over the older 2004 DVD.

According to the Criterion Collection, the digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT SCANITY film scanner from the original camera negative and was supervised by director of photography Gary Thieltges.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean while Image Systems DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Eating Raoul” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural.  Dialogue is crystal clear and I heard no negative audio problems during my viewing of the film.  According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35 mm magnetic tracks.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Eating Raoul” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by screenwriter Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg and editor Alan Toomayan.
  • The Secret Cinema – (27:12) A short film by director Paul Bartel created in 1966.
  • About the Film – (8:48) Production Designer Robert Schulenberg is featured in an audio interview discussing the challenging production of “The Secret Cinema”.
  • Naughty Nurse – (8:55) A short film by director Paul Bartel created in 1969.
  • Cooking Up “Raoul” – (24:27) A new 2012 documentary about the making of the film featuring interviews with stars Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran and Edie McClurg discussing how they they knew of Paul Bartel’s work, how they were cast for this film and the challenges of making a very low budget film.
  • Gag Reel – (5:46) Outtakes from “Eating Raoul” compiled by the original film’s editor Alan Toomayan for Paul Bartel’s 60th Birthday.
  • Archival Interview – (21:14) Featuring a 1982 interview with Peter Bartel and Mary Woronov and both respond to the praise the film received and discuss the challenges of making the film.
  • Trailer – (1:47) The original theatrical trailer for “Eating Raoul”.

EXTRAS:

“Eating Raoul – The Criterion Collection #625” features a creative “Paul & Mary’s Country Kitchen” restaurant style 4-page booklet (via tri-fold).  Included is an essay by film critic David Ehrenstein titled “Murder Most Delicious”.

“Eating Raoul” is an entertaining black comedy that captivates you from beginning to end because of its cleverly written storyline, its satire on society incorporating fascinating characters and off-beat humor.

“Eating Raoul” is definitely a film showcasing black comedy at its best and in someway, it’s a film that still has its relevancy because it depicts despair, consumerism, capitalism with cynical humor.

Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are amazing in this film.  Bartel known for his dry humor and Woronov with her anything goes style, both talents compliment each other on screen despite being complete opposites.  As Paul and Mary Bland, the Bland’s are the traditional American couple.

A husband and wife that works hard to achieve the American dream of having their own business, a restaurant.  But despite Paul being knowledgeable about fine wine, he is unable to find a job that compliments his knowledge of being a wine connoisseur and we see how this man wants to help the average American choose the best wine, but a convenience store is probably not the best place.  Meanwhile, Mary is a nurse and nutritionist who may seem very sexless and traditional but she manages to be sexually appealing to many men.

One scene involves Mary trying to get a loan from the bank, yet she wears a dress that exposes her bra and panties.  She has this demeanor of a prude that objects to men’s sexual desires towards women, but yet out of nowhere, she comes out wearing this outfit and is constantly approached by sleazy men who want to have sex with her.

The characters of Paul and Mary and their chemistry is so off-beat, you can’t help be fascinated by their strong love and appreciation for each other.   For Mary, because Paul treats her like a woman and does not see her as an object of sexual desire, she loves him for that.  And for Paul, the fact that Mary loves him despite the fact that he keeps losing his job, they are in financial trouble but yet manages to have this positive attitude.  These two compliment each other, despite looking as if they are total opposites.

And as these two represent a traditional American couple, their life and the area is anything but.  The truth is that despite her being a nurse and despite Paul being a wine erudite, they are living in poverty.  And that is where I see the relevance to today’s world and economy.  How many people have we seen who have had great jobs or are college educated but yet live in poverty and can’t find a job.   The building where they live is host for sex parties and all around them are sleazy scums, but yet these sleazy scums tend to be quite wealthy and people of high position as well.  They are indulgent, having fun and enjoying the good life, while Paul and hardworking Mary have nothing to show for it.

But what happens when Raoul, the Latino and thief with ultimate machismo enters their lives.  He is the character that is quite fascinating as well as he brings the danger and sex component to the film.  The one person that you know, if left alone with Mary, can easily tear down her wall of celibacy.  Sure, in today’s world, it may seem so bad that Mary had to succumb, but for this film, to see Mary succumb to Raoul, sets up a love triangle between Paul-Mary-Raoul. And you know that this film will end in a tragedy, but who will be the one dying?

As mentioned, the fascinating aspect of “Eating Raoul” is within its characters and comedy.  Paul and Mary are people who live such a ho-hum normal life, but when they partake in an immoral murder spree, the audience doesn’t see these two as sadistic murderers.  They are too normal and not the violent type, but yet we know they are murderers.

The fact is that “Eating Raoul” is a fascinating satire because it is the only film that I know that can integrate rape, murder and cannibalism without being tasteless or blatantly immoral.  The film is so off-beat that I found it to be wonderful and original.

The dialogue is absolutely brilliant and its one of the most cleverly written black comedies ever created and to this day, I don’t think it can ever be duplicated.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Eating Raoul” looks amazing for an early ’80s film in HD.  Considering that this was a very low-budget film, it looks better compared to some other big budget ’80s films on Blu-ray.  No softness or that age ’80s look.  The colors and detail are very good on Blu-ray and definitely looks natural and not dark like the older 2004 DVD.  And the Criterion Collection definitely made this a wonderful Paul Bartel release featuring two of his short films including “The Secret Cinema”, plus archival interviews and a wonderful documentary titled “Cooking Up Raoul” and more.

Overall, “Eating Raoul” is a sinfully, entertaining, absurd, hilarious but very enjoyable black comedy from Paul Bartel.   A wonderful Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection.  Recommended!

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