Eating Raoul (The Criterion Collection)
Director - Paul Bartel
Cast - Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 1
Distributor - Criterion
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 10/27/12
The Film (4.5/5)
From the director of the immortal Roger Corman produced cult classic Death Race 2000 comes the 1982 Black Comedy Classic Eating Raoul. Eating Raoul is a dark comedy with a camp tone to it that wouldn't feel out of place in John Waters' early to mid-period oeuvre. The difference is where Waters should have chosen to show the violence and obscenities in the film a lot of the content in Eating Raoul is largely implied.
This tends to work in the films favor as even though the content is blacker than the cover to Smell The Glove by Spinal Tap, the overall feeling of the film tends to come across as the adult version of a childrenís cartoon. This is further accented by the films use of bright color schemes in both lighting (the Bava-esque reds of the swingers apartments), and the actual color palette used for the Blandís apartment.
The script a collaboration from star/director Paul Bartel and Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural writer/director Richard Blackburn is a tightly scripted intelligent black comedy script. It successfully satirizes 80's L.A.'s "anything goes" attitude (through the swingers/perverts), while simultaneously showing the cracks in the American Suburban facade.(The Blands/Doris). The script is also ridiculously quotable, and chock full of enough one-liners that it is surprising that the film isn't in Army of Darkness and Monty Python and the Holy Grail territory.
Eating Raoul stars Paul Bartel (The Usual Suspects, Basquiat) and Mary Woronov (Rock and Roll High School, Sugar Cookies) as Paul and Mary Bland. A couple who are barely paying their ever increasing rent as a wine salesman and a nurse respectively. The couple have a dream, and that dream is to open a restaurant in the country "Paul and Mary's Country Kitchen," but seeing as how they can barely pay their bill, that dream is far off. The two have a friend James from the Valley (Richard Blackburn) who has found the perfect property for the two, but they simply cannot afford it. Still they dream.
The other problem the Blands have is their apartment building itself. It is seemingly home to a majority of L.A.'s perverts and swingers, and they are not interested in that sort of lifestyle. One night after arriving home, one of these perverts mistakes their apartment for the one with the swinging party he was going to. He attempts to rape Mary, when Paul catches him in the (almost) act, he strikes him on the head with a frying pan killing him. They then discover that the perverted stranger had a ton of money on his person, and if they were to continue killing rich perverts they might soon have enough money to buy their Country Kitchen Restaurant.
Not everything goes to plan, however, they soon hire a locksmith named Raoul to make things a bit easier on the pair. He discovers what the couple are doing and makes them an offer. Allow him to dispose of the bodies, he will sell them, and split the profit with them, or if they do not he'll turn them over to the police. They, of course, take the former option. Things start running smoothly with Raoul aboard, until he falls in love with Mary, and begins to kindle a relationship with her, and then Paul decides that he was to go by any means necessary.
Criterion has done an absolutely glorious job bringing Paul Bartel's extremely low budget black comedy to Blu-ray. The film has been presented in it's native 1:78:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. The level of detail here is excellent, colors pop from the background quite nicely, and there is healthy level of film grain throughout. Further, the black levels are absolutely solid. There is some minor production related softness to be found throughout, but that is absolutely minor.
Criterion has presented the audio with a similarly well restored English LPCM 1.0 track. The dialogue is clear, crisp, and completely audible throughout. As our the music and sounds effects. I did not detect any audio anomalies such as pops, cracks, or hissing on this track.
Criterion has assembed what could only be described as the definitive extras package for Eating Raoul. The disc kicks off with a pair of early Bartel shorts Naughty Nurse from 1969 and the Secret Cinema from 1966. We then have a commentary with writer Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg, and editor Alan Toomayan. Criterion has also provided an interview (archival) with Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov. One of the finest extras in the collection is Cooking Up Raoul a series of interviews with Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, and Edie McClurg about the films origins, production, working with the late Paul Bartel, etc. The disc is rounded off by a gag reel, trailer, and a booklet of liner notes.
Eating Raoul is one of the smartest, funniest, and darkest comedies of the 80's. It has been lacking in a proper home video presentation until now. The Criterion restoration is nothing short of glorious in regards to A/V. The extras are a mix of elaborate, entertaining, and informative. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.