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Blu-ray Review: Eating Raoul (Criterion Collection)

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I first saw this movie some years ago and, frankly, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It is a movie I was totally expecting to enjoy, but in the aftermath, felt rather indifferent towards it. I suspect I came across it at the wrong time in my development as a movie fan. Now, some years later, I have an opportunity to revisit it and I am glad for it. I doubt I will ever rank it among my favorites, but I have a much better respect for this bizarre, low-budget oddity.

Eating Raoul is a quirky indie black comedy with a title that is kind of fun to say. It involves swingers, middle class morality, and prudish attitudes, not to mention a little murder. It includes rather lurid content and ideas treated in a rather bland and matter of fact fashion.

At the center of the story are Paul (director Paul Bartel) and Mary (Mary Woronov) Bland. They are a prudish middle class couple living in a Hollywood apartment. He is a wine connoisseur working at a liquor store and she is a nurse who must regularly fend of the advances of her patients. They are a bland couple in a sexless marriage, spending their time worrying about opening their own restaurant and lamenting the influx of swingers into their building.

As fortune would have it, they find a way to combine these two things. When Mary is accosted by one rather persistent swinger, Paul whacks him with a frying pan, inadvertently killing the man. A moment  rifling through the dead man’s pockets finds a stash of cash. With this, an idea is born. They can help rid the world of those dreaded swingers and get money for their restaurant at the same time.

Everything gets a bit more complicated when they meet local locksmith/burglar, Raoul (Robert Beltran). I won’t give you more, but comedy, murder and nudity ensue.

It is over the top, goofy, weird, and bizarre, but the director made some atypical choices. When you consider the content, it would have been easy to go in a more graphic, attention grabbing fashion, think of something like Basket Case. Rather than go the graphic route, it is much more subtle and odd.

Eating Raoul has this way of approaching the material blandly. The main characters’ last name is not an accident. The way they kill people by hitting them with a frying pan, the droll delivery of Paul Bartel, everything about it is just uninteresting and mater of fact. That may sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. Just watch the movie, it may be bland, but what they are doing is anything but. Definitely a weird, fun movie.

While you watch, keep an eye out for small roles played by the likes of John Lands, Joe Dante, and Ed Begley Jr.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 and it looks quite good. It is an old, low-budget movie and there is no hiding that. With that said, this Criterion release looks fantastic. There is a great level of detail throughout, nice colors, and no real issues to speak of. It has a nice, organic feel to it. It is like looking at film, there is not an excessive amount of DNR or anything that could rob the film of that natural look.

Audio is a LPCM 1.0 track. The movie was recorded mono and they did not try to expand it into any multi-channel piece. It is clear and free of any hiss or pops. It is no an extraordinary tack, but it does what is needed for a low budget comedy

Extras.

  • Commentary. The track features screenwriter Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg, and editor Alan Toomayan. It is a good track that has fun reminiscing on the film.
  • The Secret Cinema. This was Paul Bartel’s first short film made ack in 1966.
  • Naughty Nurse. Another short from Bartel about a naughty nurse and doctor, along with a curious cop.
  • Cooking Up Raoul. A collection of interview footage with Mary Woronov, Ronert Beltran, and others. It is fun to listen to how they came to be on the project and other parts of their careers.
  • Gag Reel. Your usual collection of flubbed lines.
  • Archival Interview. This was shot not Lon after the release of the film and features Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov and discusses the film, the production, and their B-movie roots.
  • Trailer

Bottomline. This is a fun, weird movie. It is entertaining to watch the puritanical American middle class get skewered. Just watch how sex is dirty and perverse but murder and robbery is all right in the pursuit of money. Definitely worth checking out.

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