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 the Criterion Collection released "Eating Raoul" on Blu-ray and DVD.
Which man will end up with Mary?
"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.
"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".
"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!