#16. Eating Raoul (1982)
Nature of Shame:
Unwatched Cult Classic
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Cannibal Challenge #1
Many moons ago, I picked this disk up secondhand. The cult comedy had the Criterion Collection seal of approval. I’m drawn to oddball black comedies; therefore, it required a watch.
Still, Eating Raoul sat and sat and sat, growing moldy in the watchpile until the Cinemonster had the good sense to include a “Cannibal” require in this year’s Hooptober.
I don’t mean to be the guy that skirts the rules, but the movies I wanted to watch featuring cannibalism aren’t necessarily part of the horror genre. I lined up three such films that I’ve been meaning to watch: Eating Raoul, Cannibal! The Musical and The Green Butchers. Hence, Eating Raoul counts for this year’s 31 Days of Horror Festival. The Watchpile wants what the Watchpile wants. If you’re imagining a Watchpile that’s something akin to Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, you’re on the right track.
But let’s talk no more about plants; this is a post about cannibalism. Om nom.
Two upper class twits named Paul Bland (Paul Bartel) and Mary Bland (Mary Woronov), that could have been transplanted from Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May, dream of opening their own pretentious country kitchen restaurant. They’re grinding away at their 9-to-5s (liquor store clerk and nurse, respectively), scrimping and saving up enough to put the down payment on the most precious little country kitchen where Paul can serve his priceless wine.
Paul gets fired for refusing to push the crappy, overpriced swill at the liquor store, and then the couple accidentally kills a randy swinger who happens to fancy his wife. You see, since this is 1982, swingers roam the cityscape like feral cats and populate the building in which the couple lives. One wanders in for a big of a shag and meets his maker.
They dispose of the corpse, grift some spare change, and wonder just how much money might be made off of these carefree swingers. They carry plenty of cash to appease their sexual fantasies and wander about desperate and often intoxicated. If they just, say, knocked a few off, how much cash might they then tuck away into their nest egg? They’d be doing a public service. What could go wrong?
With the help of a housewife/dominatrix acquaintance, Paul and Mary produce a newspaper advertisement showcasing their S&M services. Those that answer the add — those deplorable swingers — get a frying pan to the head and an early demise. But how to dispose of the bodies? Enter Raoul, a slick little schemester/ladykiller who happens to know a thing or two about disposal. For a small cut, he could take those bodies off their hands.
It turns out that Raoul does a little more than body disposal. He sells the “meat” to a dog company and trades in the deceased’s car without cutting the actual criminal masterminds in on the take. Raoul is just up to no good. Mary eventually succumbs to his greasy charms and the pair embarks on a little torrid affair. Paul catches wind of the tryst and decides its high time Raoul gets whats what.
Now, some days removed from my viewing, individual scenes and certain Paul Bartel line deliveries (the man had a wheelhouse, let me tell you) give me the giggles in fits and spurts. Eating Raoul features inventive, isolated comedic set pieces and two pitch-perfect lead performances, but the overall enterprise left me a little cold.
The black comedy leans so heavily on the schism between these prematurely aged fuddy-duddies and this notion of an increasingly unrestrained and modern sexual freedom. The swingers themselves aren’t necessarily a specific target for Bartel (that trend would have been on the pop-culture decline in 1982); it’s merely the social norms that they openly flaunt and how that infuriates his protagonists.
The specific satire directed at the sanitized middle-class bourgeois bullshit world in which our “protagonists” reside — safe from experience, safe from life — gets great mileage, yet the precision of the attack feels muddied by on-screen events.
Even when they reach beyond their security to obtain their financial goals — while still embracing their conservative tendencies (the image of Woronov dressing up as a German wench for a Nazi fetishist resonates) — there seems to be no recognition of their specific folly. And I get that that’s the point. And I get that the lack of self-awareness remains vital to the joke.
But something about this entire premise plants it firmly in the realm of “pretty good” and well shy of contemporary classic. Maybe that’s the lot in life for black comedy. Success leans so heavily on the viewer’s whims and frame of reference. Subjectivity rules, more so than any other specific genre.
Final Eating Raoul Thoughts:
For a movie called Eating Raoul, it takes a long time to taste Raoul, but I suppose you had to first justify the consumption of Raoul before actually doing the dining. For a “Cannibal” movie choice, this was definitely wanting, but there’s only so many times you can watch Ravenous before getting bored with the same old dish.
I could see this growing on me enough to warrant a second viewing. So for now let’s call Eating Raoul a decent food truck offering — that’s not quite ready for Michelin star status.
30Hz Movie Rating:
Available wherever fine Criterion Blu-rays are sold. Also Amazon, obviously. So I linked it below.
2017 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Shame Statement
31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews.
#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974) / #16. Eating Raoul (1982) / #17. Spellcaster (1988) / #18. The Old Dark House (1932) / #19. House (1985) / #20. House II: The Second Story / #21. Christine (1983) / #22. Suspiria (1977) / #23. The Invisible Man (1933) / #24. Spider aka Zirneklis (1991) / #25. The Wife Killer (1976) / #26. Cannibal! The Musical (1993)