Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 1982
U.S. Rating: R
Canadian Rating: R
Film Length: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned: Yes
Release Date: April 13, 2004
Film Rating: /
Starring: Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary Bland), Robert Beltran (Raoul), Susan Saiger (Doris the Dominatrix)
The scenario: you are a wine ‘connoisseur’ working at a liquor store. You and your wife really want to open up a country restaurant. This was always your dream but you are about $20 000 short to make it come true. You live in an apartment and are paying through the nose in rent as the rates keep increasing because tenants come and go. Not to mention down the hall is a group of swingers having fun at night making racket. This disgusts you – after all, you and your wife never have sex. You sleep in separate beds with stuffed animals and in big pajamas like children being tucked in at night. One day, a swinger walks into your apartment and really wants your wife. He’s all over her but she isn’t into him. After all, the swinger’s life is full of sex…and murder?
Paul Bartel writes, directs, and acts as Paul Bland: wine connoisseur, in Eating Raoul. On a shoestring budget, he tells the story of what any *cough* normal husband and wife would do to get some tax-free income. After Paul hits the swinger on the head with a frying pan and kills him, they pack him up in a garbage bag. Paul is stunned he killed a man, but Mary’s reply is “He was a man, now he’s just a bag of garbage.” They find a load of money in the swinger’s wallet and the come up with the idea that if they find a way to lure swingers into their apartment (because they’ll pay to have some fun), all they need to do it hit them on the head with the pan and take their money, and dump the body down the garbage chute.
Since the couple has no sexual experience themselves, they get the help of a local dominatrix (who Paul had an accidental run in with at the swinger’s party down the hall) to find what really turns people on and then advertise themselves as a sexual duo in the newspaper. This lures people with all kinds of fetishes and they finish them off with the frying pan. Mary’s concern is that she’s getting a little squeamish using the same frying pan they use to cook in, so it would be best to buy a new one eventually.
Their plan goes well until the burglar Raoul finds out what they are doing. He doesn’t want to go to the police on them – he’s a thief. He wants a little cut of the action. Call them business partners. After they kill the people, he’ll take the bodies and sell whatever they have and give Paul and Mary a cut of the profits. They think it’s a great deal because it’ll speed up the savings. Raoul has other interests in mind too: he wants Mary because he thinks her beauty is being wasted on her marriage because of the lack of sexual encounters. Things tense up between the three of them and the couple learns they are being short changed by Raoul. Alternative plans are derived to derail Raoul from the threesome and they all could become victims of their own philosophy.
I remember seeing commercials for this movie on TV when I was 13 although never got a moment to watch it. The subject matter was enticing to watch because at that age it was like reading an encyclopedia no matter how inaccurate it is. I don’t think I would have grasped what was going on but at that age and I’m not sure what I would have got out of it. All I know now is however dirty I thought this film was then is now superceded by my impressions of a clever and clean black comedy. This film is hardly repulsive despite the murderous tendencies of the couple to make money off of those they believe are dirt beneath their shoes. The silly acting, the funny dialogue, and the happy-go-lucky cheesy music during each moment in this film have put this comedy on the list of cult favorites. While it’s effect on the audience would have been different in the ‘80s, I think this movie will still generate a small fan base today.
VIDEO QUALITY /
Anamorphically enhanced and framed at 1.85:1, the image of Eating Raoul looks wrong, very wrong. Shot in 35mm, the source looks like composite video resulting in a soft looking image of a film source that is deteriorated. Composite artifacts such as dot crawl move all over the red objects such as a T-Shirt or letters. The opening credits are very soft some words look illegible.
Another BIG problem that makes this picture look wrong is the geometry. When using the anamorphic image to fill the screen, everything looks a little stretched more than it should. Faces look oval horizontally and when looking for circles (like shirt buttons) just to confirm, they didn’t look right either. I took it out of anamorphic mode and watch the squeezed image in 4:3, and honestly it looked better, but still not right. Images look a tad too thin, so I suspect the correct ratio lies in between these two. I don’t believe this is a problem with the disc’s unsqueezing process. This image looks like someone took a (4:3) non-anamorphic 1.85:1 framed composite video version of Eating Raoul, then squeezed it incorrectly to be unsqueezed by 16:9 displays – a hokey way of doing it and really is a bummer. If eating Raoul was released on laserdisc in widescreen, I would guess this DVD is a copy of it.
The rest of the picture quality sucks in general. It’s so blemished it’s not enjoyable to watch. Film grain is highly present, along with dirt, scratches, and big marks that move around AND (faintly) stay stationary in the middle of the screen from long periods of time. Most annoyingly, the film bounces around on the screen left to right, up and down, forcing my head to bobb around like a cat being teased while eyeballing a toy. Bright objects stay stationary, while background images move about…a very psychedelic effect that surely wasn’t intentional. How about colours? Muted. Black levels? …what black? Detail? Ha! Smeared as can be. This is a real looser for video quality. I was originally going to give it two stars but I think one and a half is the most it deserves only because I can still see what's going on in the movie. I’m not surprised to see the “Mastered in High Definition” absent from the back of the keep case.
AUDIO QUALITY /
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. There is no body to the sound as its just upper midrange and up. Dialogue is always clear, but many times it’s accompanied with hiss. Noise is present throughout the whole soundtrack that is filled with sounds of limited range. The only thing neat on this soundtrack I didn’t expect to hear was a good stereo soundstage. Effects and dialogue were panned across the front as it moved on screen with a lot of phantom imaging between center and the main channels. The results are also mixed – at one moment it sounds decent and the next moment the image is movie all around the front channels with no real focus.
SPECIAL FEATURES ZERO /
This is a movie-only release, which is fine by me. Not every film is deserving of special features and there never is enough time in the world to watch everything anyways. With this low-quality release, I would have been surprised if any effort was added for special features. There is an insert with a picture for the film, but no chapter stops – just advertising for other films (something that all companies are doing more of each day – they seem to be forgetting about the film on the disc we actually buy). There are three previews on this disc for other films, and no theatrical trailer for Eating Raoul.
Eating Raoul has become a cult favorite of ‘80s black comedy. Fans of this film can finally have it on DVD, albeit the sub-par a/v quality. While this movie isn’t for everyone, I doubt that was its intention. People today call the comedy “bland” as it probably offered more to the audience in 1982 then it does today. I think the movie was quite clever with a budget of only $500 000, and it was all done in good taste. It had the perfect ingredients (including a short running time) making it enjoyable to watch. “It’s amazing what you can do with a cheap piece of meat if you know how to treat it”