Eating Raoul (1982) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

We split on this black comedy. Tuna likes it. Scoop doesn't hate it, but any means. In fact, he likes the ideas, but finds the comedy so poorly executed that the film ends up flat and mostly unfunny.

Scoop's comments in white:

The late Paul Bartel is one of the seminal figures in the development of independent cinema. He got his start as a second unit director with Roger Corman, and did well enough that he eventually kinda became Corman's designated go-to guy for comedy, directing Death Race 2000, and then serving as both writer and director in Cannonball, another cross-country race movie. (In case you were wondering, it was made five years before the high budget Burt Reynolds version, Cannonball Run, which was directed by Hal Needham.

Even after two successful projects, Bartel could not convince Corman to finance his pet project, a black comedy he had written, called "Eating Raoul". He was finally able to make the movie after his parents sold their home and gave him the profits! He shot the film in 22 days of filming, but it took him almost a year, because he only shot on weekend days when his eclectic cast was available. (The supporting cast seems like a 1970s repertory comedy troupe: Edie McClurg, Buck Henry, Hamilton Camp, Garry Goodrow and Ed Begley Jr.)

Bartel and his frequent comedy partner, Mary Woronov, play a conservative, down-to-earth married couple who sleep in matching jammies in their twin beds. Stuck in dead end jobs, they daydream about opening their own gourmet restaurant, but don't have the money for a down payment. They accidentally stumble upon a way to get their money when a swinger makes an insistent pass at Mary, requiring Paul to hit the guy over the head with a skillet. Their shame over having killed the guy doesn't last long, since they considered him a sexual deviant, and more important, since they rifled through his wallet and raked in some serious moolah. They then conceive of a scheme in which they will do this to various unsuspecting swingers, two per day. Mary will place an ad in an underground newspaper, lure various johns over to their house, and kill them for the money.

This is a light comedy. They kill all their victims casually, as if they were simply breaking eggs for breakfast.

When their plot is uncovered by a local burglar named Raoul, it seems to them that the jig is up. In fact, the jig has never been farther down. Raoul knows several ways to make their scheme even better. They had been concentrating entirely on the wallets of their victims, but Raoul cannily realizes that the victims' expensive cars and even their bodies have far greater value than their pocket change.

The plot thickens when Raoul decides he wants more than the money. He also wants Mary. In the last act, Paul and Mary must figure out a way to dissolve their partnership with the young burglar.

Eating Raoul became an instant cult favorite with the arthouse set in 1982. In addition to pleasing student audiences with silly comedic riffs, it struck a chord with intellectuals, who saw in the couple a metaphor for an America which finds murder and cannibalism perfectly normal behavior, but is shocked by levels of sex and nudity which would be considered just normal in many cultures.

I find the concept interesting, and I think Bartel had a lot of good ideas, but the execution is dreadful. Most of the humor either falls flat or is too broad. The funniest lines and concepts are squashed by hammy performing or bad timing.

On the other hand, it could be a funny movie in the hands of professionals. I'd love to see it re-made!

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Eating Raoul (1982) is a low budget ($350k) black comedy starring Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel and Robert Beltran. Bartel also directed, and shares writing credits.  

Bartel works in a liquor store, and is fired for not letting a customer buy cheap wine, and for ordering a case of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild at several hundred dollars per bottle. Wife Mary is a nurse/nutritionist at the local hospital. The two dream of opening a restaurant together, and have found a perfect location, but need $20,000.00.


  • Mary Woronow shows her breasts in a lengthy scene with Robert Beltran and later shows her butt after another sex scene.

  • There are many nude swingers seen in background scenes.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic.

  • no features

  • There are mastering problems. The film played back for me at an incorrect A/R

The two are asexual, which makes the fact that the other residents of their building, mostly swingers, keep hitting on them all the harder to take. Finally, when one of them attacks Mary, and Paul re-arranges his skull with a frying pan, they hit on a perfect answer to all of their problems. After all, the swingers are all rich, and the world is certainly better off without them, so they advertise in a sex paper and are on their way to earning their nest egg.

Life gets more interesting when Raoul (Beltran), locksmith and burglar, discovers what they are up to, but soon reaches a mutually beneficial financial arrangement with them. On the chance that you have not seen this film, I will stop here, as watching this film is a cultural imperative. 

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "This film is a C+. I suppose there is no cross-over appeal with black comedy, as those who hate the genre will hate every example, but for the rest, this is a marvelous if mindless piece of entertainment."  Scoop says, "C. It is worth a watch, but it is basically a bunch of great concepts ruined by poor comic execution."

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