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So Long, Paul -- We'll Miss You
Eating Raoul (VHS)
Eating Raoul (DVD)
Dir: Paul Bertel
Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran
Brilliant and twisted writer/director/actor Paul Bartel stepped on a rainbow several years ago; if nothing else, that means that the sequel for this film that he and Mary Woronov had been planning -- "Bland Ambition" -- will never happen.

Bartel worked for Roger Corman (and various Corman alumni like Alan Arkush) a lot -- directing "Death Race 2000", appearing in such films as "Rock 'n' Roll High School". Corman was (in)famous for cheap but stylish exploitation films, but this film's concept and script were a bit too far out for even Corman -- and nobody else would touch the project either.

So Paul and Mary did the film on their own, raising money from all sorts of friends and relatives, buying odds and ends of surplus film stock from studios (which shows in uneven image quality and colour balance) and shooting on weekends with pick-up crews whenever they could afford to rent equipment (leading to credits like "A Sister to the Director" and "Guest Electrician").

It's a hilarious black comedy in which Paul and Mary Bland -- innocents adrift in 1980s Los Angeles -- realise that they can make enough money to open "Paul & Mary's Country Kitchen", their dream restaurant, by luring singers in with a promise of Mary's abundant charms and despatching them, collecting their money before disposing of the bodies. (The weapon of choice is a cast-iron skillet, the use of which is signalled by a Warner Brothers-style "Boing!" sound effect.)

Then they find themselves involved with shady locksmith Raoul (Robert Beltran); he expands their operation by fencing their victims' cars and by disposing of the bodies through a friend who works for a dog food company. (Shades of "The Corpse Grinders".)

And he decides to move in on Mary. Both Paul and Mary are finding their horizons widening (without realising it) as they ply their new trade, and the resulting triangle is hilarious (unfortunately, its resolution and the result of a "Lady or the Tiger" style climax are telegraphed, unlike other plot twists...).

Black comedy as dark as midnight, but not particularly offensive in execution -- most of the sex and violence is by implication, and even the language isn't *too* rude -- the "f" word does make a few appearances, but that's about it.

Interesting cameos in this film -- Buck Henry as a sleazy bank manager, Hamilton Camp as a con man and director John Landis in an uncredited appearance i haven't yet spotted, and a friend insists he spotted one of the Ramones in the hilarious porn-store scene.

Worth a look if your taste in comedy runs to the off-trail or black variety.

(This film and others in which Bartel and Woronov appear together, and their obvious ease with each other and patent inter-personal chemistry led to rumours that they were or had been married -- rather like those Polaroid commercials with James Garner and Mariette Hartley years ago -- but they weren't)