by Anthony King
Swinging and my home state of Nebraska share a branded slogan: “Honestly, it's not for everyone.” In no way am I opposed to polyamory and I don't think any less of those that practice such things. It seems to me the only way something like that would work, though, is that an indestructible base of trust must come first – trust between the original partners, and trust between anyone else put into the mix. I trust my wife implicitly. For me, that wouldn't be the issue. It's other people I don't trust. I don't trust they wouldn't spread some horrible disease. I don't trust they wouldn't steal from us. I don't trust they wouldn't poop in our bed. Most movies dealing with polyamory usually focus on the trust – and its dismantling – between the initial couple. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, though, know how horrible other people are, and in Eating Raoul show me exactly what I fear the most. If we're swinging, I don't want to have to worry about killing somebody because they turn out to be a creep.
Bartel and Woronov are Paul and Mary Bland, a sexually conservative couple (separate beds; Paul sleeps with a giant, champagne bottle body pillow; matching pajamas) who dream of someday opening a fancy restaurant. He works at a liquor store trying to sell $250 bottles of wine when the owner just wants him to sell the $10 bottles. She's a nurse, constantly fending off male patients who only want to bed her. The Blands live in the only apartment they can afford – in a swingers building where sexual deviants are always trying to get into Mary's pants. When one of those deviants gets into the Bland apartment and starts assaulting Mary, Paul comes to the rescue using a cast iron pan to knock the man unconscious. Realizing they could profit off murders like this (“These swinger types always seem to have money.”), the Blands put an ad in the local sex trade and the men come calling. Along the way a locksmith – the titular Raoul – gets involved by blackmailing them and taking a third of their profits. Things come to a head and, as you could guess by the title of the movie, Raoul gets his just desserts.
Again, I'm not one to watch these types of broad comedies. Bartel/Woronov movies like Hollywood Boulevard and Get Crazy wear on me very quickly. There is some Nazi humor in Raoul that falls on its face pretty hard nowadays. Friend of Bartel and popular disc jockey The Real Don Steele shows up for a minute in Raoul, and just like in Rock 'n Roll High School, he plays his schtick so hard it's like an icepick to the skull. But there are some things that are very endearing here. The choice to make the music sound like a sitcom from the '60s or '70s is part of what leans into the sincerity I mentioned earlier. Edie McClurg (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) shows up as one of the swingers with a husband called Moose. And this is probably the finest acting I've seen from Bartel. In the Corman pictures, he's in he always seemed a bit too much for me. But here, and maybe because he was in charge, he was more real, more likable.