“Personally, I draw the line at golden showers.”
Eating Raoul, 1983 (Paul Bartel), 20th Century Fox
Paul Bartel sets up his anarchic exploration of sociology, Eating Raoul, like a pseudo-documentary commenting (with his narration) on the evils of Hollywood; the debauchery, the desperation, and the unusual marriage of food and sex. Mild-mannered snob Paul Bland (Bartel) runs a cash register at a liquor store and (to his manager’s ire) advises his clientele to stay away from cheap alcohol. His wife, Mary Woronov, works as a nurse fending off the advances of her patients. They dream of opening up their own restaurant one day, but the high cost of living (and an absurd rent increase) keeps them from saving the money they need for such a venture.
An amorous swinger attacks Mary and Paul kills him with a frying pan. They manage to cover up the crime and take the money out of his wallet. This is what entrepreneurs call the “genius” idea. While Mary has to deal with lecherous bank officers, Paul is stiffed by prospective buyers of his vintage wine. Paul and Mary have a natural aversion to sex, but they contemplate making Mary into the image of a dominatrix, and then murdering her clients. The city, being full of “rich perverts”, is a smorgasbord for Paul and Mary’s financial woes. They interview a dominatrix, who coaches them on various techniques.
Hot-blooded locksmith and part-time hustler Raoul (Robert Beltran) gets wise to their scheme and offers to dump the bodies, and for a time, the three have an easy partnership. The Blands, though initially amoral, find themselves trapped in an ethical dilemma as they observe Raoul’s obvious opportunism when he extorts them and sets up his own outside deals. When a client (Ed Begley, Jr. decked out as a hippie) attempts to rape Mrs. Bland, Raoul comes to her rescue and then subsequently seduces her. Mary, though locked in for the long haul with her sexless marriage to Paul (who she loves dearly), enjoys a sexual awakening with Raoul, who schemes to drop Paul from their partnership.
Bartel’s direction is unsettling. The smutty nature and appeal of the story is juxtaposed (uncomfortably) with the “screwball comedy” texture of the performances. Some of Bartel’s shots recall Douglas Sirk coupled with the subversive stylings of John Waters. Strangely, the movie works as a piece of sexual exploitation even as it parodies such movies. There are some serious laugh-out-loud moments in the film. Paul discovers Raoul is scamming them, jacking the cars of their victims and selling their remains to a dog food company called “Doggie King.” Bartel would later make the companion piece, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, which reunited him with Woronov and Beltran. Eating Raoul was adapted as a stage musical in 1992.
Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.