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The Nov. 18 release of Bones and All — from director Luca Guadagnino and starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell — is not Hollywood’s first foray into cannibalistic romance.
In 2007, Tim Burton brought Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd to the screen, with Johnny Depp portraying the vengeful titular barber and Helena Bonham Carter playing his love interest Mrs. Lovett, who helps turn his victims into meat pies. Before that, there was Eating Raoul, a sleeper comedy hit from 1982. Raoul was the brainchild of Paul Bartel.
After studying film and theater at UCLA, Bartel got his start in Hollywood working for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. Corman paid Bartel $5,000 to direct 1975’s Death Race 2000, which starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone and became a cult favorite.
“In the winter of 1979, having worked on several projects that failed to reach the screen, I was fed up,” Bartel once said. “I wanted to do something personal and outrageous; a ‘fun’ picture that could be made quickly, easily and cheaply and that would give me an opportunity to work with a bunch of my friends.”
In 1982, he co-wrote a script about a murderous couple with fellow UCLA grad Richard Blackburn. Corman was reluctant to finance the film, so Bartel turned to his parents, who lent him $300,000. He cast himself as the lead, Paul Bland, and his frequent collaborator Mary Woronov — one of Andy Warhol’s superstars — as his wife, Mary Bland. The couple are prudish food snobs who live in an L.A. apartment in the waning days of the sexual liberation movement; their neighbors host orgies every day of the week. To fund their dream restaurant, the Blands start knocking off horny swingers with a frying pan. Then a burglar named Raoul (Robert Beltran) catches on and helps dispose of the bodies — until he becomes inconvenient. The film delivers on its title’s teasing promise in the closing scene.
Despite the taboo material, The Hollywood Reporter was quite charmed. “It’s crammed with clever sight gags and wonderfully witty lines,” raved the review. “[It] may not be a dish to everyone’s taste, but I’d guarantee it a long life on the Saturday midnight movies circuit.”
The openly gay Bartel went on to direct several films, including 1989’s Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. He died of a heart attack in 2000 at age 61.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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