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Paul Bartel

     I doubt if his May 13 death will inspire a retrospective, but a fond goodbye to Paul Bartel, 61, balding and bearded, twitty and bowtied, who directed black-humor independent comedies in the John Waters vein (Eating Raoul, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, Lust in the Dust) and "B" exploitation films for Gene and Roger Corman (Private Parts, Death Race 2000, Canonball).

     Death Race 2000 (1975) is effective sci-fi dystopia, Private Parts (1972) has its inspired kinky moments, and the lackluster Lust in the Dust (1985) does include Divine-in-drag's finest screen singing. Erratic is the word for Eating Raoul (1982), Bartel's best-known movie, in which he and Mary Woronov play a pre-Yuppie middle-class couple who finance a restaurant by murdering decadent swingers who meander into their apartment sniffing out sex. Also, Bartel, the pudgy actor, was a genial presence, memorable as the huffy principal who eventually dances up a storm to the Ramones in Rock'n'Roll High School (1979). He's briefly there in Michael Almereyda's Hamlet, in the bit role of Osric, trying (and failing) to keep the swordfighting of Hamlet and Laertes in check.

(June, 2000)


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