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Paul Bartel

Off-beat director of the cult classic DEATH RACE 2000, dies at 61.

By John Thonen     May 23, 2000

Offbeat director and character actor Paul Bartel died in his sleep at age 61. Between 1969 and 1993, Bartel directed a dozen films, most notably the cult classics Death Race 2000 ('75), Eating Raoul ('82) and Lust In the Dust ('85) as well as the largely forgotten but brilliantly perverse Private Parts ('72, nothing to do with the Howard Stern movie). His first short film, 'Secret Cinema' is generally considered the precursor of films such as The Truman Show and Ed TV, and was later refilmed by Bartel as an episode of Steven Spielberg's TV anthology series Amazing Stories.

Bartel's greatest critical success as a director was Eating Raoul, in which he and cult actress Mary Woronov (who co-starred with him in Rock and Roll High School) played Paul and Mary Bland, a hopelessly square couple who pose as kinky swingers in order to kill, rob and consume the perverts who answer their newspaper personal ads. Unfortunately, Bartel was never able to duplicate its formula or success and spent most of the remainder of his life working as an actor, often in the films of such friends as Joe Dante.

While few are likely to recognize his name as an actor, his bald, bearded and often portly presence, couple with an urbane and often arrogant manner, will likely be familiar to any film or TV fan of the past 20 years. Some of Bartel's other genre film appearances include, Escape From L.A, Piranha, Amazon Women On the Moon, and The Usual Suspects.

Bartel had recently undergone surgery as treatment for the rare liver cancer which reportedly claimed his life. At the time of his death, he was still working on the long-promised Eating Raoul sequel, which at one time was to be entitled, Bland Ambition.


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