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Hal Ashby
Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles
Writing Credits:
Colin Higgins

Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Monaural
German Dolby Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $25.99
Release Date: 12/7/2021

• Audio Commentary with Filmmakers Larry Karaszewski and Cameron Crowe
• Yusuf/Cat Stevens Interview
• Trailers


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Harold and Maude (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1971)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 7, 2021)

With 1971’s Harold and Maude, we work from a premise that remains cringe worthy even 50 years later. We find the romantic couple of geeky young Harold (Bud Cort) and withered old crone Maude (Ruth Gordon).

The concept of this dude getting it on with a wrinkled hag like Gordon gives me the willies. Granted, Cort was no Robert Redford, but the sight of him with the elderly Gordon seems likely to shrivel many a scrotum.

As it turns out, that nauseating May-December romance ended up as one of the less annoying aspects of this condescending and self-righteous film. Maude clearly was the product of its time, as everything about it signifies the worst aspects of the counterculture prevalent in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

It's all about letting your freak flag fly, and don't let the Man tell you what to do. Right on, brothers!

Or some such nonsense. I dislike propaganda of any sort, and I find this sort of "do what you wanna do, dude!" trash just as offensive as any kind of totalitarian screed.

It's not the content itself that so bothers me - hey, I don't like war or silly rules either - but I can't stand to have viewpoints shoved upon me in an arrogant and smug manner, which is how the vast majority of Maude proceeds.

Our "hero" Harold has been held down by the Man. Or rather, the Woman, in the person of his mother (Vivian Pickles).

In their wealthy family, she constantly shoves her ideas of how Harold should live his life down his throat, and his only manner of rebellion stems from his faked suicide attempts. Mom has Harold talk to a psychiatrist, a priest and his Army officer uncle, but none connect with the youngster and he continues along his miserable existence.

As demonstrated through his phony suicides, Harold feels obsessed with death, so he also visits the funerals of strangers. At one of these he meets wrinkly old Maude and the two quickly become friends. Despite her advanced age, Maude retains a joy for life, and she teaches Harold how to really thrive through her irrepressible viewpoint.

Please excuse me while I vomit. The entire film offers a thinly-disguised hippie manifesto in which all things organized and conventional are criticized while anarchy and selfishness are praised.

Maude has the habit of stealing cars for her own use, and we're clearly supposed to think this is cute and acceptable. She also drives like a maniac and does exactly what she wants to do whenever she wants to do it.

Some aspects of the Sixties counterculture were quite positive, but Maude bases its theme around the most self-absorbed and unproductive parts of the era. There's a fine line between indulgent fantasy and realistic pragmatism, and this movie wants us to believe the latter is absolutely unnecessary.

Hey, as long as you're happy, it doesn't matter how badly you've inconvenienced or harmed others. That's the attitude I take from this film.

It's one thing to take a stand against ridiculous societal conventions - ala Dr. Strangelove or M*A*S*H - but it's quite another to go to this egocentric extreme.

For example, take the scene in which Maude decides that a tree planted in the city needs to be in the country to thrive. She a) steals another car, b) steals the tree, and c) drives recklessly to replant the tree.

Due to her multiple traffic violations, a cop pulls her over and finds that she possesses no driver's license. She freely admits she stole the car and she doesn't care.

Throughout this interaction, the officer is presented as an oppressive moron who is to be ignored and disdained, while Maude – who breaks a multitude of (logical) laws at every step – is to be adored and praised.

I can't get over the idiocy of this viewpoint. The cop tries to enforce laws that exist for the protection of others - Maude is clearly a danger to society with her careless driving - and does so in a reasonable manner.

This isn't some authority-obsessed fascist. However, we're supposed to empathize with wacky old Maude and her anti-establishment ways.

Ugh! I'm all for projects that mock the stupidity of many rules and regulations – ala the work of Terry Gilliam - but I always thought laws against reckless and dangerous driving and against theft were a good thing.

Apparently not, if the theme of Maude is to be accepted. The film is neither clever nor witty in its attack on authority, and it seems just as pompous as the figures it so despises. All those in positions of power are treated as idiots or fascists or both.

The acting feels tolerable at best. Cort strongly resembles one of those Keane paintingsof the kids with the giant eyes, and he makes for an unpleasant screen presence. That's not just because he's a creepy-looking kid, but also due to his generally irritating and self-righteous demeanor.

I never liked Gordon, and her usual flaws are on display here. She's the wacky granny who's all spunk and spirit, and she's quite annoying.

The only moment in which she displays any real talent is one where she actually shows some emotion about the past. Other than that, she's all wisecracks and craziness.

Harold and Maude wants to be The Graduate: a poignant and honest "coming of age" story about a young man who doesn't fit in with the ways society tries to buttonhole him.

The Graduate makes its points in subtle and understated ways that reflect the reality of the situation without becoming excessive, and many of us can identify with Benjamin. Few will see much of themselves in a selfish jerk like Harold, however, and I doubt many will want to identify with the cruel, smug kid.

And why is a movie about tolerance so incredibly intolerant? It says “be who you want to be – as long as who you want to be fits the tiny boxes of which we approve”.

Maude is one of the most self-centered, oppressive characters in film history. She cares not a whit what anyone actually wants, so you have to fit her idea of life or else you’re wrong. She speaks in nothing but cheap slogans best suited to inspirational posters and lacks even the slightest hint of wisdom.

I disliked Harold and Maude while I watched it, but my disdain only escalated as I thought about it afterward. This is nothing more than heavy-handed and arrogant piece of propaganda that offers nothing of value.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Harold and Maude appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image suffered from the limitations of its source but represented the original material well.

Sharpness was the most erratic elements here. Though much of the movie showed positive clarity and accuracy, more than a few soft spots occurred.

These tended toward wide images such as the scene in which Harold’s mother walked toward the pool. Nonetheless, overall delineation felt appropriate.

I witnessed no issues with jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. The film boasted a fairly good level of grain and lacked print flaws.

At no point did the film deliver a dynamic palette, as it tended toward a sober, brownish feel. Nonetheless, occasional instances of brighter tones occasionally emerged, and these looked quite good.

Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed pretty good clarity; a few shots looked a bit thick, but most seemed fine. Given the qualities of the source photography, this was never going to be an attractive presentation, but the Blu-ray made it look about as good as possible.

I’m not sure why the disc’s producers decided to deliver a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix for this low-key movie, but it worked pretty well. The soundfield remained fairly conservative throughout the film, as the track usually stayed focused on the front center.

The most active elements occurred when Maude recklessly drove a car; these offered some good localization and panning, and the surrounds even added a nice element of interaction. For the most part, though, the rears did little more than gently echo the forward soundstage. Cat Stevens' songs also showed stereo in the front with some light reinforcement from the surrounds.

Audio quality varied but seemed generally good for the film’s era. Dialogue could be a bit thin and light, but the lines sounded intelligible and clear. Effects often lacked depth but came across as acceptably realistic and lacked distortion.

The Stevens songs worked best of all, as the tunes sounded reasonably crisp and warm. All of this added up to a pretty decent “B-“.

How did the 2021 Blu-ray compare to Criterion release from 2012? Whereas the Criterion disc included a stereo soundtrack, the Paramount release opted for a 5.1 mix that echoed the audio from the original circa 2000 DVD.

As mentioned, 5.1 seemed pointless for a movie like this, as the original mono would suffice. Nonetheless, the 5.1 track remained subdued enough that I didn’t mind it, and because it used the surrounds in such a modest manner, it didn’t seem particularly different from the Criterion’s stereo mix.

I also felt visuals seemed pretty similar, as both Paramount and Criterion exhibited a lot of the same qualities. The main difference came from grain, as I thought the Criterion seemed grainier.

Did the less grainy nature of the Paramount disc come from a superior source, did it use some noise reduction, or both? I’d lean toward “both”, though if the Paramount disc did go for noise reduction, it remained modest.

After all, the Paramount release still displayed a good grain structure – it just was less grainy than its predecessor. In any case, both the Criterion and Paramount discs felt fairly similar, though the less intrusive grain made the Paramount a notch superior.

None of the Criterion set’s extras appear on this 2021 “Paramount Present” edition. We find an audio commentary from filmmakers Larry Karaszewski and Cameron Crowe. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, production areas and their impressions of the movie.

Neither Karaszewski nor Crowe worked on Maude - not a surprise, since they were 10 and 14, respectively, in 1971 – so this becomes more of an appreciation than anything else. Not that the commentary lacks informational value, though, as we do get some filmmaking nuggets.

Karaszewski does the heavy lifting in that regard. Crowe gives us some music-related insights but more often just exclaims comments like “fantastic” or the like, so he fails to bring a lot to the table.

Karaszewski did some homework so he provides a reasonable array of facts connected to the movie. However, he lacks the knowledge necessary to make this the equivalent of a film historian track.

Which makes me wonder why Paramount didn’t find an actual film historian to discuss the movie. Karaszewski and Crowe make this a decent discussion but it remains a glorified “fan chat” that doesn’t come with a lot of informational value.

In addition to two trailers, we also find a new interview with composer/musician Yusuf/Cat Stevens. It runs five minutes, 48 seconds and involves a look at his work on Maude. This offers nice notes about the flick’s songs.

How an overbearing clunker like Harold and Maude has maintained a cult fanbase for 40 years seems befuddling to me. I found little to enjoy in this obnoxious tale and actively disliked the vast majority of it. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio plus a small set of supplements. I might actively loathe this flick, but this disc will makes its fans happy, even if I don’t think it requires a repurchase for those who own the Criterion Blu-ray.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of HAROLD AND MAUDE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main