Harold and Maude: Paramount Presents (Blu-ray)

January 17, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

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Plot: What’s it about?

The following “plot” was taken from our original review of the DVD by Eric “Zork” Alan. Zork is a poet and a fan of film. I felt it did justice to the film to leave his rather unique approach to this film intact. Enjoy!

Do you sing and dance?

That is the question.

If you can make it through the movie without being put off my its low production values and very odd story then the answer is predetermined.

If you watch it once, watch it twice. That will make certain you watch it three times.

Between the 2nd and 3rd viewings makes sure you have $30 of available funds. You will shortly be surfing off to Amazon.com or driving off to the local CD superstore to buy a few Cat Steven’s albums.

And, of course, you will have to rent “Rosemary’s Baby” to do a double take at the differences of Ruth Gordon’s characters.

Yes, “Harold in Maude”, is more than a movie. This review is 100% biased. I am a lemming sucked in to its cult philosophy.

I now sing & dance.

But let’s backtrack to the actual movie.

Genre: Love Story
Plot: not much at all
Music: Cat Stevens and more and more Cat Stevens.

Harold and Maude is the VERY quirky love story between a rich 21 year old who takes GREAT fun in faking suicides for his mother’s “benefit” and an 79 year old lower class Maude.

Let’s establish Harold’s life before he meets Maude from an opening scene:

Harold swings…apparently dead…from a rope in a huge luxurious living room. Mother comes in and takes a casual look…picks up the phone and talks for a few seconds to a friend about diner plans. She hangs up the phone…turns to the swinging [and still apparently dead Harold] and say VERY drolly, “Diner at eight Harold. And this time do try to be just a little bit more vivacious.”

Later his mother says to Harold: “Harold, you have led a very carefree idle HAPPY life till now…but it’s time to put away childish things and take on more ADULT responsibilities…in short, Harold, I have decied it is time that you got married!”

If you are as smart as I know you are I am sure you noticed the clever contrast of HAPPY & Marriage in this sentence.

Harold does eventually want to get married…but trust me his mother, priest and militant uncle will NOT like the idea of him marrying an 80 year old crazy women.

Maude: She lives in a trailer and frequently snorts from bottles of canned odors like “snowfall in NY”. She steals cars whenever she needs a ride [“I just try to remind people that they should never get too atatched to material things”] and she models in the nude for ice sculptures.

Harold: “Do you always model in the nude”
Maude: “Glaucus [the artist] occasionally needs to be reminded to the contours of the female form”

Maude is 80 years old, economically poor, emotionally rich and obsessed with life. Harold is 18, economically rich, emotionally barren and obsessed with death.

This is a perfect match.

It is not much of a mystery that this film is all a metaphor and a philosophical preaching sermon. While Travolta & Kirstie Ally may need L. Ron Hubbard to inspire their lives…I just need this movie.

Video: How does it look?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film and if memory serves, it’s only been available on standard DVD from Paramount that came out in the late 90’s. If ever there was a movie due for the royal treatment, it’s this one. Criterion got a hold of this in 2012 and now it’s part of the Paramount Presents line.  The image looks shockingly good despite the film being nearly forty years old. As was the case with some of these early 70’s films, the color palette used is very muted, with warm and earthy tones prevailing. The level of detail has been improved considerably in that the image looks sharp, but nothing “too” sharp that gives it an unnatural look and feel.On the whole, it’s a very nice-looking transfer to one of our more avant-garde classics.

Audio: How does it sound?

If you’re looking for the PCM or Mono tracks, then you’ll need to pick up the Criterion version. Paramount has issued this with a TrueHD 5.1 track that’s a bit front heavy, but offers more channels of sound. As anyone whose seen this film can attest, Cat Stevens’ songs dominate the film and while not emanating from all channels, they sounded rich and crisp. Vocals are very clear and clean, nothing too much to mess up when you’re only working with one channel. Overall, this is a pretty clear mix that doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Just like the film itself.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Arguably, the Criterion Blu-ray offers more supplements, but this one has one that version doesn’t…

  • Audio Commentary –  Larry Karaszewski and Cameron Crowe have recorded a new commentary track for the movie. Crowe, a fan of film (for sure), seems particurly enthralled to be a part of this and the duo give us many anecdotes about the movie. It’s worth picking up this disc if only for this new supplement.
  • Yusuf/Cat Stevens – This video interview came off the Criterion disc. With the infamous musician and his contribution to the film. This is a new interview recorded especially for this film in 2011.
  • Theatrical Trailers

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing that can be said about Harold and Maude that hasn’t been said time and again. If you’re looking for more supplements, I’d go with the Criterion version. But if you want something new with a new commentary track – this is the way to go. Purists might want both. Either way, both versions look and sound good and having this in your collection is a win/win.

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