When pseudocidal proto-emo Harold meets his opposite, manic pixie Grandma Maude, at a funeral, both will enrich the others’ lives in Hal Ashby's 1971 black comedy metaphor about the circle of life. Harold is obsessed by death, Maude by life and a blink and you'll miss it shot in the final third of the movie adds extra depth and context to its message. Bud Cort's muted, subdued and often monotone Harold is the yin to Ruth Gordon's spirited and energetic yang, and the movies pitch black sense of humour seems surprisingly modern for something which is over 50 years old. Rounded out with a strong Yusuf Islam / Cat Stevens soundtrack and some splendid cinematography (particularly the shots of Golden Gate National Cemetery) , it seems surprising that this was so widely trashed upon release and whilst some people will be unable to get past the unavoidably bizarre nature of HAROLD AND MAUDE's romantic relationship, the fact that it continues to find an audience is proof of the films enduring appeal. A listener wanted us to check it out and we are awfully glad they did. Thanks Rachel!
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Until next time, we remain...
Harold and Maude
Sidey: I bumped into a fan of the show in town. Mm-hmm. in town locally. And Rachel,
Reegs: you'd probably like thousands of them. Yeah. It's quite
Sidey: Depends where you are really. And Rachel nominated or asked us if we wouldn't mind awfully considering reviewing Harold and Mord. She is a fan.
Reegs: Yeah. Well, thank you.
Sidey: And I had never seen it.
Dan: I'd never seen it.
Reegs: I, I had seen this a long time ago, but I knew nothing about it and had managed to miss something incredibly important about it.
Dan: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So it is almost like a, a fresh
Reegs: brand new for everyone basically.
Sidey: Yeah. And she did point out the Cat Stevens soundtrack.
Reegs: Are we allowed to call him Cat? You talked about dead naming
Dan: did in this film.
Sidey: Yeah, but it was 1971 and he'd moved on after that. So I dunno. I
Dan: Well when he made that music though, would that not have Well that's, they
Sidey: I dunno. I dunno.
Dan: the film
Reegs: Spotify thing cuz I often listen to the soundtracks all week.
It comes up with use of Islam slash ka Stevens. Okay. It's a bit of a mouthful on a podcast.
Sidey: Anyway. What a weird film . This is 1971 and it's, the film starts with a kind of a tracking shot, but really only of someone's feet. Through what you can kind of tell is a fairly plush, elaborate room of some description. And I was vaguely of aware of what the story was.
So, Cuz you not really given that much information straight away in my mind's, like, what is it? What is it? Was it And I thought it was a funeral. I thought it was gonna be a funeral, but it isn't here. This is Harold. The introduction to Harold. Yeah.
Dan: And I thought this was all real.
Yeah. You know, it was, I had not, I knew nothing about this film other than I'd heard the name before. And, and so it was a good excuse to actually.
delve a little deeper and watch it like didn't even know that me
Sidey: of some guy didn't know, like
Dan: didn't even know that
Sidey: So yeah, but I didn't know about his predilection for kind of death and suicide fantasies and stuff.
So that's what this is. It starts off and he.
Sidey: He clams up a chair noose, goes around his neck and he kicks chair and you, and like for me, like not know anything. I was like, fuck like
Reegs: Well, because it's very slow and deliberate. He put, he comes in, like you say, it's the tracking shot of the feet and then it pan up to the hands as he puts.
Don't be shy on by cat Steven slash use of Islam. And then, you know, he lights some candles, he moves around. It's the whole three or four minutes at the beginning, and then literally just steps on a step and, and you see his feet swinging. You're like, Oh, right,
Dan: And then a lady
Reegs: a lady walks
Sidey: Well, I was waiting for the scream thing. Oh. She just hasn't noticed
Dan: it. That's
Sidey: as she sees him, there's gonna be a blood curdling. And
Dan: looked over and she calmly picks up the phone.
Reegs: picks up the phone. Yeah.
Dan: And then it's not even about the guy hanging there,
Reegs: What, Just as she's about to be put through, she says, I suppose you think that's very funny, Harold.
And then she gets back to counseling her appointments and organizing her life. And Harold is now, meanwhile now he's sort of pretending to choke stuff so that we're all in on the gag. But yeah, it was a,
Dan: but it get, it lets you know what you're in for right from the beginning.
I like that,
Reegs: And he's still
Dan: quite quickly after one scene you think Oh right.
Reegs: Okay. And the dynamic, because he's still hanging there pretending to choke while she's reminding him that he's got dinner at eight and he needs to you know, be ready for that. So,
Dan: yeah, and I took him. Quite young.
I thought he was almost like a, a teenager or something. But he's older than that, isn't he? Isn't he?
Reegs: I dunno his age in the film. I think I, I had him at very early twenties.
Dan: Yeah. Okay.
Reegs: Yeah, like 2021, something like that.
Dan: Because it, it transpires mom's trying to marry him off. They live in this big old house, don't they?
I mean, the house is
Sidey: Yeah. It seems like she's a single mother. Cause you'd never see any, any father figure at all.
Reegs: No, that's
Sidey: And Harold dresses in a very particular way. He's very smart. He's always suited and booted, even for just casual sort of day to day stuff. Cause he does, he goes to a lot of funerals.
So you expect him to be better
Reegs: Well, you find that out because they have this big dinner and she's just constantly running him down at the dinner.
And you know, he's staying, he's really sickly, even as a kid, really hammering at home. What a kind of disappointment and you know, just crushing his spirit. And then when she goes to the bathroom in the dinner party, he staged another elaborate suicide where he slashed his wrists and his blood absolutely everywhere.
And this is the last straw for Harold. So, Sends him to a psychiatrist who wants to talk to him about coping strategies. And that's when he says to him, What do you do for fun? And he says, What, what gives you satisfaction? Validation. And he pauses for ages. And then he says, I go to funerals. And I was just like, instantly reminded, It made me think of Fight
Sidey: Yeah. A hundred percent.
Reegs: And then it happens again when we meet Mord. Yeah. Subsequently. Um Yeah.
Sidey: how much Fight Club
Dan: Travis Bickle? Yeah.
Sidey: know, was influenced by this or, or just straight up
Reegs: Well, Chuck Pollick. Yeah, he, he I read a list of Chuck Pollich's top 10 favorite movies, and this is in it, Right.
it makes sense. Yeah. So he buys an old hears, he gets the car all cleaned up, and he gets all suited up and he goes to a funeral and he looks round and he sees a woman at the back you know, sort of a little bit away. And she's also, she's watching and eating an apple.
Dan: Strikes him as odd to her and he later sees her at another funeral and realizes much like, as you say, Fight, fight club, where they had their own different clubs and support groups and things that they would go to.
They, they're hit hitting the funerals in this. Yes. Yeah.
Reegs: Meanwhile, so when he gets home after that first funeral, his mother is waiting from there.
She's obviously completely appalled by the car and they're. Like we've said, they're tremendously wealthy. She still tells him to stop fring away this time on your drama. Go and talk to your Uncle Victor. He was general MacArthur's right hand man. He will sort you out. And we see Uncle Victor, who's a one armed enthusiastic colonel.
He gives him a military style pep talk, doesn't he? And then
Dan: there salute
Reegs: Hale and he salutes the thing. And because he is only got one arm, he's got a pre rigged saluting mechanism
Sidey: you first see him, and he's obviously, he's just got the one arm. And I thought, oh, that must be how they must do that in their best dress, you know? But it's just some elaborate thing. So he pulls the chord in, his arm
Reegs: he can still salute.
Sidey: Yeah. Perfect. Kinda
Reegs: And then we next see Harold again. He's drowned in the pool while Chaikovsky plays and the mother's just swimming on past him. And back at the psychiatrist, he's, so, there's these authority figures in his life.
The psychiatrist and the military guy trying to sort him out. And like you said, Dan, there's also his mother who has enlisted this sort of blind date type organization. She's filling out answers on his behalf, completely ignoring what he's, she
Sidey: says, I've gone to the Dating database of England, it already, we weeded out all the fact and I can
Reegs: fat and the ugly ones.
Yeah. . Yeah. Lovely. So yeah, because her idea is she wants to make him someone else's problem, so marry him off.
Dan: and, and just as he's going through this, he's also getting sweeter and sweeter on and having more fun with Mord because at one point she's.
She Nicks a car,
Reegs: She nicks the vicar's car.
Dan: She nicks the vicar's car the first week. Yeah. And then at the next funeral
Reegs: well she,
offers him a lift in his car. Yeah. Which she doesn't realize until she's taking him nearly. She says, Oh, should I take you home? And he's like, Well, this is my car, I'll take you home. And she lives in a disused railway, railway train.
Oh yeah. Car thing. Yeah.
Dan: And she's what, 70, 80 years
Reegs: 79 cuz it's 79. That's right. Yeah. She's about to have her 80th birthday in two weeks I think.
And it's a ticking clock element in the plot. So what else? Tea for the Tillman's just played, which is nice.
Sidey: They have various adventures and she's just on at him about just live life with no regrets.
Just be completely free and don't apologize for anything. Do whatev. Basically just do whatever you want. Live in the out. They find a tree that's. In a little bit of a sorry state in the street. And so she takes him along and said, Look, the leaves going brown. It's so terrible. This is terrible. We've gotta dig it up.
We've gotta go and replant this back in the forest. I love this sequence cuz they just bomb it down the road in some stolen car with, it's like a pickup, you know, it's a flatbed at the back and it's got the
the thing there and the, the, the highway patrol man just follows him and, and pulls her over.
And she's just completely upfront
Reegs: who that was?
Reegs: The highway patrolman. Yeah. Was pretty cool in an early.
Sidey: Yeah. And she's just completely front about, No, it's not my car, it's not my shovel. I've taken that trees from, you know, wherever. And it's just like, all right. And then as he just gets his notepad, he's like, she just bombs it off.
Reegs: it off.
And then there's this comical scene where she's just doing donuts around him basically.
Dan: and yeah, trashes his bike and, and drives off they plant the tree,
Reegs: Because her thing, you know, it's, they're sort of yin in yang in a way, aren't they? He's a young guy who's obsessed with death and she's, you know, we haven't really explained it very well, but she's very full of life and yeah.
Yeah, she's an all person full of, full
Sidey: of love. Well, he goes to find her at one point and she's nude modeling for some sculptor.
Reegs: Meanwhile Harold is on a series of dates. The first one is candy. She's a political science student with a second degree in home economics. She's only there because she lost drawing straws with her sorority sisters, which I think is great.
And in the background while she's explaining all this. To Harold's mother. Harold sets himself on fire and then she comes in from a side entrance and then he comes in from a side entrance. She runs off screaming and he breaks the fourth wall. Looks right at the, the viewer. Yeah. She back with Mord, she's got this Smeller vision box that you can smell 42nd Street in in Christmas time or whatever.
It smells of snow and stuff. She's completely bonkers. Where else have we got up to? We get the second
Sidey: the second date. He he puts his hand down, doesn't he? And then pulls out a big meat cleaver and just starts hacking his hand off at the, is the dinner table, or just sitting and having tea. Anyway, so he is just, he's hell bent on sabotaging all.
He's not interested. He just wants to spend all this time with Mord. And she, she does tell him her plan.
Reegs: Yeah. Well, she talks a little bit about her youth. She talks, she, she takes her, she takes him back to her place, and she's actually playing him with alcohol. It does make you, you know, it is one of the things that if you reversed it and made it an 80 year old man and a 20 year old girl, you might be, Thinking about it in a different way. She's talking about, she likes she has an umbrella. It was a defense mechanism when she was protecting herself against the big issues of liberty, rights and justice. And she talks about her youth in Vienna and thinking she would marry a soldier and it didn't.
She, she met a doctor, a love loss. You get this whole like 80 years story sort of thing. All little tidbits of information that flesh out her character a little.
Dan: Yeah, she's fantastic.
Reegs: And she plays this, it's not a Vir Virtuoso performance, but she plays, if you want to sing out, sing out at the piano.
The cat Stevens track and
Dan: he joins in.
Reegs: moment. He sings, Yeah, he sings his face lights up. It's like the first time that we actually see him doing anything other than moping.
Sidey: he's. Pale. He's obviously got makeup on, Make puppet. It's like kind of ish looking sometimes he's done. Yeah. Obviously with the stuff that he's into, he's not sitting there grinning from here to where, but he finally starts to enjoy himself, you know, and finds some joy in his life when he is spending time with her.
Dan: And and when he goes to tell his mom after all these dates that he's actually found somebody and he brings mord. It's that's a brilliant,
Reegs: Well, the moment that they get together is a, is quite a beautiful moment as well. They have the, the hooker pipe. Do you remember that? Yeah. Yeah. And they're in kimonos and he's telling Mord about the times he's died.
Specifically the first time, which was a science lab at school, he was clearing up, he was mucking about with chemicals and he caused an explosion and he didn't clear it up. He just fucked off home, basically. He didn't tell anybody. And when he gets home, his mother gets the two, two policemen turn up to the house.
She doesn't know that he's upstairs and they tell his mother that there was an explosion at. Harold died in we didn't find his body and she faints when on hearing this news. So suddenly Harold's whole psyche about why he keeps staging his. His suicide over and over again seems to make more sense because he was, it's the only time he could got some attention and connection with her.
Yeah. And she showed her humanity about him. So he confesses all this to her and she says, You know, you, you decided you enjoyed being dead. You're not dead. You're just backing away from life. And you know, this is when they kiss and they, they dance to the
Sidey: But when does he see the tattoo?
Reegs: Well, that is gonna happen.
That happens right towards the end. But yeah, it's, it's when he's telling more after they've got together about the third date that's coming up and they've sort of fallen in love. And then we very briefly see it's a blink and you'll miss it. Shot of a tattoo on the inside of her left arm. The series of numbers.
Obviously she's a Holocaust survivor and suddenly everything else starts to
Reegs: a little bit more into.
The third date is the pressure is on Harold now to make a good impression and it's Sunshine Door. Her name is, she's an actress. And when she goes in, did you see she nearly stacks it as she was walking.
She like slipped. I
Dan: yeah, that's right. Yeah.
Reegs: right Just made it in. They bond over a shared love of knives and when he starts explaining what Harry Kerry is, and then I knew what he was doing, setting up an elaborate is, what's it called? Seppuku is it? And so he, you. Sort of imps himself on this catana.
And she just says, That was marvelous. It has the ring of truth to it. And she acts out her own stage stuff next to him and suddenly it completely wounds him because, you know, she doesn't take any of it seriously. That's what it felt like that in her sort of doing her acting, it's sort of cheapened
Dan: I, yeah, but I wondered whether there was a, a kindred spirit there then, or, or someone that had a, a potential future for beyond Mord for him, but,
Reegs: Well maybe, but we don't see her again. But she, Yes, possibly. Possibly. The mother walks in and she thinks that Harold's murdered her at first. She's quite amusing. There's a fair ground and that's where we see the director actually the real bum looking guy when they're at the fair ground.
Yeah. Yeah. And they're star
Sidey: Hal Ashby.
Reegs: Hal Ashby and Harold gives her a coin that he's minted, that says, Harold loves Mord.
And she says Mord loves Herald back to him and then she throws it into the sea saying, I'll know where it is forever. Just, you know, pretty romantic even though it is a grandma and a 20
Sidey: year old
Reegs: He tells his mother he is gonna get married and when she asks who, he shows her a picture
Reegs: she is pretty shocked.
I think that was a pretty normal reaction. He'd probably be quite shocked at that, that the, the psychiatrist is shocked.
Reegs: Uncle Victor is shocked. He tries to talk him out of it. The psychiatrist diagnosises it as edip as complex.
The priest wants to talk about how disgusting it is that his lovely naked body will be with her old he says withered flesh, sagging breasts and flabby buttocks of mor and it makes him want to vomit.
Seemed a little bit elaborate.
Dan: Yeah, he seemed out he was enjoying it too much. But
Reegs: so on more 80th birthday that we've been building up to the whole time he's filled her room with homemade flowers and they slow dance again to the blue Dan.
And he has a surprise for her after dinner, which I was convinced was gonna be a dildo, but it wasn't. And she's a brilliant, I can't imagine a better farewell. And he's like
Sidey: in his tracks, isn't he? And he's
Reegs: like, What do you mean?
Sidey: It's just so I, it, this reminds me of the watchman. You know, the, I've already, I've already done it.
Reegs: Yeah. It's too late. It's too late. Yeah.
Sidey: I took the pills an hour ago, you know, I'll be gone by midnight. And he's just like, Nah, it's the first time he really
Sidey: Proper, proper
Dan: animation or emotion.
Reegs: he's stunned.
Dan: He, he gets her in the ambulance.
Reegs: He, he does. And they get into hospital and he's praying for her life and he telling her he loves her and she says, That's great.
Go and love some.
She says to him, and I think that Ette Steven's trouble Blas and we see her at the hospital interspersed shots of Harold driving in the rain. And I still hadn't completely twigged that she was going to in fact die, which she does.
Sidey: Well I thought he was going, this was the one where he was gonna do it for real as well.
Reegs: Well cuz his driving is getting
Sidey: previously bombing it around in his, he'd been bought in e type Jag to try and get rid of the. To try and convince him to get rid of the hearse. His mother bought him an E type, brand new E type and he's just done a cut and shot to put the top of the hearse. That is amazing.
On top of, So he's got this Jag e type hearse hybrid, and he is hoofing it round and out in the wet it's, off fairly radical. And then you just see, yeah, you see the car hurt off a cliff and just not like in the movies, it just, it just crashes to the bottom and you're like, Oh fuck. I was, I was wondering, I think, is the camera gonna pan away and he'll just be stood at the top and he does, You know, he's there.
Reegs: He's, he's got, he's playing his banjo because she's a gt that he can't play a musical instrument and teaches him to play the
And he plays, if you wanna sing out, sing out.
Dan: Yeah. As, as you said, she's so full of life and towards the end of it and he. So un full of life with his whole life ahead of him. And their meeting it, it just fired that, that light in him, you know? It was I really enjoyed this
Reegs: Yeah. Yeah,
Dan: it was really good.
I, I was I was surprised that I've not seen it before, you know, because you feel like with so many influences going through it from Fight Club and just the, the characters themselves Yeah, it's obviously
thought of, I dunno whether it won awards this back in the day.
Reegs: Well, you say highly thought of Dan Variety on release.
Sidey: I got, I've got this one as well. This one as well. Yeah.
Reegs: It has all the fun and garity of a burning orphanage.
Dan: There you go. You see?
Reegs: And Roger Ebert, who I love he didn't like this one and a half stars. They
Dan: they were wrong Both of them. Wrong
Reegs: and contrived. I think.
Sidey: It's, it has, it's found an audience like down the line, but at the time, yeah, it just got savaged on release.
Dan: Can imagine what a topic, what a, what an
Reegs: what I think a lot of
Sidey: fairly taboo. Yeah.
Reegs: of people can't get past the, you know, we had a trouble with Army Hammer and Timothy Chak and being 17 and 30 and you know, this is 80 and 20. It's, Yeah, a big difference. But the good, the movie never really comments on the bizarreness of the relationship.
It just presents it as is two souls that have found each other. And it's really in your own head where it's like, Oh yeah, I'd love to be 80 fucking a 20 year
Reegs: And can that go, That doesn't need to stay
Sidey: Well, no, it's just.
Dan: That's kind of the,
Sidey: that's what happens in the film. So, you know
Reegs: got a sort of Wes Anderson type vibe to it.
Sidey: You could see him being influenced by this for sure. The Jaguar Hurst was made by the same guy that made the Batman bill.
Dan: Wow. good
Sidey: Batman connection there.
Reegs: Ruth Gordon, she was, she was mord and I didn't recognize her from it, but she was, Rosemary's Baby was the classic movie that I would've known her from.
She's one of the elderly neighbors that has the hidden door, where they have the coven coven in there. And she was in the orangutang bothering movies every which way, but loose in any which way you can Bud Court.
Sidey: He, he lived with Groucho Marks.
Reegs: Did he really? Yeah. Wow. Yeah, he was in Arrested Development as himself.
Sidey: Okay. He made nothing out this movie.
Reegs: No. And his career kind of, I've got some of the highlights here. Arrested Development Dogma, Coyote Ugly. He was in Theodore Rex, the Whoopy Goldberg talking Dinosaur
Sidey: he turned everything down because someone said to him, Well, you don't wanna just be typecast as like the weirdo. So he got offered loads of those, turned them all down. He turned down one flavor of the cookie's Nest as like, you
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Sidey: And he really regretted that. And he was, he was nearly taking points on this film as.
Sidey: And he didn't, he, I think he took a
Dan: a flat rate.
Sidey: right? And he says every now and then he gets a check for 11 cents from Paramount for the film. It was just fairly grim cuz it's fucking excellent. Like, you know,
Reegs: I think maybe it was a little bit ahead of its time. I don't know. It's got a bit of a naivety about it as.
Now the sort of emo kid finds manic, pixie grandma. You know, you might find a hundred movies like that out released now, but in 1971,
Sidey: Did you see who was nearly offered the role of Bud Court as well? Go on. Elton John.
Dan: no, I, he, he was really interesting to me, this guy as well, and I was wondering what else he had been in. But as you say, not, not much
Sidey: had some great outfits in the movie.
Dan: Yeah. Um Hair
Reegs: Strong hair.
Dan: What's that? What's, Yeah. Just that kind of character. He's been done so many other times. That weird kind of,
sometimes he reminds me a little bit of Damian from, you know, the Oman, like a little bit more grown up, you know, that, that sort of ish looking at about him, you know, with the dark hair and all that.
Dan: into mind as well, just with some of his
Reegs: I really think, you know, even though tonally they're quite different movies, the Fight club connections are really quite bizarre because you've got, you know, it's this similar sort of, Guy who has everything but you know, looking for something else in life and, you know, meeting people in some sort of alternative way and both having some obsession and, you know, peop both faking their own deaths as well.
So yeah, lots of you, you should watch this if you haven't.
Sidey: Yeah, I was like, really, really enjoyed this . It was just a lot of the time I was kind of, and I, I get what you say, Rick, it's your own sort of putting your.
Lens on it, you know, But you do sort of think this is fucking weird. Like, you know, this is, if this is a big aged gap and, and like you say, if it is flipped round, maybe that's like an inherently sexist viewpoint. I don't know. But it is slightly jarring. But the film is, I loved it. Thanks Rachel, for the recommendation.
Reegs: I never felt the quick until afterwards. Really. Because while you're watching it, it's all very believable.