Harold and Maude (1971)

Kind of creepy and kind of sweet. Never thought I’d be saying that.

Death-obsessed teen Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is being hassled by his domineering mother (Vivian Pickles) to play the dating game, but he’d much rather attend funerals, which is where he meets the feisty Maude (Ruth Gordon), a geriatric widow who’s high on life.

The idea of having this 80 year-old lady swing around with this teenager, is a little weird at first but after awhile, you don’t really seem to care.

Director Hal Ashby is that director who made a lot of good films during the 70’s such as Shampoo and Being There among others, but right here he really strikes a strong chord because although I was expecting this to be sort of grim, it’s a very fun and happy film that’s all about how love is blind and you can find it anywhere no matter how strange it may or may not be.

The script here isn’t some sappy love drama about how opposites attract, but it’s more about why life is actually a beautiful thing and really worth living. But despite that little life message the film gives off there are actually a lot of funny moments here that just made me crack up at moments that I least expected. When you have certain material such as suicide, it’s something that’s actually kind of hard to laugh at but it had me laughing many more times than once actually.

However, the film does play itself a little too safe as well. There were moments within this film, as well as within this relationship that just seem too sanitary as if Ashby himself was too afraid to show any actual sexual connection between these two at all. Not to say that I wanted to see these two to practically get it on, but just to see more of an actual relationship rather than something of a friend thing where the sex is kind of hinted.

Also, there were moments where this film kind of just watered over certain plot points like how we kind of linger over Maude’s concentration camp numbers that are tattooed in her arm. I didn’t mean to give anything away but this part struck me as just strange because it happens for less than 2 seconds, and nothing else is ever spoken of it ever again. This seemed as strange to me and another example of Ashby just playing it too safe.

Ruth Gordon is pretty good at playing the eccentric, old, and a tad crazy, Maude, who won me over as soon as she was on screen. Bud Cort is also pretty good as the depressed and pretty strange, Harold, and has some great scenes where it he plays these suicides off so well as well as showing some emotional depth that this character has lined up inside of himself. Both are actually very good together and had me believe in their relationship even more than I actually could think.

Also, let’s not forget that there are some truly amazing songs here from Cat Stevens that add so much more to this film than anything else could have.

Consensus: For all of it’s flaws, Harold and Maude may not be the best rom-com of all-time but still has some great dark comedy to aid the sweet and a bit strange love story about how love is blind and how beautiful life is, which is a message no matter how old or young you are, you can relate to.



  1. Of the films by Hal Ashby that I’ve seen so far, this is my favorite. I just love the humor of it as well as the music of Cat Stevens which fits perfectly with the tone of the film. I wonder why Bud Cort never got big though he did well for himself later on as a character actor in indie films and his great appearance in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

  2. I think you either love this movie or you hate it. I’m sure at the time it came out it was considered odd, nowadays it just seems quirky. I agree that the best parts are the fake suicides, and Harold’s mother’s reaction to them are priceless. Try as I might to embrace the “love is blind” aspect, I did find the love story bit creepy (sorry, Ruth).

  3. Certainly any list of “cult films” to see has to have H & M at the top of the list. Another “cult film” that stars Bud Cort is Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud,” which is a favorite of mine, but like most Altman films, isn’t for everyone.

    Keep up the good work, Dan.

  4. Yeah, I went into it thinking it would be really really creepy, (I mean it’s not even a MILF it’s a GILF) It’s one of those that worked (for me anyways) mostly because it was made in the 70’s (what’s up sexual revolution) I don’t know if something like it could be done again, but I’m wicked glad that they did when they could

  5. I haven’t watched Harold and Maude for a while, but I’ve got the DVD so maybe it’s time to pull it off the shelf again. I certainly don’t remember anything sexually explicit, was there even the hint of anything? I thought it was maybe a platonic love about friendship and shared interests and lifestyles, in which case it’s almost sweet rather than creepy. I watched Leon (1994, Luc Besson) again last night which is another film that includes a similarly inappropriate love story element, this time between a 12-year-old girl and a guy aged 40+. Again though, even though there’s not even a hint of anything sexual between them, it’s still half creepy half sweet though.

  6. I will forever be traumatized by this movie for taking that one final step but I have to be reminded once in a while that these two’s antics, whether alone or together, were pretty hilarious and surreal.

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