The Harrad Experiment (1973)

the harrad experiment

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: College promotes sexual freedom.

Based on the novel by Robert H. Rimmer the story centers on a group of students who attend a socially progressive college where sex between multiple partners is expected and promoted. The school is run by Phillip and Margaret (James Whitmore, Tippi Hedren) who feel conventional marriage is an unrealistic ideal that creates the idea of ‘ownership’ over someone else, which in turn causes jealousy. They hope to end these problems and change the cultural norms by having the next generation accept more of a group marriage mentality.

The film nicely avoids the smarmy T&A factor by portraying nudity in a natural non exploitative way while also having characters that are believable and a good representation of the young generation from that era. The different ways that the students respond to the unique environment and the realization that they aren’t quite as sexually liberated as they thought remains the story’s focal point of interest.

The film also allows for a great chance to see young stars in the making. Laurie Walters, who later went on to star in the TV-show ‘Eight is Enough’, gives a sensitive portrayal of a young woman who’s still shy about her body and not quite ready to enjoy sex outside of the bounds of romance as she had initially thought. Bruno Kirby is good as well playing a student who’s so filled with insecurities that it prevents him from having any sex at all. Don Johnson though gives the best performance as a cocky student who uses the program simply as a way to ‘score’ with women only to later learn that even he needs some emotional bonding too.

The always reliable Whitmore is solid as the stoic instructor and Hedren gets one of her best roles outside of her most famous one in The Birds with her titillating moment coming near the end when she strips off her clothes and tries to entice Johnson to make love to her right out in the open and in front of everyone. Actor Ted Cassidy, who co-wrote the script, can also be seen briefly sitting at the counter of the local café.

Although the film does manage to bring out a few provocative elements I still felt even without having read the novel that is was only skimming the surface. Having the story focus on only a few of the couples isn’t as captivating as it could’ve been had it instead taken a broader look at all of the students. The low budget gives the production a cheap look and a few too many sappy love songs get thrown in an attempt to turn it into a ‘70s romance instead of keeping it more of a psychological drama that it should’ve been.

A sequel called Harrad Summer, which follows these same students who take what they’ve learned and try to implement it into their adult lives, was released one year later and that will be reviewed later on this week.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ted Post

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: VHS, DVD

One response to “The Harrad Experiment (1973)

  1. Joseph Kearny

    Minor film with voyeuristic appeal. Low budget, little imagination.

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