Category Archives: Sex

Summer of ’42 (1971)

summer-of-42

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Boy loses his virginity.

During the summer of 1942 Hermie (Gary Grimes) vacations on Nantucket Island with his two friends (Jerry Houser, Oliver Conant) along with their parents. He soon becomes smitten by a neighboring lady named Dorothy (Jennifer O’ Neill) whose husband has just gone off to fight in the war. One day he offers to carry her groceries as well as help her out with other chores around her home. When her husband gets killed Hermie finds that he can be of service to her in other ways too.

The script was written by Herman Raucher and based on his real-life experiences while growing up as a teen on Nantucket Island. He had originally written the script in the 1950’s, but at that time no one was interested. It wasn’t until he met with director Robert Mulligan that the project got off the ground and even then the studio was reluctant to pay him anything up front and promised only to give him a percentage of whatever the film grossed. The film though ended up becoming a huge hit and made Michel Legrand’s melodic score almost synonymous with romances everywhere.

I enjoyed the film immensely when I first saw it back when I was in college, but now many years later I have certain issues with it and much of it is due to the Dorothy character. I felt she was was too naïve as she brings this 15-year-old boy in the form of Hermie into her home, but apparently no clue that boys at that age can have raging hormones and that he could quite possibly be viewing her in a sexual way. I felt that Dorothy should’ve shown a little more awareness to the situation and created boundaries from the start and been just a little more defensive than she was. Some may argue that she may have been attracted to the teen despite his age and secretly open to him coming on to her, but if that was the case it should’ve been made clear. In either event the character is too much of an enigma and playing off more like a fantasy figure than a real person.

These same issues continue during their eventual consummation, which ends up being the film’s most well-known scene. On a purely cinematic level I loved the moment because it nicely recreates a dream-like quality of a teen boy’s fantasy particularly by having no dialogue and only the background noise of the crashing ocean waves. However, the woman has just committed an intimate act with a minor that could get her into a lot trouble if it was ever found out. The next morning as the two are lying next to each other in bed she looks over at him and I would’ve expected some expression of guilt, confusion, or even fear, but none of that is conveyed. Also, the idea that getting news that her husband has just been killed would be enough to ‘disorient’ her and get her to submit herself to a teen boy who just randomly walks in is a bit far-fetched.

In the real-life incident Raucher describes it as occurring much differently. There Dorothy was highly intoxicated and yelled out her dead husband’s name several times. He also caught up with the real Dorothy many years later and she told him that she had been ‘wracked with guilt’ over what she had done long after it had happened. All of this makes much more sense and although it would’ve ruined some of the romantic elements it still should’ve been added in as it would’ve helped both the characters and movie become more multi-dimensional and believable.

The setting is another liability. Due to budget constraints it was not filmed on Nantucket, but instead Mendocino, California and the differences are glaring. The landscape is very dry and brown, which is something that would not occur on the east coast, which routinely gets more rain than the west. The voice-over narration states that they had “9 days of rain” that summer, so the foliage should’ve been green and lush.

On a completely superficial level the film still works. The performances are excellent and there are a few really funny scenes including Hermie’s visit to a drug store where he reluctantly tries to buy some condoms as well as his subsequent visit later that night to the beach.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 18, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Mulligan

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, YouTube

Shampoo (1975)

shampoo-2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hairdresser shags his clients.

George (Warren Beatty) is a successful hairstylist who makes a habit of sleeping with his lady clients. He wants to open up his own beauty salon, but lacks the funds and not enough collateral to qualify for a loan. He is currently sleeping with Felicia (Lee Grant) who tells him to ask her husband Lester (Jack Warden) for the money. Lester is having an affair with Jackie (Julie Christie) who used to be George’s girlfriend. George’s current girlfriend is Jill (Goldie Hawn) who is having the inklings to sleep with Johnny (Tony Bill) since she thinks George is not being faithful to her. Everything comes to head on the night of November 5, 1968 during the election returns when everyone finds out that everyone else has been cheating on them and things get hilariously awkward.

This could quite easily be the best satire on the mores of Southern California culture ever made. The fact that it gets juxtaposed with the election where the same people who voted for an administration that vows to crackdown on the ‘permissive culture’ are the same ones doing the immoral behavior makes a very loud statement on the foibles and hypocrisies of the establishment.

Richard Sylbert was nominated for the Academy Award for his set decoration and he should’ve won as the vibrant and colorful interiors of the plush homes that the characters reside in become almost like a third character and makes you feel like you are right there inside the places with the characters and immersed completely in their world. The spectacular skyline views seen from the window of Lester’s office are equally impressive and I also enjoyed the party sequence, which reflected a true party atmosphere particularly the one attended by members of the counter-culture and the stylized set lighting by a slowly opening refrigerator door that gradually exposes the identities of a couple making love in the dark to the shocked onlookers standing around is outstanding.

The talented female cast is terrific, but a bit misused. Jackie’s meltdown during the election party seemed way overdone. This was a smart woman who would’ve seen through Lester’s thin veneer from the start and therefore wouldn’t have been that ‘traumatized’ when it finally came out in the open.

I was also disappointed that we didn’t see more of Lee Grant’s character. She won the Academy Award for her work here, but there needed to be more of a wrap-up with her as well as a scene showing an ultimate confrontation with her daughter (Carrie Fisher in her film debut) who has a secret fling with George behind her back. However, the shot showing Fisher giving her mother the most hateful and disdainful glare you can imagine that literally burns through the screen is almost a gem in itself.

Despite his many transgressions I found Lester to be strangely likable. His quirky ‘bonding’ with George near the end is cute, but I really wanted to see him jump into the hot tub and smoking some weed with the hippies after they offer him a joint and was disappointed it never came to pass even though it does come close.

Beatty, who co-wrote the screenplay, has his moments too, but they don’t come until the final half-hour, but it’s worth the wait. His ‘confession’ to Jill about what motivates him to sleep with all of his female clients and what he gets out of it is not only funny, but quite revealing to any male with the same traits. His final desperate plea to Jackie at the very end is equally interesting and even a bit surprising.

My only real complaint is the fact that it doesn’t seem like a legitimate ‘60s atmosphere even though that’s when it supposed to take place. The adult characters are too brazen in their actions. The college crowd was the first to embrace the free love philosophy while the middle-agers, who were raised in a more repressed, guilt-ridden era, took longer to catch-up to it. It just reeks too much of the mid ‘70s where by that time ‘everybody was doing it’ particularly in swinging L.A., which is where the time period should’ve stayed. There is also never any explanation for why the fire department comes in to evacuate the guests from the building as they are watching the returns.

Still the message of how people who use other people will eventually end up getting owned by the very same folks that they think they are manipulating is very on-target and amusingly played-out.

shampoo-1

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: February 11, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Director: Hal Ashby

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Arousers (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10       

4-Word Review: He suffers from impotence.

Eddie (Tab Hunter) is a good-looking high school athletic coach who is a magnet to the young southern California women that inhabit the area. Unfortunately Eddie cannot perform in bed and the stress and shame that he feels because of this causes him to murder the women that he attracts.

The original title for this film was Sweet Kill, which I liked better, but because it did not make any money at the box office it got reissued as The Arousers, with nude scenes of voluptuous women added in, which doesn’t really improve it. The film is indeed pretty slow, but I still found it strangely captivating. The story has a real-time approach with more emphasis on seeing the characters as real people than on the chills or shocks. Charles Bernstein’s acoustic musical score is excellent and helps build the tension by being soft at the beginning to the point of barely being detected and then becoming increasingly more present as the film progresses.

Hunter’s excellent performance is not only the best of his career, but one of the better psycho’s in horror film history. The way his eyes glare with evil is impressive and the film makes attempts to show the character’s frustration at suffering from inner shame and not just a one-dimensional killer.

It’s great that the film brings out an important social issue, which at the time was still quite taboo and not at all talked about. Unfortunately the story makes no attempt to explain the cause. Impotence can be caused by many different factors, so the character didn’t necessarily need to be pinpointed with one, but more of a background would’ve helped the viewer understand his inner demons better.

The killings themselves aren’t interesting and the story is too one-sided as we see everything from the killer’s perspective where the tension would’ve been heightened had there been a side-story dealing with a police investigator on his trail. The ending offers no payoff outside of seeing Hunter give off a menacing scowl that rivals Jack Nicholson’s from The Shining. The movie also offers a glimpse of Angus Scrimm, who later became famous for playing The Tall Man in Phantasm, in his film debut.

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Alternate Title: Sweet Kill

Released: May 15, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 23Minutes

Rated R

Director: Curtis Hanson

Studio: New World Pictures

Available: DVD

Life Size (1974)

life size 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: A sex doll obsession.

Michel (Michel Piccoli) runs a successful dental practice, but finds that his life is empty and his marriage to his wife Isabelle (Rada Rassimov) is no longer working. He has cheated on her before, but those affairs left him with the same empty feeling, so this time he decides to take a different route by purchasing a life size sex doll that looks so real that she almost seems human. He takes her everywhere and even brings her along to a visit with his mother (Valentine Tessier) so she can meet his new ‘girlfriend’.  The doll becomes the centerpiece of his very existence and he spends every waking moment he can with her until he sees footage, from a closed circuit camera that he has set-up in his house, of one of friends having sex with her while he was away. He becomes outraged at her ‘betrayal’ and decides that her punishment will be ‘death’.

The film, which can best be described as an early, distant cousin to Lars and the Real Girl, definitely has its share of unique and memorable moments. Writer/director Luis Garcia Berlanga does an admirable job of analyzing just what might happen if sexual fantasy gets taken to its most extreme level. The scenes showing Michel taking the doll to a clothing store in order to be measured and fitted with the latest fashions and marrying the doll in a makeshift wedding are by far the film’s two best segments.

However, it’s Michel’s scenes with his wife that I found to be the most unsettling. The scene where he fondles his wife’s naked breasts late at night as she sleeps while looking at a picture of the doll is quirky enough, but then later on, in the film’s most disturbing moment, she tries immersing completely into his sexual fantasy by pretending to be a sex doll herself in a desperate attempt to win him back.

What is initially considered the sexual substitute to the real thing soon becomes the preferable choice here and it reminded me of an article I read in a science journal a few years back about young men in their 20’s forced to be prescribed Viagra because they were no longer able to achieve erections with their wives/girlfriends because the proliferation of porn on the internet had somehow dulled their senses to real sex to the point that they found it to be a ‘turn-off’. Now, if you are a fan of porn then that’s great and I don’t mean to be appear like I’m trying to knock it, but I did find it fascinating that elements of that article correlated to what this film was showing and how successful this movie was at foreshadowing the phenomenon’s that we are now seeing in our modern day culture.

Although the film is adequately directed and more of a psychological study than a perverse sleaze feast it’s still not an overall success. The main issue is that the main character acts overtly freaky about the doll from the very beginning without enough backstory to tell us why and simply saying it’s due to a unhappy marriage is not enough. A far more compelling concept would’ve been to portray the main character as being more ‘normal’ by having him feel awkward about the doll and even a bit embarrassed only to grow increasingly more obsessed as the film progresses until his ultimate infatuation with it shocks even him.

Alternate Titles: Grandeur Nature, Love Doll, Tamano Natural

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 21, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated X

Director: Luis Garcia Berlanga

Studio: Cinema International Corporation

Available: None at this time.

Portnoy’s Complaint (1972)

portnoys complaint 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Jewish man digs prostitute.

Alexander Portnoy (Richard Benjamin) is a man who no longer believes in a God or any of the other conventional ways of life taught to him by his old-fashioned Jewish parents (Jack Somack, Lee Grant). He enjoys the ‘art’ of masturbation and will routinely find excuses to go do it when his parents aren’t looking. As he grows older he finds that his sexual appetite broadens in a way that regular women won’t be able to fulfill. Then he meets Mary Jane (Karen Black). She’s a prostitute nicknamed ‘The Monkey’ due to all the wild positions that she can get her body into during sex. The two enjoy a lot of kinky times, but then she ends up falling in love with him and wanting to get married, but Portnoy resists as he considers her to be intellectually inferior and fears she’ll become an embarrassment to him with his other friends.

Philip Roth’s landmark and controversial novel comes to the big screen with only lukewarm results although it does start out funny. I laughed-out-loud at the scene where Portnoy pretends to have a bout of diarrhea just so he can sneak into the bathroom to get-off and his parents misinterpret his moans of ecstasy as being that of gaseous agony. The dream segment where Portnoy finds that his penis has fallen off and onto the kitchen floor while his parents come into to inspect it is pretty good as is the bit where Jeannie Berlin tries to give Portnoy a hand-job.

Unfortunately the film shifts too much in tone. It starts out as this quirky, dark-humored, sex-laden comedy only to end up being a brooding drama. The novel was written as a continuous monologue spoken by Portnoy while talking to his therapist, which doesn’t effectively come off here. We see a few scenes in his therapist’s office, but they are brief and I didn’t like the fact that his therapist never speaks a word of dialogue, which seemed weird and unnatural.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman, in his one and only foray behind the camera, implements too much of a slow pace to the proceedings. Many scenes go on far longer than they should and at certain points the camera gets nailed to the ground giving it a static presence. He also hired Michel Legrand to do the film score, which is beautiful and majestic, but the lush tones are better suited for a romantic flick, which this definitely isn’t.

Karen Black gives an outstanding performance as ‘The Monkey’, but her character is too one-dimensionally dumb almost to the point that she seems mentally handicapped, which I don’t think was the intention. Either way it is never funny, touching, or even real while bordering into the stereotype that all prostitutes ‘must be really stupid’.

One of the most annoying elements of the film is that it keeps cutting back to a matted image of Black jumping from a skyscraper and towards the viewer while she screams. The image looks very hooky while giving the film a real amateurish feel. I also didn’t like how at the very end we spot Black walking amongst a crowd of people from a bird’s eye perspective. The supposed demise of the character was meant to be murky as she threatens to jump from a building and Portnoy leaves her without ever knowing if she ended up doing it or not, which then causes him a major source of guilt afterwards. By having her suddenly appear at the very end ruins the mystery and brings up far more questions than answers.

Roth’s novel was very much ahead-of-its-time and deserved a film that could match it, but Lehman’s staid approach doesn’t do it justice.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 19, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ernest Lehman

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), YouTube

Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984)

black devil doll 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 0 out of 10

4-Word Review: She fucks a doll.

Helen Black (Shirley L. Jones) is a devoutly religious woman living alone and spending most of her time going to church while also believing sex should only be within the bounds of marriage. One day she visits an antique store and spots a puppet that catches her fancy. She decides to buy it despite vague warnings by the store clerk that it possesses strange powers. When she brings it home it suddenly comes alive, ties her up and begins having sex with her, which she finds that she actually enjoys. When the doll disappears she decides to throw away her religion and become the neighborhood slut instead by picking up strange men wherever she can find them and bringing them back home for raunchy action.

This movie could best be described as the low budget, soft core porn version of Trilogy of Terror and while the story has some outrageously voyeuristic elements the production quality is so poor that it never allows the viewer to get into it. The whole thing is shot on a grainy VHS tape giving it a very amateurish look from the get-go. Certain scenes are out-of-focus and director Chester Novell Turner seems to have no understanding of editing as the camera pans wildly when simply cutting to a certain shot would’ve made more sense. There is a lot of extraneous footage as well including watching Jones walking down the sidewalk that seems to go on endlessly and an overplayed thumping music score that becomes headache inducing.

Just about all the action takes place in Helen’s cramped, rundown home, which has no visual appeal whatsoever. The sex scenes are gross and all the nudity comes from star Jones who is not exactly model quality or someone you’d want to see naked.

The only interesting aspect is the doll itself especially with its vulgar dialogue, but unfortunately he’s not in it enough. The effects used to create him are botched as it is clear when it gets shown from behind that it is not a puppet at all, but a small child, or in this case the director’s nephew.

Sitting through this is an arduous challenge. IMDb lists the runtime as 1Hour and 10Minutes, but the version I saw went almost a full 90 minutes. Some may find a few cheap laughs at the beginning due to its technical ineptness, but watching it all the way through becomes torturous and makes having sex with a puppet, or even killed by one seem enjoyable by comparison.

My Rating: 0 out of 10

Released: August 5, 1984 (straight-to-video)

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Chester Novell Turner

Not Rated

Available: DVD

Oh! Calcutta! (1972)

oh calcutta 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: No clothes no problem.

This film is based on the long running stage play that ran from June 17, 1969 to August 12, 1972 and later revived in the ‘80s to become one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. This version was taped in front of a live audience on a closed sound stage and then broadcast on pay-per-view, which eventually was transferred to theaters in ’72. It has a mainly nude cast performing in skits with a sex related theme and later became popular for featuring Bill Macy who went on to star as Walter in the hit TV-show ‘Maude’.

The film starts out interestingly enough as it shows the audience members filing in and examines the nervous looks on their faces as this was when nudity on stage was all still quite new and controversial. The film then cuts back and forth between the audience and the backstage cast who are in-the-buff and getting ready to perform.  They then come out on stage in bathrobes and do an Avant-garde-like dance sequence in which their names get matted over the screen while they flash the audience.

It then goes into the skit portion and everything goes rapidly downhill from there. The first segment isn’t funny at all and actually quite disturbing. It deals with two adults pretending to be teens who are starting to become aware of their sexual awakenings. The boy, who is named Jack, takes out a ruler in order to put it up Jill’s ‘thing’ to make sure it will be deep enough to fit in his ‘thing’. She becomes reluctant, so he tackles her and forcibly rapes her while killing her in the process. Unable to grasp what he has done he props her up and has a ‘conversation’ with the corpse before walking away and allowing the camera to zoom in on a close-up of her vacant, empty eyes.

The second segment deals with the cast reading letters of sexual fantasies written by anonymous authors that isn’t as titillating as it sounds. The third segment deals with a man who has become bored with his sex life and wants his reluctant girlfriend to try out some new fetishes. This segment is particularly boring because during the time the couple is having sex the viewer is treated to watching three minutes of a matted picture of a city skyscraper instead.

After this there is a skit dealing with a conservative couple inviting over some swingers as well as a segment dealing with an examination done at a doctor’s office, which is has a vaudeville theme and comes complete with cheesy cartoon sound effects.

There was a time when the mention of sex or nudity shown of any kind would be deemed ‘controversial’, but that period is long gone and this insipid thing hasn’t aged well at all. In fact there are old episodes of the ‘Love Boat’ that are more provocative and funnier than anything you’ll see here.

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My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Jacques Levy

Studio: Cinemation Industries

Available: DVD (out-of-print)

Coming Apart (1969)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psychiatrist secretly films people.

Rip Torn plays a psychiatrist living in a Manhattan apartment who has a camera secretly film everything that goes on there. Many of his female patients including Joann (Sally Kirkland) talk about their intimate desires and his ex-wife Monica (Viveca Lindfors) shares her darkest secrets thinking he is the only one hearing it, but instead a glass box resembling an antique camera sits in the living room and takes it all down.

The film’s concept is novel and if executed in a slightly better manner could’ve been brilliant. Without a doubt it breaks all the old filmmaking conventions and was year’s ahead-of-its-time. The sexual openness of its characters and tawdry subject matter make it quite voyeuristic and real. The actors have an amazingly natural quality to their delivery giving one the idea that it was ad-libbed when in actuality it wasn’t.

Kirland gives an emotionally over-the-top performance that is both remarkable and riveting. Her meltdown at the end in which she proceeds in slow motion to tear up the apartment is quite memorable and the best part of the whole film.

Writer/director Milton Moses Ginsberg manages to keep things relatively fresh by continuously introducing situations that become increasingly more provocative including a party that turns into a sex orgy and explicit love making between Torn and Kirkland that could almost be considered pornographic. There’s even an interesting scene involving a young lady looking to be barely 18 coming to the apartment with her baby in a carriage and propositioning herself to Torn and then having the two make love on the floor while the baby, still in the carriage, cries next to them. There is also a segment featuring recorded phone conversations that Joe has with his fellow psychiatrists that I found to be revealing as well.

Unfortunately despite these creative efforts the film is agonizingly boring to sit through. No matter what is going on in the scene the viewer is still forced to stare at the same wall, same mirror, and same skyline for almost two-hours. The scenes needed to be broken up with cutaways that would’ve taken the viewer out of the apartment and given them some other visual element to look at. Simply turning on a camera that’s nailed to the floor and then filming whatever happens in front of it is not a movie, but more like C-Span and the ultimate result is a failed experiment lacking the necessary cinematic touches that would have made it come off as a fluid whole.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Milton Moses Ginsberg

Studio: Kaleidoscope Films

Available: DVD

Harrad Summer (1974)

harrad summer

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bringing sexual liberation home.

The school year is over and now the students of Harrad, which is the college that teaches and promotes open sexuality, go home for the summer and put what they’ve learned into action in their everyday lives. Like in the first film this sequel focuses on just four of the students who find that their parents and friends are not as broad minded as they are, which causes friction in not only their relations with them, but with each other as well.

This film for the most part works surprisingly well. Director Steven Hilliard Stern takes more of a playful approach to the material and mixes in some funny moments that overall are quite entertaining. The wide variety of locales elevates the stagnant feeling that the first one had and it also manages to address a wider variety of issues.

The story is broken up into three segments with each one focusing on the student’s home lives as they visit each of their parents for 2-weeks at a time as a group. The first part, which deals with Stanley’s (Robert Reiser) folks isn’t too interesting and is fortunately pretty brief. The visit to Harry’s (Richard Doran) is the most comical and the film’s highlight while Stanley’s conflicts with Sheila’s (Laurie Walters) father (Walter Brooke) during their visit to her folks seem contrived and pointless. The film never manages to get to Beth’s (Victoria Thompson) parents, which is probably just as well.

The film’s biggest drawback is that neither Don Johnson nor Bruno Kirby, who were so good in the first film, reprises their roles here and their absence is sorely missed as  Reiser and Doran don’t have the same acting talents and are quite weak in comparison. Thompson, who was blonde in the first film, now has, with no explanation, jet black hair, which makes her look exactly like her sister and fellow actress Hilary Thompson. Also, Emmaline Henry, who was best known for playing Mrs. Bellows in the ‘60s show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ replaces Tippi Hedren who was unavailable for the sequel and James Whitmore’s role gets taken out completely.

The supporting cast is what gives the film its spark. Comedian Marty Allen, whose hair looks like the ultimate bird’s nest and usually gets more attention than his comic ability, is fun as a drunken party guest. However, Pearl Shear, who plays his wife, is the real scene stealer as an overweight middle-aged woman, who in Mrs. Roper-like fashion, eagerly wants to get involved with the kids and their new found sexual liberation and even takes part in a nudist session with them.

Bill Dana, famous for creating the Jose Jimenez character, is quite good as well playing Harry’s staunchly conservative father who can’t deal with the open sexuality of the younger generation only to surprisingly come around to it at the very end. He also gets the film’s best line when after denying to Harry that he ever had any affairs finally admits “Maybe I did a couple (women) in Vegas and a few in Cleveland, but what else is there to do in Cleveland.”

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Alternate Title: Love All Summer

Released: August 6, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Steven Hilliard Stern

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD

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