Harold and Maude (1971)

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Released 3-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Black Comedy Theatrical Trailer-2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 87:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hal Ashby
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Bud Cort
Ruth Gordon
Vivian Pickles
Charles Tyner
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Cat Stevens
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
German
English
Spanish
French
Italian
Dutch
Norwegian
Swedish
Turkish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Harold is obsessed with death;  specifically his own and at his own hand. When not acting-out his own demise (much to his mother's horror), the young 20 year old spends his time attending funerals of people he didn't know. He even buys a hearse to complete the whole facade macabre. Ever since he was mistakenly reported killed in a school chemistry lab accident and after seeing his mother's reaction to the news, Harold (Bud CortM*A*S*H: 1970), who comes from wealthy and privileged parentage, has come to the conclusion that it's much more interesting to be dead than alive. His mother tries to help him out of his obsession with death in her own way by sending Harold to a psychiatrist and also having him speak to his uncle Victor, who is a officer in the army. None of this seems to help, though, and Harold continues on as always. Even the gift of a new Jaguar from his mother doesn't seem to help and you just have to see what Harold does to his new car (you will laugh, trust me). In desperation, Harold's mother enrols him into a computer dating service in the hope that perhaps love can distract him from his preoccupation with death. Instead, this inspires more outrageous enactments of death and dismemberment which often take place in the presence of Harold's computer-matched dates, much to their horror (and our amusement). Harold seems totally fixated on death and nothing seems to be able to break the hold it has on him until...

    Enter: Maude. While she is nearing her 80th birthday, Maude (Ruth GordonRosemary's Baby: 1968) has a spark of life about her that defies her age. She spends her time painting, posing nude for sculptors, tending to her plants and attending funerals of people she doesn't know. Over the course of several funerals, Harold and Maude meet and strike up an unusual friendship, and as time goes on the preoccupation that Harold has with death slowly begins to change into a thirst for life.

    This film is an all-time favourite of this reviewer, so this review will be somewhat biased toward the positive. Made and set in the early 70s and directed by Hal Ashby (Coming Home: 1978) this film actually stands the test of time much better than expected. While the clothes and talk of "the draft" betray its early 70s setting, this film is almost timeless with its witty dialogue and fantastic performances, especially by Ruth Gordon whose Hollywood career is made up not only of acting credits (she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Rosemary's Baby in 1968), but also many screenwriting credits during the 40s and 50s including Adam's Rib: 1949 which she co-wrote with husband Garson Kanin. Despite some reviewers criticizing Bud Cort's performance as flat, this reviewer found his style to be in perfect keeping with the character:  sombre, morose, morbid, and flat. In a word: death, as it was meant to be. He would later be offered the main role of R. P. McMurphy in the film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; a role he turned down in fear of being typecast as a "crazy man". Jack Nicholson later took on the role and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that being typecast as crazy isn't always a bad thing.

    The photography in this film is wonderfully done by cinematographer John A. Alonzo whose later work would include Chinatown: 1974 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 1977 among numerous others. Also adding positively to the film are many songs from (folk?) performer Cat Stevens. His songs are upbeat and fit the film so well that this movie would not stand as the classic it is without them.

    This is a truly wonderful film that hopefully will outgrow its "cult black comedy" status and be recognized for the real classic it is. Highly Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    While what we have presented here is not what you would call reference quality, it is probably the best this film has looked since its theatrical release.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which differs slightly from the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. This film was originally filmed near full frame using the spherical process (1.37:1) which is then matted into the desired theatrical aspect ratio which in this case was 1.85:1, which adequately displays John A. Alonzo's beautiful cinematography.

    For a film of this age and calibre, the level of sharpness is reasonable. There are some focus issues during the feature but these seem to be intended by the director with probable use of soft focus or "frost lens" technique on some of the scenes in the movie. Shadow detail is lacking at times with some of the many darker scenes being a sea of black despite there being few night scenes in the picture. One would have thought these scenes would have revealed more detail than is present here, although this is not uncommon with a title of this age and without restoration. Low level noise is kept at bay.

    Colour is fairly natural with mostly earthy tones (brown, beige, maroon) used, as is usually the case with films of this era. There seems to be little colour loss due to age and the film has withstood the tests of time well.

    MPEG artefacts are thankfully absent during this presentation with pixelization and macro blocking not seen at all. Aliasing is only minor with examples being at 8:41 and 46:35. Otherwise, aliasing is not too frequent and only really noticeable if you are really looking for it. Not missing is the all-too-commonly seen edge enhancement which can be seen at 20:48, 39:22 and 47:23 among other places. There is a fair amount of grain visible during this feature but it is not so pervasive as to be a distraction. There are the usual nicks and fleck and scratches common with older unrestored films, but again these are not so bad as to detract from the film.

    There are several subtitle options available with the English being very close to the spoken word and maintaining the mood and gist of the film, though not word for word.

    This disc is single layered and as such a layer change is not an issue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are 5 audio tracks available with the English track being presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, an improvement over the original mono soundtrack. The sound mix, while being in discrete 5.1, has sound more akin to a very clear ProLogic mix that steers away from the gimmicks and tricks sometimes heard on films that have been upmixed from their original 1.0 mono or 2.0 stereo tracks. The audio mix of this title fits in well with modern audio decoding equipment while preserving rather than overpowering the original feel of the film.

    The quality of the dialogue is very good with an even and clean mix for the spoken word throughout. Sometimes the characters' dialogue can fade into the distance as the camera pulls back to leave the characters also in the distance. This would have been the intention of the director and completely suits the tone and style of the film.

    Audio sync is fairly good with this title although there is some slightly out of sync dialogue at 56:45 and 60:25. These examples are only slight and do not detract too much from the film.

    With the sole exception of a short piece by Tchaikovsky, all of the music heard during this feature is composed and performed by Cat Stevens both solo with guitar and with a band. The music is not a traditional score as such instead being a series of Cat Stevens songs that fit in perfectly with the movie. While this disc presents audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, the musical passages don't take on much of a 5.1 surround or even a stereo feel and instead the music seems split up slightly but evenly and distributed across the front three channels with a little surround backup as well. Despite this, the songs are quite clear with the sound being full frequency. This film would not be anywhere near as good if it had a traditional score in place of Cat Stevens' wonderful contributions.

    As this film has been upmixed from a mono source to Dolby Digital 5.1, we are not treated to a heavily used or aggressive rear channel mix. Instead, the rears take on an appropriate supporting atmospheric role and contribute to the feel of the film without drawing attention to themselves.

    Because of the musical content, the subwoofer is a little more active that the surrounds with a stand-out example being at 9:46 as well as during other musical numbers. The goings-on of the film don't seem to find their way through the subwoofer as much as the musical passages do.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This disc is fairly light-on for extras with only two theatrical trailers on offer.

Menu

    After the initial language set-up and copyright warnings, this disc takes you straight into the film so you'll have to press the "menu" key on your remote to immediately access the disc's limited range of features. The main menu presents the viewer with the following options:     The main menu features an image of Harold and Maude along with some vibrant colours as a background with the various features scattered around the screen. The menu is static, silent and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The Audio Options and Subtitles menus offer just as they describe and are themed similarly to the main menu. They both are static, silent and 16x9 enhanced.

    The Scene Selection presents the viewer with 4 static images of the available 26 chapters with the chapter title listed underneath the images. Blocks of 4 chapters are selectable along the bottom of the screen. This is a static menu, is silent and is 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailers

    This disc offers us two different theatrical trailers.
Theatrical Trailer 1
    The first trailer is a music-only trailer with the Cat Stevens song "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" played in its entirety. This trailer features some takes and scenes that are not contained in the theatrical version. This trailer is presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound with the picture being presented at 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Running time is 2:36.
Theatrical Trailer 2
    The second trailer features dialogue from the movie and is more quickly paced than the first. In common with the first trailer, it features some takes and scenes not seen in the feature. Sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and the image is displayed at 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. Running time is 2:55.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    We have almost the identical package on offer in Region 4 as the one released in Region 1 in mid 2000. Other than the language options and the PAL transfer the two versions are practically identical. The PAL transfer, additional language options and affordability would have to make the R4 version the better choice.

Summary

    Harold And Maude is truly a wonderful film that this reviewer heartily recommends to any unlucky (or perhaps lucky) enough to have missed it after all these years. In fact, I envy first-time viewers of this film as I'd love to go back and see this film again for the first time. All the different elements add up to a great film: acting, cinematography, music, script and direction; all are fantastic. Highly and unreservedly recommended.

    The video quality is watchable although it suffers from the same type of flaws and artefacts that we've come to expect from unrestored titles of this era: nicks and scratches, grain and edge enhancement.

    The audio quality is very good with a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that serves the film well.

    The extras are light on the ground with only 2 theatrical trailers on offer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Saturday, June 29, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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