HAROLD AND MAUDE got lost in the holiday shuffle when first released in late 1971, but there's much in this oddball film to recommend, including superb performances from the three leads. Harold (Cort) is the son of Mrs. Chasen (Pickles), a wealthy woman who pays little attention to him.
His frequent depressions and lack of friends motivate him to stage increasingly elaborate mock suicides, none of which impress his distracted mother. Fascinated by death and all its trappings, Harold has an old hearse which he drives to funerals at various cemeteries around town. At two successive
services, he meets Maude (Gordon), a 79-year-old concentration camp survivor who is as thrilled with life as he is with death. A classic free spirit, she is the polar opposite of the solemn Harold. Nonetheless they become great pals, and she instills in him a desire to live, to spread his wings,
to enjoy his brief time on earth. As time passes, they share several wacky adventures and their friendship blossoms into love--much to the alarm of Harold's mother.
This is a doggedly eccentric film which some will reject out of hand. Others will find it profundly moving and life affirming. Not surprisingly it became one of the major cult films on college campuses in the 1970s. This film was originated as a 20-minute script written as a graduate thesis by
UCLA student Higgins. He later showed it to his landlady, Lewis, the wife of a film producer, and the two formed their own production company to make the film. Higgins went on to become a writer-director best known for films such as FOUL PLAY, NINE TO FIVE, and THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS.
He died in 1988 from AIDS complications.
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