I was cleaning out some boxes of old books in the garage and I came upon the book The Harrad Experiment. What a flashback.
It was a hot book when it came out in the mid-1960s. Apparently, it was first sold by mail through an ad in Playboy. My Bantam paperback came out a few years later. It was written by Robert Rimmer.
It’s about a fictional Harrad College where the students learn about sexuality and experiment with each other. This social experiment encourages premarital living arrangements. The students study human relations, sex, history, philosophy, anatomy, existentialism, art, music, Zen, politics. Four of the students record their thoughts regularly for four years and their diaries make up the novel’s story.
The original book more than three million copies. It was definitely one of those books that got passed around. I read it in high school and it certainly was my fantasy version of what college might be. The book was all over the place on drug store racks, and book stores. It’s no surprise that in an episode of TV’s The Wonder Years Kevin’s hippie older sister is reading it during the family’s vacation.
The Harrad Experiment 25th anniversary edition was published with some additional materials (an epilogue describing the Harrad/Premar Solution, a updated bibliography of books on the premises outlined in Harrad, and Robert Rimmer’s autobiography). It’s a real 60s time capsule.
From what I could find, most of Rimmer’s writing was critical of the assumption of monogamy and promoted living arrangements which would be labeled polyamorous or polyfidelitous.
The Harrad Experiment film version came out in 1973 when free love and the sexual revolution were in full flower. The movie stars James Whitmore and Tippi Hedren (known from Hitchcock’s The Birds) as the married couple who run the school. Students included a young Don Johnson (who sings the ending song “It’s Not Over”) and a pretty famous nude scene by Laurie Walters (Joanie on Eight Is Enough!) and an uncredited appearance by a 14 year-old Melanie Griffith (Tippi is her mom) in one of her first film roles. The movie was co-scripted by Ted Cassidy who played Lurch on The Addams Family. He also makes a cameo appearance in a diner scene.
More Harrad connections – One of my local New York TV stations back then was WOR channel 9 which ran a LOT of movies. A lot of oddball movies – plenty of 1950s B-films and horror. Their 8-to-10pm Million Dollar Movie ran some strange films like Alice, Sweet Alice (a slasher set in Paterson, New Jersey in the early 1960s). They ran Sextette – a 1978 camp classic comedy/musical motion picture that was Mae West’s last film. That film’s cast includes Timothy Dalton, Dom DeLuise, Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, George Hamilton, Alice Cooper, Walter Pidgeon, Rona Barrett, Regis Philbin and George Raft.
Crazy Channel 9 also aired an uncut Harrad Experiment in 1986, nude scenes and all. The book/movie keeps popping up in my life.
There was a Harrad Summer film too, if you want to plan a double feature. But to bring this up to date, it appears that somehow the film slipped into the public domain. I found all 97 minutes on Google video and that site includes a link to an uncut version ripped from the video as a Divx download.
If you lived through the 60/70s, you might want to relive part of it. If you missed it, you might want a sample.