I have never liked Don Johnson. I have always thought of him as an arrogant asshole. I have no particular reason for feeling this way. I thought about this for decades. Then I was going through a pile of old movies and came across The Harrad Experiment with Don and Tippi Hedron who would later become his mother-in-law.
Harrad was the story of an experiment in relationship. College students were given the opportunity to experience non-monogamy and all of its advantages and challenges and also to question monogamy and all of its givens. The arrangement seemed like Paradise to me, but as was the case of another story, Paradise had a serpent set upon ruining it all.
Johnson was the serpent. Frankly, I happen to know that the serpent in the other story got a bad rap. It was a case of "old gods new devils." Maybe I was giving Johnson a bad rap.
He was the pretty boy who slimed his way from conquest to conquest and eventually set his sites on Tippi, the wife of the guy running the program. Tippi put him in his place in a delightfully embarrassing way. I'll leave you to obtain a copy and watch that scene unfold for you.
Non-monogamy, polyamory, is delightful and elegant, but competition has the capacity of ruining it. Why mess up Paradise? Learn to share well and spread the love.
For all Harrad's platitudinous and overly-simplistic treatment of jealousy, it is the subtext of the inevitability of intergenerational struggle for dominance that leaves the audience feeling hopeful then hopeless in turn.
The films moral compass is James Whitmore as Professor Philip Tenhausen. Today he would be considered either an old pervert looking to get his jollies or Scion of a New Age no doubt running ten thousand dollar weekend retreats in the potential of human sexuality and relationship. In 1962 when the book upon which the movie is based what made and also in 1973 when the film was released, it was not entirely unusual for colleges to conduct such experiments. Think of Kinsey, Masters and Johnson and Tim Leary.
Whitmore plays the old king to Johnson's young Oedipus fighting for dominance and eventually for the sexual interest, if not love of Tippi. The resolution of the issues at hand and movie was typical seventies schlock with Johnson warbling the closing tune "It's Not over" that should have served as a warning, because there was a sequal, Harrad Summer that made this mess look like it had been penned by Sophocles.