Easy Rider (1969) showed studio executives that they didn’t need to wear a tie to the office and that there was a huge, untapped youth audience out there, running riot on the nation’s campuses to protest against the Vietnam War.
So Hollywood quickly came over all radical with movies such as Getting Straight (1970) and The Strawberry Statement, in which apathetic college student Simon (Bruce Davison) is turned into a militant and free love advocate when he gets caught up in the activities of a protest group on campus while attempting to land a date with his dream girl, Linda (Kim Darby), who he spots among some student protestors.
Simon joins Linda and her friends in the besieged administration building after being warned prophetically by a student guard that “Once you’re in, you’re in”.
At first, his revolutionary zeal is moderate. He sneaks out daily so as not to miss practice with the rowing crew. But total commitment comes, and with it, an excessively brutal climax which makes its point quickly and then hammers it half to death with riot clubs.
It all ends with a frenzied riot and a stand-off with the National Guard while John Lennon sings Give Peace a Chance. Time capsule stuff.
There are lots of marvellous minor characters, including a “hard-hat” student (Murray MacLeod), who first calls the demonstrators “pinko spades and Mafia acid heads” and then happily joins them, and an efficient, intensely humourless student organiser (Bob Balaban) who is very comic.
The Strawberry Statement – directed by newcomer Stuart Hagmann – was adapted by playwright Israel Horowitz (who appears in the film as Dr Benton) of The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary, the diary kept by James Simon Kunen, a 20-year-old Columbia student, before, during and after the 1968 insurrections on Morningside Heights.
Elliot, the coxswain