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Paul Newman was known as a Hollywood legend, and it's films such as this that really cement this accolade. Cool hand Luke sees not only a great performance from him, but also a memorable film in all ways. It sparked off a number of prison films, from legendary movies such as The Shawshank Redemption (based on a tale written by Stephen King) to dramas such as Prison Break. These two I have seen, but watching Cool Hand Luke was something else indeed.
Cinema is full of characters who try to go against the system, and when you get an underdog, it's hard not to back him. newman stars as Luke, jailed for (drunkenly) cutting the heads off parking meters and trying to take the money out of them. Upon his arrival in jail, he keeps his head down, but soon crosses paths with head inmate Dragline (an Oscar winning George Kennedy). However, after taking a beating in a controlled boxing fight with Dragline, Luke's respect goes up and up, and a card game soon earns him the nickname 'Cool Hand Luke'. The film then chronicles Luke's life behind bars.
It's a film that has all the elements of a good prison film: the escape attempts; the vicious warden/captain; the sinister guards; the visit from the sick mother; the yearning for women; and of course the psychological and physical battering that the heat and the conditions can dish out. What shines through here though is Newman and Kennedy's performances. Newman's smile is one that is well known through Hollywood, and it's well used here. He exudes charisma on screen, and you have to imagine that some of the scenes where the inmates are hanging on his every word are as much part of the actors' reactions as they are scripted.
Visually, it's expertly done. The direction from Stuart Rosenberg leaves little to be desired, with great use of the Guard in Black's mirrored sunglasses to show us things going on in the reflection, the use of the darkness during some escapes, and also the closeups and panning shots that can have such a big effect. The music also adds strength to the film, with powerful notes and the constant guitar playing of the inmates helping with the atmosphere. Newman himself gives one particularly powerful emotional performance after a punishment from the Captain, and this is another point to mention. Strother Martin's Captain is very calm talking and acts like he wants to help the prisoners learn from their mistakes, and his methods of doing so are quite sadistic, yet the delivery of the performance is very calm and controlled, leading to an even more sadistic impression. There is only one moment of temper flaring up, at which point he calms down and utters the line that Newman will repeat for it to become one of the better known lines in Hollywood: 'What we have here is a failure to communicate.' Instantly memorable, and it still sticks in my mind now.
Luke's control and calmness throughout his incarceration is what makes the film so watchable. You keep thinking that at some point he has to crack, and you wonder whether this is justa nother bum who is down on his life and couldn't care less. Then, all of a sudden, it's like a switch is flicked, there's an escape attempt, and you sit up in your seat. Before you realise it, though, you're back in it and relaxed again, yet still riveted to the screen.
Powerfully made, and excellently acted, this is one film I was never really that keen on watching. Now I have, though, it's one I'll be keen to watch again and again, if only to watch the interaction between Newman and Kennedy, the little facial expressions and the controlled pace of the film. Highly recommended.
Cool Hand Luke is a 1967 action film in the prison drama/prison escape attempt genre.
It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and is based on the book of the same name by Donn Pearce. Donn Pearce served two years on an American prison "chain gang" and much of this film echoes some of the experiences he had during that time.
(Pearce can be seen in the film playing a small part of a convict called "Sailor", so look out for that.)
The film stars Paul Newman as "Cool Hand" Luke and George Kennedy as a fellow chain gang prisoner called "Dragline". Kennedy won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Newman was a nominee as Best Actor and the film was also nominated in The Best Music, Best Writing and best Screenplay Adaptation categories.
The chain gang regime is very tough and working in the fields in sweltering conditions under the constant guard of armed officers is a torrid existence.
Luke is doing time for cutting the heads off of parking meters and stealing the cash. He is a cocky fellow who from day one has big ideas about escaping. Kennedy's character "Dragline" is the prison tough guy, a big brute of a man and doesn't take kindly to this cocky upstart being on his "turf". So fisticuffs are inevitable and massively outmatched physically Luke takes a real beating but every time he gets knocked down, however bruised and exhausted he is he still gets right back up again to receive more punishment from the fists of Dragline.
After this show of great heart and bravery Dragline gains a new found respect for Luke and they go on to become friends and cohorts.
Luke also gets up to some crazy things like trying to eat 50 hard boiled eggs in an egg eating competition and this further enhances his reputation with fellow inmates.
The film shows Luke's various escape attempts from the prison. After one successful attempt the prisoners received a postcard from him showing a picture of him having a great time with some beautiful girls ("broads") on his arm. When later recaptured he admits that the picture was a forgery and this loses him a lot of respect from fellow inmates who had him up as some kind of hero who had escaped and made good, but now to many of them he was a fraud and just another bum back on the chain gang.
As a punishment for that escape the guards set out to break his spirit and his will by making him dig a big hole in the prison courtyard and then telling him to fill it back in, then dig it, fill it again etc.
Whilst doing this digging for the whole day and long into the night he appears to be a broken, weak and defeated man having once been a smiling, positive, cocky optimist whom others looked up to.
The other prisoners look on as he digs and are now ashamed of him and dismiss him as a worthless loser.
The film up until this point has already been very good, superbly acted and full of action, but now is where it gets really interesting.
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET THEN PLEASE STOP READING NOW AS IT WILL SPOIL IT FOR YOU. I can tell you though that this film is rated as the 121st best of all time. I rate it at number 3 in my own ratings, and that The United States Library Of Congress have permanently preserved it deeming it as a film of extreme cultural importance.
Some people's interpretations of what happens next differ but my interpretation is that although Luke was obviously disappointed at being captured and in severe pain and distress during the digging punishment, it was in fact an act because he figured that giving the impression of being a broken man who had given up would afford him the best opportunity of taking the guards by surprise and attempting yet another escape.
This act continues for a little while longer in the film whereby he acts in an ultra subservient manner towards the prison guards in a way that the weakest and most vulnerable of prisoners would do.
I don't want to spoil the film completely for those who have yet to see it but have read on, so I will tell you that Luke and Dragline attempt an escape together. This is another gripping and dramatic part of the film which you will find out the result of when you watch it.
This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen which is why it is my 3rd best of all time.
"What we've got here is... failure to communicate."
Paul Newman plays Luke, an impulsive unconformist imprisoned in a Florida camp under the rule of the Captain (Strother Martin), a place of hard labour out on the chain gang and the rule of rough knuckle inside its barbed fences.
Surrounded by adulterers and murderers, his crime of cutting off the tops of parking meters while drunk, and being the new lad in the camp, puts him at the bottom of the pecking order.
At the top is Dragline, played by George Kennedy, who rules the roost with his beef and muscle, but as time goes on he, like the others, comes to respect Luke for his consistent disobedience to the system, which eventually turns to hero-worship.
It isn't until Luke attempts to escape that he faces the true challenge of remaining unbroken against the hard-edged guardians.
Superbly directed by Stuart Rosenburg, this exercise in one-man-against-the-system is gritty and down-to-earth, very much a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" set in a prison.
Although "Cool Hand Luke" doesn't have as much of the heart or the horror of the 1975 Jack Nicholson flick, it is still powerful in its characterisation and cinematography.
It is easy to see how much of this went on to influence the Coen brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", with its use of the silent warden in black, with his reflective-glasses, among other chain-gang references and camera shots.
The close-up work of the reflections through the warden's glasses are amazing, and hint at a true evil underneath, something that would be extended by the Coens with their version: Daniel von Bargen as Sheriff Cooley a.k.a. The Devil.
Meanwhile, Strother Martin's Captain works well as the head honcho of the prison camp, watching over the inmates from his rocking chair, speaking in his squeaky Southern drawl.
We're never quite sure how absolutely ruthless he is until the final scenes, but there's also the feeling that, well, he gives the inmates the chance.
If they screw up, that's there problem.
Hence, a failure to communicate.
As an aside, in 1969 Strother managed to rack up a trio of westerns, including joining John Wayne on "True Grit", appearing in Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch", and linking up with Paul Newman again on "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".
The main supporting character here, however, and star of the show, is George Kennedy's Dragline who plays him excellently as the character slowly changes from harsh hatred of Luke's manner, to grudging respect, to finally being almost his willing servant.
This change in character is amazing to watch, and it's accompanied by Luke's complete disgust - can't these people think for themselves anymore?
Certainly, there's more to George Kennedy than the "Airport" and "Naked Gun" series, and I'd recommend the early "Charade" or "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" with Jeff Bridges to pick up on a pair of classic performances.
Finally, there's Paul Newman himself, and after watching "The Hustler" recently, all I hoped was that he wouldn't grin so much!
Thankfully, he calmed himself down a little, and the role is very mature and well-acted, his grin being a major facet of his character, described as having the grin of a baby but the bite of a 'gator.
It's difficult to relate to Newman's character, however, as his constant beatings and punishments make him appear almost super-human, especially when he manages to eat fifty boiled eggs in an hour as part of a wager.
The viewer is instead more likely to relate to the other inmates in their adoration of this man, rather than in the man himself, so the actual struggle of the character is more watched from a distance than experienced.
A problem I had was that the Southern drawl used by some of the characters was often too difficult for me to follow, as for some of them it's very garbled, and then there were scenes of a very sweaty George Kennedy fantasising about naked women, which was a little difficult to watch.
The main success story here is in the direction and hence the atmosphere of the film, as the tedium and exhaustion of the chain gang, the life and experiences in the prison camp's barracks, and the ever-watchful guardians, all really help in bringing the film to life.
Definitely something to watch for Paul Newman and George Kennedy fans, as well as those who liked "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
Perhaps not overly powerful as a film, but certainly entertaining.
[There's a Region 4 DVD version of this on cdwow.com for £6.99, otherwise a play.com Region 2 will set you back £11.99 (at time of writing).]
First of all I wanted to review this movie because this is one of my all time favorites, I've loved that film ever since I watched it for the first time when I was 14!
Luke Jackson aka Cool Hand Luke is sent to correctional jail in 1948 (prisoner number 37) but intends to live his life as he pleases, not willing to conform to the prison rules, he escapes (several times), he wants to be free, because he wants to see his dying mother, he escapes simply because he doesn't belong there, he is a free spirit.
A strong relationship will build between the inmates, the strongest of all with Dragline (George Kennedy)
Some of the best moments include Luke eating 50 eggs as a bet or sexy Joy Harmon washing her car in front of all the prisoners while they are digging under the sun.. one of them say:
"She ain't got nothin' but, nothin' but one safety pin holdin' that thing on. Come on safety pin, POP. Come on baby, POP."
This is a masterpiece in many respects, the scenario is outstanding and the actors (mainly Paul Newman and George Kennedy) are just at their best (Kennedy will get an Oscar and a Golden Laurel for Best Actor in a Supporting Role).
There is certain aura emaning from the great Paul Newman, it feels like he is oozing with confidence and that my friends is Cool Hand Luke. I think this is exactly how the director (Stuart Rosenberg) wanted it ... if not, the final result is probably better than he ever expected because this 2 hour movie makes you feel for the main character in many ways...funny, charming, cool, brilliant, painful are all adjectives you will go through when watching this prison drama.
Moreover this movie is one of the great films about the carceral environment (Brubaker, Shawshank Redemption...) so for anyone of you who loves that subject, you just can't go wrong if you buy this DVD, you will simply love it!
Also note another famous name in the cast: Dennis Hopper.
Newman is as charismatic as ever and you'll feel drawn to him.
I would rate this as a must have .. nothing less!
Paul Newman (Old Blue Eyes) stars as Cool Hand Luke Jackson, a war hero, who gets himself in trouble with the law, and is repeatedly beaten both mentally and physically savagely by the main boss of the prison he is in. The main boss hates Luke for several reasons: Everyone likes Luke. He is the typical rebel , yet he has a certain aura around that people love. Even the people working in the prison like Luke. The boss also hates Luke, because he keeps escaping out of prison, which makes the prison's security and himself look bad. The movie from beginning to end, is one of the entertaining and powerful movies by Newman. Throughout the movie, we see Luke's exploits including his status as "Cool Hand" which basically says that he can do anything. There is no better scene that shows this that Luke's bet that can he eat 50 eggs in one hour. This scene is terrific and humorous to watch, time and time again. George Kennedy plays Greg Dragline, Luke's best friend and prison inmante. Dragline's love of Luke is evident through the whole movie. Whenever, Luke is mistreated Dragline is there to try to pick up his spirits. Whenever, Luke is beaten severely for trying to escape the prison, Dragline is one of the first friends that is there to pick him up and attend to him. Then of course, this Oscar worthy film has the memorable tunes and lines that all audiences all familiar with: "What We Got Here is a familiar to Communicate" is Paul Newman, legendary and household line that critics and audiences remember. This line has also been used in over a hundred, movies and tv shows including comedies, crime drama movies and much more. The line is a piece of cult phenomena and America which symobolizes a bad situation. Paul Newman was nominated for Best Actor for this film, but didn't win. Newman over his career has been nominated over 10 times for this aw
ard: "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" , "Malice", "Nobody's Fool", are several of the great movies that NewMan has been nominated for. "Cool Hand Luke" stands as one of the American movies ever made. It represents the abusive and mistreatment that a couple of prisons have. It also represents an intelligent and popular fellow who all through his life had one bad situation after another, yet like Greg points "Ah Luke, always had that great smile." Luke's character in a way is a reflection on individuals like himself, whose life have been filled with pain and aggravation yet people like these never give up. However of course Luke himself never sees himself as a role model, during a couple of scenes he does give hints that his character is not a role model nor should be imitated. Newman is always at his best, I have never really seen a bad Newman flick even his new ones like "Road to Perdition" with Tom Hanks. Taken from a novel by Donn Pearce and directed by Stuart Rosenberg this film is a bonified classic.
A motley crew of prisoners, living in a deep south prison dormitory with strict rules, and working on the roads 5 days a week, "Cool Hand Luke" is a great character study of prisoners. Newman plays Luke, who is in for "cutting heads off parking meters." During a poker game early in the film, when Luke wins the hand with 'nothing' but a good bluff, he says, "Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand." Thus the name of the movie. George Kennedy plays 'Dragline', the large, tough guy who can't read, and who befriends Luke after their fight. It appears that he simply has a lot of respect for Luke, who isn't intimidated by anything, even prison. I just saw "Chicken Run", and Luke's approach is like "Ginger's" - escape, get caught, get thrown into solitary, then back to the prison yard, then escape again. The first escape, sawed a hole in the dorm floor and slipped out at night. The second, got permission to go behind a bush to relieve himself then ran for it. The third, after becoming totally 'compliant', he drives off in a state truck after retrieving the snapping turtle just shot by one of the guards. This film also coined the familiar phrase, "What we have here is a failure to communicate", after Luke's second capture. Then , at the end, when they had him cornered for a third time, in the church doorway, he repeats the line to the cops, with a big grin, then he gets shot, and dies in the police car on the long ride back to the prison hospital. There is a short ending scene, the crew working near the church, and Dragline telling them that's where he and Luke got caught. Luke in his death became a legend to them, the prisoner who wouldn't accept his plight. The film also has lots of humor. During the first escape, the police car comes back, they solemly open the trunk, and pick up a lifeless bloodhound, "run t
o death chasing Luke" who still had not been caught. During a day digging roadside ditches, the prisoners are treated agonizingly to a cute blonde bimbo in a gauze dress washing her car right in front of them, praying that the one safety pin holding her dress over her busom would pop open. Then there was the bet that Luke couldn't eat 50 boiled eggs in one hour, including the second-by-second countdown with only one egg to go! Today, comparing it to so many great films of the past 20 years or so, I rate it a solid "8" of 10. Paul Newman is such a good actor, you almost forget he is acting. The whole film reminded me also of the fairly recent "Life" with Eddie Murphy, a movie that also focuses on the lives of the prisoners in prison.
Paul newman had an acadamy award nomination for this effort and the jury overlooked him...Ah well George Kennady won the oscar for best supporting actor, For me this is George's film and when he join's all the other great stars in the sky i feel this is the role that he should be remembered by. Anyway the story....Newman (luke) finds himself in prison after destoring a number of parking meters(good on ya)...anyway this prison is in deep south of the U.S. Chain gangs are the order of the day, George Kennady (Dragline)is what we british folk would call "The Daddy", a moutain of a man all hot and sweaty just waiting to take the head off the next guy who gets on his tits. At first these two players are on course for a show down...this takes place in the form of a southern style boxing match...Needless to say Newman gets a right kicking,however this is the point where a bit of male-bonding comes into effect. After this showdown the film eases down into a more pleasant tale...often very funny, the hilarious egg eating contest is unforgetable.... This however is short lived and the story takes a sharp turn towards tragady. One of the things that sticks out for me is how damm hot it seemed to be all the inmates soaking wet all the time....for myself a few hours in this place and i'd be a gonner for sure. With all the solid drama that goes on in these places i wonder why very few movies take place in this environment. 1967 this masterpiece was made and we all had to wait until Shawshank Redemption came along "just plain bonkers" Cool hand luke is a true great and should be seen. P.S...The guy who wrote the novel was a reformed safecraker and had served time in such a prison(he should know eh?)
Cool Hand Luke is probably the most famous prison chain gang film ever made, and watching it recently will show just how much O Brother Where Art Thou is paying homage to it. Paul Newman is the prisoner who won't comform and who won't be broken, but the wardens have other ideas. The movie is quite slow in places, and the acting a bit dud. Having said that, George Kennedy did win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and the cinematography does look stunning. You get the feeling that James Dean would have taken the place of Newman if he was alive. Cool Hand Luke is a classic sixties film that has lost most of its impact but will still be enjoyed, and if you enjoy Paul Newman this is one of his better ones.
Paul Newman outdoes himself in his role as a man sent to prison and life on a chain gang for having smashed up some parking meters while drunk. He plays a rebel, a loser, a convict. But behind the role and throughout the movie, there is a running religious theme, both complex and simple. You don’t have to be terribly spiritual to recognize the influence of Christian storytelling on this movie. Here are some of the religious aspects: The name itself. Luke. The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus as a rebel, struggling against Jewish law, smashing those he felt to be hypocrits. What better symbol of government authority than a simple parking meter? What more obvious an example of the control of government and our mindless acceptance of it in our everyday lives? (And no, I’m not proposing we go out and tear them all down.) The slide toward destruction. You know throughout the movie that Luke is on a downward spiral and things are not going to be okay. He seems to be either unwilling or unable to stop it; his followers, who are weak, caught up in themselves, haven’t got a hint about anything going on and are unable to help him. At one point, as he tries to accommodate the bosses, his followers desert and turn on him. Only in death do they adore him, only after he has made the ultimate sacrifice. Just go along: Luke is repeatedly reminded by the bosses that he’s “gotta get your mind right!”. All he has to do to get along is to go along. Give up his silly ideas of resistance, escape, challenging the bosses, and his life will be fine. He can’t; Jesus couldn’t. He resists to the very end, which occurs in a church. He has made his earthly escape. Luke lives: After Luke is shot and killed, his pal, played by George Kennedy, promises to remember him and is shown telling stories about Luke’s exploits to other inmates as they gather around the speaker. The
Kennedy character promises to keep on telling Luke’s story, just as the apostles promise to remember Jesus. As the movie fades, the camera moves into an aerial shot of the crossroads where the chain gangs have been working. Even deeper, there’s the famous scene with Newman forced to dig and redig a pit as punishment. The boss at one point says, in a famous line of the movie, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Much of Judeo-Christian thought revolves around the idea of God talking with his followers. So, too, this short line is a major underlying theme of this movie. The prisoners are limited to communicating only essential information. The authorities speak only to issue orders. The ideal style of communication doesn't exist.
Paul newman plays his best role in this film. Having been caught stealing from a Parking meter, he is sentenced to the chain gang. Luke Jackson, a non conformist now finds himself struggling to come to terms with life the "Bosses" who rule with iron fists. Lukes first dabble with danger, is when he enters the prison, and almost immediatly finds himself in a fight with Dragline, the current "leader" of the prisoners. It is obvious from the offing, that Luke is doomed to lose this fight, given the pure stature of Drag. However this is not taking into account the resillience of Luke. Punch after punch Luke gets up, well past any one else would have given up, Luke refuses, he will not be beaten. This earns him the respect of both Drag and the fellow prisoners. They like his spirit. That is the theme throughout the film. For me the most poigniant part, is when the men are forced to lay a road. Usually they are worked from dusk till dawn by a particulary nasty officer, who never takes off his glasses. Luke drums up the spirit of the men, telling them that the faster they do the road, the more rest they will have at the end of the day. The men become faster and faster, and happier at the prosepect of pulling one over the officer, who is left trailing behind checking the road. They finsih in record time. Luke will take up any challenge to prove himself, including the famous 50 hard boiled eggs contest!! Even if it did make him VERY ill! Desperate to leave, he excapes several times, as his intelligence is far superior to the officers, but unfortunatly he keeps getting caught. But he has a vivid imagination, and entertains hi s fellow inmates, with his tales of women and booze, to while away the loneliness. After another excape attempt, Luke sends them a copy of Outdoor Life magazine, with a picture of himself in a suit and bowtie, with his arm around a beautiful woman. The men are elat
ed to see him so happy but are brought crashing down to earth when they realise that, Luke is back again!!! It was all a scam. he just wantd them to be happy. Finally, after much resistence, he loses his spirit when he is made to dig and redig a hole after 24 hours of work straight throught with no break, he has to do this for hours, days even. Too exhausted to do anymore he finally tells the boss " oh god, I pray to god, don't you hit me no more", Boss paul asks him, "you got your mind right Luke?" This gives him the signal to end the torure. His spirit broken, his body exhausted, he is taken back to his room, only to be met with disgust by his inmates who had been feeding off his strength. He has none left to share anymore. Luke begins his new role as a subservient slave to the bosses, fetching and carrying for the bosses to the disgust of his fellow men, who hate to see him like this. He was their hero. But luke is no ordinary boy, and although his sprit was broken, he can start again! and seizes his next oppotunity to excape. The film ends very sadly but ends with that ole coolhand Luke smile! A brilliant film about one mans struggle as a loner to conform to what the "bosses" want from him as well as the inmates. Not to be missed
The story of a prisoner who keeps trying to escape and eventually does, albeit to the greater freedom of the world beyond. Hard labour, chain gangs, cruel warders, terrible conditions and victimisation, he still keeps trying. Throughout the film there are songs played but the most memorable is Plastic Jesus. Try getting that out of your head once you've heard it a few times, I was singing it for days after I'd seen the film. Who can fail to like Newman with his drop dead gorgeous blue eyes and impish grin. An excellent film of endurance and comradship. Watch it if you can.
Cool Hand Luke is one of Paul Newman's best films in which we see him playing the role of a prisoner on a chain gang. The film plays on the idea of indiviuality, we see Luke bucking the system and performing spectacular feats every inch of the film whilst his inmates worship him and live through his actions rather than his own. Ther is a strong supporting cast and a number of lines and scenes which have become deeply imbedded in Hollywood's history, such as the famous egg eating sequence in which Luke is challenged to eat 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour. This film is a must see for all budding film buffs and all fans of Newman.
In this classic Southern prison drama, social misfit Lucas Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) is incarcerated for a petty crime and sentenced to a chain gang. Luke is a sullen and laconic young man whose cool defiance of the sadistic warden and bullying inmates earns him the title Cool Hand Luke. But as the prisoners' respect for Luke grows into hero worship, he finds that he must risk everything in order to live up to their expectations. Filled with dozens of memorable scenes (Luke eating 50 eggs) and quotable lines (What we have here is a failure to communicate), COOL HAND LUKE is a testament to excellent screenwriting (Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson) and Newman's charm and skill as an actor. The film also features an outstanding supporting cast that includes George Kennedy, Strother Martin, and early screen appearances by Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton.