COOL HAND LUKE
Posted: Sun, Apr 6 2008 - 21:05 PM
WORDSLINGER'S NOTE: This is Part 2 in a series of reviews I call The Best Damn Movies EVER ... and boy is this one fitting of that description. My intent is to showcase great films that may have slipped the notice of younger filmgoers. If this is you, keep on reading.
Were I to make a list of the 50 greatest films of all time, and another list of my 50 favorite films, the lists would not necessarily match up. There would be a few crossovers, one of which would be ... Cool Hand Luke.
PAUL NEWMAN as ...
Released in 1967, Cool Hand Luke spins the tale of a drifter who is sent to a Florida prison camp after drunkenly cutting the heads off of parking meters. Once there, Luke quickly becomes an inspiration to his fellow inmates, simply because he refuses to submit to the system.
PAUL NEWMAN & GEORGE KENNEDY
Long before the term sticking it to the man entered our vernacular, Luke embodied the statement, heart and soul. It could even be argued that no film character, before or since, has stuck it to the man with such natural born enthusiasm. Although, two others do come to mind. Like Randall P. McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption (both of which deserve to be reviewed under this category), this is very much a tale of The Outsider who comes in and changes all those who come in contact with him.
THE MIRACLE OF THE EGGS
This film is also replete with Christian symbolism -- while only human, Luke performs miracles (if eating 50 eggs is a miracle), is deserted by his disciples, and is killed for following his heart. Messianic imagery abounds, like the scene where Luke is sprawled in cruciform after the 'miracle' of the eggs.
Stephen King's The Green Mile is another film that deftly balances a prison tale with the Christ analogy, but Cool Hand Luke was there first. Luke does not profess any faith, yet many times during the film, he cries out to God, screaming for any sort of sign that He is there and that He cares -- even doing so in the middle of a thunder storm. When asked, "Ain't ya scared of dyin'?" Luke replies: "Dyin'? Boy, He can have this little life any time he wants to. Do ya hear that? Are ya hearin' it? Come on. You're welcome to it, Ol' Timer. Let me know you're up there. Come on ...
"Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it!"
Later in the film, after Luke receives news of his mother's death, he sits on his bunk, gently plucking a banjo, and sings a heartbreaking song called, Plastic Jesus (video clip below).
"I don't care if it rains or freezes ..."
Luke's nickname is coined when after winning a poker hand on a bluff, George Kennedy (Best Supporting Actor 1967) says:
Dragline: Nothin'. A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head. He beat you with nothin'. Just like today when he kept comin' back at me - with nothin'.
Luke: Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
Loaded with quotable dialogue, this film has catch phrases used to this very day. The most popular of which is probably ...
"What we got here is ... failure to communicate."
I don't want to give any more of the plot away to those who have never seen this film ... so I won't. I will say this movie is in dire need of a DVD upgrade. The only release in this format came out in 1995, and had no bonus features other than a theatrical trailer. Warner Brothers should be all over this as ... the film has an all-star cast, many of whom are still alive. Including, Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton, Ralph Waite, Anthony Zerbe, Joe Don Baker, and many others. I thought perhaps last year (2007) we would see a 40th Anniversay Edition, but, alas ... we got nothing.
REPRISE - "What we got here is... a failure to communicate."
Not only one of the best prison films ever made, this is one of the best films, period. I know I don't need to preach to the choir on this, but if you have never seen it, Cool Hand Luke is definitely one to seek out.
Category: Forgotten Classics