Movie of the Week: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Stuart Rosenberg directs Paul Newman, George Kennedy and Strother Martin in this prison drama where a rebellious new inmate at the State Farm becomes a near messiah-like figure to both the convicts and those who must grind him down.

Peeling the tops of parking meters. For drunken laughs. Fuck you, society! VIOLATION! Harry Dean Stanton – a vision of youth. The man with no eyes. “No grab assin” or its a “night in the box!” That lightbulb’s gonna be annoying. Pa Walton’s pale sad butt. Is Dennis Hopper supposed to be retarded in this? Sexy car wash. “Oh boy, she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s driving us crazy, and loving every minute of it!” The hairiest man ever in that shower scene. Dragline punches the shit out of Luke – sometimes its better to lose but keep coming (for your own dignity but the ultimate message of the movie suggests otherwise…) Ballsy poker plays earns new nickname. Shitty family prison visit. Tarmacking to Lalo Schifrin… if you are indentured labour then doing the work at a pace faster than the overseer wants is one way to take pride and ownership of it. 50 hard-boiled eggs! Luke means too much to these men, they feast off his rebellion and sense of freedom. He likewise craves being above them… and his vain need to appear free to one and all is his eventual downfall. Mom’s dead. Mourning in the box. The Great Escape! “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.” Pranks on the bloodhound gang. Photo from Atlantic City. Fixing a hole. The Christ allegories are overplayed, the breaking of Luke is a painful trudge to endure. I know this is one of the greatest rebellion movies ever… up there with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest… but it is fascinating that both text end with their stubbly messiah’s being beaten brainless by the system, and abandoned by the outcasts they momentarily inspire? Hollywood likes spending time with a rule breaker but doesn’t want to actually endorse societal change? Possibly the blue-iest blue film ever made: Conrad Hall irradiates the clear skies, the denim, Newman’s eyes. Ultimate take home- You probably aren’t or cannot be a Cool Hand Luke without killing yourself, you are more likely to find yourself a convict or a boss. If you find yourself in the position where you are a boss, remember Luke’s words; “Nah – calling it your job don’t make it right, Boss.”


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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