The first time I ever saw “Cool Hand Luke” was on cable, on a Sunday evening, edited, and filled with commercials. And yet all of the quality managed to be retained in spite of the obvious differences a network version would possess. And it still managed to earn its place as one of my top ten movies of all time. Possibly one of the greatest movies ever made embodying everything that a good movie for men should be made of. From clever dialogue, male bonding, some of the most memorable sequences ever filmed (Newman really ate fifty eggs?), and social undertones that I take away after every viewing. Lucas Jackson is that embittered war veteran, the man who is considered a war hero and yet hates his country with every inch of his being.
His constant attempts at escape are not so much his journey to break free from his prison, but his mission to ensure staying even longer in a chain gang that’s inadvertently provided him with the companionship and love that he’s sorely needed after ending his service. No prison can hold him, and the world simply doesn’t want him. As well, he refuses to break and conform to the standards, rules, and guidelines of this authority and remains Luke, a man who will not bow to someone simply because they hold his life in their hand with a list of rigid principles. “That was my own little score to settle,” Luke grumbles after explaining why he cut the heads off of parking meters in a drunken tirade one night.
It’s a small but powerful allusion to the man Luke is when we first meet him. His life is in shambles, his past is pointless, and he finds stability in the walls of his prison. What else is there to say about Paul Newman a man whose charisma and utter charms place him as one of the most sympathetic on screen heroes in film? Luke stands as one of the banner performances by Newman. Luke is a man whose ego and stubbornness ultimately becomes his downfall and the reason why his fellow inmates take such sheer awe at his persistence and strength.
Especially in the face of the countless miserable failures he endures throughout the story. George Kennedy almost outdoes Newman in some instances as the alpha male of the chain gang Drag who forms a bond with Luke after he earns his respect. Watching it the fourth time, “Cool Hand Luke” is an incredible film presented in wonderful widescreen and a brilliant upgrade. Get the man boy! Get the man! Still one of my top ten favorite movies of all time, “Cool Hand Luke” is given a great treatment with some informative extras and a picture and sound quality that make Luke seem as fresh now than ever.
As for the DVD, we get a commentary with historian Eric Lax, the author of “Paul Newman: A Celebration” who sheds some insight about the production and some anecdotes about Paul Newman’s involvement with the film. Lax keeps up his end of the bargain here providing some rather fascinating stories for the audience and taking great pains in emphasizing how good looking Newman is. A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke is a great twenty eight minute behind the scenes extra discussing the making of the film and garners some interviews with director Rosenberg, star George Kennedy, writer Pierson and the producers. As well we get a look at the original Theatrical trailer.