Written by Hombre Divertido
An all-star cast, award winning performances, and legendary quotes. Does it get any better than this? This is the ultimate dick flick.
Based on the novel by Donn Pearce, Paul Newman plays the anti-hero sent to a workhouse after a drunken binge that included the destruction of public property (He cut the heads off of parking meters). The camp is run by a tough warden (Strother Martin), but the leader of the men is Dragline (George Kennedy in an Academy Award-winning performance). Though originally too tough for the situation, Luke (Newman) eventually wins over his bunkmates and becomes the leader, if not the deity, of the camp.
Though the film lacks continuity as it plays out more like a collection of scenes, and the music, though touted by the director in the special feature documentary, never quite gels with the situations, the all-star cast makes up for any shortcomings. Newman gives a performance full of subtle elegance, and is complimented well by Kennedy and the who’s who of character actors including: J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton, Clifton James, Ralph Waite, Anthony Zerbe, Joe Don Baker, and many more.
This new restored edition on DVD looks and sounds great, and includes a well-made documentary entitled “A Natural-Born World Shaker: Making of Cool Hand Luke. The documentary includes some great interviews with cast, director Stuart Rosenberg, and more. Though it lacks any behind-the-scenes footage or photos, the stories told by the cast are not only insightful but entertaining as well. Input from Newman is noticeably missing, but the stories by Kennedy on working with Newman make the viewing worth the investment of time.
The additional extras include commentary by historian and Newman biographer Eric Lax, and a theatrical trailer that might make one wonder how this film was ever sold. The trailer makes little sense, is disjointed, and certainly would have a tough time enticing anyone to see this film.
Recommendation: A must for any fan of classic films. This is some of Newman’s best work, and it cements him as one of the best actors of the generation. Spotting actors before they were stars makes the experience even more enjoyable as does repeating all the classic quotes from the film, such as "Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand." Other then the legendary carwash scene, the film is actually surprisingly tame with little or no foul language.
There is no way this could ever be a failure to entertain.