Cool Hand Luke Review and Blu-ray Features
Cool Hand Luke
1 Nov 1967
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
The opening scene, where Luke is cutting off the heads of parking meters, was filmed in Lodi, California. After the filming, the city did not replace the meters, and for many years afterward, you could go there and see a block long row of metal posts, sans meters.
Why did Luke destroy the parking meters?
Luke is just a guy who doesn’t want to conform. He explains that it was to settle an old score, symbolizing his resentment of a society that forces him to conform to its rules. He doesn’t want to play nice just so he can get the wife/kids/house trifecta. In his conversation with his mom, she says that he always did things the hard way. Clearly Luke lives by his own rules, so cutting the tops off parking meters probably seemed like just another thing to do.
Does Luke die at the end?
When the guards torment Luke and break his spirit, the guards even say “If you try and escape again, we’ll kill you.” Of course Luke winds up escaping again. At the end, Luke is shot in the neck, while in shock he is hauled into the ambulance and taken away. The guards deliberately take him to the prison hospital (which is much farther away than the local hospital), knowing very well that this delay will kill Luke. One of them says “he’ll never make it”. Later, Dragline is sitting with the other inmates and reminiscing about Luke. This is because he died and they were remembering the good times.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
The movie’s line “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” was voted as the #11 movie quote by the American Film Institute. When Frank Pierson wrote that dialog to be delivered by an uneducated, redneck prison guard, he worried that people wouldn’t find it authentic. So he wrote a biography of the guard, explaining that in order to advance to a higher grade in the system, he had been required to take criminology courses, thus exposing him to the kind of academic vocabulary that would justify him using the ‘communicate’ phrase. But as it turned out, no one questioned the line or needed to read the fictional account.
Luke as a Savior
Luke is seen as sort of a Savior by the other convicts, as he gives them hope. After the egg-eating contest, he is laid out on the table in a posture resembling the Crucifixion.
Scene between mother and son, filmed in one day
The scene where Luke is visited by his mother had to be filmed in one day. For a scene that involves 8 pages of dialogue, that was quite a tall order but because the actors involved – Paul Newman and Jo Van Fleet – were so talented and professional, this was easily accomplished.
“1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
Famous line used in film also in the Guns N’s Roses Song
The lines “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it… well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.” can be heard in the intro of the song “Civil War” by Guns N’ Roses. They would use audio of the first line again during the song “Madagascar” on the 2008 album “Chinese Democracy.”
RT/Meta Critic Review
A picture of chilling dramatic power.(Click here to see)
Newman gives an excellent performance, assisted by a terriffic supporting cast, including George Kennedy, outstanding as the unofficial leader of the cons who yields first place to Newman ( Click here to see)
The clarity and vibrancy of the Blu-ray is a revelation. Obviously, Warner pumped up the contrast and probably did some DNR, but I’m not complaining. Why not? Because I’ve never seen this film appear so good, with rich colors and good definition. As with other Warner releases of movies from this era, the improvement in picture quality is dramatic. Until the advent of DVD, Newman’s facial expressions, body language cues and method acting were conveyed to viewers in NTSC broadcasts and video tape showing a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The resolution was terrible, the picture blurry, the sound muddy and distorted, the videostage severely cropped. Then came the digital. Watching the DVD version was like lifting a veil. The DVD greatly improved the imagery and audio, restoring the picture to its original ratio. But we were still left with NTSC. The resolution was nowhere near film quality. The Blu-ray disc from Warner changes all that. For the first time, the settings and characters of Cool Hand Luke have life-like definition and detail. Warner’s use of the VC-1 codec may not stack up to Sony’s use of MPEG-4 (not a fair comparison giving the new movies Sony releases on BD), but one thing is for sure: the 1080p resolution of Cool Hand Luke absolutely trounces what was available before.
Watch the way Newman’s face lights up in the scene when he inspires the other men to work faster on the road, allowing the crew to finish their day early. His expression is alive with details that were simply missing in NTSC versions of Cool Hand Luke. Put simply, it is a more human picture that communicates emotion. Even the actors’ clothes and skin tone show good definition and clarity. Grain noise is prevalent, but it did not quite seduce me into believing I was watching real film. The details shine through in stunning manner compared to the DVD. It won’t win awards for picture quality, butCool Hand Luke is impressively detailed for a 40 year old film, with dramatic contrast that may be a bit excessive. I witnessed a few digital artifacts and in fact the light noise and grain throughout seems to carry a digital sheen. But overall, Warner did an impressive job. Black level is good, as the dark scenes show, and so is depth, as illustrated in many of the road labor scenes.
The audio performance of Cool Hand Luke is slightly above average, considering the original source material–and that’s being generous. For a “deluxe” Blu-ray version, the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. I have nothing against monaural content, but when it’s mastered to the front two channels instead of the center channel, that’s a giveaway that the same mix is used as the DVD version, even though Warner bills it as a new digital transfer from restored audio elements. Few 5.1 HT systems existed during DVD rollout, so monaural content was mixed to the front two channels, like mono CDs. But what’s the excuse now that 5.1 is more common? Despite the claim of audio restoration, the actual content gives me the impression that Warner put little additional effort into the audio mix of the BD. Why the lack of a high resolution track? I would have liked at least a Dolby TrueHD track, but instead it’s Dolby Digital. I fully believe that careful production for 24-bit/192 kHz would improve the audio performance, whether for production of a mono, two-channel or multichannel mix.
The monaural appears two-dimensional and harsh on Warner’s Dolby Digital track. Not surprisingly, it lacks significant depth or soundstaging. Lalo Schifren’s music score, which was later used by local eyewitness news shows around the U.S., sounds constricted and muddled. When the music isn’t playing, the audio is passable. Voices and gunshots, footsteps and the sounds of cars all sound clear and convincing. But there is no imaging in the soundstage. In a nutshell, the audio doesn’t hold back Cool Hand Luke, but you won’t want to use it to demo your system.
Monaural audio isn’t the only vestige of the DVD version of Cool Hand Luke. Aside from a new documentary, the bonus content also comes directly from Warner’s DVD. All supplementary content is 480i or 480p standard definition. The documentary, A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke, is a montage of interviews. Fairly unfocused, the anecdotes from the crew and cast–nearly everyone appears except Paul Newman–often contradict each other. For example, the question is raised of how many eggs Newman actually ate in the various takes comprising the eating contest scene. Everyone remembers it differently and no conclusive answer is given among claims that Newman ate zero eggs or as many as eight or more. If Warner is going to the trouble of producing a new documentary the least they could do is get conclusive answers. All those interviewed do agree that Paul Newman was enjoyable to work with and despite his superstar status, he was just “one of the guys” on the set. Rounding out the supplementary content is commentary by historian Eric Lax, who wrote Newman’s biography and a theatrical trailer in standard definition.