From Warner Home Video:
Paul Newman, who was Oscar-nominated for Best actor for his role, gives one of the most powerful performances of his career as Lucas "Luke" Jackson, a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang, who refuses to buckle under to authority, while repeatedly escaping and being recaptured. The prisoners admire Luke because of his gumption but the head of the gang hates him and tries to break him by beating him often. Ultimately Luke gains the respect of all the convicts but with each escape and return he is subjected to more and more harsh punishments by the sadistic guards.
This film is considered one of the most important of the '60s, a decade in which the theme of protest against the establishment was being played out daily in real-life events. Cool Hand Luke was nominated for four Academy Awards - for Best Music Score, Best Screenplay, and in the afore-mentioned Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories.
Cool Hand Luke Cast List
Jo Van Fleet
Harry Dean Stanton
... Society Red
... Loudmouth Steve
... Boss Godfrey
... Boss Paul
... Blind Dick
... Dog Boy
... The Girl
Cool Hand Luke is essentially a prison-a Southern chain gang-film. It's probably the quintessential chain gang film and subsequent films have basically tried to recapture (remake) the same chemistry that made Cool Hand Luke so good. Other films have chosen to simply pick some elements and hone in an exaggerated style willingly taking on a campy approach. As a result, the genre is now largely written off and relegated to 'B' films. Cool Hand Luke remains the high water mark and the esteem for the film has never wavered since it first received four Academy Award nominations.
Like other great films, Cool Hand Luke manages to transcend its genre. The acting and the subtlies of the direction and writing make it worth watching. Paul Newman personifies cool and anti-authority even as his character is set up as a war hero. George Kennedy ("Dragline") heads a cast of characters actors that fill out and flesh out the other prisoners who all manage to be unique even in limited screentime. Aside from Morgan Woodward's nearly inhuman Boss, even the prison guards are sympathetic to Luke. Strother Martin's "failure to communicate" line has been immortalized. Though a prison film may not be "your cup of tea," Cool Hand Luke is well worth checking out at least once.
The Deluxe Edition DVD:
The "Deluxe Edition" of Cool Hand Luke looks great. The digital transfer has cleaned up the film which is now more than forty years old. As a result, the lighting and contrasts deliberately used in the cinematography are once again clearly evident. The Deluxe Edition also includes a feature length commentary by Newman historian Eric Lax. While informative, a track that included cast and/or crew would have been at the very least as equally as interesting especially since some of the surviving members were interviewed for the new twenty minute long documentary that is the other extra included. The documentary is interesting, although it is at times hard to gauge how insightful it really is since the various cast and crew members clearly have vastly different recollections of the nuances of the production.
Cool Hand Luke Deluxe Edition DVD Extras:
— Audio commentaries from Newman biographer Eric Lax
— A Naturn-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke Documentary
— Original Theatrical Trailer Buy Cool Hand Luke Deluxe Edition DVD Now!