>>> Click here for the RMC FAQ'N RULES <<<


Cool Hand Luke


Tagline: "What we've got here is failure to communicate."

The Preshow Entertainment was leftovers from RMC past: Bloopers and THE NEW SHOW.

It seems we can't get enough of people falling and animals biting hosts (Guest: "He won't hurt you"...Host With Ferret Chomping His Index Finger: "But he IS hurting me!"). In addition we watched clips from silent films as well as old faithfuls like THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and Dom DeLuise. We also witnessed classic hits from THE NEW SHOW, like cartoon bloopers (remind me to tell you that story one day) and misses like sibs Randy and Dennis Quaid as rednecks and John Candy in the great-on paper but terribly executed Food Repairman skit.

The movie was COOL HAND LUKE. Paul Newman plays chain gang prisoner Luke, the anti-hero, oh, wait, maybe he's the hero? I mean, how can he be an anti-hero if his crime was so measly, and the chain gang Captain so absolutely evil? But Luke IS a criminal, and Captain (played by elocutionist Strother Martin) is the law. Still it's a great question; just when is Javert no longer seeking justice from Valjean, instead becoming a misguided soul on a hellbent mission to find a man who stole some bread once?

Luke Eating Eggs for a Bet
Soaked with symbolism (sometimes drenched), there's no doubt Luke is a Christ figure. There are crosses everywhere (telephone poles, crossroads, the way the 8 x 10 picture is ripped). And is it a coincidence that he eats 50 eggs and there are 50 inmates? And that is certainly him laying in a Christ-like pose afterwards.
Lucy - Car Wash Girl
There's even hottie (I guess "hot chick" makes more sense for 1967) Lucy, who teases, taunts, and tantalizes the inmates by washing her car and getting all sudsy in front of them. Jeepers, I wonder what they named her "Lucy for"? Oh, and also, his goddamn name is Luke, for Christ's sake.

But all that aside, Lucas Jackson is a compelling character to follow. Always quiet (cool, remember?) or at very least subdued, he's a man with his own set of (often very good) principles and a rock solid constitution. It's clearly an unfair match when Luke fights Dragline (George Kennedy, who won Best Supporting Actor), but he does it anyway. And as he gets beaten to a pulp, and despite the pleas from the other inmates and even the faces of the guards, he keeps getting up. No matter how bloody. Dragline even begs him not to get up again. Luke is a man who will always stand up for who he is. How can you not relate to that?

The pacing in CHL is part of what makes this movie work so well. We learn a lot about Luke. From the 50 eggs. From him winning the poker game, bluffing with nothing (and getting his nickname after saying "Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand."). From his reaction to the guys ogling Lucy. And from the heartbreaking yet understated last meeting with his dying mom. All these things are puzzle pieces to the man.

Movie catch phrases are nothing new. I mean, "you had me at hello," "we're gonna need a bigger boat," "plastics" and "Rosebud." But the way "What we have here is failure to communicate" echoes in the southern skies, the movie, and your brain is breathtaking. It's as powerful as a gunshot aimed at an escaping convict. And it's not just the line itself, it's also the delivery. Strother Martin, after losing his cool with Luke (the cap'n never loses his cool), realizes his misstep (in a brilliant millisecond of acting) and says the line.

CHL boasts a callsheet of character actors and soon to be stars; Harry Dean Stanton, Wayne Rogers, Luke Askew, Robert Donner (who died 4 months ago), Anthony Zerbe (yes, the KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK guy) and Dennis Hopper.

The movie was shot by the recently expired Conrad Hall, who 32 years later would get numerous pats on the backlight for his work in AMERICAN BEAUTY. This marks Hall's third time at RMC (MARATHON MAN, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID). And there's another choice that complements the cinematography. It's a fan. Every time we're in the convicts' bunkhouse, there's a fan that spins. It's low, but we can hear it. Especially in the quiet moments. It's foreboding, sounding like a ticking clock.

Newman was nominated for Best Actor (he would lose, but just to prove how stupid Academy Awards are he wins 20 years later for THE COLOR OF MONEY...but in fairness he was up against Spencer Tracy (GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER), Dustin Hoffman (THE GRADUATE), Warren Beatty (BONNIE AND CLYDE) and winner Rod Steiger (IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT). Lalo Shiffrin's score (Eyewitness News would use a snippet as their theme) was also nominated, as were writers Frank Pierson and Donn Pearce, the latter having written the book after spending two years on a chain gang.

For a genre that is destined for clicheville, LUKE has few if any. It never cheapens itself or gets too cute. It sets its tone from frame one and stays true, as the very first thing we see on screen is the word "violation." It's from one of the parking meters Luke was vandalizing. But who is doing the violating? Is it Luke destroying municipal property or is he himself the victim, having served in Vietnam and returning to...nothing? But then again, sometimes nothing can be a very cool hand.

Tags: , , ,


Feed Burner Subscribe in a reader

Powered byFeedBlitz

About ...

RMC email address
Old RMC Men

RMC is not affiliated with Rochester Midland Corporation, makers of fine restroom disinfecting fluids and urinal mats since 1888.


Powered by Pizza, Red Vines,
& 6 Different Kinds of Soda



This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Random Movie Club. Make your own badge here.

((( Contribute to our Popcorn Fund! )))

Best Viewed With Firefox 2

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Technorati Favorites!

eXTReMe Tracker