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“What we have here is a failure to communicate”

June 17, 2007

MrsDoF and I went to The Normal Theater for a night of big-screen classic cinema.  There are a lot of classic movies I’ve never seen, and sometimes that’s all to the good.  The Maltese Falcon, for example, has a huge reputation but I found it very disappointing.  So I didn’t have extremely high expectations of Cool Hand Luke.  But I was pleasantly surprised; this star-studded movie was definitely worth the time.

Briefly, Luke (Paul Newman) is a post-war ner’ do-well who gets himself sent to prison by a drunken act of vandalism.  But his unique personality earns him the admiration of his fellow prisoners and the enmity of the guards.  It turns out badly for him in the end… depending how you look at it.

I’m not usually good at recognizing literary/religious allegories, but this one was a bit more accessible than most.  The exact sequence is slightly scrambled, but there’s a baptism, disciples, miracles, the Romans, Gethsemane, Judas, Pilate, a crucifixion, and even a sort of resurrection.  The latter is exactly how I envision the resurrection of Jesus taking on the mythic proportions that it did. 

George Kennedy plays an illiterate thug who ends up as one of the disciples – Peter, I suppose, and then combining the role of the big fisherman’s denial with that of Judas, trying to save the messiah from the wrath of the Romans, by betraying him.  And… (this is as literary as you’ll ever see me get here in Decrepitland) I thought the crucifixion was when he was “broken” – and the ascension was when he was shot.  And it took place before the resurrection. 

We walked home talking about the movie, only to find our neighborhood in darkness.  Apparently the heat and rain, plus trees growing around the power lines, brought down our neighborhood. 

Anyone else seen Cool Hand Luke?  What did you think of it?

Categories: Movies, Reviews
  1. Ted
    June 18, 2007 at 18:46 | #1

    The Maltese Falcon, for example, has a huge reputation but I found it very disappointing.  So I didn’t have extremely high expectations of Cool Hand Luke.

    Since you mention “The Maltese Falcon”, for my money, the best noir movies are “The Big Sleep” (the original) and “Out of the Past” (With Bad Bob Mitchum). The thing about both of them is that they move too fast for one sitting—which is particularly true for “The Big Sleep”. You just don’t know what the heck is going on, but the dialogue is so staccato sharp that you have to go back and catch it again because the entendre are triple. The Big Lebowski is so much fun because once you’ve seen the big sleep, it’s a hoot to see what the Coen’s have done with it.

    I saw Cool Hand Luke back in the early 70s but it never seemed that entertaining to me despite the allegorical touches. I prefer Paul Muni’s “I am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang” in prison flicks. The final scene is Muni’s best on screen moment. And scary from a social perspective.

    If your theater shows it, I also recommend “The Bicycle Thief”—seeing that you have a bicycle thing going, maybe you’d be sympatico to the guy’s problem.

  2. jdallen
    June 21, 2007 at 15:48 | #2

    Muni in “…Chain Gang”. No comparison to “Cool Hand Luke”, which is one of the movies I can turn the sound off and recite from memory.

    I don’t mean comparison as to quality, I don’t think you can rationally do that: too subjective. I mean the idea and undercurrents are totally different. The only thing in common is that they take place in a Southern prison.

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