Somehow it seems justified. After all, he was just a little drunk and using bolt cutters to cut the tops off of parking meters. Nothing big, but this is the South and good old Luke is just a little too cocky for the judge. Sent to the chain gang, Luke's defiance to the system but his ingratiating personality make him loved by all. All that is except Dragline (George Kennedy), boss of the chain gang and fellow convict.
In an attempt to prove cock of the walk, Dragline and Luke get into a fist fight - Dragline outweighing Luke by probably 75 lbs and easily a head taller. Beaten but not defeated, Luke refuses to give up and no matter how many times knocked to the ground wearily rises for another punch. From then on his popularity boosts. Also known as a notorious poker player, he is given the moniker of Cool Hand Luke.
Always the underdog in this film, Luke is visited by his mother (Joan Van Fleet) in an unforgettable portrayal of a bed ridden woman. Strapped in a bed in the back of a pickup truck, she and Luke recall many scenes from his past. A truly funny version of Plastic Jesus' is sung by Luke, bringing a chuckle in an otherwise stark movie.
Later, learning of her death, Luke goes just a little insane and must be restrained - ie; the box. The box is a steel cage in the middle of the yard, one small hole for air, a bucket for a bathroom, bread and water - if they remember. Luke and the box become visitors many times. Luke attempts an escape and of course is captured and returned and so the legend of the infamous Cool Hand Luke continues. Never one to follow convention, Luke again escapes and is again captured. From this point on a systematic plot to beat Luke is devised by camp captain (Strother Martin) but his irrepressible spirit will not be broken.
Realizing a kindred spirit in Luke, Dragline decides he can make money on the guy. Luke is game for just about anything. Dragline has made bets that Luke can eat 60 hardboiled eggs in an hour - not what you might think a tough accomplishment, but eggs can be very filling - let alone 60 of them! A hysterical scene, Luke pounding those eggs down, Dragline encouraging him to chew and swallow, chew and swallow - Luke staggering around trying to down a few more eggs, laying on the table - Dragline shoving the last egg in his mouth and forcing his jaws open and shut in order to chew the egg.
More attempts for escape by Luke and more returns. Lots of time with his buddy - the box. At one point he is taken from the box in the middle of the night and forced to dig a large trench in the yard. After completing the trench, Martin turns to him and asks Why is all of my dirt out of my hole?' and tells Luke to refill the hole. Of course, when filled, Martin wants to know why he has placed the dirt back in his hole - and so on and so on until you believe that Luke is finally broken. Shunned now by fellow prisoners who believe their hero has bought out, Luke continues a solitary life while all the time planning yet another escape.
Incredibly funny scenes when Luke decides to escape again - going into the bushes to use the facilities. Required by the guards to keep shaking the bushes so they know you are still there, Luke devises a plan to run a string to the bushes as he backs away, continuing to shake the bushes. Days later his fellow inmates receive a magazine and in the center of the magazine is a picture of Luke, surrounded by buxom babes, smiling that infallible smile. Believing Luke safe and sound, tales are passed of the great Luke and his ability to kiss the system goodbye. Several days later, a beaten and decidedly broken Luke is returned to the prison and one of the most famous lines ever spoken comes at this point. Martin assembles the entire prison population to view Luke, captured once again, facing more time in the box, as he rocks back and forth on his heels and says What we have here is a failure to communicate'......
Months later, as Luke emerges from the box, he and Dragline devise another escape plot - and in typical Luke fashion it doesn't take long for the police to locate him again. Dragline surrenders but before Luke can do the same he is killed by the guards. In the end you see Dragline, with over pictures of Luke, sitting at the table and regaling all newcomers with the tales of Luke and that smile ..... oh, how he could smile.
A remarkable cast - Paul Newman, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, Jo Van Fleet, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton and Joe Don Baker. Strong performances and a nice look at the undying will to live and survive. Oh that Luke - what a smile that man had!
COOL HAND LUKE stars Paul Newman as "Cool Hand" Luke Jackson, a lonely man sent to prison for cutting off the tops of parking meters and not knowing why. Newman has had several memorable roles, but his turn in COOL HAND LUKE is one of his best and my favorite of Newman's movies. The movie is filled with unforgettable scenes (Lucile washing the car; the egg scene) and lines ("What we got here is failure to communicate."). The film has a great supporting cast and George Kennedy won an Academy Award. … more
In this classic Southern prison drama, social misfit Lucas "Luke" Jackson (Paul Newman) is incarcerated for a petty crime and sentenced to a chain gang. Luke is a sullen and laconic young man whose cool defiance of the sadistic warden and bullying inmates earns him the title "Cool Hand Luke." But as the prisoners' respect for Luke grows into hero worship, he finds that he must risk everything in order to live up to their expectations. Filled with dozens of memorable scenes (Luke eating 50 eggs) and quotable lines ("What we have here is a failure to communicate."), COOL HAND LUKE is a testament to excellent screenwriting (Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson) and Newman's charm and skill as an actor. The film also features an outstanding supporting cast that includes George Kennedy, Strother Martin, and early screen appearances by Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton.