TV Party Tonight! #124

TV Party Tonight! #124

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Cool Hand Luke
[4K/Blu-ray combo]

We’re excited here at Ground Control Magazine to get a chance to highlight the WB100 series where Warner Brothers are celebrating 100 years of entertainment by giving a much-needed re-release to some of the titans in their movie catalog. Paul Newman deserves celebrating and especially Cool Hand Luke: a movie infinitely quoted and referenced.

The odd thing on this second watch of Cool Hand Luke is just how difficult it is to get a handle on the character of Luke. It’s not that he’s unlikeable, and I certainly like a fish-out-of-water-as-savior scenario (like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), but when you break it all down, Luke is kind of a selfish character that is the victim of his own tendencies. Why is Luke in prison? Because he vandalized government property. OK, that’s benign, but also somewhat stupid behavior on his part. But, his sentence of hard labor is for only “only” 2 years, and instead of playing it cool, he seems to enjoy making trouble for himself. I understand the message of this movie, that rebellious tendencies against authority sometimes can’t be quashed, but there have to be more intelligent ways of doing this. Luke is quickly embraced by the rest of the inmates, but his presence is basically an amusement to everyone else. Maybe the inmates are living vicariously through Luke, but their situation isn’t much improved by his presence. Unlike Cuckoo’s Nest’s McMurphy, he doesn’t liberate anyone. He doesn’t even bring mental enlightenment. He’s just goofing off and causing trouble for himself. Kind of childish, isn’t it?

Of course, there are super entertaining parts to Cool Hand Luke: the initial breaking in of him as a prisoner, the friendship between him and Dragline (who sounds hilariously like Neon Joe, or vice versa), the outsmarting of the bosses in the road tarring, the egg eating contest. All are cool segments that are entertaining half a decade later, and that says a lot.

This WB100 restoration of Cool Hand Luke does all it can with the audio and video. The Florida swamps are meant to look dour, so there’s not much a remastering can do. The audio is tinny, but I think it was meant to be that way. There are no real soaring audio segments, and the canned sound of falling bodies sounds a bit of its time and repetitive. So really, there’s not much to rescue here.

Yeah, I admit it’s weird. I wanted this to be one of my favorite movies, and I daresay I’ll revisit it again in the future. Right now, I’ll just scratch my head. Paul Newman is a cool dude, though.

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