Cool Hand Luke (DVD)

On September 9, 2008, Warner Home Video will release “Cool Hand Luke,” the searing, Oscar-winning prison drama starring Paul Newman in one of his quintessential roles as a defiant chain-gang convict suffering a “failure to communicate.

The DVD will be released as a Deluxe Edition in both Standard Definition and Blu-ray Hi-Def. Newly remastered, the film boasts an all-new featurette, The Making of Cool Hand Luke, an in-depth look at the creation of a movie that became a classic.

The film was nominated for four Oscars, with co-star George Kennedy winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Lukes hillbilly sidekick, Dragline.

Cool Hand Luke Deluxe Edition will sell for $19.97 SRP and the Blu-ray Hi-Def will be released for $28.99 SRP.

One of Hollywoods most enduring superstars, Paul Newman made his debut in The Silver Chalice in 1954, followed by his first hit, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and other numerous successes, including The Hustler, Hud, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Nominated nine times for Best Actor Oscar, he finally won in 1986 for his performance in “The Color of Money.”

Most recently, Newman won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role in the HBO mini-series Empire Falls and voiced the character Doc Hudson in “Cars.” The Paul Newman Collection, featuring seven of the actors outstanding films, is currently available from WHV.

Special Features

* Commentary by noted writer and Paul Newman biographer, Eric Lax
* All new featurette: A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke (an in-depth look at the creation of an uncompromising classic)
* Theatrical trailer

Film Review

Thematically, this popular chain gang film drew heavily on the gloomy Depression era drama, “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” starring Paul Muni. Its protagonist is James Allen (Paul Newman, at his best), a war hero down on his luck who’s sentenced to a chain gang, presided over by Strother Martin (George Kennedy). The governing law is represented by the prison guard who stands above the gang.

“Cool Hand Luke” has less to do with the conditions of American prisons than with the state of American society at large, the empty culture that defines norms and values and the failure to provide employment and economic security.

Reflecting the zeitgeist, “Cool Hand Luke” was made at the height of the Vietnam War, alongside such seminal films as “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate,” all, regardless of genre, works highly critical of the status quo that prevailed in the public as well as the domestic arenas. Indeed, this film is considered one of the most important of the late 1960s, a decade in which the theme of protest against the establishment was being played out daily in real-life events.

Stuart Rosenberg, better known as a writer, assembled a great cast that included, other than Paul Newman and George Kennedy (who won the Supporting Oscar, see below), Jo Van Fleet, Dennis Hopper, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Quote to Remember:

The line, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” entered into movie lore and became forever associated with George Kennedy.

Actor Alert:

Paul Newman auditioned for the part that James Dean got in Kazan’s “East of Eden,” in which the other (good) brother was played by Richard Davalos, who here is cast as Blind Dick.

Newman gives one of the most powerful performances of his rich 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 harsher punishments by the sadistic guards.

Oscar Nominations: 4

Screenplay (Adapted): Don Pearce and Frank R. Pierson
Actor: Paul Newman
Supporting Actor: George Kennedy
Music Score (original): Lalo Schifrin

Oscar Awards: 1

Supporting Actor

Oscar Context:

In 1967, Paul Newman lost the Best Actor (his fourth nomination) to Rod Steiger, who was singled out for his work in Norman Jewison’s “In the Heat of the Night,” which also won Best Picture and Screenplay for Stirling Silliphant. Elmer Bernstein won the Scoring Oscar for the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

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