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A Movie A Day: Quint watches COOL HAND LUKE (1967)!
What we have here is a failure to communicate!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge and plowing through the hundreds of DVDs I own for movies I haven’t seen. Each day I’ll talk about a film I haven’t previously seen and each film will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today is COOL HAND LUKE, directed by Stuart Rosenberg, written by Frank Pierson and Donn Pearce (from his novel) and starring Paul Newman, George Kennedy and Strother Martin, Harry Dean Stanton, with nearly background appearances by Joe Don Baker and Dennis Hopper.

Yes, the movie lives up to the hype, it deserves its reputation. If you’re one of the few people left on earth who hasn’t seen it, we follow a likable guy… a soldier, returned from service and bored. He cuts the heads off of parking meters while drunk and gets a two year sentence working the chain gang, laboring his offense off. What a period for Newman. COOL HAND LUKE came a year after previews AMAD title HARPER and two years before BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. The same fire I saw and loved in HARPER is here… but it’s somehow more internal. Luke isn’t as outgoing as Harper was. He keeps his head down for the first half of the movie until he’s done wrong by the Bosses and then it’s like a switch is flipped. He gives them hell from here on out. I feel this movie is kin to one of my all time favorites, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. It’s not just the likable guy trapped by circumstance, either. There’s a tone and flow that I feel both movies share. The difference in COOL HAND LUKE is that the freedom they lack is flaunted in these guys’ faces every single day on the road. They’re in society, as it were, cutting grass, digging ditches, shoveling dirt… there’s a fantastic scene where the men are slaving away by a farm and the housewife decides to wash her car… knowing damn well what she’s doing to the men. They can see it, almost live their freedom, but then there’s Blind Dick (called so because he never takes his chrome sunglasses off) there with his rifle, always silently watching. The film is loaded with iconography, something that’s really important to me in these kinds of films. Newman’s egg-eating contest, the card game that gives the movie its title and our lead his nickname (“Sometimes nothin’s can be a real cool hand.”), Blind Dick with his glaring sunglasses and rifle bolt tucked into his belt and so on. It’s also loaded with awesome character actors… I’ve loved Strother Martin since I saw UP IN SMOKE as a kid. Of course later there was THE WILD BUNCH and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID. He gets a great role with great lines, including the most famous line of the flick. Like most kids my age I was introduced to George Kennedy via the NAKED GUN movies… and I still haven’t seen most of his filmography, but I love him as a personality. He’s a grumpy bastard here, but like the neighborhood dog… he’s all growls until you figure out how to get on his good side (usually involves a McDonalds cheeseburger in my experience) and then is your loyal friend. The DVD’s fine, but from a dirty print. I hear there’s a Blu-Ray on the way come September. Needless to say I will definitely be picking that up. The flick’s outstanding and much like RIO BRAVO it’s a joy to watch, not a chore. It never felt like a homework assignment getting through it. I highly recommend it to anyone who might have missed it and recommend revisiting it to those who haven’t seen it for a while. Coming in the next seven days: Friday, June 13th: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950) Saturday, June 14th: CLASH BY NIGHT (1952) Sunday, June 15th: SCARLET STREET (1945) Monday, June 16th: KILLER BAIT (aka TOO LATE FOR TEARS) (1949) Tuesday, June 17th: ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964) Wednesday, June 18th: CITY FOR CONQUEST (1940) Thursday, June 19th: SAN QUENTIN (1937) Tomorrow we change gears over to famous noir THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. This is a bit of a stretch, but Strother Martin makes an uncredited appearance (read extra) in the flick, so that’s our bridge. It’s also one of Marilyn Monroe’s first films. See you folks tomorrow for that!


Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money

Readers Talkback
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  • June 12, 2008, 11:55 p.m. CST


    by pubgrundy

  • June 12, 2008, 11:55 p.m. CST

    by chipps

    awesome movie

  • June 12, 2008, 11:56 p.m. CST

    how about that!

    by pubgrundy

    my first post and i get a first! anyway... loved cool hand luke since my dad sat me down and made me watch it when i was 10. glad you've finally seen in quint!

  • June 12, 2008, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Some men you just can't reach...

    by Campion

    I've known that line since 1992 when I heard it on Guns N Roses song "Civil War". I didn't actually see Cool Hand Luke until years later, and I loved it!

  • June 13, 2008, 12:06 a.m. CST

    Best Scene

    by richiro33

    The boxing match

  • June 13, 2008, 12:08 a.m. CST

    It's worth it

    by The Funketeer

    It's worth it to see it just so you can say "what we have here is a failure to communicate" and understand where it comes from and why it's so cool. I'll never forget when my friend and I were watching it on video for the first time and my little brother comes in and starts watching it with us and gets sucked in. He gets emotionally invested in his movies. He bawled his eyes out when the ugly fat chick didn't make the team in League of Their Own. Anyway, my stepmother walks in, sees him watching and say, "I just want you to know that...." and ruins the whole ending for us.

  • June 13, 2008, 12:13 a.m. CST

    Fuck the system

    by The Dum Guy

    Everyone should go out and demolish parking meters. It is what some people have died for, namely Cool Hand Luke.

  • June 13, 2008, 12:31 a.m. CST

    Whut we... GOT Heah...

    by Napoleon Park

    is a Failyuh... tuh commume'cate!<p>My dad and I loved that movie and I think we tossed that catch phrase around for years. One of the top lines in movie history. Awesome movie, awesome series of articles. This movie made George Kennedy or at least moved him up a couple of notches the same way Bonnie and Clyde put Gene Hackman on the charts.<p>Say it decades ago, not since, but just reading this review I can picture that surreal opening scene of Luke just strolling drunkenly down the road cutting the heads off of parking meters. Parts of this movie a re buried that deep.<p>So unrelated it's blasphemous to bring it up but a few years ago when I got this computer the first online music video I saw was Jessica Simpson's These Boots Were Made For Walking remake from the Dukes of Hazzard remake. That video, of course, has a sudsy car washing sequence that can't hold a candle to the one in Luke. Of course I was 14 when this came out; when she leans into that window and mushes against it and those men moan - well, only 14 year old boys and men in prison know what it's like to be that horny.

  • June 13, 2008, 12:31 a.m. CST

    How the HELL had you never seen this Quint?

    by Det. John Kimble

    I am depressed.

  • June 13, 2008, 12:43 a.m. CST

    Paul Newman on The Cover With a Smoke...

    by Read and Shut Up

    ...and here all those rumors about his cancer. Yeesh. Anyway, this is a great, great, great movie.

  • June 13, 2008, 12:52 a.m. CST

    this is the first time quint has seen cool hand luke??

    by bacci40

    wtf...turn in your real man also have no more cred as a reviewer...were you aware that the highway repaving scene theme was (and maybe still is) used as the theme for many local news shows? this is the penultimate movie about one mans fight for individuality against the bastard is newman at his finest...i must have seen it 50 times...i dont get how you never saw papillon about all quiet on the western front? how about silent running? how about captain fookin hack

  • June 13, 2008, 12:58 a.m. CST


    by Stevie Grant

    Has a point, Quint. What's next, you watch Hud for the first time?

  • June 13, 2008, 1:04 a.m. CST

    Give Quint a break

    by maxjohnson1971

    Hell, I have never seen all of "Gone with the Wind" or "Casablanca" or a bunch of those movies. That isn't to say that I haven't seen a LOT of movies, but sometimes, some of these things just don't get seen for one reason or another. I have probably seen lots of movies that I think are essential viewing, but they are only essential to ME, not necessarily someone else. I'll get around to a bunch of them, but in the meantime, give the dude a break. Keep it up Quint. We all know what you do!

  • June 13, 2008, 1:11 a.m. CST

    and the quote is "what we have here is failure to communicate"

    by howardroark

  • June 13, 2008, 1:30 a.m. CST

    Damn You Michael Bay


    Damn You Michael Bay

  • June 13, 2008, 2 a.m. CST



    Great you picked up on that word Quint, given the amount of Christ imagery in the film. Luke arrives at the jail and gives hope to the inmates before... well you know. Brilliant tovie, but I can't believe you didn't mention "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" which not only borrows the sinners and saviours motif, but also the sadistic/satanic death's-head-in-shades hunter character.

  • June 13, 2008, 2 a.m. CST

    tovie = movie


    That is all.

  • June 13, 2008, 2:53 a.m. CST

    Religious imagery

    by Paideia

    I'm surprised more people haven't commented on the religious aspect og the film. I'll even go one up on Jimocop and call it an allegory on the life of Christ. I had missed this angle entirely the first two times I saw the film and then suddenly af couple of years ago I rewatched it and it all came together: the outsider bringing hope to the inmates, his "miracles", Strother "washing his hands" with that famous line, the visit by his mother, his "Gethsemane"-moment in the church near the end and of course Dragline spreading the good word at the very end: "He's a natural born world-shaker." The great thing is that you don't need to see this in order to appreciate the film. It simply adds another layer to it. Great storytelling, great filmmaking and superb acting!

  • June 13, 2008, 3:28 a.m. CST

    Quint, you forgot Strother's best role ever

    by Rowsdower.ZabRowsdower

    The penny-pinching hockey team GM in Slapshot. The, turns out, more-than-slightly effeminate, cross-dressing, can't-do-right, nickel & diming GM who would "piss on Eddie Shore!" But, yeah... Cool Hand Luke is one of Newman's greatest (and he co-starred with Martin in that one, too). Just watching that movie... your body wanted to sweat in a form of empathy with the characters. Anyone who lives in the humid deep south knows. Watching this movie... damn! Those poor bastards really went through hell. So so many little things went into the mix to make this one of our best films ever. But, then again, lest we forget Strother's line in George Roy Hill's Slapshot... his severly heartbroken delivery of the line: "... not this bunch of.... pussies!"

  • June 13, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST



    I agree, but I didn't want to hammer the paralells to JC coz that would spoil the ending...

  • June 13, 2008, 3:51 a.m. CST

    best prison movie ever made

    by Prossor

    better than shawshank redemption.

  • June 13, 2008, 4:05 a.m. CST

    I Saw This Movie As A Kid And Had A Big Problem With It

    by Red Dawn Don

    Up until this movie all of my movie heroes were good to the core. LUKE was a true gray heroe. I had trouble back then reconciling his heroic side from his heel side. I now prefer flawed heroes in my movies.

  • June 13, 2008, 5:55 a.m. CST

    an absolute classic

    by Lost Jarv

    Possibly the best film on your list Quint, everything else is downhill after this one.

  • June 13, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST

    The Line

    by Owen Taylor

    Actually the line is: "What we've got here is... failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it... well, he gets it. I don't like it any more than you men."

  • June 13, 2008, 7:19 a.m. CST

    A few years ago I wanted to make an...

    by DerLanghaarige

    ...egg eating contest too, but unfortunately I couldn't find any costentants :P

  • June 13, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST


    by MediaNerd

    I haven't popped it in in awhile, but remember the dvd being bare bones, which is a shame as classics like this deserve better.

  • June 13, 2008, 7:29 a.m. CST

    Anyone notice the religious imagery in Prince Caspian?

    by Knuckleduster

    So, like, the river that looks like an old man that kills the bad guys at the end, he's the Holy Father, right? And Aslan is Jesus. And when he tells the mice not to cut off their tails, that's a criticism on the Jews and circumcision.<p> Am I close?

  • June 13, 2008, 7:47 a.m. CST

    come on safety pin, pop

    by Magic Rat

    best line in the movie.

  • June 13, 2008, 8:52 a.m. CST

    I had never seen this movie before, but

    by Squashua

    when I watched it for the first time last year, it nearly put me to sleep a couple times.

  • June 13, 2008, 9:10 a.m. CST


    by Ned Pepper how many had not seen this movie, but I guess that's the way it always is with your favorite things: you can't imagine that EVERYONE doesn't love them like you do. Cool Hand Luke is in my personal top ten movies of all time, but there are lots of "great" flicks I've never seen. Keep 'em coming Quint!

  • June 13, 2008, 9:21 a.m. CST

    The Holy Trinity Of Guy Movies

    by The Harp

    Rio Bravo, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt. If you've never seen these three films, you're a woman. If you've seen them and don't like them, you're gay. If you've seen them, love them, and worship them daily, you're allowed to piss standing up, because you're finally a man.

  • June 13, 2008, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Penultimate movie Bacci??? The Quint list...

    by half vader

    So what's the best then Bacci? Brazil? <p> Add me to the list of those who can't comprehend Quint not having seen it. <p> And let me start the list of those who are jealous of him for getting to experience such a great flick for the first time.

  • June 13, 2008, 11:32 a.m. CST

    "You just boned me!"

    by grungies

    That better be your quote tomorrow.

  • June 13, 2008, 11:58 a.m. CST

    "I can eat fiddy eggs."

    by fiester


  • June 13, 2008, 12:19 p.m. CST

    Loved how Hollywood flaunted the anti-hero

    by skimn

    angle in the pre-Easy Rider days. "The man and motion picture do not conform....bugs the Establishment as..."

  • June 13, 2008, 2:03 p.m. CST

    No offense...

    by Wee Willie

    But if you're going to "review" a well-known classic, at least try to find something interesting to say other than basically re-iterating that "this was awesome..."

  • June 13, 2008, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Some men you just can't reach...

    by Axl Z


  • June 13, 2008, 2:48 p.m. CST

    I'd never seen Cool Hand Luke until I was....

    by The Dum Guy

    I believe eight-years old. They had at my local library and I watched it, and liked it. Also the library video collection is where I first 'rented' the original Star Wars trilogy. Support your' local library and Mom & Pop stores.

  • June 13, 2008, 3:32 p.m. CST

    I just saw this movie for the first time last September

    by sweeneydave

    and I picked up on the Christ story at the end of the egg eating contest. When he's lying on the table and the camera is above him. He's sprawled out in the typical crucifix image. See, religious inspiration CAN come from a R rated movie not directed by Mel Gibson...

  • June 13, 2008, 6:04 p.m. CST

    "holy trinity of guy movies"

    by Prossor

    there is not 1 lee marvin movie on there. your'e manlyness is revoked, in its place, a cock in your ass.

  • June 13, 2008, 6:56 p.m. CST

    One of my all time top five favorites

    by gavdiggity

    Never get sick of watching this movie. Watching Luke outfox the bloodhounds is always a entertaining. Along the same lines, Quint, if you haven't seen The Cincinnati Kid, check it out. One of my favorite Steve McQueen roles.

  • June 13, 2008, 11:40 p.m. CST

    Harp, trade you Bullitt for Great Escape

    by half vader

    There's a bit of Luke in that performance too though I guess. I just find Bullitt uneven, that's all. McQueen is cool as though.

  • June 14, 2008, 1:47 p.m. CST

    Newman's the man!

    by RicardoMontalban

    Hey if you love classic movies, check out this great new blog on blogspot... it's called thebitterproducer

  • June 14, 2008, 10:11 p.m. CST

    Where are the Paul Newman/Steve McQueens of today?

    by EbertsFatThumb

    Johnny Depp? Leo Decrapio? Brad Pitt? Matt Damon? George Clooney? Brendan Frasier? The Rock? Maybe these actors are "cool" to 12 year old boys but none can stand up to Newman and McQueen. Bunch of twinks including The Rock with his Disney career.

  • June 14, 2008, 11:40 p.m. CST

    QUINT, did you know...

    by Ive got her car right here.

    that George Kennedy won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role in this film? Kennedy’s character is an allegory of Judas to Newman’s Christ as he betrays him at the end. The final shot of Newman’s fake photograph is shown torn in an almost perfect cross.

  • June 15, 2008, 12:26 a.m. CST

    Netflix Instant Watch

    by kagai

    Hey, this movie is available on Netflix's Instant watch service. Also, I love this series...great work!

  • June 15, 2008, 5:27 p.m. CST

    Great movie...

    by REDD

    One of Paul Newmans best movies. You should add "Sometimes a Great Notion" to your list. It's about a logging family in Oregon; there's a scene I never forgot with Newman trying to save one his guys trapped under a log while the water is rising (not sure if it's available on DVD). Also, the "The Eiger Sanction"; George Kennedy is great in that (he and Eastwood have some great one-liners).

  • June 15, 2008, 5:30 p.m. CST

    george kennedy is the best

    by Prossor

    he was just so great in here going from a-hole type to gradual warm pal. AND he rules in naked gun! 'SEX, FRANK?' 'NO NOT RIGHT NOW WE HAVE WORK TO DO.'

  • June 15, 2008, 5:32 p.m. CST

    'hey congratulations on your baby!'

    by Prossor

    'yeah and if i ever CATCH THE GUY!!!!'

  • July 5, 2008, 10:58 p.m. CST



  • July 6, 2008, 3:02 p.m. CST

    A strong candidate for the "Sweatiest Movie Ever"

    by JohnnyFriendly

    ... as nominated by the gang at "Cheers"

  • Aug. 12, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST

    joy harmon

    by ironic_name

    is sex