Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 126 mins .
M15+ . NTSC
Said by many to be his finest role, Paul Newman stars as the guy that just won’t give up. Luke is arrested while cutting the heads off parking meters and is sentenced to two years on the chain gang. The southern prison sees the inmates being sent out each day to work on the roads, hard labour at its hardest. The prison is run by the Captain (Strother Martin) with an iron fist. His prison guards, who must be referred to as “Boss”, ably assist him and together they keep the prisoners in check. Any breach of the rules results in a night spent in “the box”, much like an outside toilet, where the inhabitant has to endure solitary confinement. The other punishment is leg irons, but this is only for those who attempt to run.
"Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand"
Luke is a decorated soldier, having served several years in the army and receiving several medals. On disclosure that he went into the army and left having the same rank, that of Private, Luke simply explains that he was just passing time. This pretty much sums up the character of Luke, he is not a hell raiser by any means, but he is also not prepared to conform. This attitude quickly infuriates the Captain, who sets out to break Luke’s spirit. A series of attempted escapes follows, not only upsetting authority but also gaining great respect from the other inmates.
Paul Newman is superb in this role and it could easily be considered his best. Many will argue that The Hustler or perhaps Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are better roles, but whichever may be your preference, there is no denying the Oscar nomination received for this role was very well deserved. A superb supporting cast includes George Kennedy in his Oscar winning role, Dennis Hopper and Wayne M*A*S*H Rogers, who all do a fine job in their respective roles as inmates. Strother Martin is also extremely well cast as the Captain and seems like the role was written specifically for him.
What we've got here... is failure to communicate!
If you have never seen this film then you have been missing out. It contains all the elements to make it a classic such as classy acting, a clever script and engaging characters. It is beautifully filmed and masterfully directed, but it is the talent of Newman that makes the difference between a good film and a classic. He is perfect in this role and although it took some years 'til he won his first Oscar in The Colour of Money, most of us know that he should have won here.
To put this simply, this is one of the best films ever produced so if you haven’t seen it, take the time to give it a look. If you have seen it then it certainly deserves another viewing as it has lost none of its appeal over the years. It is surprising that this has taken so long to be released in this country on DVD, the region one version has been available for a couple of years now. Having said that though, better late than never is always a good philosophy. The fact is that it is here now so add it to the collection, you won’t regret it.
Perhaps the mentality nowadays is that everyone has NTSC capability, even if we all know that is certainly not the case. Sadly then, we have to question why a film with such attraction to a broad audience would get an NTSC only release. The transfer for Cool Hand Luke is in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. The picture has aged over the years, but I must say it still does look very good. Sharpness is not its strong point, but again taking age into account it is much better than expected. The biggest irritant is the inevitable amount of film artefacts, mostly in the form of white flecks. These are pretty much constant throughout, but I doubt a better source copy could have been found. Shadow detail is generally good and colours are mostly natural. Aliasing is also evident, but as is the case with all the other problems, it won’t spoil your viewing pleasure too much and is expected considering the age. Subtitles are supplied in English, French and Spanish and the English ones sampled were accurate.
Audio is available in a choice of English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital mono. I can hear people shuddering at the thought of a mono soundtrack but relax, this is not as bad as you would think. Taking into account the film was originally made in mono, a stereo or surround mix would have seemed somewhat fake, so I for one am grateful they have given us what was originally intended. Dialogue is clear throughout, although some accents may require subtitles to work out that southern drawl. Synch is never a problem and the musical score is well suited. As stated before, the thought of mono will make most wary, but this soundtrack is more than adequate.
A few extras accompany this release, 'few' being the operative word. The quality of extras is not of the highest either, but some is better than to have none after all.
A series of text pages on the cast of the film that offer little information.
Four pages of text about the making of the film.
Presented in the same aspect ratio as the main feature and also 16:9 enhanced, this runs for 2:52.
This is simply a page showing four DVD covers for other films that may interest viewers. These are not playable trailers, just pictures of the covers.
Overall this is a great film. It is presented in a decent widescreen video transfer with its original audio soundtrack, which both present well. The only option of NTSC is a surprise and the extras are minimal to say the least, but it is all about the film and where Cool Hand Luke is concerned, they don’t come much better.