Thursday, 22 January 2009

“…Anything Built Like That….Gotta Be Named Lucille…” The Movie COOL HAND LUKE on BLU RAY Disc – A REVIEW.

Originally released in the cinema in late 1967, like most people, I came across the fantastic "Cool Hand Luke" on a piddly little television set at home, sometime in the mid Seventies. And like most folk, I've loved it and its indomitable spirit ever since.

Fast-forward to September 2008, and it arrives on the shiny new Blu Ray format - and to see it all cleaned up and pucker like this - and on a juicy big plasma screen too - is a treat few movie fans will be able to resist.

As close to `beautiful' as a man could get, Newman shone from the second he smiled in the opening credits. The rest of the cast too were just fantastic - it's almost a case of spot the famous face now - Harry Dean Stanton and the young Dennis Hopper in early roles, George Kennedy in probably his best part, Strother Martin, JD Cannon, Lou Antonio, Joe Don Baker...the list is endless...and all of it with a top screenplay by DONN PEARCE and FRANK PIERSON and complimented by a cool LALO SCHIFFRIN soundtrack.

But the real treat for lifetime fans of the film is the PRINT. From the moment you see the red steel "violation" sign fill the screen as a drunk Lucas Jackson chops the head off yet another parking meter in his hick home town with a steel cutter, you know this print has been seen to properly - and I mean properly - it's absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Most of the action takes place in the blistering heat of a Florida prison and its daily work details, so there's a sort of heat haze over every outdoor shot, but the clarity of the restored print is still fantastic. When some of the prisoners are going through the compounds gates - beautifully clear. Paul Newman as he lays on his top bunk before the 8pm curfew looking at a bare light bulb just inches away...again so clean...

And then there's the film itself...there are so many great scenes:
...the full-on sex-kitten JOY HARMON (27 at the time, but looking more like 20) washing the car in that clinging floral dress while the boys sweat nearby digging a trench in the road ("I'm dying here...") is probably one of the sexiest and most delicious scenes ever put to film (George Kennedy calls her Lucille). Strother Martin's famous lines about "communication" when one of the prisoners gets shirty, the mirror shades of "Boss" reflecting everything from the birds he shoots to approaching trucks, the boisterous and loaded card games, the egg-eating contest, hiding out in the chapel at the end of the film as `boss man' comes after Lucas...George Kennedy dying inside as the spirit of his new friend is close to being broken, but doesn't break (Kennedy won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Role)...all of it brill...and like its title...effortlessly cool.

The one real downside for me is the lack of extras - how we would have loved to have seen some on-set footage, interviews, a documentary even, but no... There aren't enough languages subtitled either (French and Spanish)...docked a star for those disappointments.

"Cool Hand Luke" on Blu Ray is a triumph. What we have here is not a failure to communicate, but a great version of a great movie.

It's just such a damn shame there isn't any extras to put that icing on the cake. Still, highly recommended.

PS: The wholesome, clean-living and entirely innocent Joy Harmon is pictured below.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc