Screengrab: Cool Hand Paul



RICHARD LUTZ on the films on tv this week that you just got to see


Here’s one for all you movie geeks: a classic prison chain gang movie starring Jack Lemmon as a Christ-like inmate called Luke Jackson and Telly Savalas (formerly Kojak) as the jail bully who learns to love and respect  Luke.

Err…ain’t that Cool Hand Luke?

Well, yes, and Lemon produced the 1967 film and initially had himself in the starring role. But when he read the final script, he realised that Paul Newman was the man for the job and Arthur Kennedy as Dragline, the hardman thug who first beats Luke to a pulp and then learns humility and loyalty.

This movie, Cool Hand Luke (Thurs, ITV4, 20.00) was a major mid sixties Hollywood statement along with Bonnie and Clyde. Forget smoking pot, demonstrating against Vietnam or wearing  hair down  to your knees. This film is a  multi million pound commercial effort to show what happens when an individial refuses…just plain refuses…to cave in. It has ‘Hell, no, I won’t go’ scrawled across the big screen.

Newman’s Luke is a war hero with nowhere to travel but down. And when imprisoned in a Florida prison farm for a drunken transgression (beheading parking meters), he digs his heels into the ground and won’t  budge unless there is an escape.

Prison boss Strother Martin breaks him. But is he brokebacked and defeated? Not really…

The grim story is coloured by hugely memorable lines, such as when the prison boss leers over a beaten Luke and sneers: ‘What we have hear is a failure to communicate..’ It became, if you can remember, a totemic call  during the late sixties, especially in the US when the government couldn’t see that the Vietnam War was a bloody mistake and kept bombing Hanoi.

Blue eyed Newman really made his Hollywood name  with this film and Kennedy won an Oscar. There is a grippingly lean plot and solid emblematic roles. Luke Jackson is Christ-like, lean and mean prison guard Boss Godrey is the Devil in shades, Luke’s fellow inmates are the Christian apostles, some say. Others shrug and say it is simply a good yarn.

Watch out for some young faces that later made it big: Harry Dean Stnaton, Dennis Hopper, Joe Don Baker and Anthony Zerbe.

And also enjoy the famous eating contest when young Luke gobbles down that bucket of hard boiled eggs.