Cool Hand LukeWarner Bros. (Blu-ray)
A defiant chain-gang prisoner suffers a "failure to communicate" in this searing drama.
I have to give props to Warner for their consistent push of classic titles in HD. There have been quite a few that I had not seen since I was really young and it’s been fun experiencing them again in pristine form. Newman’s classic is actually a new one for me. I thought I’d seen this one already but I haven’t, which is always a treat. This film reminds me a bit of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in its story arc and supporting cast. Newman plays a small time troublemaker that winds up in a chain gang and livens the place up with his antics. After he hears of his mother’s death things go drastically downhill as the warden decides to punish him for no real reason and Newman sets out to escape. The movie is a great piece of character work and the supporting cast is great. While not quite Newman’s best work, it is one of the better ones I’ve seen from his catalog.
Warner continues to impress with their classic title releases. This one looks great on Blu-ray and conveys rich detail and an impressively clean print. Fine film grain is preserved beautifully and the image has a very film-like look. Color rendition is excellent with very natural hues and good contrast. Fine object detail is good but not quite to the level of some of the other classics we’ve seen. I didn’t notice any compression issues though and the print is nearly devoid of any nicks and scratches. Another solid classic catalog for Warner.
The audio is presented in its original Mono form using standard Dolby Digital. My system decoded it as stereo though and it sounded quite good. The soundstage never sounded pigeonholed at all and dynamics were better than I was expecting. Tonal balance and timbre in the dialogue was very natural and imaging was convincing. The score is good but did sound a bit dated at times with some of the upper end coming off a tad harsh.
Extras include a feature commentary with Newman Biographer Eric Lax along with a new documentary on the film and its impact. The trailer is also included.
This is a classic by anyone’s standards and one of Newman’s great performances. Warner continues to shine with their classic releases and this is no exception. Highly recommended.