Black SplatCool Hand Luke (1967)

"...spends the night in the box."

Cool Hand Luke - Floor Walker Carr lays out the rules

Description: What happens to prisoners at Florida Road Prison 36 when they do not follow orders in the motion picture Cool Hand Luke (1967).

When new prisoners enter Road Prison 36, Carr (Clifton James), the floor walker explains the rules:

  • Them clothes got laundry numbers on them…Any man forgets his number spends the night in the box.
  • These here spoons you keep with you. Any man loses his spoon spends the night in the box.
  • There's no playing grab-ass or fighting in the building. You got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon…Any man playing grab-ass or fighting in the building spends the night in the box.
  • First bell is five minutes to eight. Last bell is at eight…Any man not in his bunk at eight spends the night in the box.
  • There is no smoking in the prone position in bed. To smoke, you must have both legs over the side of your bunk…Any man caught smoking in the prone position in bed...spends the night in the box.
  • You get two sheets. Every Saturday you put the clean sheets in the top, the top sheet in the bottom. The bottom sheet you turn into the laundry boy. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends the night in the box.
  • No one'll sit in the bunks with dirty pants on. Any man with dirty pants on sitting on the bunks spends the night in the box.
  • Any man don't bring back his empty pop bottle spends the night in the box.
  • Any man loud talking spends the night in the box.

"You got questions, you come to me. I'm Carr, the floor walker. I'm responsible for order in here. Any man don't keep order spends the night in...” Just then newcomer Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) interjects, “the box.” Carr admonishes, “I hope you ain't going to be a hard case.” Luke just smiles and shakes his head.

Lucas "Luke" Jackson is a war hero who made the mistake of getting drunk and damaging a bunch of parking meters. For his crime, he is sentenced to two years in a Florida prison where he works on the road gang with fellow inmates, including Dragline (George Kennedy), the leader of the prisoners.

Cool Hand Luke - Dragline pummels Luke

Now Luke's independent spirit rubs Dragline the wrong way and he challenges Luke to a boxing match to prove his is still in charge. But, despite the fact that Dragline is bigger, and stronger, Luke keeps getting up from the ground even after repeated knockdowns. His determination in the face of defeat impresses the other inmates and Luke soon became a favorite among the convicts.

Cool Hand Luke - Luke competes in an egg eating challenge

When Luke is not escaping, he finds time to place a bet that he can eat 50 hard-boiled eggs, as well as win a poker game on a bluff and earn the nickname "Cool Hand Luke."

[Luke wins a game of poker on a bluff]
Dragline: Nothin'. A handful of nothin'. You stupid mullet head. He beat you with nothin'. Just like today when he kept comin' back at me - with nothin'.
Luke: Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

Cool Hand Luke - Luke groveling in the dirt

As stated, Luke lives life on his own terms and time and again, he escapes from captivity and time and again, he is found and returned to prison, where the guards beat him and make him perform tedious and unnecessary tasks like filling up a hole and then digging it up again.

Although beaten, Luke's spirit is never broken. But on his last attempt to escape, Luke's luck runs out while hold up in a church, with Dragline. Hoping for a miracle, Luke prays to God to give him a break and help him escape, but instead the prison warden and guards arrive to arrest him.

Cool Hand Luke - Luke 'Communcicates" with the warden

But this time, the guards fire upon Luke as he calls out from the window of the church. His last words: (just before being shot in the neck) “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The phrase had been used by Captain (Strother Martin), the prison's sadistic warden, who said, "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."

Although Luke's wounds could have been cared for at a local hospital, the warden decides to bring Luke back to the prison where he dies. Days after, Dragline brags about his friend to a group of inmates.

"He was smiling...That's right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn't know it 'fore, they could tell right then that they weren't a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he's a natural-born world-shaker."

Note: In the motion picture Lock Up (1989) Captain Meissner tells new prisoner Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) the following:

"You'll be issued one bar of soap, two rolls of toilet paper for a month! Somebody steals... TURN your ass around! Somebody steals them or you lose them, you WILL be wiping your ass with your shirt! You have one uniform! Your number is five one zero! REMEMBER it! This is C wing! You will eat, shower, and take yard time with your wing! There's six counts a day! You miss one, you're in the hole! Miss two, and I'll personally put you in the house of pain!"

Cool Hand Luke - Movie Poster

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