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Cool Hand Luke (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A man with some personal family problems is sentenced to two years on a chain gang in a rural Southern prison where he butts heads with the authorities who find his refusal to follow the rules a serious threat.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Cool Hand Luke 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)
Cool Hand Luke 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)

1967’s Cool Hand Luke is a standout performance by star Paul Newman whose anti-authoritarian character “Cool Hand” Luke  was in many ways a timely character for the rising counterculture, anti-Vietnam War, and Civil Rights movement.

Luke is an easygoing southerner who finds himself arrested for public drunkenness and destruction of property (he saws the tops off of parking meters) and sentenced to a rural prison for two years of hard labor. He finds himself confronted by a hard-as-nails warden known as the Captain (Strother Martin) and a long list of rules. Luke refuses to comply with the authority, finding every way he can to bend the rules, until eventually, after his ailing mother dies, he decides to start attempting prison breaks, making him a hero to his fellow prisoners but an even bigger threat to the authorities running the prison who decide to make an example of him.

Cool Hand Luke is notable for both its exposure of the cruel treatment of prisoners on chain gangs and for the often-ruminative cinematography that gives us a palpable sense of the slow heat of the South and the oppression of the prisoners.  

Paul Newman and George Kennedy (as the towering inmate Dragline) give fantastic performances that play off each other, the characters butting heads at first before eventually becoming best buds after a brutal, one-sided fight in which Luke gets the short stick. Even considering Newman’s and Kennedy’s performances, it is Strother Martin who manages to be the scene-stealer whenever he appears and delivers the film’s most famous lines (“What we have here is a failure to communicate; some men you just can’t reach…”).

  • Morgan Woodward in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Morgan Woodward in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Joy Harmon in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
  • Cool Hand Luke 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)
  • Cool Hand Luke 4K Ultra HD Combo (Warner Bros.)

The Video

Warner Bros. does not offer any detailed information on Cool Hand Luke’s restoration, but it is supplied on 4K Ultra HD in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p HDR10 encodement. The HDR10 metadata shows a MaxLL of 997 nits and MaxFALL of 233 nits. The image is top notch, with a natural and thin layer of grain, lots of detail, and extended depth of field. The color saturation, especially in the many scenes set outdoors in daylight, is slightly pushed as intended, to show that sense of warmth and sunniness, which the HDR10 coding helps with given the wide color gamut. We also see beautiful shots of the sunset on the horizon showing us purples, lavenders, oranges, and ambers. This is another solid entry from Warner out of this set of three companion releases.

The Audio

The original mono mix for Cool Hand Luke is included in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The sound is clean and dialogue intelligible.

The Supplements

The previously released on-disc bonus features for Cool Hand Luke are included on both the 4K and Blu-ray. There is not much, but the audio commentary from Newman biographer Eric Lax and the making-of are solid inclusions that film fans are sure to enjoy.

  • Movies Anywhere Digital Code
  • Blu-ray with Feature Film and Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary by Author Eric Lax
  • A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke (1080p; 00:28:47)
  • Trailer (1080p; 00:02:48)

The Final Assessment

A classic among classics, this 1960s counterculture favorite arrives looking better than ever and still packs a heavy punch given its cast and direction. Highly recommended.


Cool Hand Luke is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo April 4, 2023, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.


  • Rating Certificate: GP
  • Studios & Distributors: Jalem Productions | Warner Bros./Seven Arts | Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
  • Director: Stuart Rosenberg
  • Written By: Donn Pearce | Frank Pierson | Hal Dresner
  • Run Time: 126 Mins.
  • Street Date: 4 April 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: (HDR10)
  • HDR Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 997 nits
    • MaxFALL: 233 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Secondary Audio: French DD 1.0 | German DD 1.0 | Italian DD 1.0 | Spanish (Castilian) DD 1.0 | Spanish (Latin American) DD 1.0 | Czech DD 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH | German SDH | Spanish (Castilian) | Spanish (Latin American) | French | Italian SDH | Dutch | Danish | Czech | Norwegian | Finnish | Swedish
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A man with some personal family problems is sentenced to two years on a chain gang in a rural Southern prison where he butts heads with the authorities who find his refusal to follow the rules a serious threat. Cool Hand Luke (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)