After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Luke Jackson is a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang, who, while refusing to buckle under to authority, keeps escaping and being recaptured. The prisoners admire Luke because, as Dragline explains it, "You're an original, that's what you are!" Nevertheless, the camp staff actively works to crush Luke until he finally breaks. Written by
The opening scene, where Luke is cutting off the heads of parking meters, was filmed in Lodi, California. After the filming, the city did not replace the meters, and for many years afterward, you could go there and see a block long row of metal posts, sans meters. See more »
When Carr gives his famous "Night in the box" speech, just after he tells Luke he hopes he won't be any trouble, he drops the spoons with a clattering sound. In that instant, the camera cuts from a close-up to a long shot, and the cigar stump clenched in his mouth is suddenly now in his left hand. See more »
[Moving through the crowd, all excited about the record breaking egg eating about to take place]
Alright, stand back you pedestrians, this ain't no automobile accident.
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Truly a memorable movie, and more than just a documentary about southern road gangs. It's a study on the theme of the indomitability of the human spirit in the face of oppression. I was about to name this as Newman's finest performance until I thought of Eddy Felsen in "The Hustler" and Frank Galvin in "The Verdict"; it's impossible to choose among such a cornucopia of acting achievements, but Luke is right up there (the analogy to Luke as Christ becomes a tad heavy-handed when we see him, at the close of the egg-eating scene, stretched out, arms outward, feet crossed, as if crucified; none the less, it's a powerful image). There is no doubt, however, about George Kennedy as Dragline; it is his finest achievement, and fully deserves the Oscar he got for Best Supporting Actor. It is also fascinating to find so many familiar faces among the inmates - actors such as Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Joe Don Baker, Ralph Waite. and Wayne Rogers - who would go on to fame in their own right. This movie can unquestionably be called a classic. American Movie Classics just started (11/2000) showing a beautifully restored letterbox version which shows it in all its glory.
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