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
Perhaps one of the last of the chain-gang movies (until it was briefly shown in the beginning of 2000's "O, Brother Where Art Thou?), this has always been (1) an interesting film (2) a wonderfully photographed movie.
You hear more about the story and about Paul Newman than you usually hear about the cinematography, but it's good and this movie should be seen in widescreen. It was offered as such even on VHS.
When I looked at this film sometime in the '90s, I was surprised that the famous line from it: "What we have here is a failure to communicate," was only used twice, and the second time being the last sentence uttered by Newman. I had thought that Strother Martin had said it several times. Boy, Martin was one of the more effective villains in some 1960s film, a mean-talking sadistic guy.
This movie was another of the pioneers in promoting a new thing on screen: the "anti-hero," so it was popular in the protest decade of the '60s. Newman's character fit right into the period where the rebel is the hero and the authority figure is the bad guy. You've seen this repeatedly ever since, although filmmakers have always loved rebels.
George Kennedy gives Newman memorable support as "Dragline" and was aptly awarded for his performance. Someone who I always remembered was the prison guard who said nothing, just stared through his sunglasses. I can always picture that guy and those reflective glasses. That, and eating 50 hard- boiled eggs have stuck with me for over 40 years!
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