The Gonzo Journals
May 23rd, 2023
Fair Warning: This may be the most offensive, yet honest, thing I’ve ever written. Proceed with caution.
There have been several films over the years that I’ve avoided like a first kiss with bad breath. Does that make sense to anyone other than me? You know the films I’m talking about. The ones everyone claims are the be all/end all of cinema and quote endlessly. Heaven forbid you tell these super fans that you’ve never taken an hour or three to watch their favorite films. They’ll start readying the nails for the inevitable crucifixion!
I’ve dodged many famous bullets over the years but gave in as time went by. The Godfather? Bored to tears. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? Overrated. There are several more but those two stick out the most. The trifecta holdout was none other than Paul Newman’s “masterpiece” of cinema famous in my generation for the opening quote of a Guns N Roses song – Cool Hand Luke.
The year was 1967, and I can’t help but feel that there were many more men in my father’s generation in the closet than previously advertised. A film where a bunch of grown men on a southern prison farm spend a lot of time in their underwear talking about women. Sure. I spent some time working in a federal prisoner transfer facility. That’s what they all talk about until the lights go out…then the voices have a tendency to get a bit more sensual. Let’s check the boxes:
1967 – check
Southern prison farm – check
No air conditioning – check
Sweaty men in boxers who rarely shower but are somehow magically clean shaven with perfect hair – check
Getting each other all horned up before bedtime – check
I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but this film is in denial. A famous friend of mine claims there are Jesus allegories plastered all in this film as well and I say in return, “Yep.”
What do you think of a gaggle of thirteen men following one guy through the desert jumping at the chance to wash his feet while he rambles endlessly in riddles claiming hardships bestowed upon him by his own father? That, my friends, is one hell of a run on sentence worthy of the intended homosexual pun. Someone had to say it…
Let’s break it down.
Paul Newman goes to prison for taking the heads off a few parking meters while having a beer or two. – worthy of prison? Even in 1967, I doubt this would be a thing. Maybe if the film had taken some time to introduce Luke’s backstory revealing a previous criminal history, I’d believe it. I don’t. Maybe he talks about it at some point, but I missed it while searching for all the “hints” the filmmakers were trying to hide in 1967. There was absolutely nothing about Paul Newman’s acting which screamed “greatest performance of all time!” My friend is right, though. I did feel a strong Jesus connection in Newman’s on-screen presence. Enough to make me want to turn the damn thing off.
Side note: I just read that this story takes place in the late 1940’s. I didn’t feel that at all from watching the film. A lot of it was filmed in Gainesville, Florida though, and it’s hard to tell the difference there between 1940, 1967, and 2023. Thank DeSantis for calendars!
Side side note: the “hot for 1967” chick washing the car was named Joy Harmon. I can imagine this scene was super risky for 1967 and may be why so many straight men have recommended this film to me over the years. I can think of a couple dozen better spank scenes, though. Also, the mother’s name was Jo Van Fleet. From what I found, she is in no way related to anyone from Greta Van Fleet. Missed opportunity, in my opinion.
Next up is George Kennedy, who starred in over one hundred films before his passing in 2016, and won the Oscar for best supporting actor. I think this guy annoyed the shit out of me more than anyone else in the film. Why? I know the type. This had absolutely nothing to do with George Kennedy’s ability to act, just the character itself. The giant who begins as the main character’s nemesis but falls absolutely in love with him after having a fist fight? This trope has been overplayed time and time again in cinema and many times before 1967. At the end, he goes bonkers. To me, this is very much director Stuart Rosenberg’s attempt at homosexual Frankenstein.
Now, my regular readers know me enough to believe I am the furthest thing from homophobic, I just like it when a film calls itself what it truly is. Jesus Meets Frankenstein’s Monster – Special “In The Closet” Edition. My screwed-up brain was too preoccupied with the memorable scent of ball sweat and butt funk whenever it showed the men in their barracks. Not only did I work in corrections, but I was also in the Army. This will be stuck in my mind forever, and it has nothing to do with the director’s ability to put me in the moment. No one wants to be in that moment, my friends. No one.
I did manage to be totally shocked by several young Dennis Hopper appearances, even though I don’t recall him having a speaking part in the film, as well as Harry Dean Stanton, who went on to star in one of my favorite all time films a decade later – Alien. Still, not enough to make me jump up and down about Cool Hand Luke.
Finally, the Guns N Roses scene came and went, with the eventual 1967 “shock” ending. I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s never seen it, but I think I’ve already touched on it quite a bit up above. You’ll never guess what happens at the end. Jesus dies, Frankenstein’s Monster – who insists on calling Luke “baby” throughout the second half of the film – gets pissed, and the film ends on a fade away scene of sweaty men clearing out a ditch.
I would’ve enjoyed this film much more if it were honest with itself. I know this is going to piss a lot of heterosexual men off from the older generation but I’m going to explain Cool Hand Luke for what it was supposed to be. Not that many grown men from the older generation read this blog, but you never know.
Cool Hand Luke is REALLY about a man doing a bare minimum crime so he can be locked in a tiny house with a bunch of sweaty, scantily clad men. When he arrives, he finds the biggest, strongest hunky stud in the bunch and develops a love/hate relationship. One day, after obvious months of buildup – pun may or may not be intended – the two men finally get a chance to put their hands all over each other disguising it as a “fight”. Luke refuses to “stay down”, which is an admirable trait to Frankenstein. Luke keeps running away from Frankenstein but in a poorly enough fashion to where he always gets caught. He is delivered back to Frankenstein, bruised and beaten, so he can be nursed back to health.
Cool Hand Luke is really a story about two men in a toxic, gaslighting relationship who only get relief from the obvious toxicity when one of them dies. We don’t know what happens to Frankenstein after the film ends but I assume they may have eventually killed him as well for beating up one of the guards, which are meant to represent the ruling class within the prison work farm.
The big reveal?
Cool Hand Luke is secretly a 1967 homosexual remake of Romeo and Juliet starring Jesus and Frankenstein’s monster. You’re welcome.
Whether you like it or not, it’s the truth. If Jesus could deep throat fifty eggs, he could handle a blast to the tonsils from Frankenstein’s cock. The end.
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