Once upon a time when I might have lived in Sugar Land, home of Imperial Sugar, I used to ride my horse in the vicinity of the prison farm. There were those who believed that the prison farm in Cool Hand Luke was based on our prison farm and were consequently insulted and defensive. They of course did not have ready access to the truth according Wikipedia, so maybe they can be forgiven their ignorance. My horse was an Appaloosa, Joker B bloodlines of course, that Joker B got around; should have been called Genghis Khan, and being an Appaloosa, she was hard headed and intelligent and always biding her time waiting for the perfect moment to take off for home. Well, one day a friend and I were riding nearish to the prison farm when we heard the sirens indicating an escape. We were excited and spent maybe 30 seconds discussing it before returning to previous topics concerning the nature of Free Will when suddenly we heard the bay of hounds in the distance and halted to survey the situation. That’s when we saw him, the escapee running at full tilt in our direction. My friend whose horse was a Thoroughbred took to her horses heels, but I who have always been inclined to fantasizing at a moment’s notice fell into a romantic reverie imagining Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke I mean, as the escapee. He kept getting closer and closer while my steed and I remained frozen to the spot. It wasn’t until he grabbed the reins that I saw him for what he was: terrifying in his desperation, a creature reduced to the most basic animal instincts of survival at all costs. I dismounted and gave my horse away to this criminal, all romantic thoughts vanquished in an instant. You wouldn’t believe how fast my horse took off, like a bat out of hell; it wasn’t any time before she and her new rider were passing that Thoroughbred like it was standing still. When the guys with the dogs caught up with me, there were some ugly, uncomfortable moments due to their suspicions that I was part of the escape team, but then I explained to them that my horse was very intelligent and was perfectly well aware when someone inexperienced was on her back; and what’s more, she was barn sour as hell. End of the story: I had a long walk home, and the prisoner was captured exactly as I had predicted back at the barn lying on the ground where she had thrown him with vigor.
Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman, was released on Samhain of 1967 and is The prison escape movie. It is filled with great scenes and dialogue and fully developed characters who go well beyond the usual superficial cliche fare we’ve been forced to ingest in recent years. Beyond that, this film is more than a movie about criminals we’re not sure we want to know anything about, it is a movie about us and the imprisoned lives we lead waiting, waiting, waiting for a hero like Luke to come and save us.