Stuart Rosenberg


Best films:
7.2 Cool Hand Luke (1967)
6.9 April Fools (1969)
6.9 Pocket Money (1971)
6.9 The Laughing Policeman (1973)
6.8 The Voyage of the Damned (1976)
7.0 Amityville Horror (1979)
Links:

Stuart Rosenberg (USA, 1927) debuted with the gangster movie Murder Inc (1960) and the political drama Question 7 (1961).

The prison drama Cool Hand Luke (1967), an adaptation of Donn Pearce's novel "Cool Hand Luke" (1965), is a powerful portrait of a loner and loser in a suffocating atmosphere.

A drunk man (Paul Newman) spends the night breaking parkimeters in deserted streets. Cops arrest him. Luke is sent for two years in a prison camp. The warden is surprised to read in his record that he is a decorated war veteran. The big floor guard, Carr, recites all the rules. Punishment for breaking the rules is to be locked "in the box". When even the prisoners discuss their own rules, enforced by senior convict Dragline, Luke laughs sarcastically. Early morning, the prisoners are driven to work in the fields as a chain gang. While they work, they are watched by a silent guard who wears sunglasses and is an excellent shooter. Soon it is unbearably hot, and a convict collapses to the ground. After a hard day of work, they are driven back to the prison. One of the convincts who complained gets locked into the box, a small wooden cage. When they work in the fields, the prisoners are distracted by a sexy blond who lives in a farm nearby and clearly provokes them. Dragline challenges Luke at a boxing match. Prisoners and guards watch amused. Dragline knocks down Luke several times but Luke never surrenders. As Luke gets beaten badly, but still continues to fight, the prisoners become silent. Luke's martyrdom attracts the attention of the warden and guards. Eventually it's Dragline who refuses to continue the fight and walks away. Luke gets further respect from Dragline when he wins at poker by bluffing. Luke's mom comes to visit him at the prison, driven by his brother in a pick-up truck whose back has been converted into a bed. She is terminally sick but cheers him up. His brother leaves him a banjo. The next job of the prisoners is to pave a road. A reenergized Luke galvanizes the whole chain gang: they start working at double speed and laughing about their shitty job. They complete the road in record time. Luke's next impossible challenge is to bet that he can eat 50 eggs in one hour. Carr himself, the guard, acts as the referee. And Luke makes it: 50 eggs in one hour. One day Luke picks up a rattlesnake and holds it for the silent shooter to kill it. Luke smiles and congratulates him on his shooting skills. The silent guard doesn't say a word. Dragline warns Luke that it's dangerous to mess with the silent guard. Another time Luke stands in the rain alone while all the prisoners and guards shelter wherever they can. One evening Luke receives a letter: his mother died. All the prisoners assemble silently. Luke begins to play his banjo and sheds a few tears. The following day the sleazy warden summons Luke and gives a speech that a prisoner whose mother died gets tempted to escape in order to attend her funeral, so Luke gets locked in the box. Luke is released after his mother is buried. He surprises everybody by escaping. He wades a creek and runs along a railway. He is chased by dogs and jumps into a river. When one of the dogs is returned dead, the prisoners rejoice thinking that Luke made it, but soon Luke is returned to the chain gang. The warden wants to humiliate in front of everybody, but Luke talks back so he gets beaten. He is even more of a hero to the prisoners. Dragline advises him to lie low but Luke has other plans. A few days later, while working, Luke asks to urinate behind a bush. The silent shooter prepares his rifle in case Luke tries to escape. And Luke does precisely that. Luke runs to a farm owned by a black family. Unbeknownst to their parents, the children help him break his shackles with an axe. They also get him chili powder that he uses to wreak havoc among the chasing dogs. One day Dragline receives a magazine: inside he finds a picture of Luke between two attractive girls. The prisoners are ecstatic and Luke becomes even more revered. But one night the guards dump an unconscious Luke back into the barracks of the prisoners: they captured him again and his face is all bloody. The prisoners welcome him like a hero but Luke is annoyed by their admiration and shouts at them that the photo was faked. The following day Luke rebels at work and is locked into the box again. When he is released, one guardian orders him to dig a ditch that looks like a grave. When he is almost done, another guardian orders him to fill the hole back in. When he fills it back in, the other guardian beats him up and orders him to dig it again. He is still working on it late at night. The second guardian again beats him up for digging the hole. This time Luke breaks down, starts crying and begs the warden. The other prisoners, after having admired Luke's tough stands, now see and hear Luke turn into a coward. The warden finally forgives him and sends him to sleep. When Luke walks into the barracks, the other prisoners ignore him: he is no longer their hero. The following day he is back on the chain gang. Luke now seems to be the most obedient of prisoners, used like a valet by the guards. But one day he seizes an opportunity, steals the keys of a truck and drives away. Dragline jumps onto the truck in time and flees with him. The guards then realize that Luke stole the keys of the other truck too: they cannot even chase him. Luke and Dragline hide the truck in the swamp. Dragline is excited to run with Luke but Luke is melancholic and prefers to continue alone. Dragline accepts that it's safer to split up. It's late at night. Luke walks into a small town and enters a deserted church. He metaphorically asks "Anybody here?" and starts talking aloud to God. He complains to God that God has made his life so hard. God does not reply. Police cars show up: Dragline gets out of one of them. Luke interprets it as God's reply. Dragline explains that the cops found him and asked him to mediate with Luke. Dragline basically betrayed Luke to save himself. Dragline tries to convince Luke to surrender peacefully as the warden promised not to harm him. Luke smiles and opens a window to talk to the warden but is immediately shot by the silent shooter, who doesn't miss. The local police would like to take the dying Luke to a nearby hospital but the warden refuses and drives him back to the prison, a long drive that is basically an execution. A furious Dragline attacks the silent shooter and tries to strangle him. Sometime later, Dragline is sitting in the street with the other prisoners retelling them how Luke died smiling.

April Fools (1969) is a romantic comedy.

The comedy Move (1970) was an adaptation of a Joel Lieber novel.

WUSA (1970) is a loose adaptation of Robert Stone's 1967 novel "A Hall of Mirrors".

Pocket Money (1971) was adapted by Terrence Malick from J.P.S. Brown's 1970 novel "Jim Kane".

Then came the crime drama The Laughing Policeman (1973), the thriller The Drowning Pool (1975), adapted from Ross Macdonald's novel, the war-time epic The Voyage of the Damned (1976) and Love and Bullets (1979).

Amityville Horror (1979)

He returned to the prison drama with Brubaker (1980).

The comedy The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) is adapted from Vincent Patrick's novel,

He repudiated Let's Get Harry (1986).

His career ended with the western My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (1991).

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