Stuart Rosenberg



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)
6.5 Amityville Horror (1979)
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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) is an adaptation of Jay Anson's novel "The Amityville Horror" (1977). The film recycles ideas from Hitchcock and DePalma with little imagination. It also feels somewhat incomplete (for example, it abandons the sergeant who was shown watching the family: where is he at the key moment?).

The police take away the bodies of an entire family massacred in the middle of the night by a man named Ronald DeFeo, a member of the family. One year later a young couple, George and Kathy, visits the same house. When the realtor shows them the rooms, we see brief flashbacks to the shooting that took place in each room. Kathy has three little children from her previous marriage: Greg, Matt, and Amy. George and Kathy have heard of the massacre. The price is competitive. They accept and leave. The realtor, alone in the house, runs out when she feels a strange presence. After one month of living there, they are unpacking their belongings. George hangs Kathy's crucifix on a wall. A priest comes to bless the house while the family is out but cannot do it because he is attacked by flies. A door opens by itself and a voice orders him to get out. He vomits outside. In the evening he phones Kathy but then he cannot talk to her because he starts coughing and painful blisters appear on his hands. Kathy only hears some static noise. George feels cold even if the heat is on. The little boy, Matt, falls down the steps leading to the basement. Kathy doesn't see that a rocking chair starts rocking by itself when she leaves the bedroom of her little daughter Amy. And later we see on that chair a doll that wasn't there before. Another day Kathy feels something strange in the house when Amy is playing with her imaginary friend Jody. Kathy phones the priest thinking that he never showed up but the priest has fallen sick and lies unconscious in bed. Kathy's jovial Catholic nun Helena comes to visit just when the plumbing in the house is going beserk. As the nun walks in, a chandelier starts shaking and she suddenly feels unwell and rushes out panicking. Kathy is shocked by her rude behavior. George keeps burning firewood in the fireplace because he feels cold. Kathy has a nightmare. The priest recovers enough to return to the house ma the steering wheel malfunctions, the hood pops up and the car crashes. George and Kathy host Kathy's younger brother Jimmy who is getting engaged. George is now officially sick, and shivering a lot. Jimmy is desperate because his money disappeared and he has to pay the caterer. George, Kathy and Jimmy leave the house for the engagement party. A babysitter stays with little Amy but she gets locked into a closet and Amy does not respond to her screams. Amy listens paralyzed. At the party George is getting increasingly sick. George and Kathy return home early and find the babysitter locked in the closet, crying and even bleeding because she knocked so hard. But the closet doesn't have a lock and it's unexplained why the door wouldn't open. Amy justifies her inaction: her imaginary friend Jody wouldn't let her. Meanwhile the priest, who is a trained psychotherapist, reports to his superior his suspicion that the family is in danger but his superior doesn't believe him. Kathy is worried that George keeps collecting firewood for the fireplace. He seems to go insane. He misses work and his coworker Jeff comes looking for him, but the coworker's wife Carolyn locks herself in the car and refuses to get out. Amy keeps talking with invisible children. When her brother Matt teases her, a window crashes on his hand and he has to be taken to the hospital. George wakes up in the middle of the night and finds a room full of lies. And then the front door crashes as if someone broke in. When George returns to the room full of flies, the flies are gone. They call the police thinking there was an intruder. The same sergeant who oversaw the investigation of the massacre pays a visit. The sergeant notices that the door was broken from the inside, not from the outside. The sergeant is puzzled that George looks like the young man who committed the massacre. George's dog scratches under a brick wall in the basement. Kathy tries again to phone the priest but again the priest cannot speak and she only hears static noise. Jeff and George meet at a pub. Jeff confronts George about their failing business, caused by George's behavior. George snaps and punches Jeff in the face. The bartender reacts like the sergeant when he sees George: he looks like the serial killer. George tells Jeff about the strange events at the house. Jeff's wife Carolyn has an explanation: that the house is haunted by the devil because it was built by a witch. Jeff offers to babysit the children so that George and Kathy can go to a restaurant. They all head to the house. Meanwhile, Kathy is told by Amy about Jody and Kathy sees two red eyes outside the window of Amy's room. This time Jeff's wife Carolyn, who seems to be a psychic, is attracted to the house. She senses that there are people buried in a room hidden next to the basement, where the dog keeps scratching. George believes her and starts digging with a pick. They find the hidden room and George sees a reflection of himself. Carolyn seems to go crazy and screams to find a well and cover it because it is the passage to hell. Kathy's crucifix has been turned upside down on the wall. They use it to bless every room of the house. Unbeknownst to them, the sergeant is mounting guard outside the house. The priest prays for the house in the church and... he goes blind. George keeps getting up in the middle of the night at exactly 3:15 (the time at which the massacre was coarried out). Kathy has a nightmare in which George kills Amy with his axe. When Kathy complains that George keeps putting wood in the fireplace, George beats Kathy for the first time. Kathy looks for the priest in vain: he has retired and doesn't talk anymore. The sergeant keeps watching the house. Kathy checks the back issues of the local newspaper about the massacre. She too notices that the killer looks like George. She rushes home. At the same time the dog sniffs that something is happening in the basement. Kathy gets home after dark when a violent storm has just started. Kathy sees George walking towards the house with an axe and George sees a monster at Amy's window. Kathy hides the children in the closet. George finds them and is about to kill them but Kathy attacks him from behind and he regains his senses. Blood is dripping down the stairs and something is coming out of the basement, causing the house to shake. George and Kathy takes the children to the car. George drives the car away from the house and then runs back to rescue the dog. George falls into the black (literally) hole that opened in the basement and it is the dog who rescues him. The film ends with the notice that George and Kathy never returned to their house to retrieve their personal belongings.

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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