A big hit in 1967, this is one of Paul Newman’s most significant films, casting him as a mooncalf vandal whose destructive pre-credits spree — decapitating parking meters — lands him on a prison farm where his uppity, rebellious, downright mule-headed attitude brings him into major league conflict with the guards and makes him a heroic martyr for the other cons.
One of those movies you remember Great Moments from: the egg-eating contest, warden Strother Martin complaining “what we got here is a failure to communicate”, George Kennedy winning an Academy Award as the toughest con who plays St Peter to Newman’s Jesus, the Evil Guard in Mirror Sunglasses, the card game that gets out of hand. Like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (which has the same plot), this is simultaneously a damn fine prison movie with all the clichés lovingly in place and a comic allegory of redemption in America. Fans of sweaty redneck character actors get a treat, what with J.D. Cannon, Anthony Zerbe, Joe Don Baker, Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper and Morgan Woodward in the same film.