WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Four friends from Atlanta descend on the remote Cahulawassee River before itís flooded and turned into a dam to provide more electricity for the city. With two canoes, the four friends; consisting of level-headed Ed (Jon Voight), he-man survivalist Lewis (Burt Reynolds), brash Bobby (Ned Beatty) and kindly Drew (Ronny Cox) soon run afoul of locals and nature- turning their weekend adventure into a grueling battle for survival.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
John Boormanís DELIVERANCE is a film that strikes terror into the heart of any tenderfoot who likes to occasionally take off for a little r ní r in the wilderness. Imagine a camping trip gone terribly, terribly wrong, and you get a film classic that set the tone for many of the psycho hillbilly films to follow, including THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. However, unlike those films, this isnít horror. While the hillbilly baddies are creepy, and their rape of Ned Beattyís Bobby is one of the most shocking scenes ever committed to celluloid, they arenít the focus of the film. Theyíre dispatched easily enough, but itís more about the men versus the elements, being in a place they had no business being, and their eventual return-to-civilization while burdened by the knowledge of the darker, baser part of their personality that came to light over the course of the weekend.
Some of you may chuckle at the presence of Burt Reynolds, whoís become a figure of fun thanks to his latter run of films, but in DELIVERANCE he was absolutely impeccable as the macho, but ultimately fallible Lewis. This is probably the most vulnerable Reynolds ever allowed himself to come off (except maybe James L. Brooksí STARTING OVER and BOOGIE NIGHTS- for which I think he was robbed at the Oscars), and itís no wonder this made him a megastar. As for Jon Voight, this, along with MIDNIGHT COWBOY and RUNAWAY TRAIN is one of the films that really shows off his range, and fully captured exactly what he was able to do when given the opportunity. As the everyman who has to revert to a more primal state of being in order to survive, his conflicted performance is spectacular, particularly in the last twenty minutes or so once he remerges from the river, a changed man. One also should not forget Ronny Cox, who gets the famous ďDueling BanjosĒ scene with young Billy Redden, or Ned Beatty, who without a job has the toughest role, as the brash egotistical guy, whoís violently raped and spends the rest of the film trying to come to terms with his ordeal. All in all a fantastic film.
The extras here are off the charts. Kicking things off is a really interesting piece called The Cast Looks Back reuniting the four leads for a roundtable chat about the film and itís legacy, with all agreeing it was the highlight of their respective careers. A Four-Part Retrospective running just under an hour is also included off the older DVD, giving a comprehensive rundown of the production and the book it was based on. The only person missing here is Billy Redden, who I suppose couldnít be tracked down, although heís interviewed in the Blu-Ray Book included in the packaging. Thereís also commentary by John Boorman, although I canít help but wish heíd been joined by Reynolds and Voight, who would have livened things up a bit. Rounding out the disc is the trailer and a vintage featurette .
If you havenít seen DELIVERANCE, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. Itís one of the classic white-knuckle thrillers, and might also turn you onto the work of John Boorman, who, in addition to this also directed the excellent POINT BLANK, and the amazing EXCALIBUR. This is a phenomenal movie.