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Deliverance (DE)
DVD disk
10.04.2007 By: Mathew Plale
Deliverance (DE) order
Director:
John Boorman

Actors:
Burt Reynolds
Jon Voight
Ned Beatty

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Four men from Atlanta hit the unpredictable waters of the Cahulawassee...but the raging rapids are the least of their concerns after a run-in with a pair of horny hillbillies.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
In their first (of many, as it turns out) run-in with the backward folk of the Deep South, one of the four city slickers engages in a finger-plucking duel with a local boy. One of the men hangs back and smiles, the others admire their electric tips. And for a moment, there’s a glimpse of boyhood innocence…for a moment.

The men from Atlanta’s destination is the Cahulawassee River (the Chattooga, by word of Rand & McNally), facing its final days before it’s dammed. The troop’s leader is Lewis (Reynolds), a Ted Nugent of sorts hell-bent on tackling the rapids “because it’s there.” His pals are the jittery Ed (Voight, in the film’s best performance), guitar-pickin’ Drew (dead weight Ronny Cox), and Bobby (Beatty), a fraidy cat Superbowl type—how Lewis even met these potatoes is a wonder. The lagging trio does their best to keep up with their Columbus, though we get the impression a round of 18 would’ve suited them just fine.

Taking a cue from the picture’s structure, let’s get the best out of the way first. Deliverance, in the 35 years since its release, has poised itself with cinematic significance, both deservedly (the American Film Institute ranked it the 15th most thrilling movie ever made) and not so (a Best Picture nomination). One accolade it was noticeably snubbed of was Vilmos Zsigmond’s naturalistic photography, which during the canoeing sequences more than hints at National Geographic.

It is, for its time, the quintessential tale of Man vs. Nature, most impressively back by the actors own stuntwork (production went uninsured). And then something happens…About a third of the way through the journey, director John Boorman paddles Deliverance into the kind of picture only Roger Corman would finance, by way of a beastly rape conjured by the wayward mind of writer James Dickey. {sidenote: the location of the scene is now known as Sodomy Creek, as Voight was eager to share when I spoke with him in 2006.}

Don’t let the picture’s unanimous praise fool you—this is B gone Hollywood; only Deliverance is ignorant of this. When Boorman and Dickey desert Man vs. Nature following a hillbilly’s death, it cradles a church-indicating redemption theme that works to an exploitative extent. Watch as the adventurers deliver a corpse (posed in a curious manner) to his muddy grave, shortly thereafter continuing their trip through the current, cleansing the sins they’ve committed and witnessed. The nail is further driven towards the end of the film via a colossal roadblock.

And so by the haunting finale we have, in place of Boorman and Dickey’s “How-To” on wilderness survival, a hillbilly defense guide that, between its plethoric coincidences, poorly paced scenes, and phony metaphors, is a trip more arduous on the viewers than its subjects. And dam(n) this movie for sparking those “Paddle faster, I hear banjo music” t-shirts that pollute gift shops in the South.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Director John Boorman: Though a cast commentary would’ve been more desired, Boorman enlightens us on production stories, even if they’re riddled with minor gaps. Worth a listen if you skip around a bit.

4-Part Anniversary Retrospect ~ The Beginning (16:42) focuses on James Dickey’s novel and how the cast was attracted to the film (including Voight’s hesitance); The Journey (13:02) brings our attention to 16-year-old Billy Redden and the secret behind his banjo abilities, as well as filming in the wild; Betraying the River (14:36) is a piece more devoted to the infamous “squeal like a pig” scene and how the phrase came about, but also includes background on the stunts; finally, Delivered (10:35) illustrates the impact Deliverance has had (particularly on men).

The Dangerous World of Deliverance (10:11) is a vintage piece found on the previous release. Though weak compared to the previous feature, the behind the scenes footage makes this worth peeking at.

And the Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
How Deliverance remains one of the most praised movies of the early-'70s is a wonder. It's not that it's dated per-se--it's just not that good. Besides, it's hard to respect a movie that is ignorant of its own exploitation. The solid retrospect documentary and video transfer may be enough for fans to double dip.
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