WTF Happened to Deliverance?

Last Updated on October 10, 2022

John Boorman’s Deliverance arguably has two signature scenes. One is harmless enough, the “duelling banjos” sequence where a young Ronny Cox goes up against a local banjo-picking country boy played by Billy Redden, although it has a foreboding end. The second sequence, which gave rise to the term “squeal like a pig,” has lived on in nightmares for the entire half-century since this film made its theatrical debut in 1972. But, while everyone knows those scenes, Boorman’s white-knuckle thriller is often dismissed, and in this episode of WTF Happened to this Movie, we dig into the Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds-led classic.

Deliverance tells the tale of some Atlanta businessmen who decide to canoe down a river in the Georgia wilderness before it gets damned. They are led by Reynolds’ Lewis, a swaggering, macho outdoorsman. Jon Voight’s Ed is his best friend, a more casual outdoorsman, while Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox are their city slicker pals. After a disastrous run-in with forest-dwelling psychos leads to much squealing, the group must fend for themselves in the dangerous wilderness. This becomes especially dangerous once Lewis is brutally sidelined and Ed must become the team’s alpha male.

If you haven’t seen it, Deliverance stands the test of time as one of the best action-thrillers of the seventies and also works terrifically well as a horror movie. It’s arguably the most significant role of the late Burt Reynolds’ career (along with Boogie Nights) and a film whose impact should not be ignored. In this episode of WTF, we explain how dangerous the actual shooting was, with Reynolds and much of the cast nearly losing their lives due to the stuntwork, while the director had his hands full dealing with the alcoholic, macho author whose book the film was based on.

Do you think Deliverance stands the test of time? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.