Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Get ready for a wild ride.

Nearly 40 years after its release, Deliverance still packs a powerful punch.

This was director John Boorman's first major directorial effort after directing about a half-dozen episodes of both Citizen 63 and The Newcomers in the 1960s. It's an amazing first effort by the British director for an American film.

Deliverance's plot is unveiled in voiceovers beginning as soon as the film starts.


Lewis (Burt Reynolds) wants to paddle the Chattooga River in the final days before the waterway in North Georgia is flooded by a dam.

Reynolds, in his first major film role, is well cast as a man who loves challenging nature. He's the most well-suited of the four buddies from the big city to go toe-to-toe with the outdoors.

Ed (Jon Voight, three years after generating major buzz with Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy) is a family man with a soft spot for his pipe. He doesn't really have an answer when Lewis asks him why he keeps joining him on his nature treks.

Bobby (Ned Beatty) is the salesman who doesn't want to make waves (pardon the pun). "I'm not used to being yelled at," he suggests at one point.

Drew (Ronny Cox) appears the most interested in meeting the Georgian locals. For anyone wondering where the instrumental, Dueling Banjos, came from, here's your answer.

Their weekend adventure doesn't start well when Lewis challenges some of the locals the quartet will need help from to end their adventure.

Things soon get worse.

When Ed and Bobby appear to get lost during the group's second day on the water, they meet up with two men with very sinister plans for their well-being.

When Bobby is degraded, it leads to one of the film's most-famous lines as his tormentor wants to make him "squeal like a pig."

Lewis gets his friends out of their very dangerous jam, but at a deadly price. What Lewis decides to do to keep the incident hush-hush torments Drew, a strong emotion which may contribute to his fate.


Deliverance works because of four great performances, incredible action scenes shot on the river and its exploration of what civilized people do to survive. There's several moral dilemmas that don't offer easy answers. When police start to investigate what's happened to the four, Boorman builds up a very effective sense of foreboding. Music is kept to a minimum. So many scenes of silence in this adventure/drama help ratchet up the tension.

Deliverance also doesn't offer easy answers to the situations the four paddlers face. There's a reason why Ed faces a grisly nightmare at the film's end.

Rating: 9/10


The DVD copy I viewed included plenty of bonus material including commentary from Boorman and period footage of James Dickey in The Dangerous World of Deliverance. He wrote the screenplay based on his own book. There's also a four-part retrospective with Boorman and the film's stars.

FUN FACTS: Charley Boorman, the director's son, appears as Ed's Boy. The younger Boorman also appeared in Excalibur and The Emerald Forest, also directed by his father. Deliverance was nominated for three Oscars (best director, best picture, best film editing). The Godfather won for best picture. Bob Fosse was named best director.

Running time: 109 minutes.

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