Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Deliverance: Rescue; recovery or preservation from loss or danger; "work is the deliverance of mankind."

For the first time in my life, I saw Deliverance, the popular 1972 action/drama cult-classic film starring Burt Reynolds and John Voight (a young John Voight might I add). I watched it because of its popularity and recognition among popular American culture, and I was shocked to see the movie and then recognize how many people like this movie after seeing what it is all about.

Basically, Deliverance is a book that was turned into a film. It takes place in rural Georgia and basically tracks a weekend of four friends who go on a canoe trip. They drive to the top of a mountain and plan to canoe and camp all the way down. For some reason, as they make their way down the mountain, they come across mountain folk who give them a hard time (and by hard time I mean raping and hurting). Two of the friends save the other two friends, except one man kills one of the mountain men. The other gets away. The men then fight about what to do with the dead body.

The men decide to bury the body because the river is soon going to be dammed, so no one will ever find it. As they make their way down the river though, one man goes crazy and falls overboard, causing one canoe to break and the other to tip. The four men fall down the river and down a waterfall where one is killed and the other is severely injured with his bone sticking out of his leg--gross. The two remaining men then have to hunt down and kill the other man, dispose of their friend's body, and make their way to the mainland to cover everything up.

Now, this movie/book is so similar to themes and ideas of other books: when man is immersed in nature, how does he behave? What is man really like when laws and structure are taken away? What is man's true nature?

This theme is prevalent in many major works: Lord of the Flies, Lost, The Blair Witch Project, The Road, Without a Paddle, Touching Spirit Bear, The Stand, etc. In all cases, the law is stripped from these characters, and some people become power-hungry and others disobey the law. How will man truly act when he has no consequences from which to stop him from doing whatever he wants?

I did like connecting this major theme from the movie to others and assessing what the major ideas were, but I have to admit, these movie was pretty disturbing. I enjoyed it, but it stuck with me for a few days. I couldn't (and can't) get the rape scene out of my head. It was SO disturbing to me. I can't let it go because it is just so disgusting and horrible. I've seen other rape scenes in movies before, but for some reason, this one is lasting with me more than the others. It really bothered me. I know it's a pivotal scene in the movie because it causes the death and the fighting back, but it was just so powerful. Man, I'm just speechless with how traumatizing it was to me.

I also liked how short and real that it was. It was one big event that was played over a small amount of time. It was really clever. And what I also think is interesting is that the people in the beginning are real natives of the Georgia area. They were not actors; they were real country folk who acted in the movie. (And can I just mention how creepy that little boy with the slitty eyes was who was playing the "Dueling Banjos?" Yikes...) That really added some flavor to the movie.

Actors fit in very well with their roles too. I like how Voight's character was pretty weak. They show his gradual development into a hardened man who is able to kill from his softer character in the beginning. Very well done. Reynolds' character was a bit dramatic. He was overacting at times, often staring into the distance and reciting his lines, which I thought was a bit cheesy for a burly man that he was playing. It reminded me that he was acting while the other actors looked natural.

And, how much training did these guys have to do to be able to canoe down rapids like that? That must have taken a few weeks/months of training...

I want to add some facts I found that I think are pretty interesting about the film:

-In 2008, Deliverance was added to the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "historically, culturally, and aesthetically significant."

-The rape scene is noted in a song by The Revolting Cocks called "Beers, Steers, and Queers (The Remixes)" in 1991.

-The rape scene is also noted in a South Park episode called "The China Probrem" in 2008.

-"Squeal piggy" did not appear in the book. It was improvised for the film.

-The film was the basis for Without a Paddle. Burt Reynolds made a guest appearance in the film as an homage.

-In Primus's song "My Name Is Mud," they recite the famous line spoken by the hilbilly, "Where you goin' city boy?"

-The writer, James Dickey, appears as the sheriff in the film.

-The film won 3 Golden Globes (Best Picture, Directing, and Film Editing), 5 Golden Globe Awards (Best Motion Picture, Director, Actor, Original Song, and Screenplay) and New York Film Critics Circle (Best Film and Director).

Can anyone explain to me why this is a cult classic?

So what do you think of Deliverance?


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