From the vault: 1972


Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty

Director: John Boorman

The film: Probably now better remembered for its Dueling Banjos sequence than anything else, John Boorman's Deliverance must have put the Appalachian tourism industry back years with its disturbing portrayal of violently homosexual hillbillies and inbred, banjo-toting moonshiners. 'This is the weekend they didn't play golf', teased the film's tagline in reference to four city businessmen who set off on a canoe trip down the fierce Cahulawassee River in search of adventure and self discovery, and found more than enough of both.

Burt Reynolds, in a career-boosting performance that pulled him out of second-rate TV shows and established him as a bankable movie star, plays the gung-ho, macho leader of the quartet, a survivalist with little time for the modern world.

On day two of the expedition, the lawyer among them - in one of several examples of ironic symbolism - finds himself on the riverbank with his underwear around his ankles in the menacing presence of a pair of drooling mountain men. Reynolds, arriving on the scene rather too late, takes matters in hand with his hunting bow, and the men continue their journey in rather less vivacious spirits than they started out with.


Trouble, of course, lies in wait further down river.

Deliverance was an early champion of environmental causes, and Reynolds' grumblings about the impending loss of the river valley with the construction of a huge dam nearby overshadow his friends' excitement at the prospect of conquering nature in their fragile canoes.

The rafting sequences, all of which featured the actors themselves, took place on the Chattooga River, a class V river that bisects Georgia and South Carolina, and it's said that more than 30 people have died while attempting to follow the course of the film's fearsome journey.

The extras: Director John Boorman (The Emerald Forest, The Tailor of Panama) provides an insightful commentary that drifts into the narration trap from time to time, but is overall quite entertaining. A new 50-minute documentary made for this DVD is divided into four segments and features the four main actors, Boorman, and the son of source-novel author James Dickey discussing the film's production, including the Dueling Banjos performance and Beatty's controversial rape scene. Tacked on at the end are a behind-the-scenes featurette that was released to promote the film in 1972 (and which also appeared on the older DVD), and a trailer that gives more background information on the main characters than the film itself. Owners of HD DVD and Blu-ray equipment should note that Deliverance is also being released in both those formats this month.