Director John Boorman's visceral adaptation of the James Dickey novel stars Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox as four best friends whose idyllic canoeing vacation turns into a nightmare after the group attracts the unwelcome advances of two psychotic woodsmen.
In DELIVERANCE, Lewis, an avid sportsman, and huntsman, drags his three pals; Ed, Drew and Bobby on a weekend canoeing trip. The friends are reluctant, but the nature loving Lewis wants to canoe the Cahulawassee river, before the state builds a dam across it. Initially the trip goes smoothly for the four men, but when the men run across a pair of menacing mountain men locals, their peaceful canoeing trip turns into a nightmare in the woods and on the water. One filled with rape, murder, and lasting effects.
Celebrating it's 40th Anniversary with the release of a special Blu-Ray Book package, is DELIVERANCE, a film that, until now, believe it or not, I hadn't seen. However, I had heard many things about it over the years, from the rape scene, to the iconic, "dueling banjos" scene, I knew that the film had a huge following. But even still, for some reason I just never took the time to see the film, and it was because I expected it to be something entirely different. Now that I have seen the film, of course, I am kicking myself for never having seen this sooner! DELIVERANCE is a great film actually, great on all accounts.
The film's photography and direction is minimalistic, yet somehow innovative in it's approach that it actually puts the viewer into the action, and into the situations which the film's four main characters face. Here, there was no special color palate, or filtering, just raw nature in it's natural form. Because of this, the viewer feels as though they are a part of this harrowing adventure. Adding to the film's realism is some of the finest acting i've ever experienced in a film by a cast. The stars, Reynolds, Voight, Cox, and Beatty, gel nicely here, making the relationship between their characters; "Lewis", "Ed", "Drew" and "Bobby" appear authentic. As the film progresses they grow closer together as friends, and it all seems real. Perhaps that it is that this film was shot in sequence, a practice, that at the time of filming, was rarely used. Instead of filming piece by piece, and out of order, the film was shot from beginning to end, meaning that the actors were experiencing the scenes in as "real-time" as they could get. Getting a cast like this, seemed to have been pure luck. Both Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty came from regional theater, and until then, had never worked on an actual film. Burt Reynolds at the time was struggling in Television, and coming away from three failed Television series, while Jon Voight had already become a star, with his starring role in the classic, MIDNIGHT COWBOY. At the time of per-production, Director John Boorman, wished to have all unknowns occupy the roles, for the sake of putting any character in possible danger in the eyes of the audience, but eventually decided to take a chance with Reynolds, and to try to persuade Voight to take the part. Luckily, it all worked out for the production, as well as the cast, is it launched the careers of Cox and Beatty, got Reynolds out of a career stand still, and also improved Voight's star power.
This was my first time to see the film, and I must admit that I loved it. It's raw and gritty, but at the same time, it's artistic, without being artsy. Made at a time where computers did not rule cinema, DELIVERANCE was made purely practical. The raging river waters you see in the film are real, and so were the dangers which they imposed. One of the particular things that impressed me were the actors' abilities to "play dead" While it may not seem that difficult to play dead, it is when you appear dead on-screen the length of time that some of the actors in this film do. This is especially true in the case of Bill McKinney, the guy who portrays the "Mountain Man'. The guy had to stand propped up against a tree, dead, and impaled by an arrow for minutes on end - with his eyes open, no less. Again, this may not seem like that big a deal, but to me,it was pretty impressive. If I were to explain DELIVERANCE to someone who has yet to see the film, as to what take of film it is, i'd say that it is a film that crosses many genres. Initially it's action/adventure, but eventually it reaches into a more suspense/thriller type of territory, and is most definitely all of those things at one point or another. With all of it's themes, DELIVERANCE is a film that manages to balance thing out equally, and when one comes away from it, it leaves a powerful impression.
As for the 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray itself, particularly, the transfer, it looks great. The transfer is actually one of the better ones that i've seen. For a film that is 40 years old, the print on this Blu-Ray looks nice. The colors are bright and vivid, and it looks as if the film was shot just yesterday. I have never considered myself some kind of expert on Blu-Ray quality, but I have seen more than a few, and i'd say that this is one of the few "great ones that i've seen.
The disc is also packed with a wealth of five behind-the-scenes featurettes, each chronicling a specific part of the film's production. From what i've read, these featurettes have been ported from previous releases(and it's obvious, anyway), but they do belong on such a release as this one. Rounding out the features is an all mew gather interview with the film's four stars, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty. They gathered at the Burt Reynolds Museum to talk about the film, and their personal experiences with it. This in itself could have been the only feature included on this disc, and I still would've been happy. This is a great piece, and it was nice to hear the candid accounts and stories from the film's stars. It's a 30 minute piece, and is well worth viewing. Other features include a commentary with Producer/Director John Boorman, and the film's original theatrical trailer.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I said, DELIVERANCE is a film that I had heard of, but not seen. This was mainly due to my believing that, it was just not my type of film. But sometimes, my instinct is off, and that would be the case here. DELIVERANCE, even 40 years on, is a solid film. It takes you on a twisted journey through a backwoods hell, and when it's all over, it leaves you wrecked. Not many films can do such, but DELIVERANCE does deliver just that. If you have yet to get the other Blu-Ray(or even if you have), this, the 40th Anniversary Edition, is well worth the price!
This film will be released on Blu-Ray on June 26, 2012
Special Features include
- Commentary by John Boorman
- All-new Deliverance: The Cast Remembers retrospective
- Four-part behind-the-scenes documentary:
* Deliverance: Betraying The River
-* Deliverance: The Journey
* Deliverance: The Beginning
* Deliverance: Delivered
- The Dangerous World of Deliverance vintage featurette
- Theatrical trailer
- The disc comes packed in a 42-page book, featuring behind-the-scenes photos, cast bios and more,