Written by Kirk BairdForty years after its release in July of 1972, Deliverance still haunts.
Mention the film and most everyone recalls the infamous “Squeal like a pig!” male rape scene. But it’s the heavy toll to the suburban Atlanta men who went into the deep backwoods of Georgia to challenge themselves on a canoe river trip and were pushed in horrifying ways they never imagined that truly resonates after the film’s credits have finished.
Deliverance couldn’t have been better cast, with Oscar nominee Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds as the only two known actors when the film debuted. Reynolds, of course, used Deliverance as a springboard out of TV and into a successful film career for nearly two decades, and Voight would later win an Oscar for 1978’s Coming Home. And Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox quickly found their way in Hollywood as well. Each of their characters in the drama represent an aspect of Deliverance novelist and co-screenwriter James Dickey’s personality: the macho outdoorsman Lewis (Reynolds), the creative artist Drew (Cox), the laidback Southerner Ed (Voight), and the funny and bumbling Bobby (Beatty).
Director and co-screenwriter John Borman creates a memorable and formidable world around them, with dangerous mountain men, a furious river, and the beauty of the forest muted into drab greens and brown. Borman talks about all of this in an informative commentary, and the new Blu-ray book set release includes recent interviews with the four actors who have remained friends decades later, bonded by their experience on the set. There’s the sense they were never the same after making Deliverance. And I’m not so certain anyone who’s seen it isn’t changed as well.