THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Deliverance Blu-Ray book - Own it on Blu-Ray June 26
Any discussion of 1972's Deliverance must automatically start with a story. I was four years old when it was released, and my parents went to see it at the drive-in. They packed the back of our El Camino with blankets and pillows, figuring that I could sleep back there while they watched the film. I danced furiously to a pre-show Felix the Cat cartoon before being ordered to lay down once the main feature started. Curious kid that I was, I avoided sleep, choosing instead to peek my head up every so often, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was on the screen. Every time, I was greeted with a loud, “Michael, get your head down!” For years afterward, Deliverance held an intense fascination for me; it was the epitome of cinematic forbidden fruit. I finally sat down to watch it about six or eight years ago, and of course found it to be riveting, frightening, and disturbing. The film is now available in Blu-Ray book format, packed with bonus material, to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
John Boorman's adaptation of James Dickey's novel is the story of four friends – Ed (Jon Voight), Lewis (Burt Reynolds), Bobby (Ned Beatty), and Drew (Ronny Cox) – who take a river-rafting trip through the most remote parts of Georgia. Trouble strikes when they run afoul of some mountain men, who violate Bobby and threaten to do the same to Ed. After lethally defending themselves against one of their attackers, the guys must then navigate the rest of their journey while being chased. The ethics of their actions also create some tension within the group.
Deliverance is a masterful work of suspense. Boorman knew how to continually tighten the screws, eventually raising the tension to a level that becomes almost unbearable. He does so without ever losing sight of the characters, who are marvelously brought to life by the ensemble cast. Burt Reynolds was never better than he was as the intense and confident Lewis, and Ronny Cox is stellar as the moral compass of the group. Everything about the picture feels eerily authentic, from the isolated locations to the physically unusual actors hired to portray the backwoods folk. Deliverance packed a punch in '72 for these reasons; it's just as powerful today.
The Blu-Ray book is a great way to either be introduced to this film or to revisit it. The 42-page commemorative book is filled with pictures from – and recollections of – the filming. There's even a reproduction of the movie's spooky theatrical one-sheet, with a canoe coming out of a human eye.
The disc itself has audio commentary from Boorman, in addition to a superb multi-part making-of feature. The four segments, totaling nearly an hour, cover casting and location issues, how the actors did their own stunts, and the tension that arose during the filming of the infamous rape scene. (That well-known “squeal like a pig” line was actually shot for a TV-safe version, but proved to be so unnerving that Boorman used it in the theatrical cut.) “The Dangerous World of Deliverance” is a vintage look at Dickey and the adaptation of his book, shot on era-appropriate 16mm. It's most notable for Boorman openly acknowledging that he and the writer didn't always get along.
The gem of the disc is “Deliverance: The Cast Remembers,” a 30-minute reunion of Voight, Reynolds, Beatty, and Cox. The old friends reminisce about the production, with Reynolds telling a particularly amusing story about helping to find a toothless actor for a key role. The men share a warm camaraderie, which makes this conversation a joy to watch.
Nicely packaged and boasting a beautiful transfer, the 40th anniversary Blu-Ray of Deliverance is a first rate release. Get ready to be freaked out all over again.
( out of four)
Deliverance is rated R for language, violence, and sexual situations. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available on Amazon.com!