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You hear that squealing? That’s the sound of director John Boorman’s backwoods survival classic “Deliverance” arriving on Blu-ray Book for the very first time on June 26, 2012 courtesy of Warner Home Video. Just in time for the film’s 40th anniversary. What a coincidence! It isn’t every day that a film becomes famous (or is that infamous?) for one scene that so perfectly captures the tone of the entire movie. Whatever he ends up doing for the rest of his life, Ned Beatty will forever be known as the poor guy in “Deliverance” who was forced to squeal for a couple of toothless hillbillies with a shotgun. Hey, it’s nice to be remembered, especially in Hollywood.
In the unfamiliar Appalachian backwoods, a weekend of male bonding for four inexperienced campers turns into a gut-wrenching fight for survival against the merciless forces of nature and the brutality of man. Their only escape is a terrifying canoe ride down the raging rapids of the Chattooga River. If their heartless pursuers don’t kill them, the treacherous waters just might.
I have to admit, I’ve forgotten what a badass Reynolds was in “Deliverance”. In the film, Reynolds leads a group of city slickers (including Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) for a weekend of male bonding and canoeing in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s their chance to be men again, if you will. Or at least, that’s the plan. Things, to put it mildly, do not exactly go as planned.
Adapted by James Dickey from his own book (Dickey also appears in a cameo, FYI), “Deliverance” is the backwoods survival movie to end all backwoods survival movie. It’s the film that all future movies dealing with a similar subject matter will forever be compared to, and for good reason. The film is violent, realistic, gritty, and absolutely possible. Shot on location by Boorman, the film starts off innocently enough (banjos are brandished, jokes are told), but quickly devolves into a series of nightmarish scenarios as the city boys find themselves in one nerve-wrenching scenario after another. You will never, ever look at a canoe trip the same way ever again.
“Deliverance” is not a movie for the squeamish, and is just as brutal now as it was back then, if not more so given the film’s complete lack of political correctness. Despite premiering over 40 years ago in 1972, the film has aged incredibly well, thanks its deep-in-the-woods location shooting. But then again, Boorman has always been a visual master, and “Deliverance” has survived in incredible shape. And of course, the infamous “squeal” scene. What makes that scene work is just how quickly it turns from a simple negotiation into something horrific in the blink of an eye. Tip of the hat to Ned Beatty, who is really the lynchpin of the movie, at times even more so than Reynolds or Jon Voight, whose character assumes Alpha Male status once Reynolds’ becomes incapable. (Hard to believe, but “Deliverance” was also Beatty’s feature film debut.) “Deliverance” is not for everyone, but it is a brilliantly conceived, acted, written, and directed story about man’s darker nature. You city folk best watch your steps with this one, ya hear?
The Blu-ray Book release is in honor of the movie’s 40th anniversary, with the film previously released on Blu-ray back in 2007. I don’t know how it looked back then, but the Blu-ray book version offers outstanding visuals and sound. It’s hard to believe that the film is 40 years old. As for special features, this version includes a 44-page book on the behind-the-scenes making of the film (not a big fan of these small books, but some of you may feel differently), and the big treat is probably a 30-minute roundtable sit-down with the original castmembers — Voight, Beatty, Reynolds and Cox. All four actors are clearly having a blast at the reunion, recounting amusing anecdotes from the making of the film, as well as its legacy. Good stuff.
Other bonus extras include an hour-long “Retrospective” on the making of the film, which charts “Deliverance” from book to screen, and is separated into four parts. There’s also a full-length audio commentary track by director John Boorman. I’ve always been a fan of Boorman’s works, and it’s actually pretty cool to hear him talk about such a seminal picture like “Deliverance”. You also get a “The Dangerous World of Deliverance” featurette (about 10 minutes) and an original trailer.