Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Ed Ramey, Seamon Glass, Randall Deal, Bill McKinney, Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward
James Dickey (and novel)
Four men ride a wild river. A weekend turns into a nightmare.
Four ordinary men in two canoes navigated a river they only know as a line on a map, taking on a wilderness they only think they understand.
Deliverence, based by James Dickey on his novel, surges with the urgency of masterful storytelling, like Georgia's Chattooga River along which it was shot. Equally masterful is the portrayal of each man's change of character under stress, harrowingly enacted by award winners Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox. Director John Boorman sets us on the knife-edge of survival - and draws us in with the irresistable force of a raging current.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 109 min.
Release Date: 9/21/1999
• “The Dangerous World of Deliverance” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes” Text Notes
• Cast and Crew Biographies
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Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 12, 2007)
I've never much cared for the great outdoors, and watching
Deliverance reminded my why I feel that way. One minute you're paddling down the river, having a good ol' time, la la la - the next minute some hillbilly's giving you the salami as you squeal like a pig! That's not exactly my idea of a good time - I'll stay home and watch DVDs instead.
DVDs like Deliverance. It's a film that I'd managed not to see until its 1999 DVD release, but it's also a movie that I always felt as though I had watched it. Aspects of Deliverance have so permeated popular culture that it's difficult not to have some awareness of the picture. (My favorite reference? Seeing Martin Short spoof the banjo-playing inbred kid on SCTV - hilarious!)
As with other famous films like The Exorcist, one can definitely enjoy the movie, but the widespread fame of some scenes distorts them to my eyes. As horrific a scene as it is, I simply couldn't help but laugh during Ned Beatty's "squeal like a pig" bit. That segment has inspired far too much satire over the last few decades for me to take it strictly on face value.
Nonetheless, Deliverance continues to be a powerful and provocative film. What it lacks in plot, it makes up with intensity. Much of the film brutally portrays the predicament in which these men find themselves. It's not the most harrowing film I've seen, but it makes for a pretty rough ride.
Director John Boorman definitely uses the camera to make this so. The film starts with mostly wide shots, during which we see our main characters from a distance. However, as the movie progresses, he inches the camera closer and closer to them, which more strongly involves the viewer in the action. It's a nice technique that works well the ratchet up the movie's tension.
Throughout Deliverance, the acting is very good. His role as Lewis is largely credited as propelling Burt Reynolds to stardom, and he offers excellent work. While he's not very involved in the last third or so of the story, he makes a strong impression during the rest of the film. Jon Voight gives many layers to his performance as Ed, the character with whom the audience will most likely identify. He's the one through whom we view the danger, and he nicely brings those feelings home. Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox round out the main cast with smaller roles, but their work stands up nicely as well.
All these factors add up to a worthwhile flick. Deliverance never overdramatizes its events, as it prefers to let the material speak for itself. It functions as a tight, gripping piece.
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+
Deliverance appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Despite some rough spots, the transfer usually held up pretty well.
A bit of artificial edge enhancement caused some of the problems. I noticed light haloes at times, and the movie came across as a little “digital” at times. Backgrounds could be somewhat rough, and I saw signs of artifacts. Mild examples of jagged edges and shimmering materialized. Print flaws cropped up sporadically through the flick; I noticed a smattering of specks, marks and streaks.
While these concerns created distractions, when Deliverance looked good, it looked really good. Even with the haloes, sharpness seemed quite positive. The movie exhibited very nice delineation and definition, with only a little softness ever on display. Colors looked terrific. The film tended toward a green, earthy palette, and these hues appeared accurate and natural. Black levels seemed solid, and shadows were smooth and clear. The highs and lows balanced out to end up with a “B-“ transfer.
The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Deliverance performed admirably. The main positive attribute of this remix came from the added depth of the soundstage. This track did a very nice job of surrounding and enveloping the listener. Audio panned well between the front channels, and the rear speakers offered some effective ambient noises. This aspect was best shown during one scene in which Jon Voight's voice echoed through a canyon. A lot of remixed 5.1 tracks seem fake and phony, but this one worked well.
Audio quality was positive given the source material’s age. Speech was reasonably natural and concise, with no edginess or other flaws. The sporadic examples of music sounded lively and crisp, while effects showed pretty good delineation. They could be slightly tinny at times, but they seemed perfectly acceptable. The combination of an active soundfield and pretty positive audio made this a “B+” mix.
Only a few extras pop up on this DVD. The main attraction here is The Dangerous World of Deliverance, a 10-minute and 10-second "behind the scenes" featurette that appears to have come out concurrent with the theatrical release of the film. We hear from director John Boorman and author James Dickey. The show offers some background for the original novel and gets into the shooting of the film. It's pretty good, though so brief that it obviously doesn't go into any depth. I liked it, but didn't find it to be terribly special.
One redundant aspect of the DVD is a behind the scenes text segment. Virtually every factoid listed in this piece can also be heard in the documentary; some of that clip's quotes are even repeated here verbatim. Strange!
Finally, the Deliverance DVD includes a couple of old standbys: a theatrical trailer, and cast and crew biographies. The latter are actually reasonably good.
Although our cultural familiarity with it can create some distractions, Deliverance remains a very good film. It presents a simple, concise portrayal of a weekend trip gone very wrong and does so in a dramatic manner. The DVD offers erratic but usually good picture along with surprisingly positive audio. It lacks substantial extras, unfortunately. Nonetheless, this is a decent release for a quality flick.
To rate this film, visit the Deluxe Edition review of DELIVERANCE