Deliverance was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1972 including Best Picture and Best Director. Filmed on the Chattooga River in Georgia, it’s based on the best selling novel of the same name by James Dickey who was previously better known for his poetry. Dickey also wrote the screenplay for the movie and director John Boorman said of Dickey: “I had a turbulent and bruising relationship with Dickey during the filming of Deliverance.” Watch for him playing the sheriff in this film.
Although I can’t imagine that there’s anyone out there who hasn’t seen this excellent action adventure, I’d highly recommend that you add it to your collection anyway. If you’ve seen it cut up on commercial television, it looks like, as Burt Reynolds puts it, “four guys going camping”.
This is the story of four men on a weekend canoe trip on the Cahulawassee River which turns into a frenzied retreat from horror. Reynolds plays Lewis, an outdoorsman and man of action who is the leader of the group. Jon Voight plays Ed, an advertising man, and the story is told as seen through his eyes. Bobby is a typical city bred insurance salesman, played superbly by Ned Beatty. The quiet, introspective member of the group is Drew, Played by Ronnie Cox. Deliverance is one of the best action films ever made with excellently cast contrasting characters.
The canoe trip starts out peacefully enough. At the end of the first day, the set up camp and Lewis shows off his outdoor prowess by shooting a trout with a fishing arrow. You learn later that night that Lewis may not be the fearless man of the woods as he pretends to be as he moans in his sleep while having nightmares.
The drama increases the next day as Ed and Bobby encounter two mountain men with sodomy on their minds. Lewis is forced to shoot one of them with an arrow, killing him, while the second man runs off into the forest. The decide, with Drew protesting their decision, to cover up the obvious case of self defense by burying the mountain man near the river. Bobby doesn’t want anyone to find out what happened to him and Lewis is afraid he’ll be convicted of murder. Since the whole valley will eventually be covered by a large lake because of the construction of a dam, they assume that on one will ever find the body. The canoe trip becomes a fight for survival. Without giving too much of the story away, suffice it to say that they eventually end up having to bury one of their own in the river. Ed is forced to kill the second mountain man who is stalking them and, you guessed it, they bury him in the river, too. As Bobby says, “Oh, God. There’s no end to it.”
Burt Reynolds admits that this film changed his career and his life. Marlon Brando was originally cast to play the part of Lewis but turned it down. Director John Boorman saw Reynolds on The Tonight Show and asked him to read for the part.
This was Ned Beatty’s first movie and it haunts him to this day. According to Reynolds in an interview with Bob Costas on Later, the sodomy scene was shot with five cameras in one take, which is a good thing, because it’s doubtful if Beatty would have done a second take. Much of the dialogue in that scene was ad-libbed. The actors worked without insurance because no company would insure them because of the kinds of risks they were taking.
Deliverance remains popular to this day and through the years has been a source of innuendo and jokes for comedians.
- Jon Voight – Ed Gentry
- Burt Reynolds – Lewis Medlock
- Ned Beatty – Bobby Trippe
- Ronny Cox – Drew Ballinger
- Ed Ramey – Old Man
- Billy Redden – Lonny
- Seamon Glass – First Griner
- Randall Deal – Second Griner
- Bill McKinney – Mountain Man
- Herbert Coward – Toothless Man
- Lewis Crone – First Deputy
- Ken Keener – Second Deputy
- Johnny Popwell – Ambulance Driver
- John Fowler – Doctor
- Kathy Rickman – Nurse Lilley
- James Dickey – Sheriff