“Deliverance,” one of the most controversial and disturbing films of its time, still packs a punch 40 years later.
“Deliverance” was a 1970 novel by James Dickey which hit the big screen just two years later. Director John Boorman brought it to life with an excellent cast, most of which was in attendance this past weekend at TCM Fest.Boorman (who also co-wrote the screenplay with James Dickey), was joined by a very serious Jon Voight, the still very funny Burt Reynolds, and the cantankerous Ned Beatty. Missing from the 40 year reunion was Ronny Cox (who is currently on tour with his band), and the late screenwriter and novelist James Dickey, who also had a cameo as the sheriff in the movie.
“Deliverance” documents the very ill-advised 1972 canoe trip down an untamed river for four city slickers in the North Georgia wilderness. The dynamic film opens with the spirited theme “Dueling Banjos,” as Ronny Cox’s guitar is challenged by an odd-looking hillbilly kid on a banjo. This scene is one of the most memorable ever seen a motion picture, and defines the struggle between city and mountain folks that really make “Deliverance” the unique masterpiece it has become in cinematic history.
It was great to see them all on stage together, but Burt Reynolds is the one I most wanted to see, as this is the film that defined his career. He had mainly only done television up to this point. Reynolds described the 1972 Burt as ego oriented and very naive. Feeling invincible, Burt chose to do many of his own stunts, including going over a waterfall in (or should I say OUT of) his canoe. The authenticity was established, and it worked well on the screen, but it hurt Burt’s back permanently.
Burt said he had done four television series, only one being successful, (‘Evening Shade’), and over 70 films. He continued, “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve only done ONE movie, and “Deliverance” is it. He got large kudos from his fellow cast members, and a standing ovation from the audience. Burt has had many box office hits, but this is the film that started his long run of success.
“Deliverance” still holds up 40 years later, due to excellent cinematography, a challenging plot, and great performances from Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Burt Reynolds. “Deliverance” had such an affect on me as a kid, I have never had the courage to venture into the woods since.
“Deliverance” is considered such an achievement, that it has been selected for preservation by The Library Of Congress, and is now a part of the US National Film Registry. Several canoes from “Deliverance” are also now on display at ‘The Burt Reynolds Museum” in Jupiter, Florida.
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