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''Deliverance'' is a 1972 American
survival Survival, or the act of surviving, is the propensity of something to continue existing, particularly when this is done despite conditions that might kill or destroy it. The concept can be applied to humans and other living things (or, hypotheti ...
thriller film Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. ...
distributed by
Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB) is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate Conglomerate or conglomeration may refer to: * Conglomerate (company) * ...
, produced and directed by
John Boorman Sir John Boorman (; born 18 January 1933) is a British filmmaker Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story ...
, and starring
Jon Voight Jonathan Vincent Voight (; born December 29, 1938) is an American actor. He came to prominence in the late 1960s with his Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in t ...
,
Burt Reynolds Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. (February 11, 1936 – September 6, 2018) was an American actor, director, and producer of film and television, considered a sex symbol A sex symbol is a person or character widely considered sexually attracti ...
,
Ned Beatty Ned Thomas Beatty (July 6, 1937 – June 13, 2021) was an American actor. In a career that spanned five decades, he appeared in more than 160 films. Throughout his career, Beatty gained a reputation for being described as "The busiest actor in H ...

Ned Beatty
and
Ronny Cox Daniel Ronald Cox (born July 23, 1938) is an American actor, singer, songwriter, and storyteller. His best-known roles include Drew Ballinger in ''Deliverance'' (1972), George Apple in ''Apple's Way'' (1974–75), Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil in '' ...
, with the latter two making their feature film debuts. The screenplay was adapted by
James Dickey James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, United States Poet Laureate in 1966. He also received ...

James Dickey
from his 1970
novel of the same name A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...
. The film was a critical and box office success, earning three
Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking F ...

Academy Award
nominations and five
Golden Globe Award The Golden Globe Awards are accolades bestowed by the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is a non-profit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a ...
nominations. Widely acclaimed as a landmark picture, the film is noted for a music scene near the beginning, with one of the city men playing "
Dueling Banjos "Dueling Banjos" is a bluegrass composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1954 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos," which contained riffs from Smith, recorded in 1955 playing a four-string plec ...
" on guitar with a banjo-picking country boy, and for its notorious rape scene. In 2008, ''Deliverance'' was selected for preservation in the United States
National Film Registry The National Film Registry (or NFR for short) is the United States National Film Preservation Board The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contigu ...
by the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library A library is a collection of materials, books or media that are easily accessible for use and not just for display purposes. It is responsible for housing updated information in order ...

Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."


Plot

Four
Atlanta Atlanta () is the capital city, capital and List of municipalities in Georgia (U.S. state), most populous city of the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. With an estimated 2019 population of 506,811, it is also the List of United ...

Atlanta
businessmen—Lewis Medlock, Ed Gentry, Bobby Trippe and Drew Ballinger—decide to canoe down a river in the remote northern Georgia wilderness before it is dammed. Lewis, an experienced outdoorsman, is the leader; his close friend Ed has been on several trips but lacks Lewis's machismo, while Bobby and Drew are novices. En route to their launch site, the men (Bobby in particular) are condescending towards the locals, who are unimpressed by the "city boys". At a local gas station, Drew, with his guitar, engages a young banjo-playing boy in a musical duel ("
Dueling Banjos "Dueling Banjos" is a bluegrass composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1954 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos," which contained riffs from Smith, recorded in 1955 playing a four-string plec ...
"). The duel is mutually enjoyable, and some of the locals break into dance at the sound of it. However, the boy does not acknowledge Drew when prompted for a congratulatory handshake. The four friends travel in pairs and their two canoes become separated. Ed and Bobby land, and encounter a pair of
mountain men A mountain man is an Exploration, explorer who lives in the wilderness. Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s (with a peak population in the early 1840s). They were instrumental in ...
emerging from the woods, one carrying a shotgun and missing two front teeth. Following a verbal altercation, Bobby is forced by the men to undress. One of the mountain men violently sodomizes Bobby, demanding he "squeal like a pig", while Ed is bound to a tree and held at gunpoint. Just as Ed himself is about to be raped, Lewis sneaks up and kills the rapist using his
bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and eff ...

bow and arrow
; Ed retrieves the gun and the remaining mountain man flees into the woods. After a brief but hotheaded debate between Lewis and Drew, Ed and Bobby vote to side with Lewis's plan to bury the body and continue on as if nothing had happened. The four continue downriver but the canoes reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. As Drew and Ed reach the rapids in the lead canoe, Drew shakes his head and falls headlong into the water — it is unclear why. The canoes collide on the rocks, spilling the three remaining men into the river. One of the canoes is smashed. Lewis breaks his
femur The femur (; ), or thigh bone, is the proximal Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans. Terms used generally derive from Latin or Greek language, Greek roots and used to describe s ...

femur
and the others are washed ashore alongside him in a gorge. Lewis, who believes Drew has been shot, encourages Ed to climb to the top of the gorge and dispatch the other mountain man, whom they believe to be stalking them from above. Ed reaches an overhang and hides out until morning, when a man appears above him with a rifle; Ed clumsily shoots and manages to kill him, but falls backwards, stabbing himself with one of his own arrows in the process. The dead man seemingly has all his teeth, but on closer inspection, is revealed to be wearing dentures. Ed and Bobby weigh down the body in the river to ensure it will never be found, and when they encounter Drew's body downriver, they do the same. Upon finally reaching the small town of Aintry, they take Lewis to the hospital. The men carefully concoct a cover story for the authorities about Drew's death, lying about their ordeal to Sheriff Bullard in order to escape a possible double murder charge. The sheriff does not believe them, but has no evidence to arrest them and tells the men never to come back. The trio vow to keep their story of death and survival a secret for the rest of their lives. In the final scene, Ed awakens, startled by a nightmare in which a bloated hand rises from the lake.


Cast

*
Jon Voight Jonathan Vincent Voight (; born December 29, 1938) is an American actor. He came to prominence in the late 1960s with his Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in t ...
as Ed Gentry *
Burt Reynolds Burton Leon Reynolds Jr. (February 11, 1936 – September 6, 2018) was an American actor, director, and producer of film and television, considered a sex symbol A sex symbol is a person or character widely considered sexually attracti ...
as Lewis Medlock *
Ned Beatty Ned Thomas Beatty (July 6, 1937 – June 13, 2021) was an American actor. In a career that spanned five decades, he appeared in more than 160 films. Throughout his career, Beatty gained a reputation for being described as "The busiest actor in H ...

Ned Beatty
as Bobby Trippe *
Ronny Cox Daniel Ronald Cox (born July 23, 1938) is an American actor, singer, songwriter, and storyteller. His best-known roles include Drew Ballinger in ''Deliverance'' (1972), George Apple in ''Apple's Way'' (1974–75), Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil in '' ...
as Drew Ballinger *
Bill McKinney William Denison McKinney (September 12, 1931 – December 1, 2011) was an American character actor A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or Eccentricity (behavior), eccentric character (arts), characters.28 A ...
as Mountain Man * Herbert "Cowboy" Coward as Toothless Man *
James Dickey James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, United States Poet Laureate in 1966. He also received ...

James Dickey
as Sheriff Bullard * Billy Redden as Lonnie, The Banjo Boy *
Macon McCalman Willis Macon McCalman (December 30, 1932 – November 29, 2005) was an American television, stage and big screen movie actor. Acting career Nicknamed "Sonny", McCalman helped form the Front Street Theatre in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee M ...
as Deputy Queen, Whose Brother-In-Law is Missing Ned Beatty's wife, Belinda Beatty, and director John Boorman's son,
Charley Boorman Charley Boorman (born 23 August 1966) is an English TV presenter, travel writer and actor. As a noted motorbike enthusiast, Boorman is widely known for a series of three long distance motorcycle rides with friend Ewan McGregor, documented in '' ...

Charley Boorman
, have brief appearances as the wife and young child of Jon Voight's character.


Production

''Deliverance'' was shot primarily in
Rabun County Rabun County is the northeasternmost County (United States), county in the U.S. state of Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the population was 16,276. The county seat is Clayton, Georgia, Clayton. Wi ...
in northeastern Georgia. The canoe scenes were filmed in the
Tallulah Gorge :''This article refers to the waterfalls and gorge. For the state park, see Tallulah Gorge State Park, for the town, see Tallulah Falls, Georgia, for the lake, see Lake Tallulah Falls and for the river, see Tallulah River.'' The Tallulah Gorge is ...
southeast of
Clayton
Clayton
and on the
Chattooga River The Chattooga River (also spelled Chatooga, Chatuga, and Chautaga, variant name Guinekelokee River) is the main tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream A stream is a body of water (Lysefjord) in Norway Norway, of ...

Chattooga River
. This river divides the northeastern corner of
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
from the northwestern corner of
South Carolina South Carolina () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

South Carolina
. Additional scenes were shot in
Salem, South Carolina Salem is a U.S. town in Oconee County, South Carolina. The population was 135 at the 2010 United States Census.See http://factfinder.census.gov for population numbers and for municipality and CDP lists in the 2010 Census. Geography Salem is locate ...
. A scene was also shot at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery. This site has since been flooded and lies under the surface of Lake Jocassee, on the border between Oconee and Pickens counties in South Carolina. The dam shown under construction is Jocassee Dam. During the filming of the canoe scene, author
James Dickey James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, United States Poet Laureate in 1966. He also received ...

James Dickey
showed up inebriated and entered into a bitter argument with producer-director
John Boorman Sir John Boorman (; born 18 January 1933) is a British filmmaker Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story ...
, who had rewritten Dickey's script. They allegedly had a brief fistfight in which Boorman, a much smaller man than Dickey, suffered a broken nose and four shattered teeth. Dickey was thrown off the set, but no charges were filed against him. The two reconciled and became good friends, and Boorman gave Dickey a cameo role as the sheriff at the end of the film. The inspiration for the Cahulawassee River was the Coosawattee River, which was dammed in the 1970s and contained several dangerous whitewater rapids before being flooded by Carters Lake (Blue Ridge Mountains), Carters Lake.


Casting

Casting was by Lynn Stalmaster. Dickey had initially wanted Sam Peckinpah to direct the film. Dickey also wanted Gene Hackman to portray Ed Gentry whereas Boorman wanted Lee Marvin to play the role. Boorman also wanted Marlon Brando to play Lewis Medlock. Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of Ed, while both Donald Sutherland and Charlton Heston turned down the role of Lewis. Other actors who were attached to the project included Robert Redford, Henry Fonda, George C. Scott and Warren Beatty.


Stunts

The film is infamous for cutting costs by not insuring the production and having the actors perform their own stunts (most notably, Jon Voight climbed the cliff himself). Reynolds requested to have one scene re-shot with himself in a canoe rather than a dummy as it tumbled over a real waterfall. Reynolds recalled his shoulder and head hitting rocks and floating down stream with all of his clothes torn off, then waking up with director Boorman at his bedside. Reynolds asked "How'd it look?" and Boorman said, "It looked like a dummy falling over a waterfall." Beatty almost drowned and Reynolds cracked his tailbone. Regarding the courage of the four main actors in the movie performing their own stunts without insurance protection, Dickey was quoted as saying all of them "had more guts than a burglar." In a nod to their stunt-performing audacity, early in the movie Lewis says, "Insurance? I've never been insured in my life. I don't believe in insurance. There's no risk".


"Squeal like a pig"

Several people have been credited with the phrase "squeal like a pig", the now-famous line spoken during the graphic rape scene. Ned Beatty said he thought of it while he and actor McKinney (who played Beatty's rapist) were improvising the scene. James Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, wrote in his memoir about the film production, ''Summer of Deliverance'', that because Boorman had rewritten so much dialogue for the scene one of the crewmen suggested that Beatty's character should just "squeal like a pig". Boorman, in a Audio commentary, DVD commentary he made for the film said the line was used because the studio wanted the male rape scene to be filmed in two ways: one for cinematic release and one that would be acceptable for television. As Boorman did not want to do that, he decided that the phrase "squeal like a pig", suggested by Rabun County liaison Frank Rickman, was a good replacement for the original dialogue in the script.


Soundtrack and copyright dispute

The film's soundtrack brought new attention to the musical work "
Dueling Banjos "Dueling Banjos" is a bluegrass composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1954 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos," which contained riffs from Smith, recorded in 1955 playing a four-string plec ...
", which had been recorded numerous times since 1955. Only Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel were originally credited for the piece. The onscreen credits state that the song is an arrangement of the song "Feudin' Banjos", showing Combine Music Corp as the copyright owner. Songwriter and producer Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, who had written "Feudin' Banjos" in 1955, and recorded it with five-string banjo player Don Reno, filed a lawsuit for songwriting credit and a percentage of royalties. He was awarded both in a landmark copyright infringement case. Smith asked Warner Bros. to include his name on the official soundtrack listing, but reportedly asked to be omitted from the film credits because he found the film offensive. No credit was given for the film score. The film has a number of sparse, brooding passages of music scattered throughout, including several played on a synthesizer. Some prints of the movie omit much of this extra music. Boorman was given a gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single; this was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill. Boorman recreated this scene in ''The General (1998 film), The General'' (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.


Charts


Reception

''Deliverance'' was a box office success in the United States, becoming the 1972 in film#Top grossing films (U.S.), fifth-highest grossing film of 1972, with a domestic take of over $46 million. The film's financial success continued the following year, when it went on to earn $18 million in North American Gross rental, "distributor rentals" (receipts).


Critical reception

''Deliverance'' was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1972. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 89% rating based on reviews from 62 critics, with an average rating of 8.40/10. The site's consensus states: "Given primal verve by John Boorman's unflinching direction and Burt Reynolds' star-making performance, ''Deliverance'' is a terrifying adventure." On Metacritic it has a weighted average score of 80% based on reviews from 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Gene Siskel of the ''Chicago Tribune'' gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, "It is a gripping horror story that at times may force you to look away from the screen, but it is so beautifully filmed that your eyes will eagerly return." Charles Champlin of the ''Los Angeles Times'' called it
"an engrossing adventure, a demonstrable labor of love whose pains have largely paid off in making us empathize with stirring deeds in a setting of cruel beauty. Reynolds suggests that given the right material he is more than just another pretty hand and Voight, in the most substantial role he has had since 'Midnight Cowboy' proves again what a versatile actor he is. Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox are excellent in the briefer roles as the other voyagers."
Gary Arnold of ''The Washington Post'' wrote that the film was "certainly a distinctive and gripping piece of work, with a deliberately brooding, ominous tone and visual style that put you in a grave, fearful frame of mind, almost in spite of yourself." Not all reviews were positive. Roger Ebert of the ''Chicago Sun-Times'' wrote:
"Dickey, who wrote the original novel and the screenplay, lards this plot with a lot of significance – universal, local, whatever happens to be on the market. He is clearly under the impression that he is telling us something about the nature of man, and particularly civilized man's ability to survive primitive challenges[…] But I don't think it works that way.[…] What the movie totally fails at, however, is its attempt to make some kind of significant statement about its action.[…] [W]hat James Dickey has given us here is a fantasy about violence, not a realistic consideration of it.[…] It's possible to consider civilized men in a confrontation with the wilderness without throwing in rapes, cowboy-and-Indian stunts and pure exploitative sensationalism."
Arthur D. Murphy of ''Variety (magazine), Variety'' wrote that the setting was "majestic" but it was "in the fleshing out that the script fumbles, and with it the direction and acting." Vincent Canby of ''The New York Times'' was also generally negative, calling the film "a disappointment" because "so many of Dickey's lumpy narrative ideas remain in his screenplay that John Boorman's screen version becomes a lot less interesting than it has any right to be." The instrumental piece, "
Dueling Banjos "Dueling Banjos" is a bluegrass composition by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. The song was composed in 1954 by Smith as a banjo instrumental he called "Feudin' Banjos," which contained riffs from Smith, recorded in 1955 playing a four-string plec ...
", won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. The film was selected by ''The New York Times'' as one of ''The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made'', while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it #45 on a list of ''The 100 Greatest Films''. Reynolds later called it "the best film I've ever been in". However, he stated that the rape scene went "too far".


Awards and nominations

;Nominated * Academy Award for Best Picture * Academy Award for Best Director —
John Boorman Sir John Boorman (; born 18 January 1933) is a British filmmaker Filmmaking (or, in any context, film production) is the process by which a film is made. Filmmaking involves a number of complex and discrete stages including an initial story ...
* Academy Award for Best Film Editing — Tom Priestley * New York Film Critics Circle for New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film, Best Film and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, Best Director * Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama * Golden Globe Award for Best Director – Motion Picture — John Boorman * Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama —
Jon Voight Jonathan Vincent Voight (; born December 29, 1938) is an American actor. He came to prominence in the late 1960s with his Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in t ...
* List of Golden Globe Awards: Original Song, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song — Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, Eric Weissberg, and Steve Mandel * List of Golden Globe Awards: Screenplay, Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay —
James Dickey James Lafayette Dickey (February 2, 1923 January 19, 1997) was an American poet and novelist. He was appointed the eighteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, United States Poet Laureate in 1966. He also received ...

James Dickey


American Film Institute lists

* AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills—#15


Legacy

Following the film's release, Governor Jimmy Carter established a state film commission to encourage television and movie production in Georgia. The state has "become one of the top five production destinations in the U.S". Tourism increased to Rabun County by the tens of thousands after the film's release. By 2012, tourism was the largest source of revenue in the county, and rafting had developed as a $20 million industry in the region. Jon Voight's stunt double for this film, Claude Terry, later purchased equipment used in the movie from Warner Brothers. He founded a whitewater rafting adventure company on the Chattooga River, Southeastern Expeditions. Payson Kennedy, the stunt double for Ned Beatty, established the Nantahala Outdoor Center with his wife and Horace Holden along the Nantahala River in Swain County, North Carolina in 1972, the same year that ''Deliverance'' was released.


See also

* List of American films of 1972 * Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films * Survival thriller films


References


Further reading

* Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. ''The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film'' (2nd ed. 2005) pp 94–95.


External links

* * *
Weekend in Aintry! James Dickey and The Making of ''Deliverance''

Pictures of some deleted scenes
* ''Deliverance'' essay by Daniel Eagan in America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry, A&C Black, 2010 , pages 686-68

{{DEFAULTSORT:Deliverance 1970s adventure films 1970s thriller drama films American films American adventure drama films American thriller drama films English-language films Films based on American novels Films directed by John Boorman Films set in Appalachia Films set in Atlanta Films set in forests Films set in Georgia (U.S. state) Films shot in Georgia (U.S. state) Films shot in North Carolina Films shot in South Carolina American rape and revenge films Southern Gothic films United States National Film Registry films Warner Bros. films Whitewater films 1972 drama films 1972 films