Blu-ray Review: DELIVERANCE The 40th Anniversary edition

Warner Home Video
Release date: June 26th, 2012
MSRP: $34.99

”Squeal for me!”

One of the more legendary and, for men, cringeworthy lines in film history. The scene it comes from left all male viewers rocking back and forth in a fetal position, and vowing never to enter the woods again. But to reduce Deliverance to that one scene would be akin to reducing The Graduate to Mrs. Robinson.

In 1972, director John Boorman headed into the wilds of Georgia to make a film from James Dickey’s novel Deliverance. He had a piddly budget and two of his four principals were making their big screen debut. The shoot was fairly quick, with everyone doing his or her own stunts (despite not having insurance).

The resulting film is one of the best action/adventure genre to date. A film that still stands the test of time after 40 years. In the final product, the lack of budget became an advantage to the overall look and feel as a longer shoot with more money would almost certainly have resulted in a more polished, less gritty film. And the relatively fresh cast worked their asses off and took physical risks that many more experienced actors might not have.

The film stars Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty as four buddies from Atlanta get together for a canoeing trip down the Cahulawassee River. The river is slated to be destroyed to provide electricity for the city and Reynold’s Lewis wants to spend time there before it is too late. But the  Once they get there, they encounter some less than friendly locals that don’t take too kindly to the intrusion of the city slickers. The conflict escalates to the level where none of them get away completely intact.

Boorman does an excellent job of pacing. The film starts out at a rather relaxed pace and slowly builds. Once we hit the second half, it has you by the throat and does not let go until the bitter end.

Video: The video is presented in 1080p with a 1080p/VC-1 encode and a 2.40:1 ratio. Visually, it looks good. The film was originally shot in a fairly small budget and, quite honestly, it shows at times. The transfer is nice, with little visible damage, but this was never meant to look like a million dollars.

Audio: Sound is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and is stellar. The sounds of nature (creaking of the trees, the winds, the rumble of the river and chirping of the birds) really help the backdrop come to life and set the mood. The overall mix is nice, with the music never overwhelming the sounds of nature of the dialogue.

In addition to the primary track, there is a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 and Dolby Digital Mono stracks for French, German, Italian and Spanish. Subtitles are provided for Danish, Dutch, English SDH, Finnish, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish.

Extras: The one new extra is Deliverance: The Cast Looks Back. It runs about 30 minutes and features Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox looking back at the film and the impact it had on their careers. The quartet are funny and open with their recollections of the film shoot. Well worth watching.

Others include a four part look at the making of the film. These featurettes offer up comments by Director John Boorman, Christopher Dickey (son of the original novel’s author), all four leads (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) as well as some from other cast members and crew. These total out around an hour and give us a nice look into the challenges of filming of filming in the woods of northern Georgia. Also included is a new commentary track from the director. This is interesting as it also talks about the issues they faced making it on a shoestring budget completely on location in the middle of nowhere.

Deliverance is best known for one particularly brutal (especially for men) scene. But while all know that scene, many have long forgotten (or in the case of younger folk, never having known) just how good a movie this is. If you don’t already own DELIVERANCE on BD, this is well worth the price. The film is still great fun (is that the right word?) after all these years and holds up well.