Deliverance is a 1972 Warner Bros. motion picture drama directed by John Boorman. Principal cast members include Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, Jon Voight, and, in his film debut, Ned Beatty. The film is based on a 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey, who has a small role in the film as the sheriff. The screenplay was written by Dickey and an uncredited Boorman.
Widely acclaimed as a landmark film, Deliverance is the story of four suburban professional men from Atlanta on a weekend canoe and camping trip. The film is noted for the memorable music scene near the beginning that sets the tone for what lies ahead: a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory. In the scene, set at a rural gas station, character Drew Ballinger plays the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" on his guitar with a mentally-challenged hillbilly youth named Lonnie (implied as being an inbred albino in the novel, portrayed by Billy Redden in the film). The boy eventually outplays Drew with his banjo. The song won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
From the start, it is clear the four are far from what they know as civilization. The locals are crude and unimpressed with outsiders, and the film implies some of them are inbred. Drew briefly connects with a local banjo-playing boy by joining him in an impromptu bluegrass jam. But when the song ends, the boy turns away without saying anything, refusing Drew's handshake. The four "city boys", as they are called by one of the locals, exhibit a slightly condescending attitude towards the locals (Bobby in particular is patronizing).
Traveling in pairs on the river, the foursome's two canoes are briefly separated. Pausing briefly to get their bearings, Bobby and Ed encounter a pair of grizzled hillbillies (Bill McKinney and Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward) emerging from the woods, one wielding a loaded shotgun. After a stray comment about a moonshine still offends the hillbillies, Bobby is forced at gunpoint to strip naked. His ear is twisted to bring him to his hands and knees, and he is then ordered to "squeal like a pig" as McKinney's character proceeds to rape him. Ed is bound to a tree and held at gunpoint by the other man.
Hearing the commotion, Lewis (who is wary of danger in the woods) secretly sneaks up and kills the rapist with an arrow from his compound bow; meanwhile, the other hillbilly quickly escapes into the woods. A brief but hotheaded debate ensues between Lewis and Drew about whether to inform the authorities. Lewis argues that they would not receive a fair trial, as the local jury would be composed of the dead man's friends and relatives; likewise, Bobby does not want what had happened to him to become known. The men vote to side with Lewis' recommendation to bury the dead hillbilly's body and continue on as though nothing had happened. The four make a run for it downriver, cutting their trip short, but soon disaster strikes as the canoes reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. As Drew and Ed reach the rapids in the lead canoe, Drew clutches his head and falls forward into the river. The reason for Drew's fall is left unclear: Drew was either shot and killed by the surviving mountain man, or he lost his balance and fell from the canoe in the heavy rapids.
After Drew disappears into the river, both canoes collide on the rocks, spilling Lewis, Bobby, and Ed into the river. Lewis breaks his femur and the others are washed ashore alongside him. Encouraged by the badly-injured Lewis, who believes they are being stalked by the toothless hillbilly, Ed climbs a nearby rock face in order to dispatch the suspected shooter using his bow, while Bobby stays behind to look after Lewis. Ed reaches the top and hides out until the next morning, when the shooter appears on the top of the cliff with a rifle, looking down into the gorge where Lewis and Bobby are located. Ed, who in a scene earlier in the film had been psychologically unable to shoot a deer he was tracking, starts to freeze again in spite of his clear shot. As the man notices Ed and raises his rifle to fire, Ed clumsily releases his arrow as the man's bullet slams into the rock just next to him, he falls down in panic and accidentally stabs himself with one of his own spare arrows. The hillbilly, at first seemingly unaffected and still a threat, now staggers and collapses. Ed checks the body and sees he is dead. He looks carefully at the dead man, and finds false removable teeth inside of his mouth. It is clear that he isn't sure whether the man he's killed is the same toothless man who got away. Ed and Bobby weigh down the dead hillbilly with stones and drop him into the river. Later they come upon Drew's corpse, which they also weigh down and sink in the river to ensure that it will never be found.
When they finally reach their destination, Aintry (which will soon be submerged by the dammed river), they take the injured Lewis to the hospital. The three carefully concoct a cover story for the authorities about Drew's death and disappearance being an accident, lying about their ordeal to Sheriff Bullard (played by author James Dickey) in order to escape a possible double murder charge. The sheriff clearly doesn't believe them, but has no evidence on which to arrest them. After thinking it over, he simply tells the men: "Don't ever do anything like this again... I kinda like to see this town die peaceful." They readily agree. The three vow to keep their story a secret for the rest of their lives, which proves to be psychologically burdensome for Ed. In the final scene, Ed awakes screaming from a nightmare in which a man's hand rises from the lake.
Regarding the courage of the four main actors in the movie doing 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."
Billy Redden, who played the banjo playing boy, could not really play the banjo. Another young banjo player knelt behind him and reached around Redden's chest to reach the banjo, with Redden wearing a specially made shirt that made the man's arms appear to be Redden's. Additionally, the shot was filmed from angles that made it impossible to see the musician behind Redden on the porch.
Ed's son and wife (seen near the end of the movie) were played respectively by John Boorman's son Charley Boorman and Ned Beatty's wife (at the time).
Although the film closely follows the novel, some sections are different. Examples include the character description of Ed (in the novel, Ed was bald and in his late 40s), the missing introduction (explaining why they decided to go on a canoe trip instead of playing golf), and an epilogue after the events.
In the film, only Bobby's line of work is mentioned (he is an insurance salesman). The novel additionally reveals that Ed is a graphic designer or art director for an advertising agency, Drew works as a sales representative for a large Atlanta-based soft drink manufacturer, and Lewis is simply an unspecified white-collar worker. The first section of the book describes a day at the office for Ed, which (except for the opening voiceover) is omitted from the movie.
Ned Beatty states that he created the infamous "squeal piggy" line while he and actor Bill McKinney were improvising the scene. James Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, in his book, "Summer of Deliverance", said that it was one of the crewmen who suggested that Ned Beatty's character, "Bobby", "squeal like a pig" - to add some backwoods horror to the scene and to make it more shocking.
John Boorman's gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill, a scene Boorman recreated in The General (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.
In addition to the movie's famous theme, there are also 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. Other than Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandel's credit for "Dueling Banjos", no one is credited for any of the incidental music.
"PROJECT DELIVERANCE" RESULTS IN MORE THAN 2,200 ARRESTS DURING 22-MONTH OPERATION, SEIZURES OF APPROXIMATELY 74 TONS OF DRUGS AND $154 MILLION IN U.S. CURRENCY.
Jun 10, 2010; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the FBI: Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the arrest of more...
'Project Deliverance' Results in More Than 2,200 Arrests During 22-Month Operation, Seizures of Approximately 74 Tons of Drugs and $154 Million in U.S. Currency.
Jun 25, 2010; Attorney General Eric Holder announced the arrest of more than 2,200 individuals on narcotics-related charges in the United...
'PROJECT DELIVERANCE' RESULTS IN MORE THAN 2,200 ARRESTS DURING 22-MONTH OPERATION, SEIZURES OF APPROXIMATELY 74 TONS OF DRUGS, $154 MILLION IN U.S. CURRENCY
Jun 11, 2010; WASHINGTON, June 10 -- The U. S. Department of Justice issued the following press release: Attorney General Eric Holder today...