Deliverance and the laws of physics

So the other day I watched Deliverance (don’t worry, this isn’t a Café thread) for the first time and started wondering about a scene in which Burt Reynolds shoots one of the moutain men (this is shortly after the infamous “Squeal like a pig, boy!” scene) in the back with what looks like a composite bow. We are treated to a gratuitous shot of the mountain man yelling in agony with the arrow completely through his body, the head and tail clearly visible.

It seems to me that if the arrow had enough force to penetrate the man’s torso and emerge, it should have been able to pass right through him. Isn’t most of the arrow’s forward momentum carried in its head? If it could slice through a target, why wouldn’t the smooth shaft just follow?

Please note, I’m trying to keep the sexual metaphors out of this, but it’s hard.

No, the momentum is carried by the total mass of the arrow.


Think of it as being squeezed by bone/viscera along it’s entire length. Also, IIRC, it looked like the arrow emerged from the hillbilly’s sternum. That would use up a lot of force doing that.

Many times a bow hunter will see his arrow buried to the fletching in his target. I’d guess that, most often, the arrow doesn’t pass all the way through the game.

I’m sure some bow hunters will be along to supply the fine details.

Hence my use of the weaselly qualifier “most”. It just seemed to me that if the arrow’s head could make it completely through his body, the relatively smooth shaft should have followed. I could understand how the shaft would stop if it was ribbed or barbed, but there’s no evidence of this in the movie.

If you want to talk about reality, try this. I grew up in Atlanta and our family had a cabin on a lake within a few miles of where Deliverance was filmed. There is no way that someone from Atlanta would have said “Look there is someone up there. I wonder what they want?”. Instead, it would have been “Get in the damn boat and let’s get out of here, before those hillbillies get us.” So what I’m saying is that some things are done just to make the movie and not necessarily according to reality.

hey kniz look out behind you


Seriously, Brian, the shaft is not really smoother than the head of the arrow. The arrow has to stop somewhere. Maybe it seems like a coincidence that it had just enough energy to stick out both sides…well, it is.

but it’s really not. i mean, it’s a freaken hollywood production. of course the arrow’s not a coincidence.

i’ve wondered about this myself. wouldn’t a real arrow just lodge in you, somewhere internal and important, or fly right through ya? same as a bullet. i’ve never seen depicted in a hollywood film a seedy character actor twirling 180 degrees backward and clutching a slightly protruding bullet, right before crashing through a bannister and plummeting to his death upon a card table below.

if an arrow breaks through the skin, isn’t it likely to keep going through the skin? that is, among those who have hunted, how many arrows stay lodged in the flesh, how many arrows go straight through the flesh and lodge somewhere else, and how many arrows protrude through much tissue yet fail to exit the body completely, yielding a dramatic and asthetically pleasing ‘arrow-head-exiting-the-body’ look?


I used to do archery; when the weather was very wet (as has been known to happen from time to time here), we would shoot indoors in a sports centre, because of the limited space, the targets were maybe half of their regular distance; certain archers (depending largely on the power of their equipment) would find that their shots were completely penetrating the target, but the arrow would stop, buried in the target halfway along it’s length - the friction of the target material against the shaft exerts a lot of resistance.

(It was on an indoor shoot that I pulled off my jammiest shot ever; the first shot took out the little printed + in the centre of the gold, the second shot grazed the rear end of the first arrow, breaking the nock; needless to say, subsequent shots were not quite so nicely grouped).