You can’t really underestimate how much the 1970s changed the movies. All of the old formulas were blown away, new formulas were completely drawn up, and some of the best and worst moviemaking ever done was on screens at the same time. Even this was a first, as this decade saw the the huge proliferation of the multiplex.
Deliverance can’t be understood except as a reworking (and a bit of a perversion) of the formula road pictures and wilderness adventures. And as this, it succeeds wildly - viewers of its time would react very differently to it than we do today.
I knew a bit about it, growing up, as kids in the schoolyard talked about what happened to Ned Beatty, but I didn’t actually see it myself until I was in college. I thought it was pretty damned good. It’s a low-key, pretty realistic (no ghosts, no serial killers) horror movie about what happens when weekend warriors get in over their heads. They fight back as best they can, and some of them make it out alive. Beautiful cinematography, too.
The most powerful scene IMHO is near the very end, when the survivors are having dinner at the home of the elderly couple. One of the survivors is offered some mashed potatoes, as I recall, and breaks down in tears at the lady’s simple, kind offer of food. A moment of quiet generosity after a harrowing ordeal.
If Deliverance had been made a couple of decades earlier, do you think it would have been a Hope/Crosby vehicle or a Martin/Lewis?
Lewis: “They’re trying to make me into their laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaady!”
Martin (polishing off a whiskey and looking around a mountainside): “How’d all these rocks and trees and rapin’ hillbillies get in my tent?”
Or better yet, a generation farther and it could have been a Marx Brothers vehicle A Day in the Wilderness (I wonder if Margaret Dumont could believably play a hillbilly rapist though).
I’ve only seen the movie once, and that was years ago, but I don’t recall that the film portrayed Appalachian residents as freaky ass-rapists as a whole. There’s a large element of, “Holy crap, look how poor these people are!” which from what I understand, was (and is) largely accurate, and there’s an undercurrent of resentment in a lot of the interactions between the tourists and the locals, which again strikes me as accurate given the circumstances. The two thugs they meet on the river are clearly hardened criminals, not “just plain folks,” and without giving too much away, the events after the notorious rape scene make it clear that the film is making a statement about inhumanity that’s intended to cut clear across class and geographic lines. In other words, the movie does not portray all hillbillies as rapists, it depicts two rapists as hillbillies.
I found it to be an interesting film, definitly worth checking out once, but not a major cinematic touchstone.
The book (and later the movie) is about citified men trying to have a wilderness experience before the wilderness is gone. The river they’re going to canoe on is going to disappear when a dam is built.
It’s interesting that this movie made in the 70s is now something that young people of today can’t even relate to. Going on a trip without a check card, without ATMs, without cell phones, without a single way in the world to summon help if you need it, trusting strangers to drive your car for your for a few dollars–nobody born in the last thirty years can even imagine it. And that was the modern part of the movie.
Actually, I think it does and this very thread proves just that.
That we’re even having this discussion about 35 years after its release, means that the movie has stirred emotions and provoked debate.
Actually, in SDMB terms, the movie might be considered trolling, i.e. just being done to stir a debate. As such, it’s been very succesful.
I also appreciated the attitude of the country sheriff-who knows what happened, but wants to give the guys a break. He says to Reynolds-“you boys are smart-real smart…don’t come back up here!”. Can you imagine what would have happened, had they confessed to the killing? Like the character said" I’m not coming back here to face jury, filled with this guy’s relatives!"
The movie is better than the book. The book has a lot of boring pages waxing nostalgic about the loss of the American wilderness and (presumably) the loss of true “manhood” along with it. The image of a city slicker getting ass-raped by hillbillies is a somewhat heavy-handed symbol for the immasculation of the Civilized Man in the wilderness.
The movie kind of dumps the allegory overboard, or at least minimizes it, and makes it more of a straight-ahead, horror/escape/adventure flick with a building sense of tension, some degree of attention to creating a sense of the “Other,” and the centerpiece rape scene which seemed far more shocking at the time than it does today. It’s basically just trying to be a visceral, adrenaline ride.
A lot of the movie is very well done. I think the scene in the town is very creepy and strange. The action scenes are well shot and the rape scene is genuinely uncomfortable and scary.
When I think about this movie now, I always remember Gilbert Gottfried’s bit where he wonders why the hillbillies would choose to rape Ned Beatty when they could just as easily rape John Voight or Burt Reynolds.
As a product of Appalachia, I wouldn’t say that its exactly representative of the region as a whole. On the other hand, I would point out that the illiteracy and poverty levels in some pockets of Appalachia rival those of anywhere else in the world. You aren’t likely ever to encounter the sort of people you find in Deliverance. After all, just because people can’t read or don’t have running water doesn’t mean they’re aggressive or hateful. But you definitely CAN run across them. Especially in the most remote places.
The one playing “Duelling Banjos”-there was something clearly NOT right about him. Is it true that isolated people in remote regions often have children with all kinds of genetic problems? The shape of that kid’s head…like a basketball! But he couldplay the banjo!