Film / Deliverance

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/banjos.jpg
"Kin ye squeal like a piggy?"

A 1970 novel by James Dickey, adapted into a 1972 film directed by John Boorman and starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox. #15 on AFI "100 Thrills" list.

A group of stuck-up Atlanta yuppies decide to go into the wild countryside of Georgia where they do a little canoeing, play a little banjo, and suddenly get brutally raped by a pair of local hicks. After one of the group kills the rapist, the four city boys must try and escape the town before the locals find out what happened. However, the dead man's accomplice ran off, and starts hunting them down like animals. The film is best known for the page quote about squealing like a pig and the "Dueling Banjos" scene. If you ever see the film you will never be able to enjoy banjos again. Or go canoeing. Or visit rural Georgia. Or, you know, sleep.

Deliverance provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The movie doesn't explain why it's titled Deliverance, but the book states that what the city boys are trying to find in the backwoods is deliverance from the stress of modern life. All four men seem to be somewhat trapped in careers, marriage, and/or other commitments, Lewis and Ed in particular. By the end of the story, they're looking for Deliverance from the wilderness to which they hoped to escape. Survivalist Lewis seems to have gotten his wish for the collapse of civilization (at least in his life) and has most likely changed his stance on such things.
    • Bobby is the only one of the four leads whose occupation (insurance salesman) is revealed in the film. The novel further reveals that Ed is a graphic designer, Lewis is a landlord, and Drew is a soft drink executive.
  • Batman Gambit: The lengthy scene in the book in which Ed is forced to hunt down the second rapist alone with his bow is based on the assumption that the unknown man will behave logically, and do what they would do in his situation, despite the fact that he probably doesn't operate according to conventional logic, otherwise they wouldn't be in that situation in the first place. lucky for Ed, Bobby and Lewis, it works.
  • Bloodless Carnage: When the rednecks tie Ed to the tree, one of them takes a knife and slices his chest, yet he doesn't even bleed.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Ed during the final scene.
  • Chromosome Casting: All of the characters are men.
  • Corrupt Hick: The film would seem to be both played straight and subverted. On the one hand, the rapists themselves play this deadly straight. On the other, we never see the rapists again and while the rest of the hillbilly town is set up to be creepy and/or evil, they never really do anything, good or bad. There's one police officer who mentions that his brother-in-law went missing recently and is suspicious of the protagonists, but the sheriff rightly says they don't have sufficient evidence to arrest them and instead advises that they leave the town and never return. Especially subverted in the case of the mentally challenged banjo player (probably the most famous character in the film), whose banjo playing provides a creepy soundtrack but who is otherwise benevolent.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Lewis plays around with this. He adores doing the whole Mountain Man thing, scorns people who he thinks rely on or are products of civilization, and believes that at some point society will break down and we'll all have to rely on our wilderness survival skills — Ed suggests that Lewis actually can't wait for that to happen. At the same time, it's implied that Lewis isn't actually as good a survivalist as he thinks he is, and he takes everyone canoeing down that river without finding out if it was safe first, and even after a local warned him it was extremely dangerous. This comes back to bite him in the ass big time when the canoes hit some major rapids, tossing them all out and breaking his leg.
  • Creator Cameo: James Dickey appears toward the end as The Sheriff, who tells the men one of his deputies has a brother-in-law who's gone missing and advises them to leave and never come back.
  • Creepy Child: The banjo kid.
  • Deep South: Probably not the Georgians' favorite portrayal of their state as it turns their home into The Savage South.
  • Disappeared Dad: After his death, Ed reveals that Drew was a good husband and father of two boys, essentially turning him into this for his family, as his body will likely never be recovered; a revelation that makes his ambiguous suicide even harsher.
  • Disc One Final Boss: The Mountain Man and the Toothless Man are nasty and dangerous people, but they cannot compare to the savagery of the wilderness itself.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: One of the most memorable scenes of the film is preceded by an order to go deeper into the woods, and it's where both confrontations take place.
  • Driven to Suicide: Possibly, with Drew's death. It's deliberately left ambiguous, but considering his bizarre behavior after the murder, his refusal to wear a life jacket, and the fact that he clearly seems to be voluntarily jumping out of the canoe. The director and actor both support this interpretation.
  • Duet Bonding: Subverted, in the famous banjo scene.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Ed is Phlegmatic, Lewis is Melancholic, Bobby is Choleric and Drew is Sanguine.
  • Genre Motif: Folk
  • Hillbilly Horrors: Quite possibly the Trope Codifier for every subsequent movie about getting lost in the woods and hunted by hillbillies.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Oh, come on, you big girl's blouse. It's only a bit of horrific rape! Don't ruin the trip for the rest of us.
  • Jerkass: Lewis.
  • Karmic Death: Both the rapists end up getting shot to death.
  • The Protagonist: Ed.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie is not exactly a light comedy, but the book itself is an intense and disturbing read.
  • The Load: Bobby.
    • Lewis also sort of becomes this, ironically enough, after getting hurt.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: White-collar worker Ed tries to hunt a deer but finds himself unable to kill it.
  • Moral Guardians: In real life some moral guardians protested about Brokeback Mountain being shown on TV. They showed this instead.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ed briefly freaks out after believing he'd just killed the wrong man when he sees the corpse has its front teeth, but quickly discovers that the hillbilly he shot is the same toothless rapist from before, only now wearing removable bridgework.
  • Nonindicative Name: "Dueling Banjos", the other most famous scene in the film, is between a banjo player and a guitarist.
  • Only Sane Man: Drew. The novel lampshades this, when Ed sinks his corpse in the river and says, "You were the best of us, Drew. The only decent one; the only sane one."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sheriff Bullard. It's obvious at the end that he's pieced together most of what happened during the canoe trip, but while he's not happy with Ed or Bobby, he's willing to let it drop because he doesn't have any hard evidence, and because, in his own words, he wants his hometown to die peacefully. He lets them off with a warning not to come back, sternly admonishing Ed, "Don't ever do anything like this again."
  • Revised Ending: The originally ended with an epilogue that takes place a few weeks, perhaps months, after the main events. It appears in James Dickey's original script as part of the final dream sequence, but not as the story's literal conclusion. Lewis walks with a crutch (in Dickey's screenplay, his leg is amputated below the knee). Ed, Lewis, and Bobby meet with Sheriff Bullard near the dam in Aintry. The sheriff directs them to a body on a stretcher, then uncovers it so they can look at its face. No identifiable details of the body are shown, a deliberate choice to make the audience uncertain whether the dead man is Drew, Don Job, or the Toothless Man. The body was played by Christopher Dickey, James Dickey's son, who writes about the scene in his memoir, "Summer of Deliverance", and even he doesn't know whose body it was supposed to be. In the screenplay, Ed awakens from the dream, terrified, just before the corpse's face is revealed.
  • River of Insanity: Probably one of the best-known examples of a trip to the wilderness gone horribly wrong.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The most common, or second most common question from many in the audience tends to be: was the man whom Ed shot the same one who had intended to violate him earlier? (Yes, he was.) However, the actual persistent mystery, which remains ambiguous and unexplained, is Drew's fate: was he shot, did he fall into the river accidentally, or did he choose to jump in? John Boorman tended to be evasive on the subject (though he said he felt that Drew refused to go on after covering up the murder), author James Dickey felt it was murder, and Drew's actor Ronny Cox believed it was suicide. Nobody really knows and John Boorman says it's up to each viewer to decide.
  • The Savage South: The film did not do any favors for mountain people in Georgia, or in general, the south, despite their being good (or at least harmless) characters and relatively few antagonists. Ironically, the author actually had a good experience with the mountain men; see below.
  • Scenery Porn: The wilderness, despite its savagery, is simply gorgeous to look at.
  • Tagline: "This is the weekend they didn't play golf."
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: In the novel, and more or less stated in the film, Ed says that Drew was the best of them, and Drew was the only one who insisted on bringing the corpse of the murdered rapist in; his possible suicide seems to imply he couldn't bear to continue after going along with covering up the murder.
  • Took A Level In Bad Ass: Bobby goes from the load to being tougher than he looks after that scene and the boat breaking.
  • Übermensch: Lewis thinks he's this. Possibly a Deconstructed Trope and definitely a case of Reality Ensues, as a fractured femur is crippling and excruciatingly painful no matter how tough you normally are.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Very, very loosely based. Writer James Hickey took a canoe trip in the Georgia woods and got lost but was actually helped by local mountain men, who were friendly. Of course that wouldn't make an interesting book...!


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Deliverance