Film / Deliverance

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"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's 100 Years… 100 Thrills list.

The film involves four guys from Atlanta who decide to go canoeing in the wild countryside of Georgia, hoping to have fun and witness the area's unspoiled nature before the Cahulawassee River valley is flooded by construction of a dam. Two of the guys in question, Lewis Medlock (Reynolds) and Ed Gentry (Voight) are experienced in the ways of the outdoors, but the other two, Bobby Trippe (Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Cox) are completely new to this. When the two boats they take are separated, Bobby and Ed encounter two local men who force them into the woods with a shotgun. Bobby is raped in an infamous scene where he is forced to "squeal like a pig". As the two men prepare to do the same thing to Ed, Lewis finds them and kills the rapist with a recurve bow. After a brief but heated discussion about what to do about the rapist's body, the four elect to bury him and carry on like nothing happened. Unfortunately, the dead man's accomplice got away, and is now hunting them down like animals, throwing all of them into a struggle to survive.

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.
  • Artistic License – Music: The "banjo boy" character is clearly not playing the banjo part of "Duelling Banjos", which in turn is obviously being played on a resonator banjo. Both the banjo AND the guitar have capos, which would not be required for playing in G.
  • 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.
  • Big Bad: The Mountain Man and The Toothless Man.
  • 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 benign.
  • 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 Gas Station Attendant: The guys stop at a creepy gas station with a creepy gas station attendant... and a kid who plays the banjo. The gas station attendant dances along, creepily.
  • Deep South: Probably not the Georgians' favorite portrayal of their state as it turns their home into The Savage South.
  • Deus Exit Machina: Lewis suffers a gruesome leg fracture, forcing the more relatable character Ed into the hero role for the climax.
  • 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.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: The very word "deliverance" has become a punchline because of this trope. The rape scene in the film itself is a brutal, chilling aversion.
  • 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 — after the famous "Dueling Banjos" scene, Drew goes to shake the boy's hand; he is snubbed.
  • Eyes Always Shut: The Banjo Kid. His actor, Billy Redden, is a case of Truth in Television.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Ed is Phlegmatic, Lewis is Melancholic, Bobby is Choleric and Drew is Sanguine.
  • Genre Motif: Folk
  • The Grunting Orgasm: In the infamous squeal like a pig scene. Not for the faint of heart.
  • 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.
  • Hot Blooded Sideburns: Lewis has a pair of these that are like tusks, seriously. Not surprisingly, he's the tough guy of the group.
  • Irony: The definitive film about the horrors of the Deep South was directed by an Englishman.
  • Karmic Death: Both the rapists end up getting shot to death.
  • Lighter and Softer: The movie is not exactly a light comedy, but the book itself is an intense and disturbing read.
  • The Load: 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.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: The rapists are credited as Mountain Man and Toothless Man.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Dueling Banjos", the other most famous scene in the film, is between a banjo player and a guitarist.
  • One-Word Title
  • 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."
  • Rape and Revenge: Bobby is the first to agree to bury the dead rapist mainly for this reason.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: The TV edit, at least, does this to the homosexual rape scene.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The Dueling Banjo Arrangement by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith became famous for it's appearance in the film and is rarely mentioned without it also being mentioned, so much so that the song is often referred to as the song from Deliverence.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • River of Insanity: Probably one of the best-known examples of a trip to the wilderness gone horribly wrong.
  • 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.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Lewis is never seen wearing any. He most likely believes this trope.
  • Tagline: "This is the weekend they didn't play golf."
  • Those Two Bad Guys: The two hillbilly rapists.
  • 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 Badass: 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