‘Deliverance’ with Christopher Dickey

Film:
Deliverance (R)
Year: 1972
Writer:
James Dickey
Director:
John Boorman
Starring:
Burt Reynolds as Lewis
John Voight as Ed
Ned Beatty as Bobby
Ronny Cox as Drew
 

 

By: Gurn Blanston

Memories: There are a few things that pop into most people’s heads when you mention the movie Deliverance: Dueling Banjos, inbred hillbillies, squealing like a pig, pretty mouths, but after not seeing it for many years we may be in danger of forgetting what a powerful movie this was, and still is.

I’m not sure when I first Deliverance, it couldn’t have been at its release because I was still too young, but when I finally did have the opportunity to view it, on HBO I guess, because it was an uncut version, I remember being riveted by the whitewater scenes and the brutal portrayal of clashing cultures set in the Georgia backcountry.

Now let’s get some things straight. I am a hillbilly. Well, I am the descendent of hillbillies anyway. On a farm in North Carolina ,I have a relative we refer to as Aunt Mamie who once let me help milk a cow, and my father still crumbles his cornbread into a glass of milk and eats it with a spoon. When I was in junior high, I played the five-string bluegrass banjo, which I thought at the time made me cooler. It didn’t. With all this to consider I was pre-disposed to be forgiving of the backwoods denizens, after watching the movie, not so much.

In the movie, four buddies, John as Ed, Ronny Cox as Drew, Ned Beatty as Bobby and a rugged, outdoorsy Burt Reynolds as Lewis, their erstwhile leader, decide that instead of a golf outing they will take a canoe trip down the fictitious Cahulawassee River in rural Georgia, wanting to see the unspoiled land before a dam is erected and the entire area flooded. The group encounters the locals and takes a rather condescending viewpoint about them. For their part, the hillbillies view the group as a bunch of stuck-up city boys.

As they travel down the river they get separated, Ed and Bobby in one canoe, Drew and Lewis in the other. Ed and Bobby run afoul of two of the good old boys roaming the back country and end up being beaten, tied up, and in Bobby case made to “squeal like a pig” before being stuffed like a turkey by an obviously sexually confused brain-dead hick. Lewis ends up killing the offending Redneck with a bow and arrow, and then the boys take off down the rapids trying to make good their escape, pursued by the kin folk of the skewered sodomite they buried back in the mountains.

After Drew is either killed or commits suicide, I was never sure which, the three remaining friends manage to escape, but not before running into the local sheriff, played by the author James Dickey, who warns them to “Don’t ever do nothin’ like this again…Don’t come back up here”. Good advice.

Growing up I’m sure that most of us have made the “squeal like a pig” or the “you got a pretty mouth” reference in jest. Or maybe that was just me and I have some unresolved gender identification issues, either way, if you go back and watch this film I think you will be struck by the realistic brutality of that and other scenes that can sometimes make the flick hard to watch.

This was an important film of the time, it was nominated for three Academy Awards:Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing, (it didn’t win) and was seen as a dark representation of mans dangerous struggle with adversity.

The film has stuck with me, certain scenes more than others, but all in all this is still one of my favorite all time films.

Download Natsukashi’s ‘Deliverance’ podcast right here

or float on down to the on-site player

Our featured guest: Christopher Dickey

Award-winning author Christopher Dickey in the son of Deliverance writer James Dickey, documenting his time spent of set in the best-selling memoir Summer of Deliverance: A Memoir of Father and Son (Simon & Schuster, 1998). His most recent book Securing the City was published in February 2009, is the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek Magazine. Previously he worked for The Washington Post as Cairo Bureau Chief and Central America Bureau Chief. Chris’s Shadowland column, about counter-terrorism, espionage and the Middle East, appears weekly on Newsweek Online.

Chris served as a technical advisor on the film, which he says is just a fancy word for “warm body,” but got to see his father’s words come to life directly in front of him. He also recounts the tumultuous legacy the film’s impact had on his father and his family.Chris’s books include With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua (Simon & Schuster, 1986); Expats: Travels from Tripoli to Tehran (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990) and Innocent Blood: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, 1997). His most recent novel, The Sleeper, was published by Simon & Schuster in September 2004. The New York Times called it “a first-rate thriller.”
 
He has also written for Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among other publications. He is a frequent commentator on CNN, MSNBC and National Public Radio, as well as other television and radio networks.
Chris is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was formerly an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow; of the Overseas Press Club of America; and of the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom.
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4 Comments

  1. Great interview, and fascinating to learn the true meaning of the novel.

    I read the book for a college course, and the later rented and watched the film. I enjoyed both though my enjoyment was tempered by by (obviously feminist) teacher’s insistence on interpreting everything in the book as a re-assertion of patriarchy over the female principal, or some such nonesense.

    • I picked a hardback of thisbook in college at a yard sale after watching the film. So gald I did, as when we watched it, we made all the requisite “squeal” jokes and laughed our way through the “scene” (to hide our obvious terror). I was so taken by howDickey painted the natural world, but that part scared me more than any horror out there.

  2. I can not believe I haven’t been to this website before!…

  3. I would be interested in knowing women’s reaction to this movie. I doubt they are affected by it much, since neither the sodomy scene nor the man-vs-nature scene would mean much to them.


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