Sunday, 3 April 2016

Review: Deliverance

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Deliverance Poster

Deliverance (1972)
Cert: 18 / 109 mins / Dir. John Boorman / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Yes, it has been a while and no I hadn't forgotten. The heady combination of Christmas and Star Wars sort of hit pause on I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen*1, and so-called Real Life meant that the button was left untouched for a while. But now that the cinema's calmed back down and I've got my writing mits on again? Let's remember how thoroughly shitty the 1970s was!

My word, it's grim down South. An interesting (if exhausting) social-companion-piece to both Apocalypse Now and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I can see why Uncle George wanted to cheer everybody up by the mid 70s. Starting in Atlanta, four friends - with levels of physical and emotional stamina which vary as much as their Southern accents - embark upon a canoeing weekend, taking in the Cahulawassee river before it's flooded in the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Armed with whiskey, a pipe, a guitar, four life-jackets and a bow and arrow*2, the one thing they hadn't bargained on was the kind of hill-dwelling, inbred, toothless locals that pretty much set the template for hillbillies from the point at which this film was made...

And it's certainly gruelling stuff, if a little sporadic in its pacing. Deliverance is a story which appears to detest its central characters, put it that way. Burt Reynolds, John Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox make up the tourists/sport-du-jour, with Reynolds being surprisingly watchable (at least for viewers (okay, me) who only really know him as the Hollywood in-joke he'd go on to become). Deliberately provocative, the story and its themes have certainly stood the test of time; those themes being paranoia and being torn between the fear of progress and the fear of the wilderness. You get the impression that N*gel F*r*ge has nightmares like this, frequently.

The infamous Duelling Banjos makes its already-familiar-yet-deeply-unsettling-anyway appearance early on in the film*3, and to be honest seems a little over-used after that, if anything. The soundtrack never goes right back into the full rendition, but pretty much all musical stings after that point are refrains of the main melody. No biggie, but it whiffs of one-hit-wonder a little. Oh, and I was constantly wondering if Ned Beatty was about to go into The Truffle Shuffle at any given moment. Sadly, not.

But Deliverance is a well-made film that's still relevant, with some great landscape framing and a near-constant state of tension. All of which are points that many of today's film can't achieve separately, never mind all at once...

Have you really never seen this before?
Yeah, really. Although it's arguably so ingrained in popular culture that I've never had to.

So are you glad you've finally have?
I am.

And would you recommend it, now?
i would.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The film stars the son of the director, a young Charley Boorman*4, who did that Riding Around On A Motorcycle Thing with Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor.
[Yeah, I sure love motorcycling, motorcycling around. Some people like cycling on a normal bike, but not me. I say why pedal around when you can have a bike that doesn’t need pedalling? With all the engine and stuff in it. Rrrrum rrrrrum.]

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Like the project ever ran according to schedule anyway, but y'know.

*2 And let's face it, we've all been to some great parties which have started with that shopping-list...

*3 Mind you, anyone who's ever played an acoustic guitar outside will know that you just don't get that level of volume unless you're beating it to splinters...

*4 Although he's credited as "Charlie", not Charley. I know that Charlie is the recognised 'usual' spelling of the name, but you'd think the director - Charley's dad, remember - might have mentioned something about that before the film closed post-production. Mind you, he's probably just christened Charles isn't he? In which case, you'd think that young Charles would choose a shortened nickname based on the one which was emblazoned on-screen when he was just five years old, rather than contrarily spelling it a different way, thinking it makes him cool somehow. Well we see right through that shit, Charlton.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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