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DELIVERANCE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox
Director:  John Boorman
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  109 Minutes
Release Date:  September 18, 2007

"Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything."

Film ****

Deliverance packs quite a punch, and if you’ve never seen it, and are unfamiliar with it, I envy you for getting to view it for the first time…particularly on this stellar quality Blu-ray disc.  More on that further down.

Poet and author James Dickey, who adapted the screenplay from his own popular novel, was famed for his stories and views on the theme of man versus nature.  For this tale, he created a troupe of four regular men, somewhat out of their element in the wilderness, but feeling ready to take on a treacherous canoe trip down the Cahulawassee river.  Lewis (Reynolds) is particularly keen, because he knows the river will soon be gone, dammed up and turned into just another lake.  This is chance of a lifetime for him.

The early scenes with the men in the boats make for terrific cinema.  They are all well photographed, with much attention paid to the beauty of the natural surroundings.  The action as they negotiate the rapids is particularly exciting, given that the four leads chose to do it for themselves.  (The actors took so many risks doing their own stunts in the film that no insurance company would touch the project).  There is a certain awe the men, and the audience feel, about the power of the river.  “The first explorers came down this river,” Lewis explains, “and we’re seeing it the same as they did.  On canoe.”

But man versus nature turns into man versus human nature before too long.  I wouldn’t dream of giving away the shocking turn of events in the story…though they have been fodder for poor taste jokes involving “southern hospitality” for years.  But the men are soon facing a crisis they could have never imagined, and suddenly each decision they make is crucial and with potential far reaching impact.  The storytelling takes on a tremendous sense of urgency, bringing the dramatic tension to higher and higher levels.

The vacation is clearly over, and now even the river, that once seemed like a thrilling rush of adrenaline, has become a dangerous foe.  The surrounding mountains, once beautiful scenery, are now dark and ominous, and possibly harboring a deadly secret.  Who will survive?  And what will become of them as their situation spins more and more out of control?

Put all the elements together, and throw in terrific and courageous performances by the cast, and the result is one of the 70s greatest films.  It never lets the action or excitement overtake the characters and their drama.  It achieves and maintains suspense beautifully.  Most importantly, it never loses credibility.  They just don’t make big screen entertainment any better than this.

BONUS TRIVIA:  James Dickey also appears in the film as the sheriff.

Video ****

I always thought Deliverance was a DVD benchmark as far as transfers for films from the 70s go.  The Blu-ray edition even expounds on that, offering a new level of detail in the many nature sequences.  The whitewater rafting looks more real and vivid than ever before.  Some scenes look more real and you kind of wish they didn't, but there it is.  Colors are vivid throughout, and the print itself seems in remarkable condition...very little in the way of scratches or scars or even undue grain to confess to its age.

Audio ***1/2

The Blu-ray disc offers a slightly more expansive 5.1 listening experience that seems more ambient than ever.  You really feel like you're in the middle of the great outdoors with these fellows.  During the canoeing scenes, the water sounds out from all corners, putting you right in the middle of the action.  And of course, the classic "Dueling Banjos" sounds terrific, and remains one of the classic non-disco instrumentals of the 70s!

Features ***1/2

The disc contains a commentary from director John Boorman, as well as a terrific four part 35th anniversary retrospective, featuring interviews with Boorman, Voight, Reynolds, Cox and Beatty.  There is also a trailer and a short but interesting vintage behind the scenes documentary, “The Dangerous World of Deliverance”.

Summary:

Deliverance is a must see film.  It’s as much of a thrilling adventure as it is a searing drama, shocker, and suspense film.  It combines excellent acting, writing, directing, and cinematography to make for an unforgettably brilliant and entertaining film.  Blu-ray technology will open your eyes as to how good a film from the 70s can look on home video.

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