Monday, July 30, 2012

'Deliverance' From Evil

I didn't see "Deliverance" when it was making its rounds of the theaters in the second half of 1972.

"Deliverance" was rated R, and I was too young to go into an R–rated movie without my parents.

It was several years before I saw it. That's ironic, I suppose, because it probably would be rated PG today.

It's a suspenseful movie with some disturbing scenes, but there is no nudity that I can recall so it would probably get a milder rating to help boost the box office revenue. Especially since it had no splashy special effects.

That doesn't mean that I think it should have been rated PG.

And, frankly, there really was nothing wrong with the box office for "Deliverance." It was made for a budget of $2 million and earned more than $46 million.

"Deliverance" premiered 40 years ago today. Initially, the story was a pleasant one — about a group of friends getting away from their big–city lives to do some canoeing in the wilderness. While at the launch point, Ronny Cox jammed with one of the hillbilly locals in a tune that became a huge hit, "Dueling Banjos."

But the outing quickly turned horrific.

Most people who went to see the movie when it made its theatrical run were probably drawn by the star power of Burt Reynolds, possibly Jon Voight as well, but most who have seen "Deliverance" probably will speak of the powerful scenes they saw, not the stars.

They will tell you that the "Dueling Banjos" scene is one of two scenes in the movie that stuck in their memories.

The other was a very disturbing scene about a male rape by apparently inbred hillbillies. It was not graphic (mostly implied), but it was nevertheless terrifying.

Ned Beatty, appearing in his first feature film, was the victim who was told by his assailants to "squeal like a pig."

I only recall asking my parents once if I could see "Deliverance," and I don't know how much they knew about it, but I'm sure my mother's thoughts, at least, must have been influenced by the memory of the time, just a handful of years earlier, when I first saw "The Wizard of Oz" on TV.

The flying monkeys gave me nightmares for weeks — shoot, I got upset when I saw "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on TV. I can only imagine the trauma I would have experienced after seeing even that relatively sanitized — by modern standards — scene in "Deliverance."

While I don't want to give away anything if you haven't seen "Deliverance" — and, if that is the case, I urge you to see it — I will say that the ending has always reminded me of the ending of "Carrie."

And I would be inclined to say the ending of "Deliverance" was inspired by "Carrie" — except that "Carrie" was made four years after "Deliverance."

Remember earlier when I wrote of the irony of ratings? Well, there's another irony to this anniversary.

"Deliverance" told a story of rather ordinary people engaged in an ordinary recreational activity who found themselves in an extraordinary situation.

Not unlike the moviegoers in Colorado who recently found themselves at the mercy of a madman, the canoeists of "Deliverance" unexpectedly faced a life–and–death situation.

One can only wonder how he/she would respond when faced with something like that.