Sunday, August 7, 2016
And boy howdy, if this wasn't on the list, I would have given up watching it. My advice to my Facebook friends was "If you haven't watched Deliverance, don't". It wasn't just that this movie is upsetting because watching on-screen rapes is upsetting. It was that this movie is ugly, unpleasant, and nonsensical. It's that I have a sneaking suspicion that this movie still influences how many Northerners see Southerners, especially those of us from any sort of mountain country. The movie starts out okay, I suppose, with some nice shots of the river and by making canoeing look fun, but it also shows "Hey, look, inbred Southern hicks! Look how disgusting they are!". But hey, that inbred little guy plucks a mean banjo, and that old hillbilly still knows how to clog dance! But it's still at heart a freak show. I have no idea why it's preserved, since the movie is really only known for two scenes. Maybe three, if you count the dream sequence of the hand floating to the top of the lake at the end. Or one of the endings. This movie has almost as many endings as Return of the King, and at least the multiple endings of Return of the King were characters you wanted to spend time with.
So, everyone knows the basic gist of the story: a bunch of guys take a canoe trip down a soon to be dammed river, run afoul of some hillbillies, get bent over a log and made to squeal like a hog, have purty mouths, they kill the rapist, and then one of them dies, and they hunt down the other hillbilly, and get told to get outta town. And.... that's really about it. The rape scene is the most infamous, but it's also the most confusing scene in the movie. You get the feeling they wanted this scene to mean something, but that no one involved had any idea what. There was some dialogue in the beginning about nature getting raped by civilized man, so maybe they were going for nature raping right back? But the whole scene is just so weird and farcical. The Ned Beatty and Jon Voight characters (I watched this movie two days ago, and I've already forgotten their names) stop for a minute and run into some hillbillies. There is some stammering about maybe that the hillbillies have a still, but they don't care and maybe want to buy some, and then they get forced into the woods, so I guess the idea of moonshine is the catalyzing agent? Maybe? They then tie Jon Voight to a tree and make Ned Beatty strip, again, for no apparent reason. And then one of the mountain men makes Ned Beatty give him a horsey-back ride. No really. It is totally bizarre. And then he decides to rape him... which oddly, Ned Beatty doesn't seem too upset by. It's... well, he grunts a bit, but it's pretty understated (except for the joyous "REEEEEEE" that the mountain man keeps squealing out with each implied thrust) as such things go, and doesn't really seem to affect him for the rest of the movie. He's a bit embarrassed, but he seems more upset over being forced to strip in the woods. In fact, the one who seems the most upset is Drew, the guy who plays "Dueling Banjos". And he's mostly upset that no one wants to report justifiable homicide to the police. So maybe he commits suicide, or maybe he gets shot. No one ever figures it out, though moustacheless Burt Reynolds (who I remember as Lewis, because everyone keeps yelling "LEWIS!") takes it as murder.
This is just... a weird, bad movie. I was dreading seeing it, and now that I've seen it, I'm forgetting it as quickly as possible. The only good thing in it is that it made canoeing look pretty fun, which it is, but it ruined a bluegrass classic. It has a muddled message and is just unpleasant to watch. I'd recommend steering clear.