AskDefine | Define deliverance

Dictionary Definition

deliverance n : recovery or preservation from loss or danger; "work is the deliverance of mankind"; "a surgeon's job is the saving of lives" [syn: rescue, delivery, saving]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the act of delivering, the state of being delivered, or something delivered
  2. extrication from danger, imprisonment, etc.


Extensive Definition

Deliverance is a 1972 Warner Bros. motion picture drama directed by John Boorman. Principal cast members include Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, Jon Voight, and, in his film debut, Ned Beatty. The film is based on a 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey, who has a small role in the film as the sheriff. The screenplay was written by Dickey and an uncredited Boorman.
Widely acclaimed as a landmark film, Deliverance is the story of four suburban professional men from Atlanta on a weekend canoe and camping trip. The film is noted for the memorable music scene near the beginning that sets the tone for what lies ahead: a trip into unknown and potentially dangerous territory. In the scene, set at a rural gas station, character Drew Ballinger plays the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" on his guitar with a mentally-challenged hillbilly youth named Lonnie (implied as being an inbred albino in the novel, portrayed by Billy Redden in the film). The boy eventually outplays Drew with his banjo. The song won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
The film was selected by the New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made", while the viewers of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom voted it #45 in a list of The 100 Greatest Films.


Four Atlanta men - Lewis (Reynolds), Ed (Voight), Bobby (Beatty), and Drew (Cox) - decide to canoe down the fictional Cahulawassee River in the remote Georgia wilderness, expecting to have fun and see the glory of nature before the river valley is flooded over by the upcoming construction of a dam and lake. The trip turns into a terrifying ordeal revealing the primal nature of man, his animal instincts of predation and survival, and even his potential for violence.
Traveling in pairs, the foursome's two canoes are briefly separated. The occupants of one canoe (Bobby and Ed) encounter a pair of grizzled hillbillies (Bill McKinney and Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward) emerging from the woods, one wielding a loaded shotgun. In what remains one of the most disturbing scenes in film history, Bobby is forced at gunpoint to strip naked, his ear twisted to bring him to his hands and knees, and then ordered to "squeal like a pig" as McKinney's character proceeds to sodomize him, while Ed is bound to a tree and held at gunpoint by the other man, who is nearly toothless.
Hearing the commotion, Lewis (who is wary of danger in the woods) secretly sneaks up and kills the rapist with an arrow from his bow; meanwhile, the other hillbilly quickly escapes into the woods. A brief but hotheaded debate ensues between Lewis and Drew about whether to inform the authorities. Lewis argues that they would not receive a fair trial, as the local jury would be composed of the dead man's friends and relatives; likewise, Bobby does not want what had happened to him to become known. The men vote to side with Lewis' recommendation to bury the dead hillbilly's body and continue on as though nothing had happened. The four make a run for it downriver, cutting their trip short, but soon disaster strikes as the canoes reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. As Drew and Ed reach the rapids in the lead canoe, Drew clutches his head and falls forward into the river. The reason for Drew's fall is left unclear: Drew was either shot and killed by the surviving mountain man, or he lost his balance and fell from the canoe in the heavy rapids.
After Drew disappears into the river, both canoes collide on the rocks, spilling Lewis, Bobby, and Ed into the river. Lewis breaks his femur and the others are washed ashore alongside him. Encouraged by the badly-injured Lewis, who believes they are being stalked by the toothless hillbilly, Ed climbs a nearby rock face in order to dispatch the suspected shooter using his bow, while Bobby stays behind to look after Lewis. Ed reaches the top and hides out until the next morning, when the shooter appears on the top of the cliff with a rifle, looking down into the gorge where Lewis and Bobby are located. Ed, who in a scene earlier in the film had been psychologically unable to shoot a deer he was tracking, starts to freeze again in spite of his clear shot. As the man notices Ed and raises his rifle to fire, Ed clumsily releases his arrow as the man's bullet slams into the rock just next to him, he falls down in panic and accidentally stabs himself with one of his own spare arrows. The hillbilly, at first seemingly unaffected and still a threat, now staggers and collapses. Ed checks the body and sees he is dead. He looks carefully at the dead man, and finds false removable teeth inside of his mouth. It is clear that he isn't sure whether the man he's killed is the same toothless man who got away. Ed and Bobby weigh down the dead hillbilly with stones and drop him into the river. Later they come upon Drew's corpse, which they also weigh down and sink in the river to ensure that it will never be found.
When they finally reach their destination, Aintry (which will soon be submerged by the dammed river), they take the injured Lewis to the hospital. The three carefully concoct a cover story for the authorities about Drew's death and disappearance being an accident, lying about their ordeal to Sheriff Bullard (played by author James Dickey) in order to escape a possible double murder charge. The sheriff clearly doesn't believe them, but has no evidence on which to arrest them. After thinking it over, he simply tells the men: "Don't ever do anything like this again... I kinda like to see this town die peaceful." They readily agree. The three vow to keep their story a secret for the rest of their lives, which proves to be psychologically burdensome for Ed. In the final scene, Ed awakes screaming from a nightmare in which a man's hand rises from the lake.


Deliverance was shot in the Tallulah Gorge near Toccoa, Georgia and on the Chattooga River, dividing the states of Georgia and South Carolina. Additional scenes were shot as well in Clemson, South Carolina and Sylva, North Carolina. Also, some of the floating shots were filmed on the Nantahalla River. The artificial lake being dammed is today known as Lake Burton. Some town shots incorporate Mill Street in Sylva, a town which is mostly unchanged since the release of the movie, even today. Since the film's release, more than thirty people have drowned attempting to recreate the canoe trip along the section of the river where the film was shot. The rapids within both book and film become a major symbol and plot device to reflect the natural dangers on the Chattooga.


The film is famous for cutting costs by not insuring the production and having the actors do their own stunts (most notably, Jon Voight climbed the cliff himself). In one scene, the stunt coordinator decided that a scene showing a canoe with a dummy of Burt Reynolds in it looked phony, saying that it looked "like a canoe with a dummy in it". Reynolds begged to have the scene re-shot with himself in the canoe rather than the dummy. After shooting the scene, Reynolds, coughing up river water and nursing a broken coccyx, asked how the scene looked. The director responded that it looked "like a canoe with a dummy in it".
Regarding the courage of the four main actors in the movie doing their own stunts without insurance protection, Dickey was quoted as saying all of them "had more guts than a burglar". In a nod to their stunt-performing audacity, early in the movie Lewis says: "Insurance? I've never been insured in my life. I don't believe in insurance. There's no risk."



Director John Boorman cast Reynolds as Lewis without having seen any of his previous acting work. Instead he was cast based on an appearance on the Tonight Show. Boorman admired how Reynolds remained cool and stayed in control of the situation, the qualities he was looking for in the part of Lewis.
Billy Redden, who played the banjo playing boy, could not really play the banjo. Another young banjo player knelt behind him and reached around Redden's chest to reach the banjo, with Redden wearing a specially made shirt that made the man's arms appear to be Redden's. Additionally, the shot was filmed from angles that made it impossible to see the musician behind Redden on the porch.
One local was played by Randall Leece Deal, a real convicted moonshiner. In 2006, he obtained a pardon for a conspiracy conviction from President George W. Bush.
Ed's son and wife (seen near the end of the movie) were played respectively by John Boorman's son Charley Boorman and Ned Beatty's wife (at the time).

Differences from the novel

Although the film usually closely follows the novel, some sections are different. Examples include the character description of Ed (in the novel, Ed was bald and in his late 40s), the missing introduction (explaining why they decided to go on a canoe trip instead of playing golf), and an epilogue after the events.
In the film, only Bobby's line of work is mentioned (he is an insurance salesman). The novel additionally reveals that Ed is a graphic designer or art director for an advertising agency, Drew works as a sales representative for a large Atlanta-based soft drink manufacturer, and Lewis is simply an unspecified white-collar worker. The first section of the book describes a day at the office for Ed, which (except for the opening voiceover) is omitted from the movie.
Ned Beatty states that he created the infamous "squeal piggy" line while he and actor Bill McKinney were improvising the scene. James Dickey's son, Christopher Dickey, in his book, "Summer of Deliverance", said that it was one of the crewmen who suggested that Ned Beatty's character, "Bobby", "squeal like a pig" - to add some backwoods horror to the scene and to make it more shocking.


John Boorman's gold record for the "Dueling Banjos" hit single was later stolen from his house by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill, a scene Boorman recreated in The General (1998), his biographical film about Cahill.

Award nominations


External links

deliverance in German: Beim Sterben ist jeder der Erste
deliverance in French: Délivrance (film, 1972)
deliverance in Italian: Un tranquillo week-end di paura
deliverance in Norwegian: Picnic med døden
deliverance in Portuguese: Deliverance
deliverance in Russian: ?????????? (?????)
deliverance in Simple English: Deliverance
deliverance in Finnish: Syvä joki
deliverance in Swedish: Den sista färden
deliverance in Turkish: Kurtulus (film)

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