Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Year: 1972
Film Length: 1 hour 49 minutes
Genre: Wilderness Adventure/Drama
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: VC-1 @ over 20MBPS
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 1.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Film Rating: /
Starring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty & Ronny Cox
Screenplay by: James Dickey Based on his Novel
Directed by: John Boorman
“That’s right, a canoe trip.”
”What the hell you wanna go ____ around in that river for?”
“Because it’s there.”
”It’s there, all right. You get in there and can’t get out, you gonna wish it wasn’t...”
Deliverance is a deeply disturbing film that has lost none of its primal power in the 35 years since its initial release. (It is instructive to remember that this movie was nominated for Best Picture alongside The Godfather and Cabaret.) With a young and willing cast, including Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight in their prime along with newcomers Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, the film marries author James Dickey’s survivalist novel with John Boorman’s metaphoric sensibilities. For Dickey, these men were characters he knew and understood, trying to survive in a hostile wilderness. For Boorman, the wilderness itself is another character in the story. The bare bones of the story: Four men go on a weekend canoe trip down a river, and wind up in a living nightmare. In lesser hands, this could easily have wound up as some kind of revenge action film. In Boorman’s hands, the film has a lyrical depth that moves the action to a mythic level. If there is one emotion that Boorman repeatedly evokes throughout, it is dread. It is not a direct fear of immediate harm, but rather a nameless, faceless fear that occasionally manifests itself as this mountain man or that dangerous rapid, while continuing the feeling that something is very wrong and these guys are in way over their heads. It is a tribute to Boorman, his cast, and Dickey’s writing that the story still has the power to unnerve us today.
Deliverance was previously available on standard definition DVD in 2004, in a mostly bare bones anamorphic release accompanied by a 1972 featurette. For the film’s 35th anniversary, Warner Brothers has re-released it on disc in a Deluxe Edition available on all 3 formats. All the formats share a new commentary by John Boorman, a four part interview compilation, the original trailer, and the 1972 featurette from the earlier DVD release. The Blu-Ray release features a 1080p VC-1 transfer to go with the existing features.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5
Deliverance is presented in a 1080p VC-1 transfer that accurately reflects the solid work done by Vilmos Zsigmond. Not all of it is completely sharp, and there are plenty of softer passages, but that is the way Zsigmond shot the film for Boorman. One dusk/night sequence of John Voight climbing a mountain wall has almost a day-for-night washed out look to it – again, due to the source print. At the same time, there are several vista shots and river pieces that are startling in their vividness and smoothness. And the acid green of the leaves in one sequence about halfway through really jumps off the screen. It must be said that this is the best this film has ever looked on home video.
AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5
Deliverance is presented in a 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, and a 1.0 mix in French. There’s some usage of the surround channels for river and mountain atmosphere, although it’s not too aggressive. One early sequence of Ronny Cox playing guitar and singing at a campfire starts his vocals in the front center channel and then pans him into the surrounds as the camera rotates away from him.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Deliverance includes all of the special features to be found on the current standard DVD “Deluxe Edition”, with everything carried over in their original 480p mode.
Commentary with John Boorman – John Boorman’s new commentary for the “Deluxe Edition” is included here. This is a fairly quiet track, but it’s good to hear Boorman talk about the film after all these years. Much of what he says is repeated in the featurettes, but it’s still worth it to get to his stories of what went on during the filming.
Deliverance: The Beginning – (16:44) (480p Full Frame) This standard definition, full frame featurette is carried over from the current SD edition. In it, James Dickey’s son talks about the author, Boorman describes coming on to the project and casting it. All four actors are interviewed, each with their own view on the casting process. Reynolds in particular relates some good stuff on working with Dickey in the early rehearsal period.
Deliverance: The Journey (13:04) (480p Full Frame) - This standard definition, full frame featurette picks up where the first part left off, with discussions of filming conditions on the river. Ned Beatty notes ruefully that he was the only one in the cast who actually had boating experience, and yet his character is the clutziest one in the movie!
Deliverance: Betraying the River (14:37) (480p Full Frame) – This standard definition full frame featurette goes into depth on the most infamous sequence in the movie. SPOILER ALERT: You may not want to watch this featurette before seeing the film itself, as it will quickly spoil things for you...
Deliverance: Delivered (10:37) (480p Full Frame) – The final part of the new featurette is included here with the others, in standard definition Full Frame mode. The interviews with the cast and director conclude here, with the usual mutual compliments and expressions of fondness. At the end of it, Reynolds confesses that there may not be any more stories he can tell about the movie.
The Dangerous World of Deliverance (10:13) (480p Full Frame) – The original promotional featurette from 1972 is included here, as it has been on every DVD of this film. The picture quality hasn’t aged all that well, but it’s fun to see some behind the scenes footage from the set. As the interview featurettes primarily consist of intercut interviews with movie scenes or still photos, this original featurette is the only place on the disc you can see on-set footage.
Theatrical Trailer (2:52) (480p anamorphic) – The theatrical trailer is included here in standard definition. Like the ’72 featurette, the picture quality has started to drop, but at least this extra is included in anamorphic widescreen.
IN THE END...
Deliverance continues to be an eerie and disquieting tale, its power undiminished even after 35 years. The Blu-ray edition simply includes all the extras from the current standard definition release, only coupled with the 1080p transfer and the modern 5.1 mix. If you have not seen the film before, this is a great way to get acquainted. If you have seen it before, the new 1080p transfer is a great reason to see it again. I highly recommend this disc, both for the opportunity to have a high definition edition of a really good film, and for the new commentary and interviews.
September 12, 2007.