Deliverance (1972) Poster


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  • Four Atlanta city-slickers—businessmen Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds), Ed Gentry (Jon Voight), Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty), and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox)—decide to make a weekend canoe trip down the pristine Cahulawassee River Valley in Northern Georgia before a dam is built that will change it into a huge lake. After meeting up with some hostile men, they find that their leisurely trip has become a battle for survival.

  • Deliverance is a 1970 novel written by American writer James Dickey [1923-1997]. The novel was adapted for the screen by Dickey, along with English film-maker James Boorman, who also directed the movie. Dickey also has a small role toward the end of the movie as Sheriff Bullard, sheriff of Aintry.

  • The movie does not specify exactly what happened to him. One clue is that Lewis keeps anxiously looking up at the cliff and is eager to move the canoes along as fast as possible. After Drew suddenly pitches forward into the water, Lewis exclaims that Drew has been shot, but they can find no evidence of a bullet wound when they later find his body (although they don't do a very thorough search). Some viewers have suggested that he suffered a stroke or heart attack because of stress. Others suggest he did it on purpose, i.e., committed suicide, because he couldn't bear to live with himself after the murder and coverup. In the director's commentary, it is revealed that Drew refused to continue anymore, which is the reason why he shakes his head and falls out of the canoe, he refusing to go on after witnessing and being a part of what has just happened. In the original novel, just as in the film, there is no clear evidence about what happened to Drew. There is a wound on Drew's head which could be a bullet graze (this is what Lewis says) or could be from a bump on a rock.

  • That question has been hotly debated over the years and is asked by virtually everyone who has seen the movie. Those who would answer YES cite as evidence the fact that they physically look the same, that they were both wearing rings, that he seemed to recognize Ed before shooting at him, and that no one is listed in the credits as Hillbilly 3, Cliff Man, or something similar. Those who would answer NO cite as evidence the fact that he's wearing different clothes, has a denture plate on his uppers, teeth on his lowers, and is carrying a different gun. Still others say both characters were played by the same actor (Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward) made to look slightly different in order to instill in the audience, as it does Bobby and Ed, the possibility that they've shot the wrong man.

  • Ed doesn't shoot himself. In the scene where he gets the chance to shoot the one remaining hillbilly on top of the cliff, he gets the same nervous reaction that he got when trying to shoot a deer. He is carrying an extra arrow on his bow, and after he releases the arrow that hits the hillbilly, he falls over backwards and lands on the extra arrow, accidentally impaling himself in the hip.

  • Drew was no doubt in the throes of rigor mortis. Rigor mortis would have made it difficult to reposition his arm, as it causes the limbs of a corpse to become stiff, commencing about three hours after death and lasting for about three days. As to how Ronny Cox accomplished it, the DVD commentary explains that Cox is double-jointed.

  • From Friday to Sunday. They left Atlanta on Friday, and Lewis insists that they will be back on Sunday in time to see the pompom girls at halftime. After spending two nights on the river, they do make it to Aintry on Sunday, but Ed and Bobby are forced to stay there for one more night, getting back to Atlanta on Monday. Lewis is forced to remain in the hospital.

  • Two reasons have been suggested: (1) he was trying to get rid of incriminating evidence (the shotgun belonged to one of the hillbillies), and (2) he wanted no more to do with guns, bows and arrows, or killing. You can also see in the shot just before he throws it in the river that the bow is broken from Ed falling on it.

  • Ed, Bobby, and the wounded Lewis make it to Aintry in one of the canoes. Ed calls for an ambulance to take him and Lewis to the hospital, while Bobby stays to talk with the police. Bobby and Ed take rooms at the Colonial Lodge, sharing supper with the other lodgers, all of whom are polite and caring, even when Ed breaks out in tears. The next day, Sheriff Bullard drops by to question Bobby and give him the news that they found a broken canoe, but it was upriver from the spot at the bottom of the rapids where Bobby told him that the events took place. Bobby and Ed lead them to the spot, and they trawl the river for Drew's body but find nothing. The sheriff and his deputy are suspicious about their story and inform them that Deputy Queen (Macon McCalman) has a brother-in-law who went hunting about three days ago and who hasn't returned. Ed denies seeing him. With nothing on which to hold them, the sheriff gets his deputy to drive them to the hospital, where Lewis is just waking up. The doctor informs them that Lewis may lose his leg. Ed whispers to Lewis that they had to change their story, but Lewis simply asks what happened after that last rapid because he doesn't remember a thing. Ed and Bobby pack up and get ready to return to Atlanta. Ed says that he'll break the news to Drew's wife. Sheriff Bullard drives up to ask two final questions: (1) was there a third person along when the Griner brothers drove their cars to Aintry (yes), and (2) why did they have four life jackets, if there was only the three of them. Ed tells him that Drew wasn't wearing his when he fell into the water, but he doesn't know why. The sheriff then gives them a piece of advice: "Don't never do something like this again. Don't come back up here. I'd kinda like to see this town die peaceful." After the sheriff leaves, Bobby tells Ed that he's not going to be seeing him for awhile, and they part ways. On the way out of town, Ed sees workers digging up a local graveyard, preparing to move the coffins. Ed returns home to his wife and son. In the final scene, Ed awakens from a nightmare of a hand rising from the lake. His wife shushes him, calms him down, and tells him to go back to sleep.

  • Those who have both seen the movie and read the novel say that one big difference is that the novel is written from the point-of-view of Ed Gentry, whereas the movie equally features the four main characters, Ed, Lewis, Bobby, and Drew. The novel does not include the "squeal like a pig" line, which was improvised by the two actors in the scene. Other differences are minor, such as details about their appearances and jobs.


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