Many lives were changed by the critical and commercial success of Deliverance. Based on a first novel by the Southern poet James Dickey, the story of four city men discovering a backwoods America made its author a public figure, as well as rescuing the career of Jon Voight and confirming Burt Reynolds’ graduation from television actor to film star. It also confirmed the direction of John Boorman’s career as an adventurous filmmaker, intent on exploring extremes of experience and imagination in remote locations, as he had done in his first major film, Hell in the Pacific (1968). What gave Deliverance its edge, and became the stuff of legend, was the very real dangers the cast faced, filming on white-water rivers in Georgia and South Carolina on a budget that could not afford insurance or stunt doubles. Boorman is said to have chosen Vilmos Zsigmond for this demanding production because of his experience filming the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, and it launched his major career. In advance of contemporary ecological concerns, the motive for the story is to canoe a river before it is dammed and disappears. The Chatooga River had the required dangers, but as Boorman notes, it still looked picturesque when filmed. He and Zsigmond accordingly desaturated the colour and especially muted the greens in order to “dispense with prettiness”, which should make the screening of an original Technicolor print of special interest. In line with the film’s extreme economy, the music that would become famous in its own right was the result of Boorman recording only a guitarist and a banjo player, to produce Duelling Banjos.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di James Dickey. Scen.: James Dickey. F.: Vilmos Zsigmond. M.: Tom Priestley. Scgf.: Fred Harpman. Int.: Jon Voight (Ed Gentry), Burt Reynolds (Lewis Medlock), Ned Beatty (Bobby Trippe), Ronny Cox (Drew Ballinger), Ed Ramey (vecchietto della pompa di benzina), Billy Redden (Lonnie), Seamon Glass (primo Griner), Randall Deal (secondo Griner), Bill McKinney (il montanaro), Herbert ‘Cowboy’ Coward (lo sdentato). Prod.: John Boorman per Warner Bros, Elmer Enterprises. 35mm. D.: 122’. Technicolor.
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Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française)