Last Tuesday, June 26th, Deliverance was given the Blu-ray book treatment by Warner Brothers, in honor of its 40th anniversary. Obviously the disc is a must buy for any fan of the film, by the very nature of it being the most deluxe treatment it has ever been given, but I was lucky enough to get sent a review copy by Warner and I wanted to say a few things about the release, after staying up till 3 in the morning last night to watch everything on the disc. God bless you, NoDoz!
First off, the movie itself. I'm sure most of you reading this have seen Deliverance several times over and know how good it is, so it's not really necessary for me to sell you on the film. But since I don't believe I've ever even once spoken about the movie here on the blog, let me just let it be known that I'm one of the many who absolutely love this movie. It's funny because with each sort of sub-genre of the horror genre, there's that one movie that did it first, and so well that it transcends the genre, which every subsequent movie in that sub-genre desperately tries to be like. And, in most cases, fails miserably. With the demonic possession flick there's The Exorcist. With the zombie flick there's Night Of The Living Dead. And when it comes to the ever popular city folk running into hillbillies in the backwoods flick, there's Deliverance, the film that movies like Wrong Turn owe it all to.
Just like with the aforementioned Exorcist and Night Of The Living Dead, what makes Deliverance stand apart from the pack is that it's all about the characters, and how they deal with the terrible situation they find themselves in, rather than being all about that terrible situation itself. The mark of a good horror film (...and yes, I'm aware that Deliverance isn't exactly a horror film, per se), to me at least, is if that film would still be good even if the evil force never made its presence known, a rare quality that Deliverance most certainly possesses. In other words, the movie and its characters are so well written and so competently brought to life by the actors that even if it were simply about those guys canoeing through the water and chatting about life, no rape happy gun toting hillbillies in sight, it'd still be a damn fine film, thoroughly interesting to watch. Unfortunately, the same cannot even come close to being said about the majority of films of this sort, where the evil heavily deformed mutant hillbillies take center stage, and the other characters are merely one dimensional slabs of meat that we can't wait to see get chopped up and eaten. In fact, you bond with the characters so much in a movie like this that you almost wish they didn't have to find themselves in the situation they find themselves in, even if that means the movie is a bit less exciting for you!
Bottom line being, Deliverance is one hell of a damn fine film. There are a lot of movies that are considered classics, in the genre or otherwise, that you watch and you kinda can't understand why people seem to be so into them. But Deliverance is one of those movies that is totally deserving of all the praise and awards it has been given over the years. It's just such a visceral and utterly captivating experience, which again all ties back to the ever important art of bringing to the screen characters that feel real, and whose lives we are invested in before they're faced with their life changing, and in some cases life ending, ordeal. That's the whole key to the powerful impact of a film like this, and it really doesn't get much more powerful than Deliverance. 40 years later, it's still as intense and as harrowing as ever.
Now I'm not the best guy to talk to about the quality of Blu-ray transfers, because honestly I really don't know much about all that stuff. I'm by no means an expert on all that but the film looked great to me. Was happy to see all the film grain and imperfections in there, rather than the smoothed over digital noise reduction mess that many older films have been turned into in recent years. What a lot of people, and even major companies, don't seem to realize is that a Blu-ray transfer is supposed to look like the film did when it was originally shown in theaters, rather than having that picture perfect smooth look that newer digital films have, which is where many companies have gone wrong when it comes to Blu-ray releases (*cough* Evil Dead 2 *cough*). So yea, I'm pretty limited in my knowledge of all that stuff, but this transfer looks to me exactly how it should look. And it sounds damn good too, which is something I in fact noticed even more than the video quality. From what I've heard the transfer is the same as the 2007 Blu-ray release, for anyone who might be wondering about that.
So then. Back to the Blu-ray. Warner has given Deliverance the prestigious book treatment for this release, which basically means that the Blu-ray case folds open to reveal a little mini booklet, 42 pages that mostly talk about the making of the film. Included are many behind the scenes images, tales of how the actors got their parts, and interviews with the writer, director and actors about the trials and tribulations of making the movie. Though it's mostly all the sort of stuff you can find online, I always like these Blu-ray book releases, as they lend a nice classy little extra touch to movies like Deliverance that totally deserve it. If only every great movie were treated so well!
As far as the special features go, there's a commentary from director John Boorman as well as a slew of documentary featurettes, with a total run time that's just about as long as the movie itself (nearly 2 hours). Five of the featurettes were included on the deluxe edition release of the film that came out back in 2007, but one of them, 'The Cast Remembers', is brand new and exclusive to this release. That's the only new feature in the package but it runs a nice 30 minutes and it's pretty cool to see the main cast shooting the shit about the film 40 years later. Also awesome to see Burt Reynolds rocking a Mrs. Voorhees sweater and making it look cool. Not many dudes can pull that off! But yea, that featurette is really the main appeal of the whole features package, as all of the other stuff has likely been seen by anyone who is a big fan of the film.
Nevertheless the other features are all interesting to watch and round out the package quite nicely, covering everything from the early beginnings of the movie, as a novel, to the impact of its release. The bulk of the bonus material is an hour long documentary that was filmed back in '07, which has been split into four separate parts (just like it was for the 2007 release). There's also a nice 10 minute vintage featurette in there, which is worth a watch for some cool behind the scenes footage that I personally had never seen before.
Didn't get a chance to listen to Boorman's commentary yet, but I'll definitely put it on next time I feel like watching the movie!
And that about wraps that up. Considering this is the best edition of Deliverance to date to hit home video, I'd again have to say that this one is a must have for any and all fans of the film. It looks and sounds as good as it possibly could and it's got all the special features that the film has ever been given during its home video run, as well as a brand new one that's exclusive to this release, and it's presented in the classy and snazzy Blu-ray book format. What more could ya ask for?!
Remember the days when all we had was that cardboard snap case DVD of the film? We sure have come a long way!