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5 Things You Might Not Know About 'Deliverance,' Released 40 Years Ago Today

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 30, 2012 at 1:11PM

For a film just entering its fifth decade, "Deliverance" still maintains a real power to horrify. Based on James Dickey's poetic novel, and adapted by the writer himself, it follows four friends (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) who go for a canoeing trip together in the Georgia wilderness, only to come into terrifying conflict with some inbred locals. And that plotline taps into very primal fears -- man vs. nature, town vs. country -- and perhaps most memorably, it preys on masculinity, thanks to film's unforgetabble rape sequence.
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Deliverance
4. Boorman's "Duelling Banjos" gold record was stolen by Irish thief Martin Cahill, who the director would later make a film about.
Boorman was awarded a gold record for the success of "Duelling Banjos," but it was later stolen in a break-in at the director's home in Ireland. It would later emerge that the culprit had been Martin Cahill. Cahill was a Dublin criminal, known locally as The General, who became infamous after a series of burglaries, peaking with a $2 million dollar jewellery heist in 1983, and a major art heist. In the aftermath of a failed kidnapping of the head of the National Irish Bank, Cahill was assassinated, seemingly at the behest of one of his lieutenants, John Gilligan, working together with the IRA. Journalist Paul Williams wrote a book about Cahill, and Boorman, intrigued by his own connection to him (the director told Salon "He robbed my house in 1981. At that time, he was really just a cat burglar -- he wasn't doing any of these big things, but he was very audacious then, and provocative. The police recognized his modus vivendi, but also he always wanted to be known when he pulled off these things") optioned it, turning it into the 1998 film "The General," starring Brendan Gleeson as Cahill, with Jon Voight reuniting with his "Deliverance" director to play his police nemesis Ned Kenny. Boorman included a scene where Cahill steals a gold record, only to discover that it's really made of plastic, as "revenge." The black and white picture proved to be Boorman's most acclaimed film in years, and won the director his second Best Director award at Cannes.

Deliverance Jon Voight River
5. An alternate ending to the film was shot
Despite Dickey's objections, the film does stick relatively closely to the book, although the novel (which is narrated by Ed) goes into more detail about the home lives of its protagonists: Ed is a graphic designer, Lewis is a landlord, Drew works for a soft drinks company, and Bobby sells insurance. It also features more of an epilogue, with Ed and Lewis buying neighboring cabins next to a lake, and losing touch with Bobby, who, in Ed's words "would always look like dead weight and like screaming, and that was no good to me." None of this made it to the shooting script, but there was a slightly different ending. Instead of the hand rising out of the water in Ed's nightmare, he imagined himself, Lewis and Bobby meeting Dickey's sheriff, who's discovered a body, and shows it to them. The scene was shot so that the audience didn't know which of the three characters killed in the film -- Drew, rapist Mountain Man or the Toothless Man -- it was, with Ed waking before the face was revealed. For the shoot, the body was played by Christopher Dickey, James Dickey's 20-year-old son, who would go on to be a journalist for Newsweek and The Washington Post, and wrote a memoir, "Summer Of Deliverance," about his time on the film's set, and his relationship with his father.

This article is related to: 5 Things You Might Not Know About..., Deliverance, John Boorman, Ned Beatty, Features, On This Day In Movie History


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