Deliverance appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Don’t expect to find many problems from this transfer, as it looked pretty good for a 35-year-old movie.
Sharpness seemed mostly positive. The movie usually exhibited nice delineation and definition, though a bit of softness made some wider shots a bit ill-defined. Those weren’t frequent, but I thought the movie wasn’t always as crisp as it could – or should – be. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws were virtually absent. I saw a speck or two at most, as the flick was quite clean.
Colors looked terrific. The film tended toward a green, earthy palette, and these hues appeared accurate and natural. Black levels seemed solid, and shadows were smooth and clear. All of this meant we ended up with a “B+“ transfer that easily would have entered “A” range if the sharpness had been more consistent.
The remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Deliverance performed fine for its age but didn’t excel. The main positive attribute of this remix came from the added depth of the soundstage. This track did a nice job of surrounding and enveloping the listener. Audio panned well between the front channels, and the rear speakers offered some effective ambient noises. However, the addition of localized speech worked less well. The lines popped up from the sides in an awkward manner, as they failed to mesh with the rest of the track.
Audio quality was positive though inconsistent. Speech was the weakest link, as the lines tended to sound somewhat hollow and distant. They were intelligible but not particularly natural. The sporadic examples of music sounded decent but unexceptional, while effects showed acceptable good delineation. They could be slightly tinny at times, but they seemed fairly good in general. Though the soundfield was wide, the moderate thinness of the audio left this as a “B-“ soundtrack.
How did the picture and audio of this 2007 Deluxe Edition compare to the original 1999 DVD? The picture offered moderate improvements, mostly because it was cleaner and also better encoded. The old disc suffered from an artificial “digital” appearance that this one lacked. It didn’t show this one’s light softness, but that sharpness came with a price, since the movie often looked edgy.
However, I preferred the prior DVD’s audio. Both discs featured 5.1 remixes, but the 1999 release’s sound seemed more natural to me. All elements sounded warmer on the old track; in particular, speech came across with more realistic tones. The new DVD offered better than average sound, but I liked the audio from the prior disc better.
In terms of extras, the DE adds a few to the old disc’s elements. In the “new” column, we find an audio commentary from director John Boorman. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. The director goes over casting and the project’s development, music, working with novelist James Dickey and adapting the book, locations and shoot specifics, shooting on the river, cinematography, visual design, costumes, and a mix of other production details.
Boorman provides an excellent look at his film. He offers an honest appraisal of the various issues and doesn’t sugarcoat the proceedings. Boorman brings us a wealth of fine info about the flick. Want to know how alterations for TV broadcasts helped inspire an iconic line? You’ll find that and lots more in this entertaining and informative track.
Next we get a four-part documentary that runs a total of 54 minutes, 57 seconds. This breaks into “The Beginning” (16:43), “The Journey” (13:03), “Betraying the River” (14:36) and “Delivered” (10:35). This mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We find notes from Boorman, author’s son Christopher Dickey, director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond, and actors Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Bill McKinney.
The documentary examines the novel on which the film was based and its path to the screen, casting, characters and performances, and author James Dickey’s involvement during the shoot. From there we hear about cinematography, locations and shooting on the river, post-production, the film’s reception, and a mix of scene specifics, including details of the notorious rape sequence.
Since Boorman’s commentary provided so much good material, I feared that there’d be little left to cover in these featurettes. Happily, I found plenty more nice information along the way. Sure, occasional tidbits repeat from Boorman’s chat, but the additional participants provide many different takes on the production. I especially like Reynolds’ stories about Voight and Dickey. These featurettes succeed and give us a fine glimpse of Deliverance.
The remaining extras repeat from the old disc. In addition to the film’s trailer, we locate The Dangerous World of Deliverance, a 10-minute and 10-second "behind the scenes" featurette that appears to have come out concurrent with the theatrical release of the film. We hear from director John Boorman and author James Dickey. The show offers some background for the original novel and gets into the shooting of the film. It's pretty good, though so brief that it obviously doesn't go into any depth. I liked it, but didn't find it to be terribly special.
Does the DE lose anything from the old release? Yeah, but not much. It drops some text “behind the scenes” pieces as well as cast and crew biographies. These don’t count as a big loss.
Although our cultural familiarity with it can create some distractions, Deliverance remains a very good film. It presents a simple, concise portrayal of a weekend trip gone very wrong and does so in a dramatic manner. The DVD offers very good picture quality along with generally positive audio and a few strong extras.
Overall, I prefer this DE to the 1999 DVD of Deliverance. It offers superior picture along with substantially upgraded extras. However, the audio takes a bit of a dip, so it’s not a slam-dunk. I still recommend it over the 1999 disc; I just don’t do so with great enthusiasm.