Deliverance ★★★★

In 1995 Ali and I took a spring break road trip, and we went where all young spring breakers go: Tennessee. After a few days in Memphis and Nashville and visiting a few random oddities Ali had picked out of a guide book, we spent the last day of our trip driving through the Great Smoky Mountains just over the North Carolina border. We drove for a long while through windy roads with deep woods on both sides and few other cars. At one point mid-afternoon I pulled the car off the road for a moment, and when I got out onto the shoulder I knew I'd made a huge mistake. The ground was soft and wet, not-yet-mud but about to be so, and there was no way we were going to be getting that big Mercury back on the road. After a few minutes of spinning tires and confirming my fears, we started looking for passersby, and after an unsuccessful half-hour of that, we started walking. After a few hours of that, we hadn't seen a single car or house, and an hour or so after nightfall we finally came upon a remote and abandoned ranger station in the mountains. We knocked, but there was no response. We were desperate, and I boosted Ali up to a high window which had been left unlocked, and she crawled inside and let me into the ranger station, where we walked past a locked gun cabinet to a rotary phone, where we dialed for help. A little while later a N.C. State Police cruiser appeared and drove us to back to our car to meet the tow truck driver they'd been kind enough to call for us. We rode in the back, of course, and conversed a little with the officers, who were curious about how we'd ended up in that predicament. When I said we were getting a little worried we'd be out there all night, one of the officers threw out a "squeal like a pig" reference and suggested we might have met up with some unsavory dudes. I got his reference--I'd seen DELIVERANCE a few years before, and the inbred-hick-rapist had become something of a stock character by that time. A year earlier, Tarantino had de-regionalized the character by planting him in the middle of an L.A. pawn shop.

It's really too bad that THAT scene became the shorthand reference for DELIVERANCE, because it's really quite a remarkable film, and for lots of reasons that weren't apparent to me when I saw the film back in my teens.

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