Hearing the news of Burt Reynolds' death, I did a quick mental roundup of his films, and thought I'd dig out a few to view in the next few days or weeks. Top of the list was Deliverance, a film I have seen many times, have owned on VHS twice (Standard and then the widescreen version), on DVD, and also had bought on Blu-ray. The Blu-ray I realised was still wrapped in its cellophane, so what better excuse than to crack it open and toast Burt with a glass of wine while I watched the film.
The film itself is both engrossing yet unsettling - and that pivotal scene, still as shocking as ever. They're in the great outdoors, miles from civilisation, and yet the atmosphere is one of claustrophobia. Throughout the film you can detect elements so successfully utilised by John Boorman here, that he repeated them in later films such as Excalibur. Of course, I'm not sure whether the Georgia Tourist Board (if such a thing exists) have ever forgiven him for making the film. I'd imagine ever since Deliverance, most people would cross camping or canoeing in Georgia off their holiday wish list. The most remarkable thing about the film is that in spite of its age, it seems quite timeless - a sure fire sign of a true classic.
As for the Blu-ray, well thank fully it hasn't been cropped so retains its widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. However the picture itself does not seem like such a big step up from the previous DVD. There's a fair bit of print damage and colour instability in the first few minutes, which improves, but still has a greenish tint to the picture. There's a softness to the picture too that may have been there all along - Boorman uses the effect of depth of field a lot and so often you find whole scenes where most of it is out of focus. And some of the night time effects were pretty poor - Blu-ray only makes them more noticeable. However, none of that really matters because you get the feeling its about as good as it gets (and it is otherwise very good and with no nasty compression artefacts neither), and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a 45 year old film, not one made recently. So to sum up, one of the great classic films of our time, and the Blu-ray, while not perfect, is likely the best we will see it.
Rest in peace Burt.