Making the case for a dudeless Deliverence

The current trend of remaking male ensemble movies (Ghostbusters, Ocean’s Eleven) with female casts has attracted more attention than it warrants.  Certainly, it could be leftist filmmakers making a symbolic gesture about the dispossession of men.  On the other hand, it could just reflect a paucity of imagination.  It doesn’t really matter because the original films remain the gold standard.

Well, rather than deplore this trend, I’m going to flow with it.  In fact, I’m going to make a recommendation.  How about a female reboot of the 1972 classic,  Deliverance?

Admittedly, Deliverance has all the trappings of an old-fashioned stag film…four attractive young women in the woods, they meet a mountain man, and nature takes its course.  In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that there is already some sort of Deliverance-derived porno movie out there.  But my female Deliverance would be dead-on serious.  In keeping with the original, it should involve a group of middle class suburban women – maybe one of those women-only Outward Bound excursions.  But that doesn’t mean it should not be an L.L. Bean fashion show with butch lesbian models.

Of all the movies I could have picked, why do I think Deliverance deserves this treatment?  Well, if you’re casting about for a film to embody the symbolic replacement of men, you could hardly do better.  Need I point out that Deliverance is a white boys club?  Not only that, but there’s all those white water scenes!  Perhaps some sort of non-toxic dye could be dumped into that lily-white river to diversity it.

Deliverance has been showing up on the repertory film circuit of late due to the death of Burt Reynolds.  Of the four main actors in the film, Reynolds is the first to die, albeit 46 years after the film’s release, so his death doesn’t qualify as untimely.  Only one of the other three actors is less than 80, and he (Jon Voight) will become an octogenarian before the year is out.  So place your bets now on who will be the last man standing.  At the time of filming, of course, all four men were in their prime.

In a female version, the casting would have to mirror the original.  The actresses would also have to be in their prime, a long way from hitting the wall.  Here are my suggestions; feel free to make your own.

Lewis, the macho man of the group, was played by Burt Reynolds.  I nominate Gal Gadot for the remake.  Sure, she has that Wonder Woman persona working for her, but she also has a background as a combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces.  So she would probably be believable as a woman capable of taking care of herself in the wilderness.

Next we have Ed, the Jon Voight character, the everyman of the group.  A relaxed, easygoing fellow, he is called upon to do things, physically and morally, that we could certainly describe as challenging.  Most importantly, he gets a battlefield promotion to alpha male after Burt Reynolds is disabled.  I think Emma Stone could take over for Ed (let’s call her Edwina).  She’s on a roll and this role could only enhance her career.

Ronny Cox (making his film debut) was Drew, the idealist of the group.  As soon as you see him with his guitar, you nod sagely and say to yourself, “Ah, a classic folkie.”  Just a matter of time before we have a campfire scene and he breaks out in a rousing rendition of “If I Had a Hammer.”  Ever the naïve idealist, he is the only one who wants to notify the authorities after the justifiable homicide incident.  Signifcantly, he is the one member of the group who doesn’t survive the ordeal.  I envision Natalie Portman in this role.  I don’t know whether or not she plays the guitar, but if so, that would be a plus.

Bobby, the roly-poly guy in the Deliverance quartet, was played by Ned Beatty, also making his film debut.  He was eminently believable as a flabby New South Babbbitt who should have stayed home with his barbecue grill.  For his female counterpart, how about Rebel Wilson?  Granted, she might sink the canoe, but I think she’s a good fit.

Now that I’ve done my casting, I realize that I’ve made the mistake of creating a white girls club.  That’s adhering a little too closely to the original, and clearly not acceptable in 2018.  What to do?  OK, let’s consider subbing Leslie Jones for Rebel Wilson.  OK, everybody happy?  Moving right along…

Yes, a distaff Deliverance would certainly be a project to reckon with. Women in the wilderness! Women doing manly things! Girls gone wild…but with no nudity. Keep those life vests on, ladies.

An interesting sidebar to the original film was that the actors performed all the physically demanding scenes themselves – without insurance policies!  Needless to say, there was no CGI back in 1972.  Of course, the four actresses in the remake would have to match the men for derring-do.  No stunt women or CGI allowed.  Four women plus a film crew – that’s it!  Well, OK, maybe a Medevac helicopter on call.

As is the case with any memorable movie, some scenes are particularly vivid.  Deliverance is no exception.  One scene stands out above all others.  You know the one I mean:

This little piggy went to market.  Wee wee wee!

Ah, yes, the notorious anal rape scene when Bobby meets the backwoods backdoor man.  Mercifully for all concerned, it was filmed in one take.

In an all-female remake, it would be a female (Rebel Wilson or Leslie Jones) getting anally raped.  Of course, the scene has very different overtones depending on whether it’s a white or black woman on the receiving end of a peckerwood’s pecker.  The chattering classes would have a field day with this scene.

Of course, if you want a film that’s gynocentric across the board, the rapist could also be female, albeit with a dildo or other object. However there won’t be any female rapist, as GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) would raise holy hell about a female rapist.  You can take this edginess thing only so far.  So let’s stick with a male rapist.

The original rapist was played by Bill McKinney, a character actor who played an assortment of nasty roles in the 1970s.  His famous “Squeal like a pig” line was not in James Dickey’s novel or the original screenplay.  It was made up on location.

Since then that line has inspired countless giggles. Hell, even I made light of it a few paragraphs ago (“This little piggy…”).  In fact when Bill McKinney was alive (he died in 2011), his web site was  The line has had a surprisingly enduring presence in pop culture. I can’t think of anything close to it in the anal rape category.  Admittedly, that subject doesn’t come up often.

Having just one line endure for almost half a century would be enough for most movies, but Deliverance actually has two.  After the infamous anal rape scene, the rapist’s toothless companion turns to Jon Voight, who is tied to a tree, and says, “He’s got a real purty [pretty] mouth, ain’t he?…You’re gonna do some prayin’ for me, boy.  And you better pray good.”  A recitation of this line, or some variation thereof, frequently meets with snickers, and I’m not talking about the candy bar.

So there we have it.  Two famous quotes, one pertaining to anal rape, the other to oral rape.  We have to keep that dialogue in mind when we rewrite the script for a female cast.  Today a recitation of these quotes is usually accompanied by giggles if not guffaws.  In fact, when I saw the film recently, there were people reciting these lines on the way out of the theater.  Predictably, they were grinning, chuckling, sniggering, smriking.  Do you think any of these guys exiting the theater would be laughing if they had witnessed a scene involving anal rape and/or oral rape involving a female victim?  Of course not.  They would be verbally shamed by everyone around them and maybe even assaulted.

Of course, a drooling white man ordering a woman, white or black, to squeal like Miss Piggy while anally raping her is hardly refutation of toxic masculinity, white privilege, oppressive patriarchy, etc.  But there’s more at stake than that.

The man as rape victim is the stuff of comedy.  If he is raped by a female, the response is always something like “lucky stiff.”  Har har, nudge nudge, wink, wink.

As for men raping men…well, boys will be boys.  It’s all too common in prison.  Always has been.  In fact, when a man is convicted of a particularly barbarous crime, many people like the idea of his being sent to a “pound ‘em in the ass” prison.  Rough justice, you know.  Just what he deserves.  It’s not written into the penal code, but it is certainly part and parcel of the “rehabilitation” process as administered by the Department of Corrections.

Now when a boy is raped by a man, the outrage is palpable.  Clearly, a child is off limits, and even the prison inmates share that belief.  A man convicted of child rape will find it tough going if he has to do a stint in the joint.  The slang phrase “short eyes,” which originated in the prison population, refers to a pedophile.  Getting sent up the river for pedophilia will not gain you any street cred in the pen.  It might get you killed.

But abuse of a grown man excites no such outrage.  In the public, it ranges from apathy to humor.  Chalk it up to male disposability.  I have no better explanation.

All that goes out the window if Deliverance is remade with four female protagonists.  Then we’re into damsels-in-distress mode, and that’s as old as the movies themselves (The Perils of Pauline was filmed more than 100 years ago).  Even today the young female in danger is still the best vehicle for audience empathy.  In today’s more bloodthirsty cinema, she is more likely to be victimized than merely threatened, but that only enhances the despicability of the villain.

So there are a number of intriguing possibilities in an all-female Deliverance.  You want talking points?  You got ‘em.  Publicity is guaranteed.

How could a studio fail to greenlight this project?  I think the world is waiting to see a tale of four valiant women escaping from…hey, come to think of it, how about an all-female version of The Great Escape?  Wow!  Imagine a whole prison camp of brave, resourceful women escaping from real Nazis?

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