Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Dance Party: Squeal Like A Pig

Deliverance was based on a novel of the same name, and was one of the big hits of 1972.  It established Burt Reynolds as a bona fide film star, and proved that he could give a persuasive performance when he wanted to (sadly, he did not repeat the effort very often in his subsequent career). 

The movie featured the  film debut of Ned Beatty (in his underwear, more on that in a mo'), and may have cured an entire generation from any desire to step into a canoe. 

In addition to its signature rape scene, Deliverance featured a musical sequence which spawned an instantly recognizable riff.  Anyone around in the 70s could listen to the first 9 notes of this number, and immediately recognize the film's "Dueling Banjos." 

The tune was released as a single by the musicians who performed the number on the movie's soundtrack, and they were later sued by the song's real composer, from whom they had blatantly stolen.  All turned out well, everybody got their money, and "Dueling Banjos" has become an instrumental classic.

Deliverance's sodomy scene is a bit of a classic, too.  Kudos to film neophyte Ned Beatty for leaping right into the scene, which remains terrifying and grotesque. 

The success, if you can call it that, of the sequence owes no small gratitude to this guy:

Bill McKinney

When Bill died in September, he was called the "Mountain Man from Deliverance," a moniker he embraced.  He had a healthy career as a villain, and was closely identified with Clint Eastwood, appearing in seven of his films.  But it was his performance as the sadistic sodomite in Deliverance for which he is best known.  Film lore has it that McKinney and Beatty improvised the famous "squeal piggy" line during filming (the line does not appear in the original novel).  Studio bosses were deeply concerned about the rape sequence, and wanted director John Boorman to shoot two versions, so a sanitized version could appear on television.
This week's Dance Party, you'll be relieved to know, is not that sequence.  Instead, it is the scene in which "Dueling Banjos" is performed.  Ronny Cox (who, with Jon Voight, filled out the leading cast) improvises a country riff with a "mountain boy," played by a high school student named Billy Redden. 

Make-up enhanced the boy's unusual features, with the inference being that the lad was a victim of inbreeding among the mountain folk.  That inference, lifted directly from the original novel by James Dickey, perpetuated the fiction that hillbillies commonly mated with their siblings, a misconception which is still believed today.  This scene straddles the line between entertaining and unsettling, and sets the tone for the rest of the unpleasant events to follow. 

Pay some attention to the boy as he plays.  Not only is he not playing the instrument, he's not even holding it;  the camera angles are hiding the fact that there is a real musician concealed behind the kid, making the music.