• Anyone who dreams of renouncing the trappings of civilization and going "back to nature" is bound to have second thoughts after seeing DELIVERANCE, a grisly, ghastly adventure film which pits four men against a malevolent river. The movie's theme, tightly woven into the plot, is that nature in the raw is inimical to man, especially civilized man. Burt Reynolds leads three other men (John Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) on a canoe trip down the wild, treacherous Chattooga River in north Georgia. The light-hearted weekend adventure is swiftly transposed into a brutal nightmare of homosexual rape, drowning, killing and other assorted mayhem. In addition to fighting for sheer physical survival, the men are faced with severe moral conflicts for which there are no clear-cut answers. The blending of straight-line adventure with a distinct point of view forces the movie audience to actively evaluate the proceedings, rather than merely react to the events as they occur.
Philosophical content aside, DELIVERANCE scores high marks for excellent performances, suspenseful plotting and breathtaking photography, especially on the river scenes. If possible, this film should be seen at a first-run theater; the combination of Panavision-70 and stereophonic sound give the movie a heady "you-are-there" quality. For those who can weather the explicit language and graphic violence, DELIVERANCE delivers high excitement and quite a bit of food for thought. Rated "R".
• If there is a prize for rip-off documentary of the year, MARJOE should win it hands down. This movie, one of the most exciting and controversial films in years, is an expose of the Pentacostal religious movement by one of its leading practicioners. "Religion is a drug," says Marjoe Gortner, the film's star and chief architect. He proves it as he harangues the crowds at tent revival meetings into hypnotic, chanting frenzy. "You've got to have a gimmick to be successful in this business," says Marjoe, as he counts the money he has encouraged his devoted followers to part with. In the trade, such gimmicks translate to "ministries," such as the "ministry of prophecy," the "ministry of tongues," the "ministry of laying on of hands," and so forth.
Having preached off and on since the age of four, Marjoe recently decided to get out of the business, because he had come to regard religious revivalism as "a hype." Rather than quit outright, however, he arranged to make one last tour, filming it as he went along. Aside from exposing the sham and phoniness of evangelism, Marjoe said his purpose in making the movie was "to show people that they don't need a leader." Right on! But in the course of the film, Marjoe himself becomes part of the hypocritical game: as he preaches to the crowds, exhorting them to "come to Jesus," the movie audience knows all along that he doesn't believe a word he is saying. In a sense, the movie is a double rip-off, since the gullible people who contribute to Marjoe's "ministry" are ultimately contributing to a film that mocks them and their values. Marjoe himself seems to recognize this moral dilemma, though he never really comes to grips with it. However, it can't be denied that he does put on a good show, for the movie audience as well as for those who come to hear him preach. After this revealing look at its seamy soul, the evangelical religious movement may never be the same again. Rated "PG".
• Can Raquel Welch act? Until recently such a question would have been unfair, because the endless string of rotten movies she appeared in were not a fair test of her ability. But her latest and best movie to date, KANSAS CITY BOMBER, gives Raquel a chance to exercise her talent and reveal that, although not a great actress, she is certainly a competent one. As a roller derby queen fighting for "a piece of the action," she effectively portrays a woman with determination, guts and a somewhat naive honesty and self-respect. Her image as a sex symbol is slightly muted (but not suppressed) by the demands of the role. The film explores the lives of the men and women who attempt to create a patchwork reality in the essentially phony world of the roller games. The contrived brutality, the real and put-on feuds, the cynicism and despair of the participants in this pseudo-sport are all effectively dramatized. The skating sequences, especially those in the final, climactic race, are brilliantly staged, helping to sustain the pace and excitement while adding to the authenticity of the picture. Kevin McCarthy is well cast as the cool, manipulative manager of the roller team. Helena Kallianiotes gives a chilling performance as a lead skater who is almost over the hill. The plotting and the other performances are on a par with the performance of Raquel Welch—not great, but good. Rated "PG".
• Bob Hope is a national institution. He is worth maybe $350 million. He is one of America's all-time great entertainers. Why, then, does he insist on making such witless, inane movies as CANCEL MY RESERVATION? This "adventure-comedy," about a television personality framed for two murders, manages to waste not only Hope's talents but also those of Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Bellamy, Keenan Wynn, Forrest Tucker and newcomer Anne Archer. The dialogue and plot are so corny and cliche-ridden that one is tempted to watch Milton Berle reruns for relief. Bob Hope, looking harassed and hardly ever smiling, delivers a continuous patter of one-liners that would make a third-rate vaudeville comic blush. Eva Marie Saint, as Hope's wife, sinks to the level of her part, which is not very demanding. Anne Archer infuses some life into her role as the evil rancher's daughter, occasionally elevating the film to the level of an average television situation comedy. She'll be worth watching if she is ever cast in a good movie. The Arizona desert provides a scenic backdrop for the contrived nonsense that takes place on the screen. Rated "G".