Cultural norms were very different in 1972. TV shows and movies were “cleaner” in many ways. Few entertainment fields have shown the experience of sexual assault or the consequences of rape. Yet a few producers, screenwriters and directors dared to venture into what was considered taboo territory.
John Boorman, director of the survival thriller Issuance, took it a step further with one of the most vivid rape scenes on screen. Ned Beatty was new to the acting scene at the time. He and his on-screen striker both struggled to escape the reputation they received for their genuine and terrifying performance.
“Deliverance” shocked and terrified audiences in 1972
Issuance follows four adventure-seeking men from Atlanta as they embark on a canoe trip through the remote wilderness of northern Georgia. Led by Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds), the friends embark on their journey and choose to canoe in pairs. But they split up along the way.
Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) and Bobby Trippe (Beatty) meet two highlanders coming out of the woods, one of them carrying a shotgun. After a verbal altercation, the men force Trippe to undress, and one of the mountaineers violently sodomizes him. Before raping Gentry, Medlock sneaks up on them and kills the rapist. The other mountaineer escapes.
The group buries the body and continues their journey downstream. However, the men reach a dangerous stretch of rapids. The fourth friend, Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox), falls into the water. The canoes collide, throwing the remaining men into the river. Medlock claims their stalker, a mountaineer, shot Ballinger, who dies of his injuries.
Gentry climbs to the top of the gorge and ends up awkwardly shooting the mountaineer. The remaining men weigh the bodies to make sure they are never found. After finally arriving in the small town of Aintry, the men take Medlock to the hospital and make up a story about Ballinger’s death to avoid a possible double murder charge.
The Sheriff of Aintry doesn’t believe them. However, since he cannot charge them anything without proof, he warns them against returning to town. The trio leave with a promise to never talk about what happened during their trip.
Ned Beatty didn’t want to repeat the rape scene
Issuance was Beatty’s first film. And the 10 minute rape scene propelled him to stardom. According to IMDb, the rape scene was filmed in one take because Beatty did not want to film it multiple times.
Warner Bros. censors even tried to cut out the rape scene as well as Ballinger’s death scene. But, as a director, Boorman has held firm in his refusal to cut either. Interestingly, the rape scene was more graphic than what viewers saw, as it was meant to include a lot of profanity.
The famous line “scream like a pig” was actually an attempt to clean up the stage for later television viewing. Ultimately, Boorman liked the clean version and decided to use it. Yet that did not take away from the fact that the scene was disturbing on all fronts for the public at the time and even for those who watch it today.
Viewers were particularly shocked to see a scene where a man forcibly sodomizes another man. All the same, Issuance achieved critical and commercial success as the fifth highest grossing film of 1972. It even won several award nominations.
The New York Times included the film on its list of the 1000 best films ever made at No. 219. In 1974, the famous instrumental song “Dueling Banjos” won the Grammy Award for best country instrumental performance.
The late Ned Beatty had a long acting career
Issuance helped put Beatty on the map and kickstart her career. The Louisville, Kentucky native has starred in several other acclaimed films and appeared in television shows. By the time he died of natural causes on June 13, 2021, Beatty had over 100 credits, including 160 films, reports IMDb.
Some of his most notable appearances include roles in Network, All the president’s men, Outlaw Josey Wales, Rudy, The shooter, The green Line, First blood, and Charlie Wilson’s War. However, even with all of her acting credits, Beatty was never able to escape her role in Issuance. He will always be remembered by moviegoers for his incredible performance and dedication to the role.
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