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The 36 Dramatic Situations: The Rescuers (1977) and Deliverance

By  · Published on September 7th, 2010

This article is part of our 36 Dramatic Situations series.


For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th-century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.

Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t send us a message in a bottle.

Part 29 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Deliverance” with the Disney animated classic The Rescuers.

The Synopsis

Two mice from the Rescue Aid Society head down to the bayou of Louisiana to rescue a young girl whose been kidnapped by a greedy woman whose after the world’s largest diamond.

The Situation

“Deliverance” is a situation of helplessness that evolves into one of triumph because of a hero. It requires An Unfortunate, A Threatener and a Rescuer. Pretty simple.

However, it delineates itself from other situations – most notably “Supplication” – by having the hero swoop out of nowhere to save the day. In the case of Penny, the little kidnapped girl from our story, she sends a message in a bottle out into the wilds of the world in the hopes to be saved. It’s a long shot, but in this case it brings Bernard and Miss Bianca to the rescue. It’s no doubt that Penny is the Unfortunate, Bernard and Bianca are the Rescuers and the dastardly Madame Medusa is the Threatener.

The Film

As much as profiling Deliverance would have been great for “Deliverance,” the film (despite the name) doesn’t actually fit into the category because there’s no outside hero that saves the canoeing party. In fact, it’s unclear whether anyone is truly saved by the end of that movie. Luckily, there are thousands of great examples of this particular situation because it speaks to a larger archetype – the Christ story. Or the Gilgamesh story if you want to go back further.

In one way or another, we’ve all been in a position that Penny finds herself in. Maybe there’s no crazy redhead that wants us to sneak into a tiny hole in order to get a diamond, but helplessness is as universal feeling as it gets. It’s a desperation that lent itself to sending out a message in a bottle as a last resort, a Hail Mary pass made of recyclable glass.

It’s in that moment where all seems lost that the hero finds the best entry point. Here, there are two charming figures in the form of Bernard the janitor and Bianca the socialite – two mice who have taken on the dangerous task of bringing a little one back home safely. Here, there’s the added bonus of making the heroes so small because it’s a reminder that a savior can come in any shape and any size.

Bonus Examples: Saving Private Ryan, Superman, Cast Away (partial)


Check out our entire series of 36 Dramatic Situations, 36 Movies.

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