The 1980s are widely regarded as one of the best decades for film, although usually for blockbusters in the same sort of way the 70s are regarded as the best for more serious fare. But there are exceptions to that rule. A fine example is Walter Hill’s 1981 film Southern Comfort. While often regarded as a film riffing off John Boorman’s 1978 classic Deliverance, Southern Comfort is a unique film unto itself and while not as well-known as Deliverance, deserves just as much attention.
Powers Booth, Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, and Peter Coyote play members of a ragtag squad of Louisiana National Guardsman meeting up for weekend training in the bayou swamplands. But when their inexperience and constant bickering get them turned around and lost, they steal canoes from local Cajuns to get back home. But after an encounter with the locals ends with the death of their squad leader, they must find a way back home while being pursued by armed Cajuns with no need for law and order. And only armed with guns loaded with blanks for training, their survival will be their greatest challenge.
Southern Comfort is one of my favorite films of the 80s. Walter Hill often made films that I was particularly fond of (48 Hrs, Crossroads, Red Heat, Johnny Handsome) but Southern Comfort is my favorite. The story is a great one of survival against the odds, but it is the ensemble cast combined with Hill’s talent for thrilling action that make this so memorable. In addition to the actors mentioned are also Sonny Landham, T.K.Carter and Brion James and the chemistry between all of these actors is just perfection. They fight and bicker but when it comes down to the wire they know they are each other’s lifelines. And with their enemies much more adept at the bayou landscape and armed to the teeth, they know their chances of survival are slim. Brion James performance as one of the Cajuns rivals his legendary performance in Blade Runner. And Hill’s pacing is excellent and keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire running time. A true action classic, Southern Comfort deserves a second look.
The Blu-ray from Shout Factory looks far better than previous DVD incarnations of the film. The muted colors look solid here with nice detail and greatly improved clarity. This is a vast improvement and a worthy transfer for such a classic film. Southern Comfort is an overlooked 80s classic and now is your chance to finally see why.
Available now on Blu-ray.