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Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs – 1971
The knock at the door meant the birth of one man and the death of seven others!
Sam Peckinpah

Gordon Williams (novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm) (as Gordon M. Williams)
David Zelag Goodman (screenplay) and
Sam Peckinpah (screenplay)

Daniel Melnick producer
James Swann associate producer

Dustin Hoffman – David Sumner
Susan George – Amy Sumner
Peter Vaughan – Tom Hedden
T.P. McKenna – Major John Scott
Del Henney – Charlie Venner
Jim Norton – Chris Cawsey
Donald Webster – Riddaway
Ken Hutchison – Norman Scutt
Len Jones – Bobby Hedden
Sally Thomsett – Janice Hedden
Robert Keegan – Harry Ware
Peter Arne – John Niles
Cherina Schaer – Louise Hood
Colin Welland – Reverend Barney Hood
June Brown – Mrs. Hedden (uncredited)
Chloe Franks – Emma Hedden (uncredited)
Michael Mundell – Bertie Hedden (uncredited)
David Warner – Henry Niles (uncredited)

Review by Theo Robertson

Straw Dogs (1971)
A Confused Movie More Than Anything Else,

I remember more than 20 years ago STRAW DOGS was available for rental along with video nasty crap like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, ABSURD and NIGHT OF THE DEMON. What set SD apart from the other titles was that it was the only video on the shelf with a sticker proclaiming ” For over 18s only? Not to be rented to children “. It should also be remembered that every time Channel 4 has thought about screening it the channel changes its mind at the last minute. In short STRAW DOGS has a reputation as an extreme film even more extreme than say A CLOCKWORK ORANGE so when Channel 4 at long last decided to screen it late last year I decided there was no way I was going to miss it.

Despite the hype I failed to see what the fuss was about. Ah yes that “rape” scene. It wasn’t rape with the first man but it was certainly rape with the second. I think. But I’m not sure, mainly down to the directing.I think. That’s the problem with this movie – It’s very difficult to understand the point Sam Peckinpah is trying to make and much of the story takes some swallowing. Uberwimp David Sumner decides he’s going to take a stand and protect a suspected murderer from a lynch mob? Hmmm. I guess that this ridiculous turn of events had a motive behind it because whatever motive he had seemed to take place off screen.

It could be easy to blame the screenwriters for much of the unexplained motives in the story but Peckinpah should take the blame for the film’s flaws. Dustin Hoffman and Susan George as David and Amy Sumner a newly wed couple? One of the most unlikely onscreen couples in the history of cinema in my opinion. And did anyone laugh out loud as I did at the end when after a violent bloodbath David turns to the blood soaked Amy and asks ” You all right? “. What a bloody stupid question and when you stop to think about it STRAW DOGS is a bloody stupid film.

However I can’t help thinking Peckinpah knew fine well what he was doing when he made it and was aware of how the critics and moral guardians would take it when it was released. In short Sam Peckinpah is having a laugh at the expense of the establishment. It’s not his best film (Choose between CROSS OF IRON or THE WILD BUNCH) but it is his most extreme and infamous film and that alone makes it worth watching.

Straw Dogs (1971)

Review by Wayne Malin

Badly dated,
A pacifist man (Dustin Hoffman) comes to a remote English village with his wife (Susan George) to work. The local toughs (including a former lover of his wife) keep trying to bait him and get him to fight back. He won’t and the violence escalates.

This was purportedly ahead of its time in 1971–it’s very obvious and dated now. Also we now have the complete version here in the US (five minutes of violence were cut out to ensure an R rating in 1971). Times change–this movie was considered extreme in terms of the violence back in the 70s–now it doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, the violence is pretty restrained!

For instance…a man gets a bear trap in his neck and there’s not a drop of blood. Come on! If that happened there would be TONS of blood! Also the films treatment of women is horrendous. George is slapped around and, in a truly disgusting sequence, eggs on a man to rape her and enjoys it (!!!)…until another man joins in. Portraying a woman enjoying being raped is beyond sick.

Also, there isn’t one likable character in the entire film. Hoffman comes across as a wimp; George as an annoying woman who gets what she deserves; the local toughs are sick cretins and Warner is a violent, mentally sick man. The dialogue is, putting it mildly, bad and I’ve never thought Sam Peckinpah was a great director (“The Wild Bunch” is way overrated). Also the movie moves very slowly and is downright boring at times. I’m giving this a 5 because the acting is good–but that’s about it.

Supposedly this film started a lot of controversy about violence and such back in 1971–but then the movie disappeared from sight. It should have stayed out of sight.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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