Straw  Dogs (1971)

straw dogs pic

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Director Sam Peckinpah
Writer Gordon Williams (novel The Seige of Teacher’s Farm), David Zelag Goodman (screenplay)
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughn, TP McKenna, Henry Niles (uncredited), UK/USA 2h 5m.

One of the few films that were previously banned, but when they were eventually released it seemed highly questionable as to why they were banned in the first place… but not trying to eliminate the fact that this siege movie is incredibly barbaric and quite violent at times, it does seem a little tame on the surface by today’s standards but harbours an incredibly dark back story with gut turning conclusions and a questionable end.

A young playful couple move to a cottage in the British countryside, David (Dustin Hoffman) an American Mathematician and his stunning wife Amy (Susan George) a homemaker who used to live in the village in her childhood. The modern and “hip” couple stand out like a sore thumb among the simple locals, and rural life takes a turn for the worse when Amy’s old flame and his associates start to make life hard for them and then one night a girl goes missing and the local suspected peadophile takes refuge in their home.

The two main characters have to go through a lot, David transforms from this nerdish mathematician into a tactical genius, as he’s constantly pushed by everyone around him. His delightful wife is a giant catalyst, initially she’s incredibly loving and playful but this behavior isn’t reserved just for her lover, he attention is made available for any man in the vicinity as her husband digs his head further into this books. An old flame Charlie (Dal Henney) and his mates are working on the property and soon Amy is all over them until she finds her cat hanging in the wardrobe, David can’t find his voice when ordered to confront the men and the strains on the relationship start to grow.

“I care. This is where I live, this is me, I will not allow violence against this house”.

Straw Dogs is still controversial as it does blur moral lines and everyone in the film is guilty of something, I suppose the good guys are those with fewer sins. It does involve nudity and a experimental rape scene, in fact the filming techniques are quite unusual for the times, there are lots of handheld camera scenes and when the action kicks off in the siege things are quite erratic and similar to the shaky-cam that we see in found footage movies.

There are so many questionable storylines within the movie, a simple man who can’t be left alone with children is almost left to his own devices, he’s watched by everyone and Charlie promises the couple that “we deal with our own herejustice is very much up to the locals here, and reasoning with them is pointless.

Claustrophobic and violent

Director Sam Peckinpah has a tendency towards showing a lot of violence and displays of masculinity in his films, and paints a disturbing film about an inborn violence within all of us, needless to say that the view is simplistic, not only suggesting that women are sexual teases and get raped for being seductive, but also that intelligence is a false veil and underneath it is a man can be a bloodthirsty animal like all the rest. It’s powerful to see transformation and the entangling relationships between characters, as it suggests that this example can be expanded to the rest of society.

Rating 8/10

RStraw Dogs (20??), The Strangers (2008) House at the edge of the park (1980)
L – Siege movies, Home invasion films, Crazy Locals
5B – Dustin Hoffman, Susan George,
Vs Straw Dogs Vs Straw Dogs

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