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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think pretty much all of the people posting comments on this film
have totally missed the point of the film. One reviewer sees the movie
as sexist against women, others hate that plot points aren't wrapped up
or it doesn't make sense that Amy enjoys the rape. A lot of people just
don't seem to get this film. This film is not about entertainment. It's
not interested in impressing you with artistic flare, and it doesn't
care about wrapping sh-t up in a neat little package so you walk away
with all the answers. People who complain about that kind of stuff
might as well go and watch a Julia Roberts movie. This is Sam Peckinpah
working out his demons, this is him breaking into your safe haven,
slashing your face open. I personally have never been more disturbed or
hurt by a film in my life, and because of this, I don't walk away in
denial of its greatness. I'm able to say, "wow! That movie totally
tapped in to these dormant emotions and feelings I've always had but
either didn't realize or wasn't willing to admit to myself. Examples of
Peckinpahs crushing insights are the entire female/male dynamic, the
hurt we cause each other intentionally and unintentionally, the
sickness of it all. This film hurt me so bad that I couldn't talk to my
wife for about a week after. (Incidentally, the same thing happened in
reverse when she watched Fight Club, which is really the perfect
companion to this film.) This movie forces you to think, to face the
ugliness of the world. It presents you with sh-t you don't want to
face, feelings that you have buried in your subconscious so you will not
have to deal with them. That is why I think so many people don't like
this movie, because it has scarred them so badly that they can't even
admit it hit a nerve, and thus dismiss it as "stupid, or retarded" I
don't think I'll ever be able to watch this movie again, it was just
too raw, too powerful, too hurtful. But I learned a lot about myself in
the process, and was totally absorbed and thoughtful for a long time
" I don't know how much movies should entertain. To me I'm always interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about JAWS is the fact that I've never gone swimming in the ocean again." -David Fincher
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is probably one of the most offensive masterpieces ever made. There's no reason to argue with many of the objections against it, but the main criticism- that Hoffman is battling his Amy's rapists for sexual mastery of her- is unfair. Many of the film's critics don't seem to realize that what the audience learns about events is completely different from what Hoffman knows. He never learns that the villagers raped his wife; and he's never completely sure that Nyles, the villager he's defending, *didn't* rape a girl. He never realizes that the villagers are hypocrites for raping his wife and then hunting down Nyles as a "perverted animal." And he never realizes that his wife wants to throw Nyles out not because she's an immoral coward, but because, after being raped once, she doesn't want to defend an accused rapist. Amy is not the object of his fight, which is why he asks her if she wants to leave in the middle of it. She's as irrelevant to him as the villager he's defending. Hoffman's only concern is his house, which Peckinpah views as the symbol of his manhood. They're both under construction and assault by the villagers. When Hoffman has finally defended his house, he decides that he doesn't really know his way home; his manhood is worthless to him. It's difficult to understand why the film's critics view its climax as an expression of Peckinpah's supposed belief that women must be seized through violence. Hoffman never even knows that Amy's part of the contest, and even though we do, we're left with the impression he's lost her, not earned her, because of his battle.
So you think movies are violent today, huh? Think again. Sam Peckinpah's
highly charged, extremely intense, brutally violent 1971 pic is an
underrated masterpiece, in my opinion, that redefined cinema violence
forever (as if "The Wild Bunch" wasn't enough). It is one of the best
directed, most fluidly edited pictures that I've seen in recent years.
Today's films don't even come close.
Allegedly banned in the U.K. to this very day, "Straw Dogs" came to me out of nowhere. I had heard good things about it, but never really caught onto it, until one day when I was at a video store browsing around for no apparent reason. I had absolutely no money and wasn't planning to buy anything when all of the sudden, I saw it . . .
WIDESCREEN - UNCENSORED,RESTORED - COLLECTOR'S EDITION
I had never even seen the movie and I wanted to buy it! I mean, hey, it WAS the last one left.
So I took a huge risk, got a loan from my mother, used all the two-dollar bills I had been saving to pay her back, and bought it right out. And then, I viewed it later on that night, praying I hadn't wasted my time. AND: I was floored. The film literally knocked me out, kept me peeled to the screen at every instant, left me disturbed for days to come. I mean, let me tell you, go out and rent this, buy this, anything, just see it! Although it is moderately paced, the film remains intense the whole way, and takes an unexpected turn into extreme violence towards the legendary ending, a showdown worthy of multiple viewings (watch "Fear" to see an amateur retread).
So it goes like this: Hoffman plays a wimpy mathematician who flees with his wife George to the peaceful countryside (to get away from violence!), only to be ravaged by the locals who just wanna start trouble. It is the ultimate test of manhood, showing us (in a somewhat biased manner) that it takes aggression to get what you want and keep what you have. You'll be amazed at Hoffman's "transformation" (we all know deep down that EVERYONE'S got it in them somewhere), but it makes you think, especially when Hoffman has to defend his home from several large armed men WITHOUT USING ANY WEAPONS, only his brains and some household appliances.
I'm surprised that this is such a forgotten film. There aren't enough people who can actually claim to have seen this picture or even know what it's about. I find that hard to ingest, being that it was one of the most controversial films of its day. But it IS very brutal, especially the once trimmed rape scene, restored on my copy, a scene that I find to be the most intense. However, today's moviegoers may not agree.
So see "Straw Dogs," the movie that single-handedly turned me into a Peckinpah fan. The editing is Oscar-worthy, the acting is magnificent, the situations are well thought out, and the characters are fleshed to the bone (sometimes literally). I promise you won't leave disappointed.
#5 on my Top 200 List, **** outta **** on my personal scale.
Sam Pecknpah followed his extremely violent and critically acclaimed
'The Wild Bunch' with the even more violent 'Straw Dogs', which didn't
sit as well with the critics; in fact, 'Straw Dogs' was shocking enough
to be banned in the UK where it was filmed, although in the US it was
released with an X rating. Critics attacked it as being overtly violent
and sexual, and entirely missed the message Peckinpah was making. Three
and a half decades later, though, it's easier to appreciate 'Straw
Dogs' for the groundbreaking creation that it was, and its influence
can clearly be seen in the works of such contemporary directors as
David Fincher, David Lynch and Todd Solondz, among others.
With hindsight, it's hard to miss the fact that the sexual and violent content of 'Straw Dogs' isn't a whole lot more shocking than that of Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange', released that very same month. 'A Clockwork Orange' also created its own share of controversy, of course; yet somehow it was more rapidly recognized as the masterpiece it is by critics than 'Straw Dogs'. In part, I think that's due to the fact that while 'A Clockwork Orange' is an ultra-violent surreal fantasy from its very beginning, 'Straw Dogs' seems entirely innocent at first, like a very realistic and light-hearted drama, and the violence builds gradually throughout the film. That sense of realism, which 'A Clockwork Orange' never pretends to, makes 'Straw Dogs' much more difficult to take as an analogy; it cries out to be taken at face value, which makes it much more difficult to swallow.
Dustin Hoffman was never an actor to fear controversy, and 'Straw Dogs' catches him right at the peak of his best years as an actor, after 'The Graduate', 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'Little Big Man', and before 'Lenny', 'Papillon' and 'All The President's Men'. His performance is as amazing as in any of these, and again Hoffman proves his rare range, as well as his sensitivity; his performance carries the film to true excellence, and perhaps that's the other reason that the film was a bit more difficult to take than 'A Clockwork Orange' to take nothing away from the wonderful Malcolm McDowell, what 'A Clockwork Orange' simply didn't have was a protagonist for the viewer to identify with, and therefore, like I stated before, it was easier to take as an analogy, and Alex functioned more as a symbolic and iconic character than as a real human being. David Sumner, on the other hand, is a remarkably realistic and convincing character, and one that is very easy to relate to, which makes the change that comes over him towards the end of the film all the more shocking. Again, it is that building up of tension that makes 'Straw Dogs' such a powerful experience.
'Straw Dogs' is a film that creates controversy and disagreements, and so it should. It's easy to create controversy with sex and violence; but many years later that initial shock fades, and the real test is whether or not the film stands the trial of time and still manages to shock and engross. Like 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Straw Dogs' stands that test. Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that it's an important and influential film, and it's essential viewing for any film lover.
Straw Dogs(1971) reveals a primal human action that is the driving force
behind its characters. As with Deliverance(1972), Straw Dogs also is
fascinated with the violent urge within the human soul. The primal aspect
of the human being is provocatively examined in Straw Dogs(1971). Sam
Peckinpah forcefully depicts issues that were hinted at in The Wild
Bunch(1969). Paints a dark picture of humanity with the person's
frightening ability to harm at any time. The title of the film ties in
perfectly with the nature of the story.
An interesting example of a vigilante film before the subgenre became fashionable. Films before had dealt with the theme of revenge but rarely as brutal or primal as in Straw Dogs(1971). Predates Death Wish(1974) by three years. The uncredited inspiration for Death Wish(1974) and others of its kind. Both films include Meek liberal men who explode with violent anger in different ways. Shows revenge and the consequences behind the act of revenge in a realistic dimension.
Straw Dogs(1971) marked the first film Sam Peckinpah did which wasn't a Western. The film's direction creates a powerful piece of cinema with a strong European sensibility. Its a shame Sam Peckinpah never did more European Thrillers after SD. One film which mixes the American style of Peckinpah's Westerns with the European touch of Straw Dogs(1971) is Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia(1974). At times the movie looks as if it could have been done by Hammer Studios. An indication that the late filmmaker could succeed outside of the Western genre.
Good at showing that any person(even peaceful natured)can be capable of violent action at any given moment. The interactions between David Sumner and the Village Reverand is filled with subtle hostility. Represents the conflict between religion and science which is wittily enforced in the dialogue between the two. The locations of Cornwall becomes an important part of the film's emotion. Intense atmosphere is what gives the film a tinge of horror. Straw Dogs(1971) is in a couple of ways a British take on the Deliverance story.
There seems to be something autobiographical within the frames of the story. Deals with the idea of Man's violent rites of passage that Sam Peckinpah was only too familiar with. David Sumner symbolizes the private inner self of Sam Peckinpah's persona. The intense relationship between David and Amy Sumner was based on the director's experiences with marriage and relations with women. His direction of the actors is masterful. Has to be one of the director's most personal(perhaps his most personal)film of his directorial resume.
A notorious sequence from Straw Dogs(1971) is the infamous rape of Amy Sumner which plays a tricky balance between the abhorrent and the erotic without spilling over to either side. I can imagine the many people that were taken aback by this scene especially during the first rape when it turns into a love scene. Without the dark humor that was present in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange(1971). Excellently edited scene with some powerful intercutting. Not an overly graphic scene but more psychological with the camera's focus on Susan George's face. Its the psychological abasement and reaction of Amy that is the true disturber of the senses.
There is an interesting sub plot between Henry Niles and Janice Hedden that is inspired by OF MICE AND MEN. The director was heavily influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, none so evident as in the characterizations of Henry Niles. Henry Niles is absolutely patterened after the strong but slow witted Lenny from OF MICE & MEN. David Warner pulls off an fantastic performance in a complex role. The scene in the church stable is reminiscent of Lenny and his bosses wife meeting in a barn during OF MICE & MEN. Henry Niles is alot like the misunderstood alleged witch of Don't Torture a Duckling(1972).
From the very beginning a confrontation between the house workers and David Sumner becomes inevitable. There is some major tension that grows to a boiling point until the hot pot explodes during the climax. The actors do a convincing job in displaying tension with their emotions. When the confrontation finally does happen everything becomes chaotic and violent. This part of the film may have influneced Wes Craven to a certain extent when he did Last House on the Left(1971). By the climax of Straw Dogs, David Sumner despises the house workers so much that he uses Henry Niles as an excuse to strike back at them.
Where the bloodbath at the film's finale reaches a fever pitch is when reason turns to bloodlust. When the confrontation began there were reasons for each group but as it progressed the two parties become more interested in killing each other. I find it funny that the two groups become less concern in finding Janice Hedden and more concern in fighting to the death. It just shows that protecting one's land or property is the most important thing to a man. David Sumner and the house workers battle each other in a manner similar to the landowners of the Middle Ages. Sombre use of slow motion effects and editing techniques turns the climax into a nerve twister.
Dustin Hoffman is very good in the role of the timid turned violent David Sumner. Susan George in her role projects both vurnability and eroticism. The film's climax would be rehased for the house attack in The Osterman Weekend(1983). When Sam Peckinpah also worked as a writer in his films the results were usually brilliant. This is the case with Straw Dogs(1971). Straw Dogs(1971) is an impressive film of an era when filmmakers were not afraid to take chances with risky subject matters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Straw Dogs" Isn't a film that I had ever heard of and then if I had I can't say that I would have instantly wanted to watch it, but as it was part of my Media Studies A-Level I sat back and watched in a hope to learn anything that I could. Before watching the film I was inform of history of the film and the banning and I prepared myself for a shocking rape scene and a horrific climax of an ending, yet I was wrong. Instead I found a sensitivly handled subject that any director or actor should be proud to be apart of. The fact that the censors wished to edit this scene in a way to take out a majority of the second rape only made me question the ideas of the censors and not director Sam Peckinpah or actress Susan George for wishing to make such a scene. The direction and acting came together to make a scene that should be celebrated not damn simply because it is a topic that is difficult to digest. The ending of the film that last almost a third of the movie is just as brilliant as any day hi-tech scene that you will see in any action film today. Overall this film is a stunning comment on the behaviour of men and women and their interactions and representation within a film. With amazing dialogue, acting out of this world and direction with such a clear knowledge of the industry I feel honoured that I have seen this film and strongly recommend that if anyone ever gets the chance to see it they should. Ignore whatever you hear and see it for yourself, it's mind blowing!!! 8 out of 10
In the same year as Clockwork Orange, at the height of the Vietnam War, Peckinpah tried to bring his message into the present. Behind the thin veneer of civilization lies a monster worse than the barbarians of the hill country. By refusing to meet each challenge and take the consequences, the protagonist, like Western Civilization, allows the conflict to escalate to the point where extreme horror appears justified. The inevitable march to the macabre resolution, leaves lots of room for speculation about who the villains are and how much of the world around us is our own doing. This movie, like its Kubrick contemporary, was major ratings controversy because the sex and violence was "disturbing" - unlike the real thing which seems like so much fun on TV.
It is certainly possible to look at STRAW DOGS as nothing more than a simple story of a man defending his house, his animalistic insides unleashed by a group of Cornish hoodlums. On that level alone it is a terrific piece of film-making backed up with highly textured acting from the two principals. But there are layers and layers and layers in this film, and that is what makes it art, and a masterpiece. Peckinpah himself told people that Dustin Hoffman was the heavy, and the movie was a portrait of a bad marriage. Try watching with those two facts in mind, and the film takes on a whole new complexion. The Criterion Collection two-disc set of STRAW DOGS is excellent, from the Peckinpah documentary to interviews with Susan George and the producer, to the audio commentary track. I agree with other reviewers who stressed that Peckinpah wasn't interested in "solving" problems; he wanted us to look at ourselves, and cringe.
Straw Dogs is an intense thriller that shows what can happen when you push
even the most mild mannered man too far. Dustin Hoffman plays a
mathematician who temporarily moves to a house in a rural village in England
with his wife, a former resident of the town, played by Susan George. The
two withstand incessant needling from several of the townsfolk until George
is raped and assaulted and Hoffman is pushed over the edge.
Incidentally, right after watching this film I found a documentary on cable about filmmakers from the late '60s to late '70s and one of the directors profiled was Sam Peckinpah. I had always considered his films to be violent and vaguely shocking, which never surprised me, knowing that he was a hard-living maverick who did things his way - an element that is resplendent in most of his films. A brief mention of Straw Dogs was included in this documentary, where they described it as a "sexist film". There are obvious scenes in the film that could support this criticism, but I think that is overanalyzing the film with a political correctness that is out of place. While the two female characters are both victimized, Susan George also has her moments of empowerment. I may be a female, but I don't consider Peckinpah's tendency to make testosterone-driven films any more sexist than anything that Tarantino puts out, and I'm a big fan of his work as well. It's a dangerous line to draw when one labels a film due to what is *not* included in a film.
What this film does contain is much more stellar - Hoffman is beyond incredible in this film. His character development is amazing to experience. One criticism of the film that I heard from a friend who saw it before me was that it "dragged." I couldn't disagree more. The development of the story until the extremely violent climax is a perfect pace because it made me feel like I was sitting in a dentist chair, knowing that this low boil could explode at any time. After the dust settles, the viewer is left to decide whether Hoffman's character made the right decision, and left to speculate on the ramifications of the choices made. This is by far one of the best films I've seen in recent months and plan to seek out the newly released Criterion edition in my quest to find out as much about this film as I can.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one down and dirty film, now judging by some of the responses on
these boards there might be some aspects that are dated but for me this
was a revelation. Yeah the build up is slow ( if you suffer from severe
which seems to be the case with most people) its necessary, we are dealing
with the animalistic nature of man and how despite the amount of time we
have had to evolve all it takes to get the dog in us aroused is a hot
with no bra.
There have been many intelligent men in our time that have succumbed to the alluring beauty of women. Dustin Hoffman's character is a mathematician who seems to revel in his intelligence, he married a young hot piece of ass who right from the beginning is aware of her sexuality, they retreat to a small town which is necessary in adding to the provocation of these guys, good looking sheep probably get these guys going. Hoffman is too wrapped up in his own head to realize that his young wife's needs are being compromised.
Susan George really does a great job portraying the type of young naive women that most man would give too much credit to. There is nothing more dangerous that a young hot girl and a guy has got to be aware of it always or she will ruin you either intentionally or not. Anyway that first shot of her walking down the street really showed the power of this girl, shes innocently aware of herself and doesn't really grasp the danger reflected in the way the local boys look at her, and the way they thrust their machismo at Dustin's character, there is such a basic element being thrown around these scenes, and damn Dustin for his cowardice nature. Anyway the further we move along the more of a build up we get, its necessary because it makes the rape and the seige that much more believable.
Now the rape scene is completely disturbing because of Susan George's reaction to it, and for 1971 I can see how it was viewed as mysoginistic and depraved. IF we look at it its speaks volumes towards who we are as man and women. You know what? she did like it, she also hated the fact that she liked it, she hated herself for liking it, she was confused and conflicted by her feelings, her feelings for the first act with a guy that was acting the way she wished her husband did, it helps also that she did date this guy before. to say that she thought of her husband and was in some kind of dream like state is more of a diservice to the nature of women that what really went on. What she didn't like was the sodomy by some other guy, while the first dude held her down, it went too far. It became scary to her, she had no control whats so ever and it scared her. This scene made me uncomfortable because it turned me on and repelled me the same way it did to her character. To unleash my base male nature, she was hot, the actresses in the 70's especially the british and italians were drop dead sexy and georgeous, they don't make them like that any more.
Finally this whole business about the pederast who kills that girl and becomes the center point of the seige. I love the irony, I love the blurred line of right and wrong, what makes me uncomfortable are the implications of this storyline. This was not the pederast's fault in a sense, it was the fault of another young women who wanted to have the same effect on men that Susan George did, she wasn't as well aware of herself and unfortunately tried to go the easy route by seducing a mentally unstable man. Now this poor b**tard didn't have a chance and he accidently killed her, was it her fault Not necessarily but the implications are there and that is too much truth for me.
Anyway the whole irony is that this guy is no better or now worse than the guys that raped Susan, he is probably alot better but he doesn't have the mentallity to control his animal urges but he tries, the other guys don't even try to contol theirs. The final seige was interesting in the way that Susan George acted, and I feel this is all based on Nieztche's view of women, you know they have no understanding of loyalty or such they do not think like men, on principle alone. Women always want men to take the easy way out of things, the logical way, why make things hard for stupid reasons. Well men do. Dustin decides on that night that he is not going to supress his animal side, he is going to be a man for once and stand up to both the primal aggression around him and the true nature of women.
Look this films shows the flaws and the strengths of both sexes, it shakes up what society has made each sex believe is the way they should act, how we have disregarded our true nature that when it rears its ugly head it can really cause problems. We are not that far evolved.
Love this film.
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