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Straw Dogs (1971)

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A young American and his English wife come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment.

Director:

Sam Peckinpah

Writers:

David Zelag Goodman (screenplay), Sam Peckinpah (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
2,319 ( 606)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dustin Hoffman ... David Sumner
Susan George ... Amy
Peter Vaughan ... Tom Hedden
T.P. McKenna ... Maj. John Scott
Del Henney Del Henney ... Charlie Venner
Jim Norton ... Chris Cawsey
Donald Webster Donald Webster ... Riddaway
Ken Hutchison ... Norman Scutt
Len Jones Len Jones ... Bobby Hedden
Sally Thomsett Sally Thomsett ... Janice Hedden
Robert Keegan Robert Keegan ... Harry Ware
Peter Arne ... John Niles
Cherina Schaer Cherina Schaer ... Louise Hood
Colin Welland ... Rev. Barney Hood
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Storyline

Upon moving to Britain to get away from American violence, astrophysicist David Sumner and his wife Amy are bullied and taken advantage of by the locals hired to do construction. When David finally takes a stand it escalates quickly into a bloody battle as the locals assault his house. Written by Andrew Hyatt <dres@uiuc.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

BANNED for 18 years...Now unleashed, UNCUT! (UK DVD release) See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 January 1972 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Strawdogs See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,251,794 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (uncut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor) (uncredited)| Black and White (opening credits)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Reverend Barney Hood (Colin Welland) and his wife visit David (Dustin Hoffman) and Amy (Susan George) Sumner to invite them to a church social, Barney and David discuss science and religion. David recites a quotation, "There's never been a kingdom given to so much bloodshed as that of Christ." Barney recognizes the quotation to be from Montesquieu. Montesquieu was a French social commentator who lived from 1689 to 1755. He is sometimes credited with the concept of separation of powers that was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where David is going to confront the villagers about the cat, he lets in 4 men, but when they gather in the living room, there are only three villagers. See more »

Quotes

Reverend Barney Hood: Radiation. That's an unfortunate dispensation.
David Sumner: Surely is. Yes, indeed.
Reverend Barney Hood: As long as it's not another bomb.
[beat]
Reverend Barney Hood: You're a scientist - can you deny the responsibility?
David Sumner: Can you?
[beat]
David Sumner: After all, there's never been a kingdom given to so much bloodshed as that of Christ.
Reverend Barney Hood: [beat] That's Montesquieu, isn't it?
David Sumner: Oh, really?
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

The Criterion Collection, a privately-owned New York City video distribution house, acquired the rights from MGM to release a special edition double-DVD set of the film in 2003, which featured a new high-definition transfer (performed by Criterion) of the uncut version, and included unique extras such as a scholarly audio commentary, the documentary _Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron (1992) (TV)_ a then newly recorded interview with Susan George and correspondence from Sam Peckinpah to some of the film's critics. This Criterion edition was limited to a one-year print run and the packaging carried a "Limited Edition" sticker,the only one of Criterion's releases to do so. In 2004, the Criterion edition went out-of-print and MGM acquired the Criterion transfer and released it to DVD without the extras. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Right Way (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Caro Nome
(uncredited)
from "Rigoletto"
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
One of the most realistic portrayals of emotion on film.
12 January 2009 | by Jacques98See all my reviews

In the early 2000s, there was a breakout of movies labeled as "torture porn", which all had three main factors. First, they were intended to make the audience feel the same utter desperation as the tortured characters on screen. Second, they almost always had a deep social portrayal. And, third, they were always rejected by hypocritical critics who failed to see intelligence in desperation, then went off and praised hollow "fine cinema" pieces for "saying something about the human condition". These types of films have always interested me because they mix unrelenting pace with a non-genetic message about how humans tend to think. And I find it interesting that Straw Dogs (1971), while not really a "torture" film, has every single aspect I just listed. While it's gained a lot more credit today, in its time, it was just as hated by the critics as "torture porn" is now. It's funny how easily society can completely be in denial when a movie like Straw Dogs says something about the human condition no one will dare say, while society can then go and praise some completely hollow, cliché-spewing film like (excuse the modern example) No Country for Old Men. I find that hypocrisy almost comical. And I think, maybe, that was one of Straw Dog's points.

So what makes Straw Dogs so intelligent? Well, first, it is simply one of the few accurate portrayals of REAL human emotion in cinema. Realism is a word that is thrown around constantly by writers/directors, but as Hollywood gets closer to what it thinks is realism, it just takes five steps back from being truly anything like how real humans think. Very few movies have ever achieved truly expressing how people interact without turning the characters into some podium to preach some idea the writer/director has, or just turning the characters into pieces of cardboard that move the plot along. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest acting in the world can't fix unrealistic characters. That works just about as much as a pretty coat of paint fixes a house that's ready to collapse in on itself. The emotion is Straw Dog's shining point. The two main characters' emotions are portrayed differently in every situation. One scene will end with a loving moment, then the next will open with a bitter one, then the next will open with completely indifference. Things that should have an emotional impact on the characters doesn't have any whatsoever. Actions that should cause them negative emotion cause them pleasure. Just when you find a character totally likable, they'll do something to ruin that feeling—a lot like the betrayal of a friend. Put simply: I've seen countless movies in my life, but never once have I seen a movie with this much of a realistic emotional core.

Likewise, without spoiling anything, Straw Dogs goes where no movie in its time dared to go with its subject matter. While I wouldn't necessary call every idea presented here original, some of them are, and not a single one of them is a cliché. It's very relatable to A Clockwork Orange—which came out the same year—in that way. I find it sad, however, that A Clockwork Orange is now considered some sort of classic, while Straw Dogs is still lesser known to the general public than a lot of foreign indie films. Straw Dogs nearly singlehandedly formed the groundwork for the thriller genre, and its influence can be seen in everything from other 70s movies to whatever cliché thriller is playing at the local theater as I type this. The ending is pure intensity, and very few movies can pull that off. The kills in the end of the film are a lot more graphic than anything I expected from a 70s film, and some are just brutal. Straw Dogs deserves more recognition.

So, if my review is entirely positive, why do I not give this a higher score? As much as I can relate to this movie, and as much as I appreciate it, I think giving this a perfect score is an insult to what the director was going for. Sam Peckinpah didn't want this film to be entertaining; he wanted it to truly disturb the viewer. Though that may be a little hard to do now in 2009, due to the countless rip-offs and rehashes of the subject matter, this is nowhere near easy viewing. Perfection is an extension of contentment, and I personally was not content with this movie. I wasn't supposed to be. It's a point-blank contradiction to the Hollywood formula that states you have to make the viewer go in their pants out of awe/contentment or you haven't done your job. That's why I can't give Straw Dogs a perfect score, but it didn't want one. It's too honest for that. It's too intelligent for that.

7/10


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