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England's Deliverance
bkoganbing11 May 2019
One has to wonder after seeing Straw Dogs as to how popular it is in the United Kingdom particularly in Cornwall. After seeing it it's no wonder that the remake transferred so well to redneck Mississippi in the USA. And one has to remember that it is American Sam Peckinpah making the characterization.

Introspective mathematician Dustin Hoffman and his wife Susan George a rather frisky young thing have moved back to her native England because Hoffman a sixties liberal finds America too violent a place. But do they move to cosmopolitan London, no they move to remote Cornwall to the seacoast village from where George hails and where she has some sexual history.

Some of the village lads from Cornwall make the ones from Deliverance look like the Carlton Club. Especially Del Venney with whom George has history.

Modest she's not and neither is the current local tease Shirley Thomsett. In fact it's the actions of both especially Thomsett coming on to the local Lennie Small played by David Warner that starts a horrifically violent climax.

Sam Peckinpah's message in Straw Dogs is despite some of our civilized poses, scratch one deep enough and they'll turn violent enough to protect home and hearth. Even if certain things might not be worth protecting. Hoffman the ultimate in civilized man proves quite ingenious at violence. It's a masterful performance that Hoffman gives in Straw Dogs.

Straw Dogs was nominated for an Oscar for its music scoring. It remains a classic today.

I do wonder what they think of it in Cornwall.
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Michael_Elliott25 June 2008
Straw Dogs (1971)

**** (out of 4)

An American mathematician (Dustin Hoffman) takes his English wife (Susan George) to a remote location in Europe so that he can get some peace and quiet to write a book but they find themselves being terrorized by a group of thugs led by one who use to date his wife. There's so much controversy surrounding this film that it's rather hard to tackle because, in my opinion, Peckinpah has created a whirling nightmare where no one is innocent and the director gives us so many layers upon layers that even if you feel one way there might be another scene that makes you think differently. This is a very demanding film as it's constantly giving you scenes to think about but then it keeps giving you more and more layers to think about. A lot of the controversy seems to come in forms of the wife and the rape scene. Did she want to be raped? Did she enjoy being raped? I'd answer them with a no but I do think this scene and its follow up play a very important message to the husband, which once again comes to light at the end of the film when the wife finds herself in trouble again. I think for the most part that the film is really about Hoffman's character and that the wife plays very little in it. The Hoffman character is seen as a wimp and a pushover until the very end when his animal instincts come out and he is forced to defend his home. Is Peckinpah trying to say that every man has a nature to kill? I think that's one of the layers this film goes for. No matter how you debate or rethink what the film is trying to say, I don't think there's any doubt that this is one of the most powerful films of the decade. Peckinpah's direction is brilliant throughout and especially in the end when all hell breaks loose and the director is able to build so much tension. I also love the pacing that the director uses as for the most part the film takes its time in telling the story. That's not saying the film is slow but it's a real character study where we get to learn and study Hoffman's character. The strongest aspect of the film is the terrific performance by Hoffman. You can watch any scene in the film and just be amazed at how Hoffman plays it. We see his character go through so many ups and downs and the actor pulls all of it off without an issue. Considering the roles Hoffman had been playing before this it's still amazing how much range he took here. The supporting performances are all very good with George and Del Henney shining the brightest.
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Peckinpah's classic home invasion thriller
Leofwine_draca1 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Sam Peckinpah's British Western is impossible to review without mentioning all the furore surrounding it here in the UK. Only recently released on DVD, it was banned for almost two decades due to the disturbing rape sequence which takes place around the middle of the film. I'm not sure what all the fuss was about. The entire sequence could have been cut and the film still would have worked, and George's later flashback moments would have been all the more shocking.

Aside from that controversial moment, this is typical Peckinpah territory, as the director explores themes of violence and what it means to be a man in a new setting: Cornwall, a long way away from his typical Wild West settings. Still, violence doesn't change, and the story of what happens when Dustin Hoffman's mild-mannered American makes enemies of some country-bumpkin thugs is engaging from the very start. Peckinpah's direction is great, and the film has a nice visual feel to it that makes the best out of some isolated settings. The plot is simple in the extreme and things are set up along the way for the last half an hour, which is a siege sequence in a remote farmhouse a la NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. This is a talky film, with plenty of dialogue to further the characters, although some of it was a little weird and didn't work (Hoffman's comment about eight year-olds, for instance; what the heck were they thinking?). Technically, it's great, with fine editing and a good score, and the acting isn't too shabby either – for the most part.

The various actors playing the village thugs are suitably menacing, led by two actors giving fine performances: Del Henney as Charlie, the ringleader, and Peter Vaughan as Tom. Vaughan in particular is superb, getting to chew the scenery with relish, and it's a change from the subtle performance he gave in the following year's A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS adaptation. David Warner, uncredited because he wasn't insured during the production, also gives a very fine, understated performance, but then I've liked this actor in everything I've seen him in – even tat like BEASTMASTER 3 and WAXWORK. Dustin Hoffman gives what I think is a career-best performance in the leading role, and his transformation during the film is amazing stuff. I wasn't so impressed with Susan George, whose character, Amy, is never more than vacuous. George seems uncomfortable in the role, unsure of herself, and in many scenes I just don't think she cut it. When she gets hysterical at the end, she's more convincing, but not before.

Action fans will love the vengeance-fuelled climax, an expertly staged siege sequence that finally lets out all the tension the film has been building up to then. Instead of using firearms, Hoffman utilises household goods to fend off the attackers – wire, boiling whisky, a huge bear trap that's been hanging above the fireplace for the film's duration – and his ingenuity in defeating multiple opponents is fantastic. Brief, brutal spurts of violence add to the shocking impact and my heart was racing in these last closing moments – a classic finale, close to THE WILD BUNCH, for an above average thriller.
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unhappy marriage turn
SnoopyStyle9 January 2016
David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) is an American astro-mathematician city boy. He moves to his wife Amy's home village in Cornwall, southwestern England. He doesn't fit in the rural life. Her ex-boyfriend Charlie Venner is still interested. Charlie's friends are hired to repair the buildings. Their constant meddling start causing problems within the marriage.

There's nobody to really root for in this movie. David and Amy start out as a happily married couple but for some unknown reasons, they start fighting. Out of the blue, she's flashing her boobs for the workers and he's coldly distant. Neither of them are that appealing. The connection drawn by Sam Peckinpah between violence and manhood could have been an interesting idea but this couple is really problematic. This movie is infamous for its violence and its rape scene. Amy's wandering eye really complicates matters, even the rape scene.
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Local farmhouses for local people
Prismark1024 April 2016
Looking back at Straw Dogs a film that was never shown on UK television for several decades, you get to see how influential it is. Without this movie there would had never been Home Alone!

Director Sam Peckinpah might had been contemplating the brutality of the Vietnam war, the rising tide of violence generally in the 1960s counter-culture or just the inherent brutality of man especially when an outsider appears with a local girl.

Dustin Hoffman is a mild mannered American university maths professor who have moved into a farmhouse in rural Cornwall where his wife grew up. His wife (Susan George) is flirty, younger and provocatively dressed at times which arouses desires from her ex boyfriend (Del Henney.)

The locals are hired to repair the farm house but soon tease the couple, Del Henney takes advantage of George by forcing himself on her and soon she is also raped by one of his friends.

When a simpleton local (David Warner) is accused of abducting a girl from the village and ends being protected by Hoffman in his house, the band of locals descend on them and terrorise them. Hoffman realises he needs to fight back in order to protect his wife and Warner.

A lot has been said about this movie, the inbred locals, the brutal rape where the victim might have enjoyed part of it, the level of violence.

It now looks rather dated, it is a slow burn film, you know where it is going and there is the explosion of violence in the last act with Peckinpah even adding some black humour as two of the thugs chasing each other in kids bicycles.

The plot is actually thin and the film felt plodding to me. Hoffman's character seemed to want to integrate with the thuggish locals, maybe to prove he can mix it with the Alpha males, although you have to question how did he end up marrying someone flighty like George who even when the house is under attack wants to runaway from Hoffman who rightly suspects that she will be killed.

The film has a curiosity value but I felt that it would not had been highly regarded but for its reputation and banned from a video release for so long by the British censor.
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Now that the controversy has gone, an interesting, if flawed film remains
bob the moo21 September 2003
American scholar David Summer and his wife return to her home village in Cornwall to give him peace and quiet to write his book on astrophysics. However Amy meets up with her old boyfriend and his friends, who offer to carry out repairs on the house for David. He agrees but finds that the locals treat him as an outsider resulting in further pressure on the Summer's already fracturing marriage.

I, like many of the reviews written here by users in the UK, took the opportunity to watch this film when it came on tv for the first time in the UK since it was released. I deliberately taped it and left it for a month or so before watching as I wanted it to be free of the hype and controversy that the network had stirred up with documentaries just before they screened it. Watching it away from all this it is difficult to see what all the fuss was about in some regards. Certainly what is socially acceptable in a film today is far beyond what was passed by censors then.

The plot is a strange mix of relationship drama and western. It is easy to focus on the stand off element of this film and the violence of the second half, but I don't think that that is what the film was about. One user called the first hour or so `a very slow build up', however by saying that, the suggestion is that the film only exists to deliver the concluding part. Rather, I got more from the film as a whole and found the `build up' to be interesting as it showed David's marriage cracking and crumpling, slowing exposing the issues and frustrations that exist just below the surface in their relationship. The fact that the action at the end of the film is relating to the underlying frustration Amy had with her husband's inability to `take a stand', indicates that this is the focus of the film.

Regardless of this, it still isn't a fantastic film. It is very slow at times and not all of it has been as well developed as hoped. Cornish locals are all mistrusting inbred hicks who are shifty says the film, which may or may not be true but it would have been better to have a better mix of local characters. The rape scene itself is difficult because for part of it Amy submits and appears to be enjoying and consenting, before others get involved and it becomes full violent rape. Questions over other issues suggests that the film maybe lingers to long on disturbing scenes but the fact that the film also shows the aftermath of the rape is to it's credit.

Due to the stereotyping, not all the actors get a chance to do good work. Hoffman is OK but I found his character difficult to get into. George is not as well developed as I would have hoped but is improved after her ordeal. The support cast of locals are not allowed to go much further than `get off me land' cliché and give lesser performances as a result.

Overall this was an interesting film as it all seems to be focused on the couple's marriage rather than the detail of who is being sheltered in what house etc. Taken on this level it is still far from perfect. The only thing I'm sure of is that anyone drawn to the film simply because of the hype in the press will probably miss the point altogether.
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Vile, Offensive, Depressing and Degrading study of a Civilization in Decline.
mark.waltz30 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This disturbing and angry look at society is a retread of what Truman Capote had so brilliantly wrote with "In Cold Blood", the story of a family brutally slaughtered by two animalistic human beings. It is also a live action version of a human being in place of the three little pigs locked in his brick house with a bunch of wolves trying to blow his house down. Dustin Hoffman plays an American man working in England as a scientist with a British wife (Susan George) who moves to the English country and find brutality at the hands of the men they hire to fix their house. These obvious rejects from "A Clockwork Orange" start off with light-hearted indications of their dislike for Hoffman, then gradually work up to more malicious acts, eventually raping his wife in a horrific scene which actually tries to indicate that she is enjoying it! Earlier, George was seen baring her breasts to the working men out of some sense of boredom as her husband works on his experiments as he gets impatient with her constant interruptions. This explodes into a confrontation with the cowardly Hoffman having stood enough and a violent conclusion.

The violence in typical Sam Peckinpah fashion is inhumane and nasty, and the constant laughing and horn-tooting of one of the more psychotic men on a bicycle will leave you with a migraine. As this is considered a cult classic, I forced myself to get through it with abject horror as the story unfolded and the bullying went from nasty to absolutely evil. No real motivation is revealed for these men's behavior, and there is absolutely no passion between Hoffman and George. You have to really look at society with absolute disgust in order to enjoy this film, and if this is considered art, I'll stay with stick figures and Saturday morning cartoons. The early 1970's were difficult enough to get through without seeing what was already being shown on the news, and this multiplies the horrors of reality 100 times. These creatures who harass Hoffman and George are like the zombies of "Dawn of the Dead" before they joined the undead. While the degradation of society is a fact of life, here it becomes really too harsh to take and almost a parody of what is on the news even now. The result is an ugly monster of a movie that violates all dimensions of what is supposed to be entertainment and taste.
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Human Nature
kosmasp10 May 2012
One of the best thrillers ever made, with sublime and great performances. The movie has a lot to say, even if you disagree with it (as does the director of the 2011 remake). Dustin Hoffman is really playing it as great as one can. As for the female protagonist: I guess you know what she had to go through in the movie (if not, I'm not gonna spoil it for you) and the risk she was taking back then, when the movie was made. Her role was/is as tough as anything in the movie.

The movie itself can be called either realistic or pessimistic I guess. You could also argue that Peckinpah put his view of human nature upon us. Whatever your stance is, the movie is highly intriguing and much better than the remake. Not because there is much difference overall (in the story that is), but because this movie is certain of what it wants and pulls no punches. Not an easy watch at all, but a very good movie indeed
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"Smell a rat, see a rat, kill a rat".
classicsoncall9 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Back in the day, this was the movie that introduced me to Sam Peckinpah. Up till that time, I never really gave a thought to the importance of a director to a film, but this one changed my perspective. Peckinpah uses just as many subtle touches in his characterizations and story telling as he does for violence, and it's those nuances that bring a depth to the film. Consider the way David (Dustin Hoffman) wiped the blood off his hand after shooting the fowl, as if to wipe away the injustice of bringing down a helpless bird. In addition to his outward cowardice, David displays an outright abhorrence to overt displays of macho male behavior (the early bar scene), as the first half of the story does a good job of portraying him as somewhat less of a man.

I can still remember the audience response to David's triumphs when I saw this film when it first came out. Each success against his tormentors brought another round of cheers, culminating in that great bear trap maneuver. The set-up for that one was priceless, because all the while you're thinking someone's going to step in that thing, and suddenly it becomes Charlie's necktie.

Because movie violence is such a staple today, the action here may seem tame by comparison, but just consider - Hoffman's character had to think on his feet and use the limited resources available to him to protect his home. No big guns or 'lock and load' action, just a man pushed to the limit deciding that "This is where I live. This is me". With that declaration, David crosses his own personal Rubicon and knows there will be no retreat or surrender, only victory or certain death in defeat.

I'm watching the picture today as a bit of a warm up for the remake that comes out in a couple of weeks which I'm anxious to see. There will be that bias for the original but I'll go into it with an open mind. In the meantime, this is an all but unknown gem from the early Seventies, a time when film makers like Sam Peckinpah were pushing the envelope on sex, drugs, violence, and yes, even rape in a bold and forthright manner.
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Horror Film Disguised as a Thriller
gavin69423 December 2012
A young American (Dustin Hoffman) and his English wife (Susan George) come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment. Also, David Warner shows up with his long 1970s hair and a limp to be a menace.

People like to talk about the violence of this film, and say that what was strong then and what is strong now is different. Indeed, I do think the violence is tame by today's standards, but I think it was possibly even tame by those standards. It is hardly a massacre. And is it not awkward seeing Hoffman as a fighter? I mean, really. Great actor, yes, but not a fighter.

The sexual assault scene, on the other hand, is just as raw now as it was then. While not as graphic as Peckinpah intended, it is pretty brutal. Other films have been nasty -- "Deliverance" and "I Spit on Your Grave", or more recently "Derailed -- but this certainly made a mark. Besides one or two other films (notably "The Virgin Spring") this had to be one of the earliest showings of such a thing and must have shocked viewers.
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Straw Dogs
jboothmillard13 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I had heard about this film in the past, mainly because of the leading actor, and then I found it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I am glad I watched it a second time to get a proper opinion, directed by Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia). Basically American astrophysicist/mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his English wife Amy (Susan George) have moved to the small isolated village of Wakely in Cornwall, to escape the Vietnam- era social chaos in the United States. Their presence however provokes antagonism among the village's men, especially bullying and taking advantage when they are hired to do construction, and the hostility escalates from routine bullying to the gang rape of Amy. David is a pacifist, he is opposed to war and violence of any kind, Mary accidentally hits handicapped local villager Henry Niles (The Omen's David Warner) with her car, they take him into their home, the hooligans soon attack the house. David is backed into a corner by the actions of the men, he is forced to take a stand and finally resorts to he gruesome violence he abhors, the situation becomes a bloody battle, in the end all the men are taken care of, and David and Amy drive away, taking Niles with them. Also starring Game of Thrones' Peter Vaughan as Tom Hedden, T.P. McKenna as Major John Scott, Kes's Colin Welland as Reverand Barney Hood and Father Ted's Jim Norton as Chris Cawsey. Hoffman does well as the mild-mannered man having his manhood tested, George is fine as well, you do question the much debated rape scene, it does look like she was unconsciously "asking for it", this aside this was one of the big controversial violent films of the decade, alongside A Clockwork Orange and Dirty Harry, it is hard to watch at times, horrible men torturing the innocent couple, and a fair amount of bloody stuff, but it is an interesting psychological thriller. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Music for Jerry Fielding. Very good!
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A harsh cinematic kick to the solar plexus
Woodyanders26 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Meek American mathematician David Sumner (a fine and credible performance by Dustin Hoffman) and his restless young wife Amy (a very brave and strong portrayal by Susan George) settle in a remote rural England village for some peace and quiet. However, their tranquility gets disrupted by a gang of local toughs.

Director Sam Peckinpah ably crafts an extremely tense and uncomfortable atmosphere as well as deftly generates plenty of nerve-wracking suspense, grounds the gripping premise in a plausibly drab workaday reality, and stages the startling climax with his trademark sinewy brio. The taut and unflinching script by Peckinpah and David Zelag Goodman makes a supremely unsettling statement that one can't escape from either brutality or confrontation no matter how hard one tries to; alas, mankind's capacity for cruelty is a tragically pervasive and ubiquitous thing that infects us all to some degree or another. Of course, this film further hammers home the central bitter point that even the most passive and mild-mannered person can commit acts of savage violence if pushed far enough over the edge.

Hoffman and George both do sterling work in the lead roles; they receive sturdy support from Peter Vaughan as gruff patriarch Tom Hedden, T.P. McKenna as no-nonsense lawman Major John Scott, Del Henney as Amy's still smitten former boyfriend Charlie Venner, Jim Norton as the crude Chris Cawsey, Ken Hutchison as the equally boorish Norman Scutt, Sally Thomsett as teasing young tart Janice, and David Warner as child-like, but still dangerous simpleton Henry Niles. Both John Coquillon's crisp cinematography and Jerry Fielding's spare melodic score are up to speed. By no means a pleasant movie, but nonetheless a highly potent and disturbing one.
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Better DVDs Make This Better, Too
ccthemovieman-116 August 2006
I didn't really appreciate this movie until several viewings. Oh, I remembered it as one of the shocking "new" movies of the period in which nudity and graphic violence were being shown on screen for the first time...but in a later viewing on VHS in the '90s, I thought it was so-so.

A few years ago, with a good DVD print I was more than impressed. The movie, which I had thought was a little slow by the second viewing, was not on the third (and fourth and recent fifth). I have to admit: watching Susan George is one of the big enjoyments of this movie. She is hot! In reality, it's doubtful someone like her would marry a nerd like the character played by Dustin Hoffman. Nonetheless, as all of you who have seen this know, that "nerd" comes out of his shell in the suspense-filled last half hour.

There are still a few things I didn't like here, such as a too-sympathetic viewpoint of a child molester; a quick cheap shot at Christianity by Hoffman (no surprise) and a film that has mostly unlikeable people. However, the story is so involving it more than makes up for the negatives.....and it gets better and better with each viewing (and each improved DVD offering widescreen and a clearer print).
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An American young and his wife move to an isolated Cornish village where takes place a final outbreak of violence
ma-cortes27 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Exciting as well as violent film about an American mathematician and his wife are threatened by hooligans locals . Top-notch picture with good direction by Peckinpah and very competent performers . Sam Peckinpah's 1971 controversial shocker in which Dustin Hoffman, who starred in , and famously disliked this original film , being object a remake in 2011 . It deals with mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hofffman) relocates with his wife (Susan George) to her hometown in a Cornish village . When they return to her ancestral village tensions build between them , a brewing conflict with locals (Ken Hutchison ,Peter Vaughan , Jim Norton , Del Henney) becomes a threat to them both . Meanwhile , David is working on a mathematic theory . As the marriage is bullied and taken advantage of by the locals hired to do edification . There her former boyfriend become resentful , jealous and desirous of her , as she taunts them with her wealth and nudism and she is viciously attacked . Charlie invites David to hunt deers with his group and him but they leave David alone in the forest and attack Amy . After his wife is raped , Hoffman's character seeks vendetta . When David finally takes a stand it escalates quickly into a violent battle as the villagers assault his house . David whose pacifism is put to supreme test attempts to protect a dim-witted man (David Warner) who is suspected of disappearance and molesting a young girl (Sally Thomsett) , his house is put under siege by the incensed villagers , but David defends the mansion with bloody ferocity .

Superior version about one of the most controversial violence-themed pictures of its day ; dealing with a known plot , as a young American and his wife come to rural little town and face increasingly vicious local harassment . It is a very interesting exercise in thriller, human degradation, an example of the conflict between town and country , and between civilization and barbarism . A strong , difficult and frightening picture reaction to the violence and hard times of the 60s . Brutal great movie by Sam Peckinpah in which the wimpy starring finds that primitive savagery exists beneath the most peaceful surface heading an outburst of violence . It is a very entertaining story with a stunning as well as thrilling ending , which magnificent Dustin Hoffman and Susan George . Dustin is very good , though a little too slack at times , and on the ending he stands out . Dustin Hoffman - not usually a fan of violent films - admitted that he only took the role in this movie for the money. Before shooting, Sam Peckinpah instructed Dustin Hoffman and Susan George to live together for two weeks, with screenwriter David Zelag Goodman in tow , some of their interactions during this period were worked into the film's script. Controversially violent 1971 movie, is considered fairly faithful to original novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" by Gordon Williams , being well screen-written by the same Sam Peckinpah and David Goodman . The title comes from the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, who wrote, "Heaven and earth are not humane, and regard the people as straw dogs, " Straw dogs were used as ceremonial objects for religious sacrifices in ancient China. It is a very violent picture , in fact, because of its graphic portrayal of violence and two brutal rapes, the British Board of Film Censors banned the film from being released on video from 1984 until 2002. The highly charged sequences of carnage in the conclusion make this a controversial movie . Thrilling and appropriate musical score by Jerry Fielding , Peckinpah's usual musician . Evocative and atmospheric cinematography by cameraman John Coquillon . The motion picture was compellingly directed by Sam Peckinpah . He provides striking and well shot images , filled with many moments of visual metaphors and parallel scenes .

It was a subsequent remake (2011) of the controversially violent movie, released almost 40 years to the day of the original version, which came out November 3 1971 , it was directed by Rod Lourie with James Marsden , Kate Bosworth , Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush and Alexander Skarsgård ; this is a remarkable rehabilitation of a classic film and considered fairly faithful to Sam Peckinpah's original, though the location has been moved from Cornwall , England , to the U.S. Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the hero's profession has been changed from an intellectual mathematician to screenwriter . It does not reach the height of the great Sam Peckinpah film but no doubt that is a remarkable product of good cinema with a violent, bloody , brutal finale as well as the original flick .
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You can only push a man so far.
BA_Harrison1 April 2018
Mild-mannered mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his sexy wife Amy (the delectable Susan George) move to the rural English village where Amy grew up. With her nipples proudly on display, Amy soon attracts the attention of the rough and ready locals, especially her old fling Charlie Venner (Del Henney), who is quick to reacquaint himself. Wrapped up in his equations, David repeatedly fails to assert himself as Venner and his loutish pals carry out a campaign of harrassment, much to the frustration and disappointment of Amy, who obviously regards her husband as less than a man.

Things go from bad to worse when David, keen to appease the yokels, agrees to go on a shooting trip. While David is left standing on the moors, Venner pays a visit to Amy, forcing himself on her. Amy resists at first, but Venner's bold masculinity-in contrast to David's meek nature-wins her over and she acquiesces. To Amy's horror, a second man turns up and joins in the fun, but she is unable to stop him. When David returns home, Amy pretends that nothing has happened, ashamed by her behaviour yet angry at her husband.

In the film's final pivotal act, David and Amy, driving home from a church social, accidentally run down village idiot Henry Niles (David Warner). They take the injured man to their home, unaware that he has inadvertently strangled local strumpet Janice Hedden (Sally Thomsett), and that a drunken vigilante group, led by thug Tom Hedden (Peter Vaughan) and including Charlie and his pals, is out for Niles's blood. After David refuses to allow the gang into his house, the angry locals try to force their way in. Local magistrate Maj. John Scott (T.P. McKenna) tries to reason with the men, but is shot dead by Tom during the altercation. With David and Amy witness to the murder, the scene is set for a brutal showdown, David rising to the occasion to protect his home and his wife.

Director Sam Peckinpah's controversial thriller Straw Dogs is a film designed to appeal to the viewer's basic instincts, and it does so brilliantly. As soon as we clock bra-less George brazenly flaunting herself in front of the slack-jawed yokels, we desperately want David to speak up, either to his wife, who clearly has little respect for her husband, or to the drooling menfolk, who do nothing to hide their lustful gaze. When David keeps shtum, the frustration is palpable. Peckinpah slowly but carefully cranks up the tension, with David's repeated inaction making the viewer sympathetic to Amy's plight. When David is finally pushed over the edge and fights back, there is an immense feeling of release, the orgy of violence that follows satisfying at the most primal level. A smile from David in the closing moments reveals that he himself is proud to have finally stood his ground.

Hoffman is absolutely brilliant as the pacifist pushed too far, George is effortlessly sexy, and an excellent supporting cast ensures that there are no weak links (my hat is off to Jim Norton as ratcatcher Chris Cawsey, a more irksome villain you'll be hard pushed to find). Peckinpah's direction is perfectly paced, slowburn at first, carefully building to the crescendo of graphic brutality, with bloody shotgun blasts, boiling oil in the face, and a mantrap to the head all guaranteed to please his fans.
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A courageous performance by Hoffman in a grimy, unseemly macho fantasy...
moonspinner551 March 2008
Passive American mathematician and his British wife move to a farm in rural England and are terrorized in their home by a pack of vicious locals. Gordon M. Williams' book "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" becomes a standardized bout of Good versus Evil (with the caveat that Good must stoop to the gutters in order to survive). Peckinpah, who also co-adapted the screenplay with David Zelag Goodman, takes delight in the slavering savagery and carnality, as his motley gang of goons taunt our hero, played by Dustin Hoffman as a man whose anger must overcome his repressed anxiety and impotent righteousness. Critics and audiences found "Straw Dogs" provocative at the time, but it hasn't aged well. Peckinpah is all about externals--how common decency has been destroyed by violent behavior--and he can't even manage this without pushing the same old buttons, complete with a rape scene in which the victim, Susan George, does everything but smoke a cigarette afterwards. The filmmaker has only one card to play, the tearing down of morality in the modern man, and he stretches this out so far his plot-points become battering rams. One Oscar nomination: Best Original Score (Jerry Fielding). ** from ****
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disturbing, in a way, more for what it suggests than what it shows, and how it leads head-on through its conclusion
Quinoa19849 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Sam Pecikinpah's Straw Dogs might not be one of his very best films- after seeing the Wild Bunch it attempts the same level of psychological intensity but not the overall weight with the ensemble form- but it always kept me interested and glued to the screen. This is the kind of film, or at least has many a scene, that would work greatly in psychology and women's studies courses in colleges, to really get a real debate going about what is going on with these people. It brings issues of social class, society in general (and where you come from mostly, i.e. Brits vs. Americans), rape, violence, and a certain male domineering way that undoes everything. It's charged with an unusual Dustin Hoffman performance and Peckinpah's disorienting but exciting way of editing his scenes. These are all fractured people, and some of these scenes are fractured to the point of a kind of unhinged, brilliant disturbance. But its really the subject matter that kicks things into people's mind sets, and what is and what isn't usually shown on screen. Hence, what is suggested becomes about as powerful as what is really laid on thick on screen (particularly in the 2nd half).

The main centerpiece of the film sticks this in and doesn't let up, and one wonders why logic never seems to intervene. Perhaps because this is more of a kind of treatise on behavior than any kind of typical revenge story. This centerpiece- where Susan George's character gets raped by an ex-boyfriend, and then gang raped by the men working on her and her husband David's (Hoffman) garage- acts as the first tip of the scale in what becomes un-hinged for them in this little British community. It's at first, of course, a real sexual crime as he forces himself upon her. But then, apparently, she succumbs to it and becomes lusting towards the man who once was close to her. But then the other men come in, pointing a gun at him to get up, he does, and then the full-on rape ensues. This is all edited (along with Hoffman, oblivious, off on a strange Quail hunt) to maximum efficiency, and is probably one of the more provoking scenes from any film of the 70s. Is this really more of a male viewpoint, the typical 'no means yes' thought process by the director, or is there something even deeper not being read right off the bat? Or is it clear as day that this is just the real, shattering force to drive the rest of the film? The latter might be truer to me. This then becomes further complicated later in the film as the men break into the house, and what preceded it with the tension she has with David.

Then, as the film rolls into its final chapters, as Henry Niles (David Warner, always good) has been hit by accident by David driving home and taken in, is suspected of murder of a girl. "This is my home, I can't let them in" says David, and so the violence becomes widespread, almost bordering over the top (i.e. bear-trap). It comes about as close as one could figure to the final act of The Wild Bunch, and it has that same visceral impact. But in a way, these scenes aren't really AS engaging as some other ones, like a very tense scene where before all of this happens David and Amy (George) go to some Catholic shindig, where her visions of what just happened, surrounded by the very same men who committed the act, are compacted into something quite terrible for her. This editing job, headed by three editors, is quite eye-catching, if of the period, and sets the tone for everything that takes place. It's quite the subjective movie, a precursor perhaps to Taxi Driver. But this is not to say I thought the film flawless- George's performance, while occasionally gripping and sincere, usually didn't do it for me and almost made the character too thin to really understand (maybe only till the very end does her character come full circle). It also has a couple of last lines that are either very good or very annoying. And some of the early scenes in the film make a little too obvious what the mood might become.

But all of this aside, Straw Dogs works as a film meant to turn the heat up about what it means to reach the 'breaking point' for both men and women, who are far from being very 'good' people but try not to be evil either. The ones that are made to be the antagonists are almost cartoonish (one of the British thugs practically can't stop laughing, that is until he breaks into the house). There's a lot that can be read into this film, and it might even work better for me on a repeat viewing. It's controversy doesn't really wane thirty-five years later, and it questions the actions of almost all involved, almost asking us to judge, but presenting us in general with a vision into a kind of hell. Hence why it might work best in psychology classes.
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Unpleasant classic
Coventry9 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Director Sam Peckinpah never really was known for the subtlety or charitably in his films, but he has really surpassed himself with the cruelty "Straw Dogs". This is an ultimately rude and rancorous film and, even though I'm entirely against the banning of movies in general, it truly isn't suitable viewing for certain types of audiences. The graphic violence and disturbing atmosphere didn't bother me at all. Lord knows I'm all pro-violence, but in this particular movie it's really difficult to accept how the violence is glorified! Starting random fights, carrying around shotguns, assaulting other men's wives and taking the law in your own hands…all these awry things are portrayed like they're something you have to do in order to become a REAL man. The absolute height of this wrongful illustration unquestionable is the despicable rape-sequence halfway in the film. Feminists and women-organizations made so many efforts to enfeeble the whole myth, and yet Peckinpah shoots the sequence like it's the ultimate fantasy of every man: she timidly says "no" and gives her attacker a couple of weak slaps in the face, but she clearly means "yes" and she even enjoys the rough hands and sweat-stinking body of a true macho. Many 70's movies handled about rape & revenge ("Last House on the Left", "Deliverance", "I Spit on your Grave", "A Clockwork Orange"…), but "Straw Dogs" is the only one of the bunch that approaches the themes as completely impeccable subjects. David and Amy Sumner are initially introduced as introvert and more educated people, but apparently this isn't good enough for Sam Peckinpah! Real males drink, fight, work with their hands and dominate females. Killing everyone who perpetrates his property at the end of the movie looks almost like a reward for David; a sign of manhood. Disgusting!

Does all this mean that "Straw Dogs" is a bad movie and/or unworthy of his classic reputation? Well, the answer is no and that's the tricky part! No matter how much I'd like to warn people NOT to watch it, I can't deny that it's a very well made film and compelling film. The build up towards the inevitably violent climax is truly fascinating. Our young couple initially encounters antipathetic behavior of the Cornish community, then hostility and only then pure inhumanity. Our controversial director masterfully illustrates these switches in tone by simple sound and editing-tricks. The scene where Amy is raped, for example, gets constantly interfered by images of David walking home from hunting, totally unaware that he was lured out of his house. Also undeniable is the influence "Straw Dogs" had on future controversial cinema. This film is completely aware of its controversy but doesn't give a damn whether or not people have moral issues it. This in-your-face attitude somewhat became a standard rule in later cult films.
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This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house.
hitchcockthelegend16 February 2020
Straw Dogs is directed by Sam Peknipah and Peckinpah co-adapts to screen play with David Zelag Goodman from the novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" written by Gordon Williams. It stars Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna, Del Henney and Ken Hutchison. Music is by Jerry Fielding and cinematography by John Coquillon.

A young American maths teacher and his English wife move to the rural English village where she was raised and face increasingly vicious harassment from the locals...

One of Peckinpah's masterpieces (yes you can have more than one), Straw Dogs is an uncompromising dissection of violence, machismo and boundary pushing of the human condition. Controversy around the film reigned supreme upon release (and long into the dead part of the video nasty era 1980s), and in fact still today it is still pored over as an abject lesson in audience manipulation. For a s the power struggle between a husband and wife against their abusers reaches boiling point, ultra violence and sexual assault attacks the viewer's senses.

Peckinpah is in his pomp here, making us observers complicit in the ultimate cynical premise. It's not so much that violence begets violence, but that a mild mannered man has to resort to extreme violence - thus repelling his once firm code of morals - in order to defend what should in fact be his right. Hoffman is excellent, layering the character arc to perfection, while George as his wife is sexually suggestive, spiteful and positively superb in bringing to vivid life such a challenging characterisation.

As the director (see what he could do when not pestered by studio execs) pulls the audience's strings, and Fielding lays a haunting musical score over proceedings (Oscar Nominated), we have been privy to one of the best and most caustic observations of violence put on the screen. 10/10
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A Confused Movie More Than Anything Else
Theo Robertson20 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I remember more than 20 years ago STRAW DOGS was avaliable 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 everytime 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
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An amazing movie, both intelligent and visceral.
Hey_Sweden5 February 2012
In addition to being one of the most controversial movies of its kind over 40 years ago, "Straw Dogs" is still quite a potent and upsetting experience in 2012, the kind of thing that not only has some cutting things to say about relationships and the nature of humankind but also affects us at a gut level as well. It doesn't flinch at any time, nor does it pussyfoot around. Quite simply, director / co-screenwriter Sam Peckinpah is unafraid at any time to show just how ugly things can get once they start escalating. A core theme is the time-honoured one of how much a "civilized" person can take before they snap and resort to primitive methods to protect their homes and lives. Based on the novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" by Gordon M. Williams, it tells the story of an American mathematician, David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), who moves with his young wife Amy (English beauty Susan George) to an isolated village where tensions start arising between them and the locals, among them boisterous barfly Tom Hedden (Peter Vaughan) and Charlie Venner (Del Henney), with whom Amy was once involved. Things take a turn for the worst when the ostracized Henry Niles (played by an uncredited David Warner) is seen in the company of Hedden's daughter and the locals come to confront David, who's given Henry shelter after a car accident. As has been noted, Peckinpah doesn't need to concern himself with style as this story is compelling enough to not need a lot of embellishment. It's told in a methodical, straightforward fashion, with the pacing efficient but never quite racing, even in the brutal, climactic action, wherein David has to use his brains to battle his opponents. The cast is completely convincing right down the line, playing characters who are most definitely not one dimensional. The local atmosphere also helps immeasurably, in addition to Jerry Fielding's music. It makes sense that some viewers of this classic movie may not be able to really appreciate it as it is the sort of experience that sticks with you, for better and for worse. Its power is impossible to deny. The violence is strong and if one sees the uncut version with a key rape sequence restored, the impact is even stronger. "Straw Dogs" truly isn't for the faint of heart: it's grim, uncompromising, and does make one think about their own attitudes towards the subjects examined during the story. Top notch. 10 out of 10.
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Badly dated
preppy-331 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
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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Slow Burn to Inferno
LeonLouisRicci14 May 2013
This is one of those Movies that has sadly diminished in its power over time. It was inevitable. But at the time it had a charge that was undeniable. When audiences came out of the Theatre in 1971 they were not the same as when they went in. Few knew the impact that was about to be unleashed on the screen.

At the time the "new" violence was just starting to emerge but was only in a smattering of Films and it still could surprise and shock and was at its most effective when coming out of the blue or in an unsuspecting format. Westerns, Horror, War, and Police Movies were starting to include the ultra-violence almost routinely. So for the most part it was expected.

But here we have a Drama, a sort of Soap-Opera Story of Newlyweds in the Countryside on a Sabbatical/Vacation. It starred the effeminate Dustin Hoffman and it seemed like a Character study of Marriage and young love relationships. Or so the audience thought. But it was more than that, much more. It ended up being a struggle for Manhood and a penalty for flirtatious, immature behavior erupting, after some very slow burns into one of the most unexpected displays of Cinematic carnage yet witnessed.

You can't go back, and things are never the same. But this one was an explosive barrier breaker and changed Movie styles and graphic violence and Screen expectations forever. A seminal work that even today can be quite challenging and impressive. It is at times quite uncomfortably tense and disturbing, but it is a masterwork of an unrestrained uberism.

NOTE: Forget the remake, it is a virtually worthless rehash of almost scene for scene without the grit and grind of the original.
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I'll have an answer, or I'll have blood!
lastliberal21 March 2008
They couldn't give director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) an Oscar for this film, so they nominated it for musical score. After all, the film was banned in some areas for excessive violence and sex.

The sex in the film was violent as Amy (Susan George - The House Where Evil Dwells) is raped by what I surmise was an old beau and one of his friends while they had her husband David (Dustin Hoffman) out in the woods hunting birds.

But, the violence didn't stop there as a group of outraged citizens went after a man (David Warner - Titanic, Time After Time) they believed did something to a young girl. Any resemblance that Hoffman had to his Rain Man or Graduate characters disappeared as he strove to protect the man. He definitely showed that there is a violent beast within all of us that is waiting to be unleashed at the right moment.

It was a hard movie due to the violence, but an excellent example of Peckinpah's work.
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"Straw Dogs" Has Teeth!!!
zardoz-1315 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Controversial filmmaker Sam Peckinpah forsook his characteristic Old West setting in "Straw Dogs" to depict how the most harmless milquetoast in the universe can metamorphose into a man of violence. Basically, what you have in Peckinpah's sixth film is the theme of survival of the fittest. British author Gordon Williams' novel "The Siege at the Trencher's Farm" served as the film's literary source. According to Peckinpah biographer David Wheddle," Peckinpah changed the title of the film to "Straw Dogs" based on Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu's quote in "The Book of 5,0000 Characters." The passage Peckinpah cited is "Heaven and Earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs: the sage is ruthless and treated the people as straw dogs. ... Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?" Weddle doesn't identify the individual who gave Peckinpah the inspiration for the quotation. According to Marshal Fine and Garner Simmons in their respective Peckinpah biographies "Blood Sam" and "Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage," actor Walter Kelly furnished the director with Tzu's quote. Initially, writes Peckinpah biographer Garner Simmons, "Logan's Run" scenarist David Z. Goodman penned two early drafts of the script. Goodman told Simmons about the differences between the book and the film. One of the minor changes was that the novel's protagonist George Magruder was an English professor rather than an astrophysicist. The biggest change, however, was no rape occurred in the novel. Furthermore, according to Simmons, Williams hated Peckinpah's use of sex, not violence.

Mild-mannered American mathematician David Sumner (a bespectacled Dustin Hoffman of "The Graduate") takes a sabbatical in tranquil Cornwall, England, far away from the violence and unrest in America so he can work on a grant. When the villagers ask him if he saw any of this turmoil, David says that he only saw the violence between the commercials on television. The rural Cornwall village, where "Straw Dogs" takes place, is the hometown of his slutty wife Amy (Susan George of "Lola"), and their marriage appears to be deteriorating because his Lolita-type spouse wants him to pay more attention to her than work on his equations. Simmons quotes Hoffman who wasn't entirely sold on either Susan George's casting as well as the notion that David would have married such a shallow-minded woman. Indeed, Amy traipses around the village with no bra on as he brings her husband the gift of a man-trap used in the old days to catch poachers.

Amy excites the locals with her no-bra-look. As it turns out, one of the locals is none other than an old boyfriend Charlie Venner (Del Henney of "Brannigan") who Amy hasn't seen in six years. Charlie helps David load the man-trap into his convertible Triumph coupe. David decides to hire Charlie to help Norman Scutt (Ken Hutchison of "Ladyhawke") complete work on the roof of his garage. These ruffians are more intent on watching Amy parade around bare-chested than perform their chores. Meantime, the locals are not sure about how to deal with David. Of course, the local constable, Major John Scott (T.P. McKenna of "Red Scorpion"), and the Reverend Barney Hood (Colin Welland of "Villain"), treat David with kindness, but Tom Hedden (Peter Vaughan of "The Mackintosh Man") and his relatives have nothing but contempt for him. Eventually, Tom's evil relatives and their friends take David on a duck hunting trip and abandon him in the wilderness, while Charlie and his mate Norman rape Amy. First, Charlie rapes Amy in a lovingly tender fashion, but Norman shares none of Charlie's sentiments. Meantime, a simpleton, Harry Niles (David Warner of "The Omen") arouses trouble because he was not jailed for a sex crime. Everything comes to a head after a church party when Tom's slutty daughter Janice Hedden (Sally Thomsett of "Baxter!") tries to take advantage of Harry because David wants nothing to do with her. Tom has warned Henry's brother about him.

The simple-minded Henry and Janice retire to a barn for their assignation. Poor Janice has no idea that she is playing with fire. Henry kills her in a scene straight out of "Of Mice and Men" with a conspicuous lack of emotion. Later, David hits Henry with his car on the way home from the church party. A drunken Tom and his mates show up at David's house and demand that he hand over Henry. David refuses and chaos ensues. When Major Scott tries to intervene, Tom kills him by accident and things get out of hand. Amy wants David to hand over Henry to Tom and company, but our hero refuses. At the same time, he tries to maintain his nonviolence, but Tom and company sorely try him until he retaliates and everybody but David, Amy, and Henry survive. Dustin Hoffman delivers a dynamic performance and Peter Vaughn makes a nefarious villain.

Several scenes stand out by themselves. For example, Peter Vaughan's first scene in the bar when he calls for another pint and raises hell until he gets it is vigorous stuff. The scene when Hoffman careens in his Triumph between a truck and a bull dozer approaching each other when him slipping between them is exciting. Peckinpah orchestrated the final quarter-hour for maximum suspense and tension. The bloodiest that "Straw Dogs" gets is when a lout blows his foot off with his own double-barreled shotgun. Peckinpah builds up the narrative so that we are aware of what the opposition looks like and makes Hoffman look so naive and harmless that you relish the outcome when he defeats his enemies. Peckinpah foreshadows the use of a giant steel mantrap and his use of violence is still grisly but it seems toned-down but realistic compared with his classic western "The Wild Bunch." The ambiguous ending will prompt many interpretation. As David is driving the retarded Niles home, Niles says, "I don't know my way home." David replies, "That's okay, neither do I."
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