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RELEASED: 1971, Cert.18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 120 mins
DIRECTOR: Sam Peckinpah
PRODUCER: Daniel Melnick
SCREENPLAY: Sam Peckinpah & David Zelag Goodman
MUSIC: Jerry Fielding
Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner
Susan George as Amy Summer
VILLAGE CHARACTERS: Riddaway, Charlie Venner, Tom Hedden, Major John Scott, Chris Cawsey, Charlie Venner, Norman Scutt, Harry Ware, Bobby Hedden, Janice Hedden, Harry Ware and John Niles
FILM ONLY REVIEW
When David Sumner decides to settle in England with his wife Amy in Wakely, which is the Cornwall village where she grew up, the tension begins from the day they move into a cottage about a mile or so down the road. When David visits the village pub to buy some cigarettes, he is viewed as some sort of bizarre outsider and feels very awkward amidst the local clique who doesn't appear to extend a warm welcome to strangers.
Back home at the cottage, things aren't always hunky dory between David and Amy, as she gets angry when he immerses himself in his work as a mathematician. When Amy constantly nags David to do household tasks, such as minor repairs, he decides to employ a team of local men to do some odd jobs, which include re-roofing one of the cottage's out-buildings. One of the workmen is Amy's ex-lover who through jealousy, takes an instant dislike to David.
Before long, the village workmen begin a campaign of harassment against David and Amy, beginning with strangling their pet cat....graduating to darker, nastier things, and despite David's awkward attempts at befriending the men, he and Amy find themselves being victimised in a way that is all but impossible to deal with.
That sets the scene....watch it yourself to learn more.
When I first saw Straw Dogs back in the early 1970s, it was considered a very shocking film, and I can remember that the censors in my home town wouldn't allow the film to be shown at local cinemas for a couple of years after its release, so I had to hop on the train and go to London to see it. I clearly recall leaving the cinema feeling rather spaced-out and shocked, as I'd never seen anything quite so sinister and violent before. It played on my mind for some time afterwards, and I didn't take the plunge into watching the film again until very recently.
This time around, I can honestly say that I found Straw Dogs nowhere near as shocking as I did back in the 1970s, most likely due to having seen much worse in more recent years which quite likely and up to a point has inured me to certain aspects of cinematic savagery.
As probably would be expected, Dustin Hoffman is very good in his role as David Sumner - I don't think he could act badly if he tried - but for me, this is by no means anywhere near the best part I've seen him play. Susan George seems to oscillate between the extremes of coming across as very irritating...sometimes a little vacuous...yet at other points in the film her truer acting abilities shine through. On my recent viewing of Straw Dogs, I couldn't here and there detach myself from Susan George reminding me more than a little of Anneka Rice, and that's a sure fire way to alienate me from anything.
My favourite cast members were the boozy, foul-mouthed, thuggish male villagers who David hired to repair his roof. Although their behaviour at certain points in the film is bizarrely over the top (I'm sure small villages in Cornwall weren't that backward during the early 1970s), each sub-cast member projects a sinister loutishness that actually is quite disturbing and a bit scary.
One thing which particularly threw people up in arms when Straw Dogs first did the cinema rounds in the early 1970s was the rape scene and the way it was portrayed....with most people being deeply shocked once they'd seen the film. I have to stick my neck out and say that to me, it doesn't come across as intensely as rape is portrayed in some other films, one of those being from the same year as Straw Dogs, so it wasn't an era or a censorship thing. I'm not saying that it is unrealistic or any less shocking than any other film portrayal...merely that it doesn't hit me personally quite so severely as I've seen elsewhere.
Overall, Straw Dogs does have more of a feel of a play about it than a film as much of the storyline revolves around ordinary, domestic life. The music is utterly unmemorable for me as I've never noticed it, but I do feel that some of the buildup to the main event is overly long and perhaps unnecessary. There are even parts of the film that I find a little tedious, and the violent finale, although very nasty, I don't find anywhere near as shocking as I did some forty years ago.
This is very much a film of its era, and I have noticed that yet another of these infernal remakes has occurred - one which I can't comment on as I haven't seen it, but despite me not being as enamoured with the original Straw Dogs as a lot of people are, I still feel that it's an important piece of historic cinema that should be left alone, un-tampered with!
The 1971 version of Straw Dogs probably would appeal to those who like the psychological thriller genre, but if you haven't seen it and plan to, I'd urge you not to anticipate violent content to the levels that more modern productions are so explicit with. It is true that it's a nasty film and very violent, but when you're watching a movie where you can see punches being thrown that obviously aren't hitting their target - yet are meant to - and are filmed that way due to less advanced levels of technology, it's kind of difficult to take it too seriously or be too upset by it.
At the time of writing, Straw Dogs can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £13.44 to £59.99 !!!
Used: from £2.15 to £18.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ May also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
note: also appears on Flixster and The Student Room in part
Straw Dogs is a film that's been a favourite of my dad's for years. He in fact had to buy it in 2001 on the American Region 1 DVD, because the film was banned for a long time in the UK. It was unbanned a few years ago though, and had a DVD release. Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece about human nature and the origins of violence is finally available for all to see.
The film depicts an American mathematician, David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), who is married to an English woman, Amy (Susan George), and they decide to go the English countryside to get a little rest and relaxation. However, they didn't bank on the locals being violent and savage, resulting in his wife being viciously "raped", in one of the most controversial scenes in cinema history, in which Amy begins to enjoy the sexual assault halfway through. This has led some to label the film as misogynistic, and whilst I don't think this is true, it does push a lot of buttons.
The real treat of the film is Hoffman's performance as a man turning to violence to repel a bunch of savages and defend his own and his wife's honour. It's a far cry from a lot of his work, but it's a fiercely strong performance and one that fans should really check out for something a little different from the man.
I must also praise Susan George for a very brave performance, although I do recall hearing that she felt manipulated by Peckinpah, as he promised to edit the infamous rape scene differently. Nevertheless, her role was a hugely challenging one and she is to be praised for it.
A devilishly dark tale of morality, featuring a highly controversial, intensely intriguing rape scene. Hoffman and George are marvellous as the leads, and this is an important film, far ahead of its time.
Straw Dogs is a Sam Pekinpah film, adapted from 'The Siege of Trenchers Farm' a 1969 novel by Gordon Williams, it is known by many simply for the brutal violences which seemed shocking at the time but now seems brutal but not out of the ordinary.
It has a reputation due to a brutal rape scene, which is awful, but absolutely relevant to the story and the dramatic events that follow. As it was not allowed for home release it developed a notoriety along with Clockwork Orange which wasn't entirely deserved.
The film is about David and Amy Sumner (Dustin Hoffman and Susan George) a couple who move to the remote Cornish village where Amy grew up ironically to escape the violence and brutality of inner city America.
Due to a misunderstanding over some building work the Sumners ask for on their broken down farmhouse, a local builder Charlie Venner (Del Henney) and his workmen create whispers about the Sumners and a campaign of deep seated mistrust and resentment develops into something much more brutal, as the initially playful bullying forces David to stand up for his family in the only manner they understand.
The film is interestingly relevant today prevailing on man's ability to hurt and destroy others, it looks at taking somebody from the brutal landscape of inner city America and shows that rural Cornwall is just as dangerous, because man is the same no matter where you go, he just talks differently.
Hoffman and George are very good in their roles as suburban-ites forced to deal with something they really had no wish to, Hoffman shows great range going from weak willed city boy to a man who understands there must be only one way to protect his family. George brings depth to her role as his wife, knowing she is the reason they've moved back to this hellish place and realising her memories aren't quite in touch with life in this enclosed community.
The portrayal of the Cornish community is a bit clichéd and does bring to mind the Alan Partridge quote about 'Big eared boys', it makes them too simplistic and easily led by their powerful patriarch.
The film is fairly open in a number of ways, we see a lot of violence and have to question who is right and wrong, who is the hero here. Is David a hero, or do his actions make him worse than the bullies, I actually like this as it allows us the viewers to make some decisions rather than being told what to think, I watched the film ten years ago and watched it again last week, I came to different conclusions about its morality as I'm now at a different point in my life, I love that it's a film with an uncomfortable sense of ethics and one that makes you think and question everything. It is violent and at times its scarily so having lived in the country and seen the way people can use isolation and whispers to intimidate outsiders. The film is beautifully shot and Pekinpah builds the pace of the film slowly, using real suspense to create a claustrophobic dimension of realism which adds fear.
The idyllic setting looks amazing, but its very desolate beauty adds to the tension and feelings of fear that exhude through the film, the score underplays the action perfectly and overall I'd say it's a very good film that isn't Pekinpah or Hoffman's best but is damned good, it isn't as violent as the hype and not as scary as you might imagine, it's a tense tightly written and directed diatribe about man's ability to harm each other.
The DVD is available for £7.68 on Amazon.com.
Sam Peckinpah spent a long while being well known as a director that liked to portray violence in a graphic way. His 1971 film Straw Dogs does just that, as well as touching on what is a very sensitive subject for many, as a young American man, David Sumner, and his English wife, Amy, decide to spend what they hope will be an idyllic break in rural England. What they get is resentment and hostility from the local population, resulting in violence and rape.
Somewhat out of his comfort zone but giving an excellent role as David is Dustin Hoffman. More known for his blockbuster headliner roles in his prime, this was a very dark and moody film for Hoffman to star in, but his anger and passion comes through in the character and is a very effective performance. The film deals with human nature and its response when faced with a seemingly impossible situation, giving David a primal urge and instinct for survival and revenge.
Also doing well, although very much taking a back seat to all the testosterone flying around is Susan George as Amy. Playing an aggrieved and assaulted character is something I imagine to be one of the hardest portrayals in cinema, but she does so very effectively, and her grief comes across very strongly on film. The remainder of the cast do very well, although the main focus is certainly on Hoffman and George and their reactions to such a degrading and gruelling event.
Curiously, Peckinpah handles the rape itself with actual openness, not necessarily giving the impression that it is a wrong act, underplaying it a lot, and the effect of this heightens the passion and emotion from the two leads once their human nature take over. Instead, Peckinpah's focus is on the violence that ensues from Hoffman's David Sumner. The lengths a man will go to to protect his own and to exact revenge are shown here in their primal form, as Sumner's adrenalin surges for a large part of the film, and the previously mild mannered character suddenly flips and the violence starts.
There are many things at work here, and although the film was shot in 1971 and as such is a little grainy and lacking in the special effects, this rawness merely adds to the effects of the film, which is ultimately a very open and blunt script, with equally matter of fact direction and acting. The silences Peckinpah gives us are often just as telling as as tense as the violent outbursts, adn despite the subject matter, I found myself glued to the screen, urging Sumner to get his revenge.
There are rules and laws that govern our society, and it shows man's natural instinct to discard these laws in order to protect his clan. The raw elements of the film can be rather disturbing, I must say, and I wouldn' recommend this if you are of a nervous disposition. However, don't be deterred by thinking it's not a good film: Peckinpah has given us an intensely open and raw film that is well directed and acted. High in violence and with sensitive subject matter, director and lead actor combine brilliantly!
The DVD I have of this film has no extras whatsoever. Straw Dogs is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £6.58.
When quiet American mathematician David Sumner and his wife Amy return to her native Cornwall, they are expecting a quiet life. And initially, it seems that they will get their own way. But David has a job to do, Amy feels neglected and bored, and flirting with an ex-boyfriend and his friends, who are helping to repair their delapidated home, seems an obvious way out. It soon becomes apparent that the locals have not taken to David - they go out of their way to make him feel unwelcome, including strangling the Sumner's cat and raping Amy. Then a girl is killed by a local man, who ends up at the Sumners' home, shortly followed by a gang of men baying for his blood. Before long, their home is under siege. Will the Sumners manage to get out alive?
This film was a complete surprise to me. I have heard of it, and its director, Sam Peckinpah, but I had no idea what it was about, or that it was so old - it was made way back in 1971. It is apparently known as Peckinpah's most famous film - I am just sorry that it hadn't come to my attention before. This is a deeply intriguing film, with a hint of The Wicker Man and Night of the Living Dead about it, and one that I found compelling from start to finish.
Dustin Hoffman plays David Sumner, although he looks so young that he is barely recognisable. I haven't really known Hoffman to give a poor performance, and he certainly doesn't disappoint here. David is not a particularly likeable man - he seems to have difficulty in getting on with people, including his wife, and certainly doesn't realise that the locals have not taken to him at all. However, he really comes into his own when his home is under siege. Maddened by the locals' refusal to listen to anything he has to say, he is determined that they will not cross the threshold. At this point, I found his performance mesmerising - I really couldn't take my eyes off him - and although he seemed to have lost his marbles at times, I really wanted him to come through unscathed. This is one of his best performances as far as I am concerned.
Susan George plays Amy Sumner, again looking painfully young. She is beautiful and it is easy to see why the locals were so willing to flirt with her. As a character, she does not have as much to work with as Hoffman - she really only needs to look good. However, she does come into her own in the rape scene, which focuses in on her face, and is really quite distressing. In other scenes, it is quite hard to watch her act as a secondary citizen, feeling that she cannot do anything without the prior approval of her husband - however, this is more of a sign of the social standards of the time, rather than any criticism of George as an actress.
Peter Vaughan plays Tom Hedden, the ringleader of the locals. He would only have been around fifty at the time of filming, but his long beard and old-fashioned ways make him seem much older. Hedden seems, to begin with at least, an ordinary man, determined to keep his children safe, but it is soon clear that he is capable of great violence. He is ably assisted by Charlie Venner, played by Del Henney, who is truly scary at times. Hedden's daughter is played by a very young Sally Thomsett in a very sexual role quite different from that in The Railway Children.
This film has been heavily criticised over the years for its rape scene, in which Amy is portrayed as enjoying part of it. This has been seen as highly derogatory to women. As a woman, I always find rape scenes distressing - it is always a reminder that at times we are powerless. However, I didn't find the rape scene overly distressing or particularly derogatory to women (at least, no more so than any other film rape I've seen). Amy does seem to enjoy the first part of it, which involves her ex-boyfriend, but she certainly doesn't savour the second part. In any case, we see so little - the focus really is on Amy's face rather than the action - that it is hard to be terribly offended. And I did see the uncut version, so it wasn't as if bits had been censored out. I suspect that audiences at the time the film was released were much less desensitized than a modern audience. However, of course, if you think you may be upset by it at all, then you should keep well clear of this film.
Where I think this film excelled is the build-up of suspense. Right from the start, it is clear that there are undercurrents of which we have no knowledge. I can imagine that the Cornish weren't overly welcoming of the film, because it doesn't portray them in the way that the local tourist board would have us think. In this respect, it is very like The Wicker Man, although there is no outwardly strange behaviour - it is a rural setting where people clearly have too much time to think. Then small incidents make us realise that David is never going to be accepted by the locals, no matter how friendly he is. The rape scene occurs about half way through, proving that the situation is going to come to a head, and thereafter it is a real breathless race through to the end. The last half hour is really quite amazing - I just had no idea what was going to happen next and as such, was completely glued to the screen.
It is a long time since I have been so affected by the film - and I am not talking about the rape here, I am talking about the absolute fear that the last half hour brought out in me. It is very far from being a horror film, but as far as I am concerned, it is a heck of a lot scarier than most horrors I've seen recently. I think this is because it was so realistic - I could really believe that the actors involved felt the hate that they were showing - more importantly, I could believe that such a situation could happen to any of us. I must go and lock my back door...
I was totally delighted (in a weird way) with this film. It is well-acted, but most importantly, it kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, something modern day films rarely seem to achieve. I just wish that it had been brought to my attention earlier. For those who struggle with the grainy quality of old films, you may find this difficult to watch. And of course, if you don't like violence, then you are not going to enjoy it. Otherwise though, I highly recommend this film; it is certainly one that will take pride of place in my DVD collection from now on.
The uncut DVD is available from play.com for £5.99.
Running time: 118 minutes
PHEW! There are some films that are exhausting to watch (like "The Wicker Man", for example), films that are in many ways hard work, but are still outstanding. The final, hideous moment when Edward Woodward meets his grisly end is one of cinema's most grim yet compelling moments. "Straw Dogs" displays similarities. I actually watched it in 2 sittings, as by the end of the first half I was exhausted. Set in deepest Cornwall, the two main characters (played by Dustin Hoffman and a very young Susan George) are trying to settle down together in a rural cottage. Hoffman's character is reserved and intellectual, whilst his wife, native to these parts, is emotional and carefree in comparison. Early on in the film we meet the local lads who are fixing the couple's house, who are certainly a weird, yet apparently harmless bunch. As the film progresses, these locals become more and more involved with our young couple, much to their distress. George is the focus of their attention, and the infamous rape scene is certainly shocking. There is a feeling of real claustrophobia as the innocent pair have nowhere to turn. In the climax to the action Hoffman and George, whilst shielding a killer/helpless lunatic (!) are set upon by their crazed employees. There is some gore in this bit, but it is certainly no worse than many films that are routinely passed these days. Compared to the 15 certificate violence in the awful "Starship Troopers" (how many people can we see decapitated in one film????) the violence is not that graphic. What is shocking is how you sense the fear felt by the couple. Every time a window is smashed we feel how they feel, holed up in a hellhole. The violence is a result of Hoffman's decision to actually stand up to his attackers, and I felt my inner self cheer when the last local dropped down dead! Made in 1971, the film has some charming period details, and conveys atmosphere intensely. Lo
rd knows what Cornish people though of it when it came out: this gorgeous part of the world doesn't come out of this too well!!! It certainly is a step in a different direction by the director. The notion of Dustin Hoffman killing off raging locals one by one in defence of his wife in Cornwall is not your average Peckinpah offering, but it works. You don't really "enjoy" the film - it is too gruelling - but it is intensely rewarding to watch. There's never been a film made that is like it.
Director Sam Peckinpah’s powerful film ‘Straw Dogs’ is wildly regarded as a classic and a very controversial one mainly due to its infamous rape scene. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George and features a cast of familiar British faces. The next three paragraphs contain detail elements of the films plot that you may wish to miss if you haven’t seen it. Dustin Hoffman stars as David Sumner a mild mannered American who leaves his ever increasing violent home country to live with his wife Amy in her hometown in Cornwall. The couple move into an old farmhouse which is need of renovation. They hire some local men to do the work and one of them turns out to be ex-boyfriend of Amy’s named Charlie Venner. It’s clear from the start that the locals consider David to be an outsider and as such taunt and harass him. This escalates further when on opening their bedroom wardrobe David finds Amy’s cat hanging. Tension then mounts between the couple as David ignores Amy’s requests to confront the men about the cats death. Things take a very dramatic turn one day when the men ask David to join them on a duck hunt. After luring David away from the house Charlie returns to the house where he rapes Amy, he is then joined by another one of the men and Amy is once again raped. Amy makes the decision not to tell David about the rapes and tries to carry on as normal. Then at a local church event a young girl named Janice takes the local village idiot John Niles out for a walk to a secluded barn. Here she flirts with him and leads him on, however the couple are disturbed and in his panic he accidentally strangles Janice. Knowing what will become of him if the locals find out he runs away. Back at the church event Amy asks to leave after having flashbacks about the rape and David drives her home. On their way back they run over Niles and have no choice but to take him with them and phone for the doctor from t
heir home. Unable to get in touch with the doctor David tries the local pub which of course leads the locals straight to Niles. On arriving at his home they demand that Niles be handed over to them, knowing what they will do to him David refuses. It’s at this point that David finally decides to stand up for himself and defend both his home and wife. The film itself does contain some scenes of violence towards the end but it was the rape scene which has caused the film to be rejected by the BBFC. The main problem for them was that after she was hit by Charlie and he starts to rape her Amy clearly responds showing some signs of enjoyment. Here is a direct quote from them regarding there three main issues with the film. “The first is the fact that the rapes are clearly effected by violence and the threat of violence. The second is the extent of the erotic content, notably Amy's forcible stripping and nudity. The third element of concern is the clear indication that Amy comes to enjoy being raped. It is Board policy not to condone material which endorses the well-known male rape myth that 'women like it really'.” (British Board Of Film Classification. 1999) The company involved were offered the chance to make cuts to the film to gain a certificate but refused to do so. After the initial rape another one of the men joins them and again she is raped. Now in America this was cut slightly to allow a R rating, but this turned out to be even more controversial as this cut leads the viewer to believe that the act of sodomy occurs. However the unrated version is less clear and it’s left to the viewer to decide. Of course Peckinpah could have avoided a lot of criticism by allowing the character of Amy to consent to sex with her ex-boyfriend and then just shown being raped by the second man. I suppose like many I’ve fallen into the trap of concentrating on the rape scene in my review and
it’s a shame that this scene gains nearly all of the films publicity. Putting these issues aside ‘Straw Dogs’ is still an excellent and well made film, Hoffman puts in one of the better performances of his career as the meek David Sumner. In fact all the cast are extremely good and the film has aged very well considering it was released back in 1971. It’s a little slow to begin with but this only serves to build up the tension for the films climax. ‘Straw Dogs’ is available uncut on a Region 1 DVD released by Anchor Bay if anyone is interested in seeing it. Sadly the film contains no extras but at the quality of the picture is very good. Personally I don’t think that we in the UK should be denied the opportunity to see or own ‘Straw Dogs’.
~ ~ I recently came across this old movie from the early 70’s while scouring my local video shop for something to pass away an idle evening. This is a thriller from the stable of director Sam Peckinpah, who was renowned, (some say notorious) for the graphic portrayals of violence in his films. He was one of the first Hollywood directors to use the slow motion technique to further highlight violent scenes, and to better shock the cinema audience with graphic close ups of blood and guts, which he first used in his very violent Western “The Wild Bunch” (1969) ~ ~ I recall being fairly shocked by this film when I first watched it in the cinema in 1971, so decided to have a second look to see how it had worn with age. Later I was surprised to learn that the censor here in Ireland had actually banned it up until as recently as 1999, and it is still banned to this day in the UK. (so if you really want to watch it, you’ll have to order it online from the US) ~ ~ This movie co-stars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. (Did I ever fancy this actress when I was younger!!) Hoffman plays a shy and introverted American intellectual, David Sumner, who has moved over to rural England (Cornwall) with his new young wife Amy (Susan George) who is English and originally from the area, to escape the escalating violence of society in his native USA. ~ ~ He hires some of the local citizens to repair his leaky roof (first big mistake) and a bigger bunch of drunks, misfits, thugs, and downright psychopaths you would be hard put to find. One of these characters turns out to be an old flame of his missus, and it’s here the trouble begins. ~ ~ Luring David out onto the moors on the pretext of a hunting trip, his wife Amy is then brutally gang-raped and sodomised by both her old flame and another of the friendly locals. Be duly warned, the rape scene is, even to this day, the most brutal and gr
aphic you will ever see on the screen. Peckinpah decided to show Amy actually ENJOYING being so brutally assaulted by her old boyfriend and it was this that caused the film to be banned in the UK, and which raised the hackles of feminists all around the world. (It also ultimately cost the then head of the British Board of Film Censors his job, when he decided to grant this film a certificate, along with two other controversial movies, “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Devils”, all in the same year.) That Amy also decides to not tell her husband about the rape, and not to report the incident, also did little to endear this movie to the female population. ~ ~ David then knocks down the local idiot Henry Niles (played impeccably by David Warner as a “favour” to Peckinpah) on his way home from a local function. It transpires that he has been up to some “naughties” of his own with one of the young local girls who has been leading him on, and has ended up accidentally strangling her. The local louts are out on the rampage hunting for Niles to extract bloody revenge, and when they discover that he is in David’s cottage, they arrive on the scene demanding that he hand over Niles to be summarily executed. At this point the worm (David) turns, and refuses point blank to hand over Niles to the “lynch mob”. ~ ~ Mayhem then ensues, with the cottage coming under violent siege from the locals, and being defended to the death by David, whose character as a meek, mild mannered mathematician erupts into an orgy of violence against his tormentors. The final half hour of this film is so graphically violent that it actually has to be seen to be believed, but I wont go into any further detail as it would totally ruin the whole movie for anyone who decides to watch it. ~ ~ To say that I enjoyed this film would be going much too far, as it is not something that a n
ormal, sane person could watch with any degree of pleasure. But, believe me, it will not fail to make an impression.
According to critic Pauline Kael Straw Dogs was "the first American film that is a fascist work of art". Sam Peckinpah's only film shot in Britain is adapted from a novel by Gordon M Williams called The Siege of Trencher's Farm which Peckinpah described as a "lousy book with one good action-adventure sequence". The setting is Cornwall, where mild-mannered US academic David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) has bought a house with his young English wife Amy (Susan George) in the village where she grew up. David is mocked by the locals (one of whom is Amy's ex-boyfriend) and treated with growing contempt by his frustrated wife, but when his house comes under violent siege he finds unexpected reserves of resourcefulness and aggression. The movie, Peckinpah noted, was much influenced by Robert Ardrey's macho-anthropological tract, The Territorial Imperative. Its take on Cornish village life is fairly bizarre--this is a Western in all but name--and many critics balked at the transposition of Peckinpah's trademark blood-and-guts to the supposed peace of the British countryside. A scene where Amy is raped caused particular outrage, not least since it's hinted she consents to it. Not for the first time in Peckinpah's movies there are disquieting elements of misogyny, and it doesn't help that the chemistry between Hoffman and George is non-existent. (Impossible to believe these two would ever have clicked, let alone married.) But taken as a vision of irrational violence irrupting into a civilised way of life Straw Dogs is powerful and unsettling, and the action sequences are executed with all Peckinpah's unfailing flair and venom. Oh, and that title? A quote from Chinese sage Lao-Tze, it seems, "The wise man is ruthless and treats the people as straw dogs." The film was long withheld from home viewing in Britain by nervous censors, but this release presents it complete and uncut. --Philip KempOn the DVD: Straw Dogs is as jam-packed a disc as is possible for a film made before the days of obligatory "making of" features. Both the sound and visuals have transferred well, and, like the script, have aged well. There's a bumbling original interview in the style of Harry Enfield's Mr. Cholmondley-Warner, along with stills and original trailers. The new material includes a feature on the history of the film's censorship and commentaries by Peckinpah's biographers musing over interesting fan-facts (though none of the speakers have any first-hand experience of the making of the film). However, Katy Haber's commentary, and interviews with Susan George and Dan Melnick, offer a much more in-depth and intimate portrayal of the man and the making of the film. --Nikki Disney