Straw Dogs (1971)

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Susan George

“Heaven and Earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad of creatures as straw dogs: the sage is ruthless, and treat the myriad of creatures as straw dogs…Is not the space between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?”

In the mood for a little of the ol’ ultraviolence? Well look no further, this one’s got it in spades. Of Peckinpah’s numerous gruesome action films, Straw Dogs stands out as his most brutal and controversial. Next to the Wild Bunch, it might be his best.

Timid American mathematician David Sumner moves to his young wife’s home town to escape the madness of the city. Once there, the couple’s intimacy disentigrates as David pours himself into his work and neglected wife, Amy, begins to flirt with the local brutes, one of whom being her ex-boyfriend. Peceptions of snobbery and general ostracizsm leads to David becoming the butt of numerous pratical jokes that eventually escalate into violence. The centerpiece of the film is an extended gang rape scene that starts out ambiguous and then turns to pure horror. Backed into a corner, David snaps and with an uncharacteristic change of persona becomes a ruthless vigilante. A mob descends on the Sumner household and David goes on a wild killing spree murdering all the attackers.

Straw Dogs is not for the faint of heart, but it’s visceral and sometimes horrific displayals of violence reflect true feelings of fear, revulsion, and rage. Some claim it to be celebratory of fascist violence and chauvinism and while those themes could be exploited, it’s more a stark examination of the savagery of the human condition and a cautious example of our repressed potentials.

Other Notable Films by this Director: The Wild Bunch (1969), The Getaway (1972), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

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