A very good, and mostly unknown movie directed by Sam Peckinpah

This movie was banned in the UK and features a large "BANNED IN THE UK" stamp on the cover of the movie box. This movie starts out with David (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife (Susan George) moving back to her home town in rural England to get away from the violence of the "big city". When the couple decides to hire 3 men to do work on there house things start to go wrong, the 3 local men start to harrass them and David does nothing about it, as the harrassment increases David still does nothing about it, at which point a young mentally disabled man is accused of killing a young girl. David takes the young man into his house and prepares to fight off the locals looking for blood, but what comes is something David is not expecting which turns out to be a very violent gun battle between the locals and him.

This movie is definitly worth watching more then once, and is probably Sam Peckinpah's best.
The phrase 'straw dogs' is drawn from the Tao Te Ching, and refers to ceremonial objects of ancient China, carefully prepared and employed in ritual with great reverence, and then thrown away like rubbish. In this manner are Heaven and Earth said to treat the ten thousand things or myriad creatures.

'Heaven and Earth are ruthless, and treat the ten thousand things like straw dogs.'

The lesson, I suppose, is that one shouldn't rely on the favour of heavenly beings for one's survival.
Sam Peckinpah, know for his energetic, if not violent movies, has made a career of taking what for others would be simply gratuitious, and making myth.

In The Wild Bunch, he tells the story of a man drawn toward his comrades, and pushed from his enemies, using cinematic techniques to force us to reconsider what is actually happening.

In Straw Dogs there is not the movement of his other films; David hopes to find a sanctuary from the world, so he can do his advanced research on stars--and what could be more abstract, more divorced from reality and its violence.

David fled the violence in California, with its student riots and police repression, to come to the home of his new--and smolderingly sexual wife--to find peace; even she has other plans; part of the tension comes from the apparant mis-match fo the cerebral david with his sensual wife.

I cannot adequately describe the reactions to the first viewing of the film a close woman friend and I had: we were simply overwhelmed by the power of it. Peckinpah orchestrates the sexual undertones to fuel a story that for all its modern trappings, is primeval.

Like Deke Thornton, played by Robert Ryan in The Wild Bunch, David is not the originator of the action, though he is living out the consequences of his decision to flee the world--if you leave the world, the world will seek you out with a vengeance, or so is Peckinpah's message.

The tension rises to an unbearably pitch as David is led on a hunting expedition by the men who are fixing up the house he has rented, and are old friends of his wife. It is a pretext to get him away from her. As he waits, the scene cross-cuts to the brutal double-rape of his wife; he just sits there, in the light of a star, waiting for the others to send quail to him.

When it does come, and he kills it, there is a curious irony as we feel, knowing of the attack on his wife mixes with his response to the killing of a small bird.

The violence that erupts around the house is not simply to defend the young mentally disabled man, as plutonic describes; it is the primeval obligation to defend the home. And again, we see a character who seems to make a decision--extending protection to this man--but who is driven by deeper powers, called up by external events. What can be left to him of his own sanctuary?

The violence that follows almost completely discahrges the tension that Pechinpah builds up in the beginning of the film--like a rollercoaster the ride down is much faster, and more thrilling than the ride up.

Movies about the violence of pornography, or the pornography of violence ultimately fail to move in the way Straw Dogs does. What little power they have draws strength from the deepest recesses of us all, where myth lives, powering our lives like the sun itself.

And what are the ceremonial objects? I could be said that these are the very things that David holds dear, only to discard them as rubbish when there time comes, as Heaven and Earth treat the ten thousand things in Tiefling's description above--or even the film itself, Peckinpah's advanced research in this sun, only to be discarded as a little known porno flick.

Rape in Straw Dogs

The film Straw Dogs(1971) was supposed to be about a mathematician named David (played by Dustin Hoffman) who goes to the country with his wife to do his research. The subtext is supposed to deal with "masculinity". David has been pushed around before and now he starts to get pushed around again by the locals in rural Cornwall. In the end, after a triumphant stand, he saves the day. For me though this movie was overshadowed by the one constant and disturbing theme: if a woman teases a man she will get what she deserves.

This man who has been harassing the couple comes to the door when the husband is away. The wife is scared of him, knows he is dangerous, but lets him in. Eventually what the movie has been building up to occurs, he makes an advance on her, she has been flirting and teasing him through out the movie, she slaps him, he slaps her back, and we begin the rape scene. Intially the rape scene is disorienting because she is resisting and then not really resisting but is saying stop and it's all very confusing and powerfully done. Finally, after it's apparent that she seems into it, another guy comes in and does full out rape her with the first guys help and she is definitely not enjoying that. Okay, that's all fucked up enough and terrible (the reason Straw Dogs was originally banned in the UK, five days ago its was un-banned, was because she seemed to like the rape) but on its own is not so surprising, people have written about rape being something which a woman ends up enjoying before, as disgusting as that message is. What is worse is the way the scene is interpreted through the following scenes.

The husband, who is home now and doesn't know about the rape, is fighting with his wife and calling her a child and saying she always acts like a little girl, an idea expressed throughout the movie used here as foreshadowing, and that she needs to grow up. The scene after that a young girl ends up leading a known pedophile into a dark barn and she starts to seduce the pedophile. He somewhat resists, and when voices are heard he accidentally strangles the young girl who led him out there. Throughout that whole scene we flash between the wife at church, her rape at the hands of the two men and the pedophile with the little girl. That is a fucking ridiculous message to send, that the woman who was raped in her home was the same as a stupid young girl that leads a pedophile into an alley to seduce him and ends up being strangled. It's obvious that is the idea the director is aiming for because the young girls only function in the film is to tease the pedophile to contrast the wifes teasing of the men who rape her. There are no other female roles in this movie except a quiet preachers wife. The movie ends with Hoffman killing everybody while he yells at his cowardly wife who just runs around screaming. The only role a woman has in this movie about masculinity is that of a rape victim who brings the act upon herself. If the wife is being compared to a stupid young girl then who are her rapists in the comparison? Just men who can't control their urges like the quiet mentally slow pedophile, who resists, until finally his desires take over when faced with a naive temptress. A temptress who has put him in this situation in the first place and thus brought the consequences on herself.

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