Straw Dogs Cover Sometimes you never know when you are on to a good thing, right? You are just happy that the world is not falling down around you, and that everything seems to be at one with everything else. However, on occasion, there are times when this is not so clear, as depicted in this film Directed by Sam Peckinpah; and Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, and David Warner. It was made in 1971, and lasts for 118 minutes.

Straw Dogs (Unrated Version) [Blu-ray]

Mathematician, David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), and his wife, Amy (Susan George), thought that it would be a good idea to move into Amy’s father farmhouse location in the British countryside, so that David could write his thesis in peace. But alas – they were both wrong. Because once at this local, they have to hire two workmen, Charlie (Del Henney) and Norman (Ken Hutchison), to fix the barn roof. Next, they have to employ exterminator, Chris (Jim Norton), to get rid of the rats in the house. And on top of that, they witness the town drunk, Tom Hedden (Peter Vaughan), show his distain for the town simpleton, Henry Niles (David Warner), too.

But wait, there is more...

  • A PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT: Both David and Amy are having a strained time living together in the farmhouse. David just gets distracted from the workmen whilst they are carrying out their work – and Amy gets frustrated because David is committed to his work. Still, to juxtapose this stance, there are times when they are happy with each other’s company – like when they are in bed together – or when they’re visited by the reverent, his wife, and the Major, whom invite them to a church function. 
  • THE DEAD CAT AND THE RAPISTS: At the sight of a dead Cat hanging in their bedroom closet, David and Amy know straight away that it was one of the workmen who put it there. And so does David confront them about this matter? Well – he tries. But in so doing, he gets distracted by Amy, and accepts an invitation to go shooting with them for the very next day instead. However, the next day, whilst David is away from Amy, two of the workmen – Charlie and Norman – sneak away from him, before they creep back into the farmhouse, and commit an act of utmost indecency on Amy. They rape her. 
  • THE FINAL CONFRONTATION: Town simpleton, Henry, is always being warned by his elders to stay away from girls. And to give Henry his due, he does try his best to do just that. However, one girl in particular – Tom’s daughter, Janice (Sally Thomsett) – keeps on approaching him again and again, which inadvertently leads Henry to a whole world of trouble. So, in haste, Henry bumps into David and Amy on the road – literally – an inadvertent act that leads these three people to a confrontation of infinite significance. Because what then transpires is harsh – brutal – slow – painful – and sordid – but ultimately a resolution of sorts for all involved.   

I first watched ‘Straw Dogs’ many years ago, at a time before I could grow proper facial hair, and whilst I was recovering from minor surgery due to an accident, I had. And strangely enough, I still remember to this very day what I thought about this film – ‘Women who wear tight sweaters and no bra are really tasty’. Granted, I did think about a lot of other things concerning this film as well (which I will get to in a bit). But that was the first thing I though – that, plus that Dustin Hoffman’s hair was really shiny.

As for the rest of the film on the other hand, what can I say? Well? I like it. That’s a given. After that, I would have to say that it has that seventies panache about the piece, thus giving the whole production that gritty and grainy quality which I really like. Moreover, the story is theatrical in construction, whilst at the same time being mannered in the execution. And for me – personally – it is this latter quality that gives this film its charm.

Dustin in Straw Dogs

Now what I mean when I say this ‘charming’ statement, is that you have to take into consideration about the fundamental concepts that differentiate ‘the theatre’ from ‘on screen work’. In the theatre, things are over-produced and pronounced – thus giving the overall feel a bold and dynamic flair. Whereas, on screen work, especially of the mannered variety, thing are more subtle and less pronounced – thus making context subliminal in both tone and flavor.

You see, in the case of ‘Straw Dogs’, there are a lot of things that go unsaid throughout the film, such as: (1) Why Dustin Hoffman’s character is initially perceived as a coward by Susan Georges character, and why they both felt that they had to ‘hide away’ as they did. (2) During the infamous rape scene, why Susan George’s character initially resisted this act, before seemingly accepting it. And (3) What happened to David Warner’s character for him to behave in the way that he did, and why wasn’t something done to help him. 

Action in Straw Dogs

Now normally when things like these are not spelt out in a film – for me – this can lead me into becoming disenchanted with it, and emotionally detached. However, when the cast are as good as Hoffman – Warner – Vaughn – and George – plus the director is none other than Sam ‘The Man’ Peckinpah himself, I have no choice but to become enthralled with it. I found the drama intriguing – the action well constructed (specifically the end sequence) – the acting sullen yet charming – and the overall package something that lives up to its name. Moreover, you know that this is a great film when actors such as Sidney Poitier, Jack Nicholson, Donald Sutherland, Jacqueline Bisset, Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, and Hayley Mills wanted to be in it, as well as that the source material was based on the novel ‘The Siege of Trencher's Farm’ by Gordon Williams.

Well, why else do you think they remade this film this year?

Also, can someone please tell me where Susan George bought her sweater from? Because I would like to buy one for a lady I know – it would be very 'subtly pronounced' – just like this film.

Susan George Jumper in Straw Dogs

A great film – a great cast – and a great tone too.


STRAW DOGS STRAW DOGS Reviewed by David Andrews on November 18, 2011 Rating: 5
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