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Straw Dogs

Year: 1971
Production Co: ABC Pictures
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writer: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, David Warner
After hearing about the controversies surrounding this movie it went straight onto my 'must see' list. There were two that drew me to it. Star Dustin Hoffman commented recently that he wasn't interested in making violent movies, a statement critics took him to task on with Straw Dogs in mind.

The other is the controversy of sexual politics over whether Susan George - playing Hoffman's British wife - enjoys it when a thug ex boyfriend breaks into their house to rape her.

Yes, the scene is extremely dodgy. She's being held down and sexually assaulted and she starts to groan in pleasure and grasp her attacker around the neck. It could only have come from a director who was either so out of touch with real women and how they'd react (and being 1971, it's probable) or too misogynist to care, believing they're truly asking for it - just as likely given writer/director Sam Peckinpah's history of balls-out films of masculine swagger.

A sort of domestic Assault on Precinct 13, young mathematician David (Hoffman) lives with his beautiful young British wife Amy (George) in remote Cornwall, where the locals are less than friendly, seem quite inbred and spend their days getting pissed up in the pub and angling for a fight over whatever concerns they can rile each other up about.

One is the intellectually disabled pervert Niles (Warner) who they think should stay away from the teenage object of his affections.

David is a spineless wretch, trying to avoid trouble and not even confronting three of local bozos when it's plain they've brutally killed Amy's cat. But when Niles does get the girl into his clutches and tragedy ensues, Of Mice and Men style, fate delivers him to David and Amy's house.

With the fired-up and armed locals hot on his trail, David barricades the house, suddenly firm in his belief that due process of justice be done rather than a lynching, and he fights the goons off as they try to make their way inside in frightening and increasingly bloody circumstances.

It seems to be saying something about how modern urban life has bled all the primal nature out of men (the gender, rather than the race), and at the risk of sounding like a modern killjoy, the backward sexual politics jar too much.

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