Old 10-15-2001, 07:14 PM
"Straw Dogs" 9/10

Straw Dogs
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, and David Warner.
1971/ 114 minutes.

In the eyes of every coward burns a straw dog.

1971 was surely a year for "ultraviolence". You had cinematic classics such as A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, The French Connection, and Sam Peckinpah's own Straw Dogs. It was almost too much for moviegoers to handle, as those films exceeded the violent standard for films in general, but mostly "Clockwork" and "Dogs". Straw Dogs, although tame by the standards of today, it remains a riveting study of how men will resort to violence to solve their petty problems. No matter how much they try to be peaceful, violence will always be the problem solving device, as they are incapable of doing so themselves.

We meet Dustin Hoffman, who plays David Sumner, an American mathematician who has moved to England (out in the country) with his wife Amy (Susan George). He has been given a grant to study a mathematical problem, and tries to work, but instead, is forced to entertain his selfish wife, who is bored to tears. There are four men who are refinishing their garage, and have taken a liking towards Amy. This sets part of the stage for an intense, suspenseful, superbly edited finale, that I wouldn't dream of giving away.

The film surprised me by leaving the entire first hour to build on the characters. This wasn't boring at all, as husband and wife have many problems to solve in their marriage, and it is interesting to see their relationship build. A much talked about problem that marrs many recent films, is the pacing of that first hour. It was almost too slow, but it doesn't hurt the film that much. Also, I had a problem understanding the motivation inside Amy in the end. Why did she act that way? It's not like I don't see why, it's that I wasn't sure whether she was just being selfish or scared, it wasn't quite clear.

Hoffman was perfect for the part of the cowardly mathematician and had a certain "nerdiness" in his character (although he becomes the opposite in the end) that made it believable. He is my favorite actor, always has been, and it's that everyman quality, that quirkiness that makes him so likeable.

The trademark Peckinpah editing and action sequences are all here. he has the ability to make them fast, effective, and entertaining without over indulging in the slow motion, and making the picture look and feel like, umm... Mission Impossible 2.

The story was well written, adapted from Gordon M. Williams' book called "The Siege of Trencher's Farm". Peckinpah builds on the well written characters, raising tension from one scene to the next, little by little. This is a very effective method that kept me glued to the screen.

It does have a slight drag in the first half, and doesn't resolve all the problems in the end. And I warn that some people may not like the fact that it takes a while to get to the end, but trust me, it's worth it. Straw Dogs is one of the best films of its kind, and if you're looking for time to burn, I wouldn't have it any other way with this thriller. 9/10 or ****1/2 out of five.

* The condition of the film stock that was used for the video transfer was actually pretty bad; full of grain and lines. Since it showed signs of deterioration, I figure that I would actually like to see them restore this movie, and do a special edition DVD. Fox has a good reputation, and I don't think it would be a bad idea.

**Also, Director Roger Spottiswoode was one of the films editors. I though that was interesting.

***This was the R version, not the uncut version released by Anchor Bay.

[This message has been edited by Fergus (edited 10-15-2001).]
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Old 10-15-2001, 07:46 PM
Very good review on an outstanding movie 10 out of 10 the characters were believable in every aspect and the first hour didn't drag for me but I think I know what you mean if your knowledge of peckinpah is small then the film can become slow. Peckinpah what a director.
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Old 10-15-2001, 09:58 PM
My knowledge happens to be very small for Peckinpah.

I have only seen four of his movies, The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, Cross of Iron, and the aforementioned Straw Dogs. SO, I have some movie watching to do on Peckinpah's films, although I think I have seen the majority of the great ones. I need to see "Bring me the head...", "Ballad of Cable Hogue", "Junior Bonner", "Osterman Weekend", "The Killer Elite" though.

I'd like to know what you meant about "I know what you mean, if your knowledge is very small," I don't quite get what you're trying to say Philip.

[This message has been edited by Fergus (edited 10-15-2001).]
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Old 10-15-2001, 11:15 PM
What I meant was that if it's your first Peckinpah or second and your not watching it for the director or the type of films the director makes than you'll find it not as good as someone with the knowledge of his other work that's all I meant. I hope I made sense to get what I mean a little better watch bring me the head of alfredo garcia and Junior Bonner also watch one you didn't name called RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY doesn't come with all his usual tricks but the story I'd say was his best and the acting is terrific.
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Old 10-15-2001, 11:30 PM
Makes a whole lot more sense now, sometimes, i just don't get the jist of things first time around. Well, I guess this time I did watch it for the director, and I gotta see those others though. I haven't read anything good on The Killer Elite, I think you did a review on it awhile back, am I wrong? Any good, I don't feel like diggin' right now.

[This message has been edited by Fergus (edited 10-15-2001).]
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Old 10-16-2001, 12:35 AM
The Killer Elite was my first Peckinpah and I total didn't know about the guys style and just the way he directs like I was say about straw dogs. I watched it just for the action not for the man(Peckinpah), Man how times have change plus you can't go wrong if Deckard & Brock like it.It's a real good characater study I love it for many reasons. http://www.joblo.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000840.html check it out Fergus.

[This message has been edited by Philip Marlowe (edited 10-16-2001).]
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Old 06-16-2003, 02:26 AM

Welly well. I'm glad Criterion's release finally did this movie some justice, because I bought it. I didn't watch it till tonight though, and it impressed some friends of mine who wanted to see this. Heck, it impressed me too; I haven't seen it since before I wrote the review up there. If Peckinpah's work can still manage to surprise me today, thirty-two years later, it must be good. It's done with a style of moviemaking that doesn't exist anymore. A solid essay on ultra-violence. How bout that Susan George and her "pushy-push, in the bush"???
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Old 06-16-2003, 03:14 AM
A true must see for fans of the director, actors or genre.....this one delivers

Peckinpah is uncharecteristally restrained at the helm allowing for a deliberate pace and slow burn charecter development. Low on his over the top vilolence and cinematic style instead it is replaced by gritty, frighteningly real charecters that are both ambigious and menacing.

Hoffman inhabits the role of a man pushed beyond his limits and Susan George as usual oozes raw sexuality and unspoken vulnerability.

One of my fave Peckinpah films that has not dated at all and still delivers a mighhty punch on teh comment of mans violent sexual nature.
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Old 06-16-2003, 03:41 AM
I liked this film, but I didn't think it was fantastic.. I haven't decided on a rating, but probably a 7. Dustin Hoffman is great in it though.

BTW, the Killer Elite is awful, and the Osterman Weekend is laughably bad. I've been trying to get a copy of Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia for some time though. I really think Peckinpah has the stuff (The Wild Bunch is great), but KE and OW are.. Really bad.
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