Straw Dogs (1971)
WHY IS IT ON THE LIST?
Straw Dogs was temporarily banned in the United Kingdom until censors (British Board of Film Classification) were able to “rape” it with their busy little salad fingers. It was released the same year as A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, and The French Connection. It was, of course, the lesser known novel and not as “star-studded” as the aforementioned, earning it flak for being part of the, then recent, wave of “reprehensible,” ultraviolent and gritty films washing over cinema. Why this came as a surprise to America is beyond me, as the country was knee-deep in a very nasty conflict (perhaps you’ve heard of the Vietnam war?) with a president at the helm with no qualms about sending young men (some under 18 and others mentally disabled) to die. Oh yeah, did I mention the rape scene? Yeah, there’s a gnarly rape scene.
Not much needed here. I am a huge Dustin Hoffman fan and the description was tantalizing enough, I just snuggled up to my laptop, got cozy, pressed play and screamed, “BRING ON THE FILTH!”
David (Hoffman) is a brilliant arithmetic expert and theorist who receives a grant for his studies and needs peace from his divided country- a nation that allows “Vietnamization” and secret bombings of farmlands by a slippery shit of a president- only to show up at his wife’s old timey, countryside stone cottage where he is bombarded by disapproving cockney bumpkins who’s favorite activities include cutting David down with slurred and boisterous quips, drinking heavily with glistening cock-eyed relatives and singing about sodomizing farm animals. They then push him way too far and he nerd-rages the fuck out on their ill-groomed asses. That last sentence seems a bit asinine and uninspired, but I truly don’t want to spoil this one any more than I have to. It has literally breached my top 10 movies of all time.
WHY WHAT “THEY” BANNED
MAKES “THEM” LOOK LIKE STUPID CRY-BABIES:
Straw Dogs brought on controversy due to its lengthy rape scene, in which Amy (David’s Wife/Susan George) somewhat coddles and kisses her attacker after moments of panic. Personally, I think it was the only rape scene I actually- appreciate? Jesus, I said that. I’m usually a bit squeamish with simulated rape, as it’s often brutal, too long, gratuitous, and tells me almost nothing new about character development or story. However, this scene differs, as it isn’t thrown in the face of the viewer; it’s literally the puzzle piece we, as an audience, are left holding. You’re drawn in a bit by what the actress and director are doing; it’s an interesting portrayal and I would venture to say realistically unpredictable. She never tells David either, which upped the intensity for the audience and is textbook Hitchcock. Although, to those who can’t watch the rapey bits due to first-hand experience: please take my naivety as mere art speculation. The scene was labeled “misogynistic” and “anti-feminist” by protestors back in its day, but I can’t subscribe to that cult as the lurking secret keeps the viewer invested throughout the rest of the film, and, to me, creates tension you can’t find in a lot of psychological thrillers these days. Also to be noted: the perpetrator was someone the victim knew intimately, which adds realism (considering 73% of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers) when compared to the “hillbilly in the shrubs” kind of stereotype found in other films.
WHAT PISSED YOU OFF!?
That I only found out about it because of a REMAKE that is being forced through the pink and glazy undulating flesh-hole shit factory known as Hollywood.
Oh, and they repeated the rape scene- movement for movement…WHY!? Peckinpah never told us why she does it…she just did it! And so, now you’ve got a new generation (who’s fucked as it is) saying to themselves, “OoooooWee! She’s a freaky beeitch!” Do your own funky rape scene! Have her buying shoes on Amazon.com during it or something, you tweeny pleasing perverts! Yeah… not happy about that.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SHIT!?
The cinematography was pretty fantastic… lots of slow pans and leading looks; good cinematague (yep) gives me a film school boner. The church scene was amazingly crafted and superbly edited. The social and religious commentary was incredibly thought provoking ,in that you could draw your own conclusions on why the pastor is busting out magic tricks in church, while drunkards flex their small-town power to the entire community. A lot of the juxtapositions toward the end, as the plot comes to a boil in the third act, are super entertaining to watch collide, and to top it all off… David is a villain. He isn’t a jaw-droppingly handsome hero, he is the fucking anti-christ. He is what lurks in the shadows while your lost ass is wondering if you’re going to ever get that blip of reception on your stupid IPhone. He is the boss. Dustin Hoffman seemed drawn to these kinds of characters in the 70s and 80s, and I adore that he played them so well rounded and hauntingly multi-faceted. Also check out: Marathon Man (1976)
QUOTE IT AT PARTIES!?
Drunk rapist assholes singing: “Now, some men go for women, and some men go for boys, but my love is warm and beautiful and makes a bah’in noise”
*This post was originally written for/published on Simmering Apathy on September 2nd 2012