It’s not been that long since I saw Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia and I’m not too surprised to find myself watching another film by Sam Peckinpah. Like Alfredo Garcia, there is still a fair bit of controversy surrounding Straw Dogs. So let’s dig into that.
Firstly, if I was a resident of the Cornish village that Straw Dogs was filmed in I would be pissed off at how my community was being portrayed. In the same vein as the beginning of An American Werewolf In London we begin the film with the central character David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) finding himself in a remote village that does not want to welcome him. Quite the opposite really… as a number of the residents want to freak him out and rape his wife.
Now, this brings me to the first of the two controversies – the multiple rape scenes. When this film was first released cuts had to be made to be released in certain territories. Having watched the uncut version I really question the reason behind cutting the second rape as it makes it look like a borderline rape fantasy consensual rather than being the grievous act of sexual assault that it is.
The other controversy comes in the final half hour where the home of David and his wife Amy is being invaded. In short, this sequence is like an extended adult version of Home Alone complete with boiling oil traps and people having their feet shot off by a shotgun. Compared to the earlier rape and some of the scenes in Funny Games some of the violence appeared to verge on comic book (down to the death by the extra-large bear trap).
The thing is, the whole point of this film is about violence and the innate violence that lays beneath the surface – it’s just that it’s buried deeper for some than others. Considering the crap that David and Amy have to deal with for most of the movie (including the murder and desecration of their cat) I found myself cheering them on as they took out their invaders.
So there’s one more Peckinpah film left on the 1001 list and, as things stand, I think I may need to give The Wild Bunch another go before I hit up Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. There’s a particular set of beats that his films seem to follow and, now that I am getting to know his films a bit better, I bet a second viewing will reap big benefits.