Straw Dogs

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Overview

From packaging to sound quality to supplemental material, the Criterion Collection's two-disc Straw Dogs set is a stellar example of how to treat a major release from a maverick director -- the overall package is so good, in fact, it might even win over a few of the film's detractors. Director Sam Peckinpah's adaptation of Gordon Williams' The Siege of Trencher's Farm raised the ire of more than a few viewers upon its release, primarily for its ambiguous rape scene and visceral, hyper-violent retribution reel. ...
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Overview

From packaging to sound quality to supplemental material, the Criterion Collection's two-disc Straw Dogs set is a stellar example of how to treat a major release from a maverick director -- the overall package is so good, in fact, it might even win over a few of the film's detractors. Director Sam Peckinpah's adaptation of Gordon Williams' The Siege of Trencher's Farm raised the ire of more than a few viewers upon its release, primarily for its ambiguous rape scene and visceral, hyper-violent retribution reel. Criterion's greatest triumph with this disc, then, is to transport viewers back to the maelstrom of controversy that surrounded the film, through letters, reviews, and a few choice interviews with the cast and crew. Susan George is the best of the modern-day interview subjects, revealing that she herself refused to continue performing in the film until Peckinpah had an airtight rationale for his particular portrayal of sexual violence. The commentary track by scholar Stephen Prince is nothing if not academic, but it's always compelling, and the speaker offers up persuasive arguments for Peckinpah's complexly amoral world view, and for the director's oft-ignored humanism. The three supplemental documentaries included on disc two are of varying interest, the best being "On Location: Dustin Hoffman," a loopy, goofy, solipsistic look at Dustin Hoffman's behavior off the set of the film. In terms of the other two, the black-and-white BBC footage of the shooting of the film is interesting from a journalistic standpoint, but the PBS documentary Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron seems somewhat superfluous here, given that it spans the director's entire career (with a particular emphasis on The Wild Bunch), and doesn't include clips of his films due to copyright issues. Still, if the worst that can be said about Criterion's edition is that they provided one too many documentaries, that's a minor flaw indeed.
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Special Features

New high-definition digital transfer of the uncut version, enhanced for widescreen televisions; Audio commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince; Isolated music and effects track; English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired; Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition; "Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron" (82 mins.), a documentary of reflections by members of Peckinpah's family, his friends, and his collaborators; "On Location: Dustin Hoffman" (26 mins.); Behind-the-scenes footage; video interviews with actress Susan George and producer Daniel Melnick; Peckinpah Responds: select correspondence to critics and viewers; Theatrical trailer and TV spots ; Plus: a reprinted interview with Sam Peckinpah from 1974, and an essay by poet Joshua Clover
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Eddy Crouse
No matter which way you slice it, Straw Dogs is not for the squeamish. Only two films after, but light years away from, the elegiac Wild Bunch, the movie upped the ante in director Sam Peckinpah's career. It remains one of his leanest, most brutal movies. Dustin Hoffman is David Sumner, a taciturn mathematician who, with his wife, Amy Susan George, relocates to her Cornish home village to escape the American rat race. The couple hires four locals to build a garage for their old cottage, and it isn't long before David becomes the object of the crew's resentment and mockery. Led by Charlie Del Henney, one of Amy's former suitors, the townies shamelessly ogle Amy, who at times seems to encourage their attentions, if only because her husband is more involved in math problems. During a hunting trip, David tries to win over the local boys and lets on that he knows their intentions; but the ruffians leave him behind, return to the cottage, and -- in a brilliantly edited but disturbing scene -- rape Amy. This sets the stage for the film's mind-bending and violent climax, during which, in an attempt to avenge another act of violence, drunken villagers all but destroy the Sumner cottage. The traps, both moral and physical, that David devises implicate the viewer in ways that might even make Hitchcock flinch. Never mind that it borders on nihilism -- this is electrifying stuff. Hoffman's nutty evolution, from mousy gestures straight out of The Graduate to calculated Peckinpah violence, is alone worth the price of admission.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Upon its release (within a month of Stanley Kubrick's similar meditation on ultra-violence, A Clockwork Orange), Straw Dogs sharply divided critics and audiences over whether it exploited and glorified macho bloodshed or commented on the violence that had become a fact of 1960s American life. Peckinpah proclaimed his own distaste for violence, suggesting that Straw Dogs portrays how society fails to eradicate primitive drives, leading to territorial warfare. What cannot be denied is Peckinpah's ability to elicit a visceral response to the onscreen turmoil, leaving a viewer either to cheer on David's descent toward bloody retribution or be repulsed by the evil that men do. With jittery editing and gloomy cinematography, Peckinpah creates an unsettling atmosphere of foreboding; the town's unexplained animosity adds to the suggestion that what drives them all, including the intellectual David, is beyond the bounds of "civilization." True to the complex nature of these issues, Straw Dogs' ending provides no easy answers or reassurances about what transpires in the Sumner home.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/25/2003
  • UPC: 715515013420
  • Original Release: 1971
  • Rating:

  • Source: Criterion
  • Aspect Ratio: Alternate Wide Screen (1.78:1)
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Language: English
  • Time: 1:57:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dustin Hoffman David
Susan George Amy
Peter Vaughan Tom Hedden
T.P. McKenna Maj. Scott
David Warner Henry Niles
Colin Welland Rev. hood
Cherina Mann Mrs. Hood
Ken Hutchison Scutt
Jim Norton Cawsey
Del Henney Venner
Sally Thomsett Janice
Donald Webster Riddaway
Len Jones Bobby Hedden
Michael Mundell Bertie Hedden
Peter Arne John Niles
Robert Keegan Harry Ware
June Brown Mrs. Hedden
Chloe Franks Emma Hedden
Technical Credits
Sam Peckinpah Director, Screenwriter
Ken Bridgeman Art Director
John Coquillon Cinematographer
Garth Craven Editor
Paul Davies Editor
Jerry Fielding Score Composer
Harry Frampton Makeup
David Zelag Goodman Screenwriter
Tony Lawson Editor
Daniel Melnick Producer
Tiny Nicholls Costumes/Costume Designer
Peter James Set Decoration/Design
John Richardson Special Effects
Ray Simm Production Designer
Roger Spottiswoode Editor
Robert Wolfe Editor
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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc One
1. Arrival
2. The Locals
3. New Home
4. Settling In
5. The Games Begin
6. A Warning for Henry Niles
7. Voyeurs
8. Defiance
9. "Commit to What?"
10. Harassment
11. The Welcoming Committee
12. Intrusion
13. Did I Catch You Off Guard?
14. A Day of Hunting
15. Cowards
16. Church Social
17. Accident
18. "We're Gonna Get Him!"
19. Protecting Henry
20. Major Scott Intervenes
21. "Give Them Niles!"
22. Full-Scale Defense
23. "I Don't Know My Way Home"
24. End Credits
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Menu

Side #1 -- Disc One
   Play the Movie
   Chapters
   Commentary
      Commentary by Stephen Prince: On
      Commentary by Stephen Prince: Off
      Index
         Establishing Character
         Cultural Outsider
         Location/The Film's Title
         Representing Violence
         The Marriage as War Zone
         Back-Stories
         Film Violence in 1971/Mirrors
         Peckinpah's Editing Style
         Cultural Contexts
         "The Territorial Imperative"
         Bad Marriages
         A Turning Point
         Setting the Trap
         The Center of the Controversy
         Working With Actors
         Extended Subjective Interlude
         The Critics Respond
         Cultural Conflict
         Interior/Exterior Locations
         "Violence Is Not Casual"
         Male Brutality
         "Good Action Filmmaking"
         Violence's Consequences
         End Credits
   Set-Up
      Audio Options
         Dolby Digital Mono
         Isolated Music and Effects
      Color Bars
Side #2 -- Disc Two
   "Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron"
   "On Location: Dustin Hoffman"
   Behind-the-Scenes
   Interviews
      Susan George
         Play
         Index
            Getting the Part
            Working With Dustin
            Peckinpah
            In Retrospect
      Daniel Melnick
         Play
         Index
            Acquiring the Book
            Peckinpah
            Cast and Crew
            Scandal and Violence
            Banned in Britain
   Trailers
      Theatrical
      TV #1
      TV #2
      TV #3
   Correspondence
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Customer Reviews

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