Straw Dogs (1971)


Still cauterising, 40 years later.

Straw Dogs review

Things were so fraught that Susan George walked off set until Peckinpah increased her creative input. Thank goodness: whatever misogyny was in the motive, the actress anchors accusations of exploitation with plausible emotion.

Still, nihilism leaches from every frame. Peckinpah’s Cornwall resembles the Old West reimagined as Hammer horror. The editing remains a textbook of escalating tension, discomforting long before David snaps. And, as a portrait of a marriage, this is corrosive stuff: Hoffman and George’s newlyweds are a cauldron of resentment and rage.

Lurie’s remake has a (literally) tough act to follow, not least because 2011 has already delivered Peckinpah’s spiritual heir in Kill List, both proving that when the moral compass is swaying that wildly, it’s time to destroy it. That’s certainly how Peckinpah saw it.

For the record, he agreed with Pinter, reasoning that his film had to be detestable because otherwise “the joke would be too monstrous to behold.” Ha bloody ha.

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