Straw Dogs (1971) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan
Rated: UR/Region: A/1:85/1080p/Number of disc: 1
Available from The Criterion Collection
In this thriller, perhaps Sam Peckinpah’s most controversial film, David (Dustin Hoffman), a young American mathematician, moves with his English wife, Amy (Susan George), to the village where she grew up. Their sense of safety unravels as the local men David has hired to repair their house prove more interested in leering at Amy and intimidating David, beginning an agonizing initiation into the iron laws of violent masculinity that govern Peckinpah’s world. Working outside the U.S. for the first time, the filmmaker airlifts the ruthlessness of the western frontier into Cornwall in Straw Dogs, pushing his characters to their breaking points as the men brutalize Amy and David discovers how far he’ll go to protect his home—culminating in a harrowing climax that lays out this cinematic mastermind’s eloquent and bloody vision of humanity.
If you want to see a revenge film done right, then you should look right to the original Straw Dogs from 1971. Dustin Hoffman stars as a man who takes a trip to his wives’ old stomping grounds and ends up in a lot more trouble than can be expected. One thing leads to another here and the next thing you know we have a standoff at a house with Hoffman and the wide fending off people that were working for them. They question his manhood, they go after his wife, and then he finally has enough and is forced to fight back. This being the original Straw Dogs and not the more recent remake, you’ll notice that this one isn’t as watered down as the remake was. This one comes with far more well-crafted filmmaking and more shades in the characters. Things aren’t as clean cut in this Straw Dogs and that is why I’m as fond of this movie as I am. Hoffman turns it up a notch in this violent role and the end result is a film that is a welcomed addition to the ranks of the great films we’ve seen released by Criterion. This is a great Blu-ray from top to bottom and that makes this a must-own release.
Restored in 4K, Straw Dogs looks better than it has ever and probably will ever look on disc. It comes loaded to the gills with retro features as well as a commentary track and other cool stuff. If you were already a fan of this film you’ll find all you want to know about the film on the disc. If this is perhaps your first time seeing it then you’ll have everything you need to welcome you into the history of this cool movie right here as well. And if you like to read you even get an essay to read about the film as well. Straw Dogs is a good movie and it packs a punch. It can be hard for some to watch at times but that is probably what makes it as solid as it is. If you want to see something deeper than it appears to be with a violent twist, then Straw Dogs is the movie you want to see.
– New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
– Audio commentary from 2003 by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies
– Mantrap: “Straw Dogs”—The Final Cut, a 2003 documentary about the making of the film
– Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron, a 1993 documentary
– New conversation between critic Michael Sragow and filmmaker Roger Spottiswoode, one of the editors on the film
– New interview with film scholar Linda Williams about the film’s controversies
– Archival interviews with actor Susan George, producer Daniel Melnick, and Peckinpah biographer Garner Simmons
– Behind-the-scenes footage
– TV spots and trailers
– PLUS: An essay by scholar and critic Joshua Clover and a 1974 interview with Peckinpah
Quality of Transfer: 100%