Friday, March 06, 1998

Straw Dogs

080285 / 18 / GB / 1971 / Peckinpah, Sam / / thriller
Straw Dogs / Olkikoirat. © ABC Pictures. P: Daniel Melnick. D: Sam Peckinpah. SC: David Goodman - based on the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams [= J. Anderson Black]. DP: John Coquillon. M: Jerry Fielding. CAST: Dustin Hoffman (David Sumner), Susan George (Amy Sumner), David Warner (Henry Niles the village idiot), Del Henney (Charlie Venner), Ken Hutchison (Norman Scutt). - The title comes from Lao-Tse: ”Heaven and Earth are ruthless and treat the countless creatures like straw dogs. The wise man is ruthless and treats people like straw dogs”. The ancient Chinese sacrificed straw dogs instead of living animals. - Filmed on location in the west of England and in Twickenham Film Studios. - Original version 118’. US release version: 113’. TV Nelonen PAL transmission with commercial breaks on Friday, 6 March 1998 (midnight). This was a special in-between cut: subtracting the commercial breaks it would run 115’48” at 24 fps. Finnish subtitles by Jari Bohm / Pre-Text. Caught on VHS in Helsinki. *** The Finnish TV premiere of a film which is not available on video because of the Finnish Video Act. - The astromathematician David and his wife Amy seek peace from the turbulence of the U.S. campuses in Amy’s little home village in Cornwall. They soon meet the village idiot and five hellraisers who get dangerous when drunk. The violence escalates - Amy gets raped and the teenager Nadine strangled - and in the final bloodbath the small, peace-loving David has to defend himself. ”I don’t know my way home”. ”Me neither”. This grim tale, no longer scandalous at least in the version transmitted, neither condemns nor glorifies violence as self-defence. Violence is shown as necessary in an extreme situation, but violence is not entertaining: it just depresses and brutalizes everybody who survives. - The film has a Jewish subtext; having had a double Scotch David quips to the priest that Christianity has not been able to put a stop to bloodshed.

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