I’d heard of Straw Dogs over the years , and pretty sure I remember seeing the covert art on a video store VHS in the early 80s but never got around to watching the film itself until the early 2000s when I imported a Region 1 (US) DVD to the UK so I could finally see the Dustin Hoffman starring revenge thriller. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film but knew it was from the director of The Wild Bunch (which I had seen) and Convoy (which i’ve seen more than any Sam Peckinpah film to this date) Because the film starred Dustin Hoffman, and was directed by Peckinpah. I always figured the film was a US based film and was surprised (but not in a bad way) to find out it was set in Cornwall, England. The film tells the story of David and Amy Sumner (played by Dustin Hoffman and Susan George), who move back to Amy’s hometown to get away from the chaos that was going on in the early 70s US. Hoping to find a nice quiet life in England, David and Amy soon realise that life in this town will soon be far from quiet and peaceful. Summarising Straw Dogs isn’t easy as off screen if you look at the conversation around the film, it is most definitely polarising. I mean I love this movie, but its not the sort of film that I would recommend to everyone. Nor the sort of film that I would sit down and watch whilst chomping on a bucket of popcorn. Its a very tough film to watch (as well it should be) but is definitely a powerful film too and so I was very much looking forward to checking out the 2003 documentary Mantrap:Straw Dogs which has now dropped onto the Arrow streaming platform.
Mantrap:Straw Dogs runs for 50 minutes, written and presented by Mark Kermode and directed by Paul Joyce. and at 50 minutes initially I thought it may be too short a running time to tell all the stories of the making of this film, but I was wrong. the 50 minutes is perfectly filled with onscreen interviews with as far as I can tell all the main cast, and also using many interviews shot around the time of the films production including several with Sam Peckinpah. . My favourite interviews are with Susan George who, if youve seen the film. Definitely has the toughest performance to complete. There are some wonderful conversations between Susan George and Mark Kermode as they stand outside the farmhouse used to film Straw Dogs. I could easily have watched these two talk for the full 50 minutes (or more) and still been happy. This doc also delves into Sam Peckinpah’s work style and doesn’t shy away from some of the chaotic tales around the film and also around Sam in general and there’s a funny story near the end where Dustin Hoffman claims that all Sam would really want was a hug, but Sam would never have admitted that.
The documentary of course does tackle the films controversy with the rape scenes in the film and Susan George does share her views on that experience (as well as other cast members involved) . Listening to how the scenes were set up and discussed (or not discussed would be more accurate) is pretty difficult to hear but in any documentary about Straw Dogs does need to cover those scenes as its those scenes in particular which did result in the film being banned for many years, cut in many versions and to this day those scenes, still very tough to watch, and still does create a debate and a half about film in general, how far is too far. and whether cencorship is a good thing. So if you want to delve into behind the scenes of the 1971 film. I do highly recommend checking out Mantrap:Straw Dogs.
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