18 certificateStraw Dogs is a Film programme that first aired in 1972 and has been classified a 18 certificate.

Straw Dogs is a 4 star programme

Image for the Film programme "Straw Dogs"

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Straw Dogs (1972)

Directed by
Sam Peckinpah

In the hysteria surrounding the outcry over video nasties - which resulted in the 1984 Video Recordings Act - films that had achieved cinematic release and acclaim found themselves swept into the net. None was more famous than Sam Peckinpah's 1971's thriller Straw Dogs.

David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman, pictured) is an American academic taking a year's sabbatical in the Cornish village where his wife Amy (Susan George) grew up. But they are seen as outsiders, and resentment against them grows to the point where, while David is out hunting, Amy is brutally raped.

Realising the forces ranged against him, David abandons his pacifistic ideals and prepares to defend himself against a lynch mob after him, Amy and a supposed murderer they have given sanctuary to in their isolated farmhouse. As the mob gathers, so the violence escalates...

The film was banned not just for the violence but for the censor's uneasy feeling that during the rape, in just a few frames, Amy seems to be enjoying the violation. Debate at the time and since has centred on this scene to the detriment of considering the film as a whole: the eruption into violence of a man who considers himself civilised, happily married and complete, confronting "the enormous suppressed violence in himself that he had been living with", as Peckinpah said.

The film was beset with on-set troubles: shooting began to run so far behind schedule that producer Dan Melnick hired an actor to stand behind Peckinpah. When the director finally snapped and demanded to know who he was, Melnick replied he was there to step in and finish the film if it fell any further behind. The pace of filming picked up.

George, just 20, threatened to walk off the set if she wasn't told exactly what would happen during the rape scene. When she arrived in Peckinpah's office for a showdown, she found him arguing with Hoffman and Melnick, all naked from the waist down. To her credit, she stuck to her guns and won the argument and her performance is one of the best of her career.

Arriving in the same year as A Clockwork Orange and The Devils, it was inevitable that all three would cause middle England much hand-wringing but, with the first two now freely available, it is fitting that the work of one of America's finest, if most maverick, directors is now available for a new generation to see and decide for themselves.

Written by ,

Genre: Film

Running Time: 120 minutes (approx)

Production Year: 1972

4/5 Stars

Classification: 18 Certificate

Production Country: USA

Filmed in Colour


Image for Dustin HoffmanDustin Hoffman...David Sumner
Image for Susan GeorgeSusan George...Amy Sumner
Image for Peter VaughanPeter Vaughan...Tom Hedden
T.P. McKenna...Major John Scott
Del Henney...Charlie Venner
Jim Norton...Chris Cawsey
Donald Webster...Riddaway
Ken Hutchison...Norman Scutt
Len Jones...Bobby Hedden
Sally Thomsett...Janice Hedden
Robert Keegan...Harry Ware
Peter Arne...John Niles
Cherina Schaer...Louise Hood
Colin Welland...Reverend Barney Hood