Straw Dogs (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Dustin Hoffman and Susan George play a husband and wife. Hoffman is a Casper Milquetoast mathematician from America, George is his simple wife from a working class family in a small town in rural England. They return to George's childhood home to allow Hoffman solitude and time to work on a new theory. George is soon bored by her life. Every time she asks for her husband's company, he is too busy and tells her to entertain herself. Soon they are engaged in a battle of wills. George goes into his work area and changes some of his mathematical formulas. Hoffman berates her and condescends to her.

The battle escalates. George is upset with Hoffman for not having the guts to stand up to the local thugs who are working on their garage. One of those thugs is George's girlhood boyfriend. Hoffman is filled with wimpy responses that imply George is creating her own problems by not wearing a bra. George is so incensed that she resolves to strike back at her husband, and parades around an open window topless, in full view of her ex boyfriend and the other perennially drunken local roughnecks.

The workers are inflamed by the site of George staring at them in her naked glory. They concoct a plan to take Hoffman on a "snipe hunt" one day, so that the ex-boyfriend can sneak into the house and get the woman alone. The former boyfriend has sex with her, then another local rapes her violently, with the boyfriend's co-operation. George never tells Hoffman about the rapes.

Not much later, Hoffman happens to run over a mentally incompetent local, so he takes the wounded man home with him and George. The mental incompetent has been linked to a missing local girl, so the girl's father and a group of local thugs, essentially the same guys who have been working on the garage, besiege Hoffman's home, demanding that the wounded man be turned over to them. Hoffman refuses. George disagrees with his refusal. She doesn't want the dangerous man in her home, she doesn't want her house destroyed by the drunken lunatics, and maybe she'd rather be with her ex-boyfriend than with Dustin Hoffman.

The final act is played out as the drunks try to break in, the murderer creates havoc within, Hoffman tries to defend himself and his home, and George demonstrates conflicting loyalties. There is lots of violence and crazy behavior from the drunken louts.


People have complained because George was raped and seemed to enjoy it. I'm not sure that criticism is valid. She had sex with two of the local guys. The first one was not rape, and she did enjoy it. The second one was rape, and she hated it.

Let's look at them one at a time. The first "rape" was with her ex-boyfriend, Charlie. Was it rape? Here are the facts.

  • She stood in front of the window naked, so he could see her. She stared at him while she was standing there.
  • She showed her body to the ex-boyfriend because she was mad at her husband.
  • When the boyfriend came to the door, he asked if he should leave. She asked him to come in, and offered him a drink.
  • As he was undressing her, she did say "no" a few times. She also kissed him, and stroked his face gently, and made sounds of pleasure.
  • She never told her husband about the incident.
  • Later, during the siege and after the "rape", as she was being attacked by another guy, instead of calling for her husband for help, she called out for Charlie, the "rapist".

Obviously, it was not rape. She was provoking a sex act with Charlie as an act of revenge upon her husband because Dustin continually ignored her and condescended to her. She offered only token resistance as a matter of balm for her conscience.

The second "rape" was performed by the other worker, Charlie's colleague. In this case, Miss George did not want him there, and she was clearly raped brutally. Just as clearly, she derived no pleasure from this act, and was not a willing participant in any fashion. She was further humiliated because Charlie held her down while the other man violated her.

According to Gordon Williams, the author of the novel, "The Siege of Trencher's Farm":

"The rape scene was included because Peckinpah 'liked to abuse women in his films. He was a bit mad really. But there was no sex in the book at all -- I can't write sex scenes like that, I'm always mindful of my mother reading them. My mother had even organised a church social group to go and see the film -- she was just so pleased I'd written a book with no effing and blinding in it. But they all loved it!"


Susan George exposes her breasts in two scenes.

Here is the complete recent (Feb 20, 2003) interview with Williams. 

To me, the film is most interesting for its moral ambiguity, its ability to prompt debate which continues to this day. People still debate the "rape" sequence, as I just did above. They debate whether Hoffman should have risked his life and the life of his wife for a retarded murderer. They debate whether Hoffman's character is the hero of the film or the villain, whether he was trying to avoid violence or to provoke it. The film must have something special going for it, because people still argue about it 30 years later. That seems to prove that the film engages the brain, and there is no denying the visceral thrill of the last third.

Is it a good movie? Maybe not as good as people say, but the last 25 minutes should keep you biting your nails, as the powerful, drunken, armed men keep trying to enter the house, the unarmed Hoffman tries to defend himself, and the wife seems to be an unwilling ally.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince

  • 2-Disk set

  • New high-definition digital transfer of the uncut version

  • Isolated music and effects track

  • "Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron": documentary of reflections by members of Peckinpah's family, his friends, and his collaborators (82 min.)

  • Dustin Hoffman on the set of Straw Dogs (26 min.)

  • Behind-the-scenes footage

  • Video interviews with actress Susan George and producer Daniel Melnick

  • Peckinpah Responds: select correspondence to critics and viewers

  • Reprinted 1974 interview with Peckinpah

  • Essay by poet Joshua Clove

  • Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85

And I love the ending.


After he has defended his house, Hoffman is triumphant, but also defeated. He was fighting with Charlie downstairs while his wife was being assaulted upstairs. His wife called out for help not from him, but from the man he was fighting! After the ordeal, realizing that his marriage is finished, Hoffman offers the retarded guy a ride home. As they drive through the rural countryside, the lummox says "I don't know my way home." Hoffman thinks about this, and starts laughing. "Neither do I", he responds, and they drive off into the credits.

Pretty cool!

Tuna's notes in yellow:

Straw Dogs (1971) I find this a very disturbing story. It is the story of an American mathematician (Dustin Hoffman) who rents an English farmhouse for a year with his young wife in her home town. He hopes the country quiet will help him with the studies for which he has received a grant. Hoffman is a wimp, a pacifist and a loner. His wife (Susan George) is also easy to intimidate. When Hoffman ignores her in favor of his book, she begins to flirt with her childhood boyfriend and his pals who are doing some construction on their property. Eventually, the boyfriend lures Hoffman out of the house for a snipe hunt, then returns and has sex with George, then his drunken partner brutally rapes her at gunpoint. She never tells Hoffman. When the townsfolk decide to break into their home to catch a local mentally ill man who has allegedly molested a town girl, Hoffman finally has had enough, and snaps.

While there is no doubt that it is a well made film, it is not one I was able to relate to. The first half of the film pretty much showed that nobody had it together, and the last third was pretty much all action. I think the big payoff was supposed to be that Hoffman suddenly grew testicles, but a little too late.

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 4/5

  • The film was nominated for one Oscar - best musical score.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $3 million for production, grossed $11 million world-wide. (A moderate hit in 1971 dollars)


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. The first 80 minutes are somewhat boring - establishing an ominous mood. Once the film fires up, however, the last third delivers some of the most intense action and ambiguous morality ever portrayed on screen. Tuna says, "The fact that I didn't personally enjoy it doesn't take away from the quality of the film. This is a C+."

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