Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna, Del Henney, Ken Hutchinson, Colin Welland
Written by: Sam Peckinpah, David Z. Goodman, based on a novel by Gordon M. Williams
Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 118
Date: 11/03/1971

Straw Dogs (1971)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The New Math

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sam Peckinpah (1925-84) made his reputation with earth-shattering violence on screen and volatile behavior offscreen. One of his best films, Straw Dogs (1971), has been released on an essential new double-disc set with a stunning new transfer.

Dustin Hoffman plays unquestionably his greatest role as a meek mathematician living with his sexy child-wife (Susan George) in rural England. The drunken, animal-like locals continually test his manhood -- even to the point of raping his wife -- but the real challenge comes when he harbors a dim-witted man accused of murder while the locals try to get to him any way they can.

Director Peckinpah effectively explores the levels of so-called "manhood" and takes them to a ludicrous but ultimately exciting conclusion. Criterion has once again outdone themselves with this release, including a scholarly commentary track by Stephen Prince, an isolated effects and music track, a full-length documentary on Peckinpah's career and other goodies.

The beautiful 2-disc Criterion edition has gone out of print, but MGM has re-released it in a new single-disc edition. It's kind of a consolation prize but better than not having it at all.

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