Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Straw Dogs (1971)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Straw Dogs (1971, US/UK)

In Sam Peckinpah's disturbing, misogynistic and provocative contemporary 'western' film that further ignited controversy over screen violence and sexual abuse of women in the early 70s:

  • the unflinching and violent film was poster-advertised with the image of broken glasses belonging to David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), a bookish, shy, mild-mannered, pacifistic/aggressive American mathematician on sabbatical and living in a seemingly-peaceful, idyllic rural England town (in Cornwall) with his teasingly-seductive, provocative young English bride Amy (Susan George); he was preparing to write a book on the subject of astrophysics
  • the two had moved into and were renting her parents' old house and property known as Trencher's Farm near her hometown of Wakely; the ruined garage was in the process of being remodeled
  • in town, Amy became reacquainted with her old, lecherous ex-boyfriend Charlie Venner (Del Henney) - a portent of future trouble
  • there were obvious problems in the improbable marriage between the two - he was withdrawn, neglectful and condescending to her and often over-intellectualized things, while she was more vivacious, realistic, child-like and free-spirited
  • to incite the sexual interest of local roof construction workers, including Charlie and two other bullies - ex-convict Norman Scutt (Ken Hutchinson) and Chris Cawsey (Jim Norton), Amy removed her sweater and deliberately stood topless in full view next to an upstairs window, although her husband had cautioned her: "Don't forget to draw the curtains."
  • the next troubling incident was David's discovery that Amy's pet cat had been strangled and was hanging by a cord in their bedroom closet. Amy immediately recognized the threat to their marriage - that the workers could easily enter their bedroom, and challenged her husband to confront the workers. The next day, instead of reprimanding and confronting the tough-talking, earthy locals, the ineffectual and hapless David sought their approval by drinking with them
  • soon after, the workers pretended to be friends with David, and proposed to join him in a snipe hunting expedition into the woods; the hapless and cowardly David was fooled by the prank to lure him away, and found himself alone in a remote section of the moors
  • meanwhile, in the scene preceding the rape (the first of two), the local laborer-thug Charlie was invited by Amy into her isolated farmhouse for a drink; he forcibly kissed her and although she protested unconvincingly ("Please leave me"), he removed her glasses and aggressively kissed her a second time. She screamed: "Get out!" and slapped him hard across the face. Incensed, he grabbed her and hit her hard across the mouth, and then approached her menacingly: "Don't tease me, Amy. Please." He dragged her by the hair to the sofa, as he struck her again and began tearing at her blue robe. He kissed her another time, and although she begged: "Please, Charlie," he continued to assault her by threatening, "I don't want to leave you but I will." He tore her white top, leaving her breasts exposed, before he raped her
  • at first, she struggled and called out "No," but then surrendered to his kisses. In some ways, she didn't resist but submitted, although she was under tremendous duress. When he held her down, ripped off her panties and began removing his shirt, she helplessly begged: "Easy," and meanwhile fantasized about her husband above her. She showed obvious enjoyment and lovingly kissed her assailant and stroked his shoulders and chest during and after being entered, and begged for comfort: "Hold me." However, she was also shedding tears, feeling both humiliated and disgraced.
  • [Note: The film's controversy stemmed from the idea that Amy was sexually excited by the aggressive violation that she was facing. The film was accused of implying that she only mildly protested and brought on the consensual assault (possibly as a means to insult her impassive husband) and actually might have enjoyed the first rape (a glamorization of rape). It was open to question: had she willingly encouraged the first rape?]
  • at the conclusion of the rape, Charlie was suddenly confronted by the barrel end of the shotgun pointed at him by his fellow workman Scutt. Scutt held Charlie at bay with a shortgun while he prepared to brutally assault David's wife in a graphic second rape sequence. Charlie was motioned to get off Amy - who screamed boisterously when she realized she was going to be forcibly raped a second time. Charlie was ordered to hold Amy down by the neck as she was violated again - from behind.
  • in the film's climactic, stunning and barbaric bloodbath sequence, David was transformed from a meek, spineless, bullied and pacifist academic into a rampaging homicidal husband and protective home-owner to protect the sanctity of his domicile and wife ("This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house"). He erupted cathartically with bloody violence after locals raped Amy and then as a drunken and armed group later laid siege to their house. The lynch mob threatened to invade the Sumner home in search of the mentally-deficient 'village idiot' named Henry Niles (David Warner), who had just killed a local flirtatious teenager named Janice Hedden (Sally Thomsett) and taken refuge in the house. He retaliated against the assailants with vicious scalding using boiling oil, shotgun blasts, clubbing with a fireplace poker, and the use of an antique metal "man trap" to snap around Venner's neck - his retaliation was understandably redemptive yet mostly unsatisfying. As he surveyed the carnage, he exclaimed: "Jesus, I beat 'em all."

David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman)

David's Provocative English Wife Amy (Susan George)

Rape of Amy by Charlie Venner (Del Henney)

2nd Rape by Scutt

David's Extreme Vigilantism


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