Just rented the Criterion DVD in the last couple of days, since it's going OOP and I wanted to see if it was worth getting. I've also wanted to see the movie for a while, since I like Peckinpah's The Getaway and I love The Wild Bunch. I have mixed feelings about Straw Dogs, not all that positive overall. I must say that Stephen Prince's commentary is brilliant, and he definitely highlighted some of the movie's strengths that I didn't quite recognize at first. Watching the movie, I understood that there really aren't any good guys, that Hoffman is going off the edge at the end and quite blatantly threatening/abusing his wife. Also, the drunk toughs do have a just case against Henry Niles (almost thought it was Harry Knowles when they first said his name--ha!), since he did kill Janice, although their vigilante brand of justice is reprehensible. I certainly understood one of the main points that Prince emphasized--contrary to most of the critical reaction, both positive and negative, the movie isn't really about a celebration of violence as an entry to manhood, a pacifist's development into a warrior, or anything like that. However, I have a problem with the whole "David is really the villain" point of view that Prince discusses, and Peckinpah basically confirmed in the correspondence excerpts on the bonus disc. I mean, these guys are responsible for raping his wife, and even though he doesn't know that, we certainly do. There's no doubt that those characters deserve some sort of punishment for what they did. It's not really that I think there has to be someone to "root for," but that it's just all terrible without quite placing everything in a context that I could relate to in some way. Really, I think my main problem stems from the rape scene. It doesn't seem to make sense, in terms of the characterizations, that she wouldn't have told David about it. I do think the first hour or so of the movie is very effective in setting the two of them up as a potentially happy couple, certainly an attractive one, with a tragic distance growing between them. You want them to succeed together, and sometimes it feels like they will, so it's quite strong when they drift apart. But this doesn't in any way make me feel that she wouldn't tell him about being attacked so brutally. The problems between them are certainly there, but when you get the cuts suggesting that she's flashing back to the rape when he's cuddling up to her, I just couldn't really buy it. The scale of the horror that she went through seems to overwhelm the problems they have in their marriage. And my chief problem with that rape scene is that it's just too much. It's so awful that it dwarfs the reactions through the rest of the movie, which are quite interesting. I agree with Prince's point on the commentary that the scene is not, contrary to some critical reactions, a celebration of the dreadful "all women secretly want to be raped" idea, but it's just such a nasty scene that I can see why people would react that way. I got to thinking about Rashomon, where a similar thing actually happens, at least in a couple of versions of the story--the bandit starts to rape the woman, who then succumbs to him and enjoys it. But since there's nothing graphic in it, there's nothing particularly shocking about how that idea is expressed. In Straw Dogs, I understood her change of heart in the middle of the attack to be stemming from her earlier relationship with Charlie and her dissatisfaction with David, and I think that works OK in a purely story related way. But the attack is already so vicious, with Charlie slapping her twice and ripping her clothes off, that it just seems like too much. Then the final part of the scene, where Charlie holds her down while Norman has a go at it, is obviously a horriffic way to end it. Would it maybe have worked if it had just been between Charlie and Amy, and considerably less graphic? In that case, I think there still could have been some way to make her quick flashbacks through the rest of the movie quite chilling and effective, and I think it also would have made a couple of story points more believable: not just the aforementioned point about her not telling David about it, but also her conflict in the final scenes about whether to go with Charlie or David. The last bit just doesn't seem credible when you know how horribly Charlie has attacked her himself, in addition to letting someone else rape her as well! I really enjoyed the interview with Susan George on the 2nd disc. It's a shame she didn't become a big A-list star, since her performance was very good, she was very sexy, and she was only 20/21 at the time! I was surprised to find out how young she was, since it seemed like it could have been the work of a more experienced actress, easily 5 or 10 years older than she was back then. This also becomes related to my feelings about the rape scene: did her role in this movie get her noticed as "the woman who was really good in Straw Dogs," or "the woman who was brutally raped in Straw Dogs"? The latter, obviously, even though she deserved to be known for the former.