A Personal View
It was a major surprise to me that this film was banned, but not “Clockwork Orange” which came out about the same time. Clockwork Orange was a sickening film, which appeared to glorify random, perverted violence. Straw Dogs, on the other hand, showed the lengths a peaceable person can go to, when they are forced to defend themselves against unprovoked, life-threatening threat, when the authorities are ineffective. The banning of one film, but not the other, makes you wonder about Authority’s priorities.
I enjoyed the film principally because of its realism. I think it the only film I have ever seen which portrayed rural life honestly. Far from being an idyll of peace, contemplating the beauty of nature and listening to bird-song, it is often a hot-bed of incestuous emotion, bigotry and the dangers invented by young, male no-hopers who alleviate their boredom and low status by being a plague on the lives of anyone vulnerable. Unfortunately, mindless yobs are not the preserve of urban areas.
The climax to the film is morally sound – the local policeman has been killed – there is a mob outside which if it gets in will certainly kill you, your wife, and the mentally disabled man falsely labelled a paedophile – you have only one chance to survive against a much stronger enemy. Hoffman applies his super-intelligence (he is a mathematician in the story) to turn the environment of the house, and everything in it, into booby traps and weapons. The only gift from the author the bear? trap, decoratively hung above the fireplace. Every home should have one.
I guess this is what the Authority’s did not like – the idea that even an unarmed householder can protect themself. The last scene is like a survivalist textbook.
When I re-examined the film I noticed something else. Like the tv series “The Prisoner”, Straw Dogs contain a number of gang stalking themes. The group of harassers, whose activities are largely ignored by the authorities and the people with status in the area. The tradesmen employed to fix the roof who procrastinate, take the opportunity to snoop, hammer away in the background while Hoffman tries to work on his mathematical theorems, and over-charge for work they don’t complete. Manipulating circumstances to rape the woman and carrying it out. Labelling a mental defective as a paedophile. Killing the family pet.
Even the title is suggestive. “Straw dogs” is a variation on the expression “straw man” – a false target set up to be knocked down. As in gang stalking – making an innocent person look guilty, then attacking them.
And now for a conspiracy theory. Was Straw Dogs banned because it revealed gang stalking?