Straw Dogs Through Generations – The Territorial Imperative

 

Straw Dogs’ legacy is one which will live on as long as cinema itself, as uncomfortable and difficult as that may be. 

“Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs; the sage is ruthless, and treats the people as straw dogs.

Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching. Book One, Poem V (Penguin Ed. Trans. D.C. Lau)

The desolate remoteness of the Cornish countryside, in the Southern English locale known as ‘The West Country’, formed the backdrop for veteran US director Sam Peckinpah’s sixth feature; a rural western which would cause enough furore and controversy to ignite passionate debate over four decades after its initial release in 1971. Straw Dogs is a provocative and challenging film which poses many difficult questions pertaining to the nature of violence and sexuality. A source of conflict and debate amongst critics and academics alike, there is a wealth of philosophy and introspective analysis taking place amidst the societal and personal breakdowns which occur during the two hours of relentless tension.

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A Boy and His Dog

L.Q. Jones’ 1975 adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s award winning novella, A Boy and His Dog, is an oft-overlooked cinematic peculiarity which exists within a multi-layered world of conflict. Set in the fallout of World War IV, which we are told lasted only five days, it takes an acerbic and cynical look at the constructs of society, and the parallels that exist between civility and base desire. The film has been both lauded and maligned, both for its witty and astute vision, as well as its perceived misogynistic and, ultimately, misanthropic stance. The issue of misogyny formed a long-running disagreement between Jones and Ellison; creating yet another conflict that arose from the ashes of this post-apocalyptic nightmare.

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The Devil Didn’t Do It. The Devil Is Us.

You’re getting rid of ALL of this crap,” screamed Betty Ann Sullivan as she tore a Slayer poster off her son’s bedroom wall. She’d had enough. The clothes, the music, the bullshit attitude. Having just turned fourteen, Tommy was too young for all of this. Why couldn’t he just be……why couldn’t he just be normal?

Long hair. Make-up. Demons. Dragons. Pentagrams and an oblique array of things that a suburban mother couldn’t understand were the cause of yet another fight. Embarrassment. Exasperation. Miscommunication. Fear. All catalysts.

The insults got stronger. The sense of hopelessness growing with each challenging day.

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