Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs (1971)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

Sam Peckinpah's 1971 crime drama "Straw Dogs" has long been hailed as a masterpiece and a highly controversial film. A while ago, MGM Home Entertainment has released a high definition version of the movie for fans to enjoy. The nature of the film is very dark and violent – after all, it is a Peckinpah film – and sometimes it appears as if the film itself were superficial and even gratuitous.

At the same time, Peckinpah's harrowing view of a man driven to these savage and violent acts does have purpose, and it is this purpose that sets it apart from traditional and schlockier exploitation films. Even the story of "Straw Dogs" is reminiscent of films such as "I Spit On Your Grave" where the theme of revenge after a rape an also be found, but in the hands of a filmmaker like Peckinpah, it turns into a study of social behavior that is both unsettling and eye-opening.

I was wondering how this release would turn out in high definition, as the movie has been notoriously grainy in the past – even the acclaimed Criterion DVD release. I was pleased to see that the film has been somewhat scrubbed of grain. Not excessively so as to introduce artifacts, but to stabilize the overall image. Grain is still evident, but not nearly as strong as previously. Colors reproduction of the film is good and strong, though the film's muted palette ages the production noticeably. The level of detail of the presentation is good throughout and with its perfect black levels, the film always manages to maintain its definition, even in the darkest and most contrasted shots.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio remix accompanies the move, but do not expect miracles. Originally produced in mono, this remix adds only subtle spatial elements, which serve the film quite well, however. Frequency response is somewhat limited as a result of the technical limitation of the movie's original elements, and the dynamic range is equally limited, but always suffices nicely to make "Straw Dogs" an impressive showing.

Unlike the Criterion DVD release, this Blu-Ray Disc is sadly exhibiting a dearth of bonus materials. Apart from the film's theatrical trailer and some TV spots, you won't find any supplements on the release.

"Straw Dogs" is not for everyone. It is an extremely brutal and visceral film that explores the violent fibre that can be found within every human. It is a dark film that offers graphic images that are certainly disturbing and can make you squeazy, but as a result of the filmmaker's unambiguous intentions and direction, it never becomes a cheap exploitation film. Never has "Straw Dogs" looked better, so make sure to get your copy of this Blu-Ray Disc.