Sam Peckinpah'sStraw Dogs is an extremely divisive movie. While some people view it as one of the finest explorations of violence and the nature of man on film, others find it offensive and misogynistic. Famed critic Pauline Kael famously dubbed it "the first American film that is a fascist work of art." The 1971 film stars Dustin Hoffman as a mild-mannered professor living in the English countryside with his attractive wife (Susan George). A gang of locals harasses them both, graphically rapes the wife and attacks their home. Hoffman fights back with great vengeance and furious anger.

I saw the movie again very recently in its excellent Criterion edition and found it to be just as powerful and gripping and challenging as I had remembered. As Christopher told you in March, Rod Lurie (director of The Contender and Resurrecting the Champ, which opens Friday) plans to direct a remake of Straw Dogs. Lurie recently spoke with about it, calling Peckinpah's work on the film "a little lazy" and the film itself "very imperfect." He says, "It's sort of a classic film in the sense that it's infamous. It's a good not great film by a great director."

"It's an interesting film, isn't it?" Lurie adds. "But it was pretty much killed by a two-second moment on screen where his wife is being raped and she smiles. That was the end of that movie. You can be certain that she's not going to be smiling in the rape in my film." If you ask me (and you didn't), a huge reason the 1970s is referred to as a golden age of cinema is because the films were gritty and uncompromising. They didn't tie everything up with a pretty bow; they left questions. And often, as is certainly the case with Straw Dogs, the questions don't come with easily acceptable or digestible answers. Straightening out the film's politics, making the film clearer morally -- that doesn't strike me as a particularly great notion. What do you guys think? Is Lurie blaspheming here? That "two-second moment" he's referring to is a major reason that people still heatedly debate the film to this day. Will Lurie de-fang the movie by taking that away? Or is he setting things right?

Update:Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere takes issue with Lurie's statement about the rape scene.

categories Features, Cinematical