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physical movements Bre a shade clumsy. Whatever he does seems a dit of a feat-and that, I think, is why we’re drawn tq-him. This role might almost be _ a continuation of his Benj;imin in “The Graduafe.” -

The movie never explains how he and his Lolitawife got together, a.nd one’s“mind strays from the action to ask this question. We can’t believe in this’ - marriage; we feel it to be a marriage for Peckinpah$ convenience. Susan George, -w’ith . her smudged, pouty mouth and her smile that’s also-a snarl, i.s superlatively,cast and can act ‘besides; she’s a sex kitten here,an unsa,tisfied little tart, a child-wife ‘who wants’ to -be played with David is even more of an ingenuous jerk than Benjamin. /We i .don’t believe it when, he interrupts his wife’s7I ,passiocate lovemaking to wind the alarm-clock; we just take it is a point being racked tip. Peckin‘pah treats him so prejudic-ialljOhat it isn’t even meant to be funny when he stares in bewitderment at the. joshing.oflthe .locaIs-as if no oqe in America ever - indulged in coarse, dumb badinage-and it-isn’t played-for con-iedy when he goes.out hunting-with ,-. local yokeis, who leave him sitting ih the brush whjle they go back to get at his,wife. Dayid allows himself to be humil.iated for ,an unpleasanfly.long - time-for so -long that, her becomes quite, unappetizing. We’re just about read-y to give up on him when his car hits a half-wit (David Warner) &ho is , trying to escape these sarrie-bullies, who are after’ him for molesting a teen-age girt. David shb,lters the half-wit in the farmhouse, and, while-waiting for _ a -dqctor td arrive, is confronted by them+ childish, crazed, indiscriflinatingly violent &@g ,( like t-he most wanton degenerates among the Wild Bun’ch) led by a grizzle-bearde.d I . . , old howqr who. fills the scr$f$~~ WitP’, rgp$J.$,iJ!e!rI~,~s. ,~,~a@$,,!V@$ {b&t,‘. will beat the, simpleton to death, an&he L _ this-gang feels he can’t turn him over. And that’s when th& f,eroc’iJy. we’ve been , dreading, and waiting for, I. erupts. .. I j. “This is whe.re I”‘live,” and‘ he He a&out& refuses’to let the tieti come into.his home; as they : lay #siege to th:e farmhouse, he-deStroyi ‘each of. them-with grisly ingenuity-until, . the @t- -.on,e,‘ whc.m-h/s wife shoots. Wh*ti. hetak+s&kai-fetdthe first, his-action comes fasteP ‘thaw YOU expect, and it’s, start@g; you’re better prepared’ ‘for .-the frenzies &at foltow, anti although the tension mounts, you’re -not caught off guard again. Not surprisin@‘y, the audience cheers David’s kills; it is; after a-14,a classic ‘example of the worni turning. It’s mitdlmannered Destry-putting on: his guns, it’s the triumph of a superior man who is fighting for b+sic’ -civilized principles over men whlo are pbesent&‘as ‘- mindless h,uman garbage. If’s David versus Goiiath, and so, of course, the audience rogts for David. When the last of- the @t’s has him ,pinned down, and his terrified wife,?with her finger on the trigger, panics and delays;.it’s unbearable; ‘your whole primitive moviegoe’r’s soul cries out. for her. t6 fire-and. then she does. You just abo_ut can’t ‘help feeling.th@ way. You know that the’ response, has been pulle@ out:& j~u,-.but Fy@r@trapped in thatbesieged ,mseand you -wa.nt the terror-to Fe ove.r, : and if you,.believe in civilization s.at all you jvant David to- win. As the &,uation,: has, been set .up, every possibili.ty for novviolent behavi&ur has been ,~ eliminated. . . . If’all tf$ “Stra\cv Dogs’: set &t to. say was, that certain situations may be poSi&d in which. fighting _; is a moral decisfpn, f;e-w besides total pacifists wsuId disagree, In a sense, ‘w-hat the .movie’doIes. is ,play .a ;v+t7aticjh on *the old question asked of conscientious objefitors: “What would --you do if -someone,tried to rape your sister?” The.-question‘ -.‘. $sked. jh+-e’.,is,‘“What bould you do..if someone tried to invade ryour h&s& to+iII:an innocent ‘~erdn,?“, In such‘.&rtime circumstan?es, probably qstt6f ‘I1 us- won&‘. us? wha.tever’tieatis. came $0 <handand _ grain,, and if Vwe-.w’on -by ~iobence we .wuuldJe$ad to.ha;ue. won. ,but be. sickened and@sgus@d at the... i

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choice forced upon us. ‘We would feel’ robbed of 1 part of our humanity-as soldier’s even in “just” tiars are said to feel. And here is where we,can part company 6vith Peckinpah, fgr the movie intends to demonstrate not merely that there is a point tit whic,h a man Will fight but that he is a better man . for it-aa.reaI man at last. The goal of the movie is to demonstrate that David enjoys the killing, 2nd achieves his manhood in that self-recognition. _ David experiences no shock, no horror at what he has done but only a new self-assurance and I pleasur& ‘And Peckinpah wants us to dig the sexines%‘of violence. Ther,e is even the faint smile of satisfaction on the tarty wife’s face that says she wiii have a’new sexual respect for her husband. The rnoije takes not merely a non-pacifist position but a . rabidly, anti-pacifist positibn; it confirms the old milita.rists’ view that pacifism is bnmanly;is pussy’footing, is false to “nature.” . - And-this is the stupidity’ anti -morat corruption of -“Strati Dogs.” It mdy tje necessary-& be violent in order to defend your home and your principles, but Peckinpah-Patton tbink that’s what makes,aman a man. Yet there is aiso-one senses-a = slight condescension on Peckinpah’s -part, and this r.elates to his 2 anti-intellectualism: David, has ’ become,as other men, has ‘lost his intellectual’s 1 separation from the beasts, and- Peckinpah’S victory is in bringin’g him’ down. .Another .ambivatence in -Peckinpah in -his cdntempt-. for the,‘, -. brute yokels and his respect for Dazvid, for using brains tb kill them. In the view Oj’the~ movie, the , yoke[s.deserve their death. Peckinpah appears40 despise IhFm fdr their ignorance and i.nefficiency, just as- he--despises David .as unnatural aiddishonest when ,he, i.5 liRa.cific.. The, corollary of -: j ., &bhh.:beco.ming- ai -man,in: that the s{utfy,.:babydI ‘doll wife becomes a. *worn& w&en her -husband IearnS-to be Qan and tiasterlwhich is what she - wante.&all aloiig. As a woman, she is not expected to have any principies; she was perfectly willing to yield.the,half-wit to the .mab-,she doesn’t have-an’ .Idea-in her,Fead but sex and self-preservation. The 1 movie%tight; and: it all adds up; the.male cliches - come together in a cohereht fantasy. . 4 Ij -. --- . .’ t 1 . , ]a%. 3~p~&g&p&.&&~ T ’ .‘y( _ fea.r . : !&at ’

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she needs; thk-sodomist @his has been ,slightly trimmed,. so that the film could get a R rating, ’ rather than an X) terrdrizes her. Another kirl in the f’ , movie-t,he teenager who gets the -simpleton in I I trouble by making advances to h-im after David, the only other ge,ntle person in town, rejects her-. j sustains the image of Eve th.e Jroublemaker. w”e i 1 -know as we watch the teen-ager luring ihe &t-n’ : pleton’that-girls her age are not so hard up f&I_ bbys to fondle them -that they are going to play I 4 arotind with the village half-wit; we realize-it’s a _:I plot device to set him pursued by the louts. ‘But I . ’ ’ ; implicit in this recognition is.that the movie i!s a . “; series of strategems to get&? characters into the ) 1e positions that are wanted for _a symbolic &L frontatien. The siege is not simply the climax but‘ , the proof,-and it has the kick of a mule. What I am ’ saying, I fear, is that Sam Peckinpah, who is an I , artist, has, with “Straw Dogs,” made -the first American film that is afsscist wbrk of art. - ’ _’ I1 T ,

“Straw Dogs’ has ai impact ‘far beyond the greedy, opportunistic’ Cowbbys’, because,it gets at -theJ

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reactiona t-y “The Cow boys,“. becahswnd here; .as a woman, 4 must guess-it gets&t@ roots-of the ‘. fantasies that men carry lfrorrii~~~~ie~~childhood. tt .. - :a confirms their secret fears and- prejudices that .T‘ _ . w.6men respect only brutes;3\ conf.itms the maJe - ’ , ’ insanity t,hat ,there is no su& thing as rape.-The . movie. i taps a sexual fascism-that is what _ machsimo is-that is so much a part of folkfore that it:s on the underside. of: ma’ny a’n educated con‘-. sciousness..and~is r&tip&t among the uneducated. out in David’s cha~cter~what~ .- - ‘. - It’s what .comeS gives h.Em @at faintly smu& expres~ic~~ art the efid. r .: Violence is erotic in #the> tic+& ‘because a man’s Dogs’, . prowess is in fighting and lovihg. The one earns him . the right to the other. You can see why Peckinpah loaded the dice against David at-the beginning: he ’ had to make David such gweakling that only killipg ‘/ -_ ’ _, 1. _. I - Could rouse him to‘manhood. -’ . > ,l reatiz? that it% a terrible -?h,ing -to Say of ’someone whose gifts you admiee that he has made Peckinpah is a spartan‘director this time, but . a fascist classic. And iti some ways Peckjnpah’s ‘. with an. aesthetic of cruelty. The only beauty he j attitudes are not that diffH%t *from those of a’llows himself is in eroticisni -and violence-which Norman ‘Mailer, who is also afflicted with he links. by ,an gxtraorditiary a&th&ticizi’ng machismo. But Mailer isn’t so singleminded about technique. The rape is one of the’few truly erotic ” it.; he worries it and pokes at it and,tries tb dig-into sequences on film, and the h,nches that. Subdue-\ it. .D,esp&e \Peckinpah’s artistry, there’s something the, wife hair,e th&- exqctiisite langwr of slightly . basicaftygri~~and crude in %&raw Dms.” It’s QO TA-is sa-me-ranguar-4s present ~ ( stow&-dbwn’motin+ n&s thatZmera are.capa&e & tiot,encei but whil’e the -&iting. is superb ink ’ iv the later slaugh:ters; that the&‘ se&en&s, with. the, sl.oti-dowti. never ’ _ most, ,of , us wa’nt .to -find. &~‘ys .to mtrol Sam Peckinpah .wanQ us to know that prolonged but. just long enough to fix the images of L violence, ‘that’s all hypocrisy. He’s discoveredthe territorial . violence in your imagination, .to make them seem imperative and wants to-spread the Neanderthdl ’ alrea’dy classic and .archtiic’-like.+omething you level, th&m’ovie Says no more, remember-while they’re happening: The rape h&s _ -w’&rd. At its sanest than tha,t man should ,defend ’ his home, but i’ heat to it-there $an be-.litt’le.d6ubt of that+but . Peckinpah has not only p.ushed this t-o a sexual test’ what goes into that heat is the did male barroom but turned the. defehse of, the home into a ’ _ attitude.:‘we can’see th,at she?s asking for it,‘she’s destrljction orgy, .as if . determined I to trash begging for it, that her &cry no means yes. The and .everyone Dn+the,screen. The -fury_ rape scene says that women really want the rough - everything goes way@yond.ma~king his point ; it .almost seems stuff, that deep downthey?elittle beastsasking to the flesh. The title, it is’ s&d+comes 7 I be made submissive. I-thinkit’s ilear_ from ,the I , a fury against from Lao-&e: “Heaven and ea.& ar&ruthless atid ’ .of the jfilm and the use ‘of %he. I_’ structuring .trceat the myr.iadcreafuresas straw,.dogs; -the .s$ge ’ 7 ., -mathematician to .re&esent -intel&ctuais out of _ is rut hless.:and treats :tie petzpk--W.&raw dogs.” _ Ihat, h,is -wife2 is in\ ,tou&t with ~%teir -own natures That’s no. sage, itka demon. _ _ of +vqman’s nature, : - tend.ed to be-representatiye and+that the louts understand h&-~-better than her- -, ‘, ’ .-.- @y.~&~ti~~~~:~ x 2 . understands yvha$ , I husband , 1.does. The. first .‘kpist .-’ ’ ,. .’ : ‘_ fro$New-iY~r@r - magazine ’ _

is ai’l a-ti.ist,.-has’,-kith ‘Straw made the %istrAmerican firh~ thqt is a fascist work Of art.” ,

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1971-72_v12,n47_Chevron  

recommending an investigation into the feasability of im- plementing a liberal arts and science programme. Sub- sequently, he served on a se...