Straw Dogs

(Sam Peckinpah, 1971)

The film has been contentious ever since its initial release. Shot in Cornwall, it has been called Peckinpah's Cornish Western'. Initially submitted to the BBFC in 1971, it was originally classified as X (now 18) after some cuts suggested by the then Secretary of the BBFC. Successful at the Box Office it nevertheless drew the opprobrium of Mary Whitehouse (Chair of the National Viewers and Listeners Association) and was banned by some local councils.

The rise of video made this a cause celebre some years later. Released on video it was initially classified on the same basis as the cinema version until withdrawn from video shops in 1988 after intervention from BBFC arguing it was not appropriate at this time. In the late 1990s two versions (the US market one and the UK uncut one) came before the BBFC to be classified under the Video Recordings Act 1984 - both were rejected for different reasons and it was not until 2002 that the uncut version was submitted again and given a certificate.

The key underlying element of the film that has caused the problems is the portrayal of sexual violence in 2002 the BBFC were able to apply the new Guidelines which shifted the responsibility more towards the viewer.

The BBFC sought advice from clinical psychologists and also the public before granting the film its certificate; 

In the restored version, and in the light of the evidence of expert opinion, the Board's conclusion was that, in 2002, the film had no significant potential to cause harm to viewers or, through their actions, to society as a whole.

There have been many films, both before and after, that have dealt with the theme of sexual violence. It is very important to understand the BBFC approach to the issue of context in these films. Films such as Irreversible (2002) show that the debate around these issues are still live but Straw Dogs still retains its power nearly 40 years later.

See what you make of it.

Further Reading and Links

There is lots of material available on the internet, some of the above has been adapted from the sources below. You could try the following as a start if you want to do some more reading about this film via the follwoing direct links;

Straw Dogs will be shown at 3pm in 4.10b Little Titchfield Street on 16 February 2009.

Business newspapers


The Centre for Law, Society and Popular Culture draws together many of the threads of work that goes on in the Westminster Law School.


Get in touch with the Centre for Law, Society and Popular Culture.