Tag Archives: Dustin Hoffman

Straw Dogs: Remaking a Classic…

In 1971 Director Sam Peckinpah released a movie called Straw Dogs. It was based off of the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm, written in 1969 by Gordon Williams. The film sparked controversy with concerns over the rise of violence in film. It didn’t help that it came out the same year as movies like A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection, and Dirty Harry, which all received similar criticism. In today’s film world, filled with stylized violence and gratuitous bloodshed, it’s surprising how well this actually holds up.

The movie was a story about David Sumner, an American intellectual (Dustin Hoffman) who moves with his wife Amy (Susan George), back to her hometown in England. Once there he becomes enamored with his work and she gets bored. She starts to flirt with some of the locals they’ve hired to fix up there house, one of which is an old boyfriend of hers. The men see Dave as a coward and start to push him bit by bit until things escalate out of control…

This movie was my first introduction to Sam Peckinpah back when I watched in High School and still my favorite of his films. It gets down to base of what a man is capable of when forced into a bad situation.

Well the movie is now being remade by someone with decidedly less pedigree, but not a terrible track record – Film Critic turned Director Rod Lurie who is most famous for The Contender. Cast in the leads are titans of mediocrity, repaired for some reason after Superman ReturnsJames Marsden and Kate Bosworth. And quite frankly, I just don’t think they have the acting chops of Hoffman and Susan George.

What is interesting though is the cast that surrounds them, namely our villain – Alexander Skarsgård, who is best know to True Blood fans as the Vampire Sheriff Eric Northman. For me, he is the most likeable part of True Blood (Well, aside from Deborah Ann Woll anyway —> ).

Here is the new trailer…

Ok, so OBVIOUSLY it doesn’t look as epic as the original. It’s no longer set in rural countryside England, but now instead in “Small Town USA”, where there is never a shortage of rednecks and idiots. However, 2 of the best cast pieces aren’t even shown in the trailer, and that’s James Woods (Casino, The Hard Way, Cat’s Eye) and Boyd Crowder Walton Goggins (The Shield, Predators, Justified).

Also appearing will be Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell and recently unemployed star of The Chicago Code, as well as another ‘Gone too Soon’ type of show The Black Donnelys,  Billy Lush. Overall, cast looks good even if Cyclops the kid from Disturbing Behavior Marsden isn’t my favorite actor, he’s not terrible.

I have no doubt this will pale in comparison with the original, but I’m pretty sure I’ll see it anyhow. It is set for a US release September 16th of this year.

Vintage Reviews: MARATHON MAN – Is it safe?

You may have noticed an increase in the amount of reviews we’ve been doing lately. Be it our ‘Grizzly Reviews’ of the most current stuff at the theater, ‘Random-Ass Reviews’ which are focused around totally random viewings of movies, new or something less recent on Netflix. We also have the increasingly popular ‘Craptastic Reviews’ where we take a look at B-Movies in hope of finding a rare, entertaining gem. That quest continues still. But now we are throwing something new in the pot: the ‘Vintage Review’.

These will focus on movies from 1979 or earlier, some to be considered classics, some considerably less prestigious than classic. These will focus not only on the movie itself, but factors such as cultural relevance, how well the movie has stood the test of time, and how it was received originally. For the first movie in our new series of ‘Vintage Reviews’, I’ve chosen Marathon Man.

Marathon Man is a story about Babe (Dustin Hoffman), a grad student living in NYC. He is a History Major whose father committed suicide years earlier as a result of accusations made against him during the rampant McCarthyism of the 1950s. Babe has an older brother, Doc (Roy Scheider), who Babe thinks sells oil, but who is in fact a covert operative for the CIA. Doc is brought to town to meet with wanted Nazi War Criminal Szell. Played by film legend Laurence Olivier, Szell is in New York to claim millions of dollars worth of diamonds he has hidden in a safe deposit box.

Szell is convinced that he is going to be robbed of said diamonds as soon as he claims them from the bank. In fact he is convinced that not only will he be robbed, but that Doc will be the one to rob him. Believing his fortune in danger, Szell has Babe kidnapped and then proceeds to torture him in the famous “Dentist Scene”.

Now that is obviously a broad stroke, and describes only part of the movie as I don’t wish to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen it.

Upon it’s release in 1976, the movie was both a financial and critical success. Olivier’s performance was particularly praised and he would be nominated at the Oscars for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role’.

His character, ‘Dr. Szell’ (based on Dr. Josef Mengele, head SS Doctor of Auschwitz) was ranked as villain #34 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains” list. The film itself was ranked #50 on the “100 Years…100 Thrills” list.

Personally I felt the film holds up very well, and not all films from that period do. A lot of the thrillers from the late 70’s have become a bit dull in retrospect, but this one holds up nicely. The pacing has a good flow to it, which is no surprise with John Schlesinger (one of the most respected directors of the era) at the helm. It’s also always helpful when the writer of the novel adapts it himself for screen as William Goldman did here. It helps keep the themes of the story in check.

Though we are now a bit removed from hunting Nazi War criminals, as most are dead, the characters are still relevant and identifiable. We are again reminded, as in most films from this time, how New York really seemed to be the center of the world then. Now with the Internet and other technological advancements of the past 30 years, thing don’t seem so centralized anymore, but it gives a real presence here.

The cast is obviously phenomenal, Oliver being one of the most respected actors in the history of film, and Dustin Hoffman is always excellent. Plus you add Roy Scheider, who most of you will know as Sheriff Brody from Jaws, and you’ve got a real powerhouse trio up front.

A special treat for me was seeing a young William Devane, who I will always remember as ‘Secretary of Defense James Heller’ on 24.

Again, I highly recommend this movie, that is why I have tried not to spoil more than is necessary, but I can tell you there is much more to it, so it’s for sure worth a watch.

I give Marathon Man a 4 out of 5 Bears…