By Nia Edwards-Behi
Hong Kong martial arts films have always had an evident spiritual connection to the Western – similar narratives playing out in different settings and with different weapons: fists and feet instead of Colts and Winchesters. This connection is drawn to the surface to full effect in Benny Chan’s Call of Heroes, as a mis-matched group of local heroes stand-off to protect a town from the psychopathic son of a warlord. Horse-back hero shots, sunsets, and a Morricone-lite score are notable Western icons in this otherwise blisteringly-violent and not-so-subtly political film. Add a dash of Mifune and a hefty helping of Sammo Hung’s excellent action direction and Call of Heroes is a gift for genre-lovers.
1971 saw something of a cinematic seismic shift in Britain, with three films seeming to trouble the censors and moral guardians of Britain more than any others before. Arriving in quick succession were The Devils, A Clockwork Orange, and Straw Dogs, three films which seemed to pave the way for a landslide of taboo-breaking and controversy-baiting – hot on the heels of these three landmarks were the likes of The Exorcist and Emmanuelle. While The Devils somehow remains cut in this country, and A Clockwork Orange retains its infamous status despite being a widely-seen and praised film, it’s almost easy to forget that Straw Dogs was as controversial as it was when it first hit screens. Although it’s now a celebrated and canonical film, even remade by the Hollywood machine, on first release Straw Dogs almost brought the BBFC to its feet and proved one of the most controversial films in British cinema history.
Straw Dogs is Sam Peckinpah’s adaptation of Gordon Williams’ novel, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm. It stars Dustin Hoffman as mild-mannered American mathematician, David Sumner, who is spending research leave in Cornwall with his wife, Amy (Susan George), who hails from the area – escaping from the violent climate of America as well as getting away to work on his book. Once there, David very quickly finds himself at odds with the locals, in particular Charlie Venner (Del Henney), Amy’s former flame. As the blissful veneer of Amy and David’s relationship begins to crack, particularly after a violent assault on Amy, the tensions between David and the locals escalate. When David defends a local man accused of murder (David Warner), he must face off in a violent confrontation with Charlie and the other locals. Continue reading