1971 was a watershed year for new cinema. Films like A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry and Straw Dogs pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on the silver screen. None are passive films. Each brims with the obsessions of their makers, and for that each was the subject of controversy and censorship.
Eventually they became accepted by the mainstream. A Clockwork Orange has become a cultural touchstone, with everyone from Lady Gaga to David Bowie to Kylie Minogue, who dressed in a black bowler hat and a white jumpsuit on tour in 2002, paying tribute. It was even played at the Cannes Film Festival and released on Blu Ray to mark its fortieth anniversary. Dirty Harry is on constant rotation on television and Rod Lurie’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs hits screens this weekend.
The movie stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as David and Amy Sumner, a big city couple who move back to her hometown on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tensions with some of the locals (including True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård) bubble to the surface and soon boil over into violence.
“If you look at a movie like Straw Dogs, which was heavily influenced by a book called The Territorial Imperative,” says Lurie, “Peckinpah seems to be saying that violence is in the genetics of all men and therefore we must be aware of it so we can control it. It was extremely fascist thinking but that also seems to be the thing with Dirty Harry.
“A Clockwork Orange is a much more clinical look at that but I think artists were trying to provide the answers top what society was asking then. It was a very, very violent era.
“This was an era in which people were searching for answers to the madness that was going on around them,” Lurie continues, “and filmmakers were trying to provide some of the answers. You had everything from the assassinations of Kennedy and King to Vietnam to the Whitman murders to My Lai. I think all of society was trying to understand how human beings could do such things.”