|I grew up in a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. On Saturday evenings, my mother had dinner with her girlfriends and my father took us children to the movies.
Mom’s last words were always, “Do not take those children to see anything scary.” Dads first words after she left were, “Well…what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. What movie do you want to see?"
Of course, living in a small town means you do not get films in a timely manner, so sometimes the menu was a bit dated and strange.
With four small children, the only option was the Riverside Drive-In. We would put on our PJs, grab our pillows, popcorn and a cooler full of soda - and off we went.
On the bill one memorable evening: Bonnie and Clyde, In Cold Blood and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Somehow, I made it through the first two movies without falling asleep. I believe it was the fact that In Cold Blood scared me so much…it was too close to home.
Then with the force of a hot wind somewhat like the Santa Anna in California, came Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. I was much too young to debate the social ramifications of being raped by your lover and seeming to enjoy it…those questions arose many years later when I saw this film as an adult. No film school dissertation, this was just a young boy’s impression of normal people going crazy.
(Little did I know I would go on to have my own controversial rape scene in Come Back to the Five and Dime over a decade after.)
Scalding hot oil…a great idea for intruders. I was concerned about this after In Cold Blood. Rats eating humans, what can be said?
The plot of Straw Dogs involved a nice quiet guy, who does not want to bother anybody...attacked and degraded - forced by the brutality of others to begin to act out of self-preservation.
Even as a child, I understood. I am not sure if I stayed awake for the entire show. My memories are deceiving, as I have seen this film many times in the ongoing years.
I do know that the next morning before breakfast, I checked all the windows in the basement to make sure they were secured. When Mom asked…as she always did, “Have fun last night?” I answered yes, and then went to my room and locked the door.