BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA
Review by Gordon Justesen
Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gil Young, Kris Kristofferson
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: March 8, 2005
guys are definitely on my s**t list."
Before there was an
Oliver Stone or a Quentin Tarantino, Sam Peckinpah represented the darker and
more twisted aspect of American cinema. Prior to his 1969 masterpiece, The
Wild Bunch, cinematic violence was virtually unheard of, at least the manner
in which Peckinpah displayed it. Like all true great filmmakers, his films were
both acclaimed and reviled, as one would be hard pressed to come across a film
from him which was either conventional or happy.
For the filmmaker
himself, his career pinnacle came with the release of 1974's Bring
Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. It was, and still is, Peckinpah's most
personal film release to date. He made it for almost no money, feeling that this
was an artistic vision that he simply had to make. The film didn't get received
well by most when released, despite a rave four star from Roger Ebert, but like
many misunderstood films has earned a high level of respect in its 31 years of
This is perhaps
Peckinpah's most startling vision of the most twisted side of the human soul.
The story opens on a ranch in Mexico, where a rich, and outraged, crimelord is
demanding that his newly pregnant daughter reveal the name of the father of the
unborn child. An act of torture enforced on the young woman results in the
exclamation of the name Alfredo Garcia.
This comes as a
shock to the crimelord, who as it turns out was a close friend of Garcia's, and
even considered him to be something of a brother. Nevertheless, he quickly puts
out the word that he'll pay a million dollars to whomever brings him the head of
Alfredo Garcia. A worldwide manhunt is ignited the minute following the
announcing of the bargain.
of the angered father come across a lowlife bartender named Bernie (Warren
Oates) in a Mexican par. He is an obvious lowlife, who serves drinks and does
some occasional piano playing. He accepts the job offer, not just for the huge
reward, but because his girlfriend, Elita (Isela Vega), used to be involved with
the womanizing Alfredo.
What follows is a
road journey of the most unusual nature. Bernie and Elita waste no time in
tracking down Alfredo Garcia, lobbing off the head with no hesitation, and
enjoying a peaceful life together. But things take a nasty turn almost
immediately, as the two cross paths with a pair of sadistic hoodlums, one of
whom is played by Kris Kristofferson.
development is the revelation that Alfredo Garcia is in fact already dead. The
body is buried in the ground resulting from a drunk driving accident.
Nevertheless, since the man who ordered the hit doesn't know this, Bernie
proceeds with the given order and digs the body up to remove the requested
The last half of
the film is the most startling and riveting segment. Like most Peckinpah films,
you can see that things are building to a not so happy finish. Once Bernie gets
a hold of the head, which is never seen but is kept noticeably in a burlap bag.
Bernie, slowly losing his mind and drinking himself into oblivion, begins
talking to the head, referring to it as Al.
With a title like Bring
Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, no other film has conveyed its tone in a more
suiting manner. It's a most poetic piece by Peckinpah, who was one of few
filmmakers who could craft effective material which consisted of unlikable
characters doing despicable things. No other film of his has illustrated that
notion better than this.
MGM has delivered
one of the finest presentations of any 70s film I've seen on DVD. The image
quality is consistently clear and crisp for nearly the entire film, and given
the film's age that's saying a lot. The dust-laden Mexican setting is richly
delivered in this nicely detailed delivery. They're aren't really any major
flaws in the production, say for a slight hint of softness, which is very very
brief. Most nicely done.
The Dolby Mono
track offers just about all that it can. The quality is actually much better
than I expected. Dialogue delivery is terrifically heard, while random gunfire,
despite dated sound effects, sounds as good as it can get. Not bad...just don't
be expecting a lot of bite.
Included on this
disc is a theatrical trailer and a well rounded and most informative commentary
track by Peckinpah Scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Wedlle with
moderator Nick Redman.
There's no question
that like many of Sam Peckinpah's films, Bring
Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia was a film much ahead of its time. It makes a
tremendous arrival of DVD in terms of look and sound. If you have never had to
opportunity to see this film, you really should consider discovering this
masterful piece of work.