A feverish Neo-Western featuring an aces Warren Oates performance returns to Blu-ray
After Alfredo Garcia impregnates and abandons the daughter of a wealthy crime lord, El Jefe places a million-dollar bounty on Garcia’s head, sending the Mexican underground scrambling after him. Swept up in the chase is Bennie (Warren Oates, whose Peckinpah-borrowed sunglasses are almost glued to his eye sockets), who plays piano in hideaway Mexico City joints–until he learns that not only is Garcia dead, but that Bennie’s ex-girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) cheated on him with Garcia just before his fatal accident…and she knows where his body’s buried. With the promise of riches secured just for digging up Garcia’s head, Bennie lures Elita out to the Mexican countryside–both unaware of the danger they both face until it’s far too late.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a lean, grimy piece of work, expertly crafted and full of sleaze in the most Peckinpah way possible. Fresh off the successes of Straw Dogs, The Wild Bunch, and The Getaway (as well as the disappointing box office of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), Peckinpah was in exile in Mexico when the opportunity arose to shoot a film in-country with a low budget and total creative control. The resulting film is a weird, existential melange of Peckinpah’s neuroses — from the seedy, stoic figures of machismo that lurk in the shadows of the underworld, to how even more untrustworthy smiling bureaucratic suits seem by comparison, to the wholly toxic relationships these men have with the women that are ill-fated to cross their path. And, of course, all the tension that can only be released with a tsunami of gunfire. It’s a world of suffering and cruelty beyond others in Peckinpah’s work — uinjustly even more so by the women of Alfredo Garcia. The decisions forced upon its characters are without any possible benevolent outcome — most notably everything faced by Elita and her journey of betrayal and misery that leads literally to the grave. Aside from Straw Dogs, Alfredo Garcia may be the absolute roughest Peckinpah film I’ve seen yet — completely black-hearted and unflinching in how disposable it treats the characters in its world.
But as Bennie finds a second scene partner in Garcia’s unseen head, Alfredo Garcia reveals that the most grueling thing about the film is just how restrained it can be. Its most explicit acts of violence are never shown — whether it be a wide-shot cutaway or just the faintest glimpse of Garcia’s chin before the titular act is nearly committed…before Bennie is knocked out by other parties, who go on to commit even worse acts before Bennie regains consciousness. Just as restrained is Oates’ wild performance, a lounge lizard who realizes just how bloodthirsty he can be forced to be if the circumstances are wrong enough. Underneath his impenetrable sunglasses is a man who longs for the kind of life Elita believes they’re capable of having — even if he knows that every action he takes places it tantalizingly out of reach.
Alfredo Garcia is as bleak as they come–but its narrative economy and fascinatingly complex turns by both Warren Oates and Isela Vega elevate it into one of Peckinpah’s most interesting films.
3/15/21 Update: It has come to our attention that Kino Lorber was supplied the wrong master for this release. A disc replacement program has begun for those who purchased this release.
Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is sourced from a 2017 1080p HD Master from a 4K scan of the film’s original camera negative, which was also used for Arrow Video’s release in the UK. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a 2.0-Channel Stereo DTS-HD Master audio track. English subtitles are presented solely for the feature.
This restoration manages to preserve a healthy amount of Peckinpah grain and grime while also delivering a technically crisp and clear transfer. A handful of scratched and worn shots stick out–notably in a brief stock footage montage as crews spirit off across Mexico to find Garcia–but this is likely due to Peckinpah’s crew not having the original negative for those shots themselves. Throughout, Peckinpah captures Mexico as no different than the wilds of England or the backroads of America–full of lush, hazy greenery and sharp blue skies, which contrasts effectively with the inky shadows and deep crimsons that lie in wait. The audio track has its fair share of 70s-era clicks and hisses, but dialogue remains clear and easy to understand for viewers.
- 2 Audio Commentaries, one featuring film historians and Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle, and the other featuring Alfredo Garcia co-writer Gordon Dawson. Both commentaries are moderated by Twilight Time producer Nick Redman, and are ported over from their original Blu-ray. Both tracks provide a welcome deep-dive into all things Peckinpah, from the sources of the film’s financing, to Peckinpah’s love of Mexico, to the film’s evocation and subversion of Westerns in a present-day non-American setting.
- Trailers from Hell sees screenwriter Josh Olson break down his love for the film set over the film’s theatrical trailer.
- Trailers and TV Spots from Alfredo Garcia’s theatrical run–notably interesting how Peckinpah’s gritty, choreographed violence is promised yet edited around for 70’s TV audiences.
- Image Gallery of production stills and behind-the-scenes images set to Jerry Fielding’s score.
- Trailers for Kino Lorber releases Junior Bonner and Convoy.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is now available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.
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