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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray)
Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // August 16, 2016 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Twilighttimemovies]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted September 2, 2016 | E-mail the Author

Even if you can't stomach what happens during Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), it's not like the title doesn't warn you. This visceral production was directed and co-written by Peckinpah after the similarly disastrous reception of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid a year earlier, was shot in Mexico on a shoestring budget and features only about a half-dozen characters with more than four lines of dialogue. Our hero is Bennie (Warren Oates, The Wild Bunch), who accepts the title challenge after Garcia is revealed to be the absentee father of a crime boss's unborn grandchild. "El Jefe" (Emilio Fernandez) offers a whopping $1M for said cranium, sending ripples of interest throughout the surrounding area. Bennie isn't actually involved until two middlemen (Robert Webber and Gig Young, above) offer him a fraction of the reward, which is still more than enough to change his life.

Bennie jumps at the opportunity, towing along reluctant girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) who was previously involved with Garcia and knows his current whereabouts. Plot twist and mild spoiler: he's already dead, so retrieving the head is now less about murder and more about grave robbery. Either way, the difficult task seems more and more out of reach the closer they get: Elita isn't nearly as motivated as Bennie---she doesn't want the money or job for obvious reasons, and would much rather settle down with Bennie than risk their current situation. On the way to and from the distant cemetery in a less-than-pristine red convertible, Bennie and Elita encounter no shortage of roadblocks including a pair of American bikers (Kris Kristofferson and Donnie Fritts), another group of men looking for Garcia, and their own dissolving relationship doomed by desperate but avoidable circumstances.

The basic description might make Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia sound like a dark and cynical stab at the typical "road movie"...and to an extent, the film's episodic story can't help but support this claim. As Bennie's odometer spins away, Alfredo Garcia gradually shifts from a somewhat personal drama to a delirious, fever-dream examination of Bennie's stubborn demeanor and perpetually moving moral compass. This is a wild ride that moves slower than you'd expect; it feels like every minute of its 112-minute running time, and maybe more. Yet it's the kind of journey whose twists and turns make it near-impossible to look away from, even though many first-time viewers should be able to guess the eventual outcome far in advance. Punctuated by Peckinpah's trademark bursts of brightly-colored blood and slow-motion shootouts, it's as occasionally shocking and repulsive as its title suggests...yet I'd imagine anyone even halfway invested in the director's potent filmography will enjoy most of the trip.

Originally released on DVD more than a decade ago, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia was finally granted a Limited Edition Blu-ray by Twilight Time in 2014 that sold out quickly. In response to demand, the studio has now issued an "Encore Edition" (again, limited to 3,000 copies) that offers identical A/V specs and a wealth of terrific supplements, including a new audio commentary and everything from the earlier disc. It's a fantastic package for die-hard fans of the film or director, and might only irritate those who were able to snag it the first time around.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Twilight Time's out-of-print 2014 Limited Edition Blu-ray represented a fairly large leap in quality over MGM's 2005 DVD...and since this "Encore Edition" is basically the same disc, fans should be pleased with its 1.85:1, 1080p transfer. Image detail, textures, and color reproduction look quite good overall, with light to moderate but unobtrusive dirt and print damage along the way. Outdoor sequences obviously fare the best, especially under all that glaring sun. This Blu-ray also encoded well with no flagrant digital issues---excessive noise reduction, edge enhancement, etc.---serving up a pleasing and grainy film-like presentation that's likely close to (or better than) most original theatrical showings. Those less-than-impressive moments may be partially due to source material issues...and even though I'm confident Alfredo Garcia could look a little better with a fresh new master, some of the nicks, dirt marks, speckles, and other slight shortcomings seem to fit in naturally with the film's visceral, dilapidated locales.

DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.

The audio is presented in its original DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 format, with a modest amount of depth on several occasions. Dialogue and background effects are well-balanced and don't fight for attention; low end is virtually absent here, but it's right in line with most lower-budget films from the era. Defects are minimal, although I did notice some tinny distortion during during a few scenes later in the film; again, this is most likely a source material issue and isn't all that distracting. Thankfully, optional English subtitles have been included during the main feature.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The interface is plain but perfectly functional, with quick loading time and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. This one-disc release arrives in a clear, unbranded Blu-ray case with poster-themed artwork; both the menu and cover are tinted on the warmer side, unlike the purple tones of Twilight's 2014 Blu-ray. A Booklet featuring production stills, vintage promotional artwork, and the usual essay penned by TT regular Julie Kirgo is also tucked inside.

Bonus Features

New to this Encore Edition is a third (yes, third) Audio Commentary featuring Assistant to the Director Katie Hebert with film historians Paul Seydor and Nick Redman; as usual, the latter often acts as moderator and this is a chatty, engaging listen. Topics include Katie's contributions (and brief cameo), editing techniques, Sam Peckinpah's loyalty to crew members, Katie's experience on Straw Dogs and other Peckinpah films, photographs taken on set, the casting process, early reviews and audience reception, the best cure for crabs, shooting in Mexico City and location scouting, Katie's near-death experience at the hands of Sam Peckinpah, shooting "day for night", the film's impact and legacy, Richard Nixon, and much more. It's an interesting track with direct perspective, although I imagine there are a few repeated bits and pieces from the other commentary tracks. Speaking of which...

Recycled extras include everything from Twilight's 2014 Limited Edition Blu-ray: two Audio Commentaries with Nick Redman, co-writer Gordon P. Dawson, and biographers/historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle (one of which dates back to 2005 and was created for the MGM DVD); a welcome Isolated Score track presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; two substantial Documentaries ("Passion & Poetry" and "A Writer's Journey", 82 minutes total); a nice Poster Gallery; a collection of TV Spots, and the film's Theatrical Trailer. Overall, this is about as fully-loaded as catalog releases get---Twilight Time have really outdone themselves with this one.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your level of respect (or intolerance) for the visual poetry of Sam Peckinpah's free-wheeling, frequently violent films, his lesser-seen Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia may either be an exhausting masterpiece or an outright mess. I lean slightly towards the former, but there's no doubt this caustic road adventure makes plenty of sharp left turns...and if you're unwilling to follow it all the way, you might miss some of what it brings to the table. This is compelling, visceral stuff that will attract faithful fans and repulse just about everyone else, with the lead performances by Warren Oates and Isela Vega---as well as the dusty, run-down Mexican locales and Jerry Fielding's sporadic score---being the most immediate highlights. Twilight Time's "Encore Edition" Blu-ray should definitely thrill those who didn't nab the 2014 Limited Edition before it sold out; featuring the same solid A/V presentation and one welcome new bonus feature (plus all of the old ones), it's about as substantial as catalog releases get these days. Highly Recommended to die-hard Peckinpah fans, but newcomers should rent it first.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
Highly Recommended
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