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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Kino // R // June 13, 2017
List Price: $13.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted October 9, 2017 | E-mail the Author
Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia:
Compadres, Uncle Kurt may have had a beer or tequila or two. The skies are filled with smoke from out-of-control forest fires where I live, hurricanes continue to batter the east coast of the United States, the Klan is more popular than ever, while much of the criticism points to those who are fighting the craziness. Meanwhile, I remain single, working 10-hour days seven days a week, and my MacBook pro broke down, so I'm typing this in 'Notepad' on a Dell Inspiron 1520 running Windows XP. If there ever were a better time to watch Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, I'd hate to be living in it.

Starring Warren Oates (the toughest Tough Guy who never was) as director Sam Peckinpah's fragile ego, Alfredo Garcia is one of those special movies they just don't make any more, and actually probably never did, since its particular vision of the screaming void is so spot-on it holds the power to drive weak minds insane with despair. (That last bit is of course hyperbole, if there's one thing humankind can be expected to do far more expertly than being introspective, it's to ignore the obvious.)

At the start of the film, a wealthy Mexican patriarch, flanked by armed guards, humiliates his pregnant daughter in order to find out who got her pregnant. When he has his answer, the titular pronouncement is made, with the promise of a million bucks for the delivery boy. A kooky scene of guerreros leaping, rifles in hand, into Chevy Novas, off on the hunt, betrays a hint of humor, but what Peckinpah wants (unknowingly or not) is to tell you just how worthless he, you, and everyone you know, really is.

A hapless Oates chokes his way through 'Guantanamera' for the thousandth time, helming the piano at a third-tier cantina when a pair of sleazeball James Bond-style headhunters become convinced he's just the man to get the head for them, at a fraction of the bounty. Oates slouches at the chance.

What follows are scenes of lyric beauty and pathetic romanticism intertwined with bits of random, indistinct victimization, willful degradation, epic gun violence, and complete despair. Amongst the grinding pathos of Oates' quest, the simple sight of Oates driving around fueled only by tequila while Garcia's bagged head attracts flies in the passenger seat, acts as a type of soothing comic relief.

Peckinpah coats some of his usual grit with a gauze of dreamy surrealism in Garcia, as Oates and his girlfriend watch swans on a sun-dappled lake, and later camp-out in barely-day-for-night footage. It creates a smeary perception perfect to accompany Oates self-created plummet from has-been to never-was. His later confrontation with the James Bond Headhunters is Oates' masterpiece turn; the admission of defeat has rarely been so poignant.

Isela Vega is a lovesick pawn, a cynical gal able to woo businessmen with her voice, but unable to escape the allure of Oates' insecure flop-sweat (a man who never takes off his sunglasses, even in bed). Her performance is highly nuanced, even as her character's motivations seem hard to believe.

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia ends with the Peckinpah-standard orgy of violence. The director did more for the poetry of gun battles than anybody, and this film is no exception. But in the end, it's all for naught. And that's all there really is to say, as Peckinpah does with lacerating élan. Highly Recommended.


Alfredo Garcia comes blasting at you in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that makes up for previous DVD editions. Arriving on your device or screen, recently mastered in HD, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia retains all the grimy, grainy grit and lack of definition you'd expect from a '70s art-house shocker. Colors are naturalistic while being understated, and darker 'day for night' scenes lose definition, which, if I may wax pompous, is how this film should look. We don't need this movie crisp, scrubbed, and enhanced. (Maybe I say that because I haven't seen the Blu-ray release, but I'm sincere when I say this movie looks just fine for what it is; an anguished cry from the shadows, film damage and all. Details aren't fantastic, speckles and spots appear here and there, but this looks just fine, better than my old treasured VHS copy, but not so good that it lifts your spirits any.

Hablas English Stereo audio track? This one is comparable to the video portion in fidelity, with clean, clear dialog, pedestrian post-facto sound design, and accurate representations of additional sound effects, etc. The score is subdued, and overall, the soundscape is just a notch or two above serviceable, but not less than you need.

Extras consist solely of the Original Theatrical Trailer and a Commentary Track from film scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Wedlle, and Nick Redman, which holds itself together enough to delight fans of the movie.

Final Thoughts: If you're inclined to like Sam Peckinpah, but not too familiar, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia will set you straight. Yes, you will likely die in a hail of bullets, but there will be no heroism prior, just hopelessness and degradation. I'm not Peckinpah, but I stand by that statement. What you do with that knowledge depends entirely on how you choose to absorb this hard luck tale of a man out to make a few bucks in his miserable life. Though free of the ultra-HD niceties and voluminous extras one expects from today's cinematic confections, this Kino release doesn't need 'em, and for those who don't already have this sad nugget on their shelves, this release is Highly Recommended.

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Highly Recommended

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