❉ This week: Sam Peckinpah’s bleakest, most nihilistic effort.
“Alfredo Garcia will likely feel too morally, ethically, and spiritually repugnant for many viewers.”
I still can’t believe that this movie was made, in any era, though it seems inconceivable to ponder a current movie landscape where Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia would stand a chance of being funded, filmed, and released. This is a tough, unrelentingly nasty film – no wimps allowed – and from many accounts that I’ve read, Peckinpah was battling alcohol addiction during production of this corrosive motion picture, so as a result, the rough and boozy quality that the film possesses feels all the more authentic and bracing. And thanks to Twilight Time, the film has been re-issued as an “Encore Edition” in their Blu-ray library.
Warren Oates delivered a staggering performance of ugliness, instability, and shit-faced melancholy. As usual for Sam the Man, gritty violence is in abundance, with his fascination for rape and sexual deviancy still very much intact and on sad, brutal display. He was a complicated man who made troubling films, and Alfredo Garcia is easily his bleakest, most nihilistic effort, even more so than Straw Dogs, chiefly because there’s zero chance for reflection or catharsis by the time Alfredo Garcia’s narrative has come to a close. And yet, for some perverse reason, I can easily state that this is my favorite film from him overall.
I’m not sure what that might say about me, but there’s something so unique about Alfredo Garcia which allows it to stand out from the pack. And given that Peckinpah’s filmography is peppered with underrated gems and seminal classics, it can be a daunting task to try and single out one as your “favorite.” There’s a tragic sense of desperation that hangs all over this sadistic film, as the script that Peckinpah co-wrote with Gordon Dawson basically dares you to hate it almost immediately. Oates conveyed an inherent disheveled sloppiness that worked in perfect tandem with the raggedy, exploitation-y filmmaking that still reached the typically operatic heights of Peckinpah’s ultra-violent, revisionist Westerns and thrillers.
Oates is playing such an unremorseful character that it becomes easy to notice the seething rage that accompanies much of the narrative, from the open contempt for women, to the shockingly direct use of violent force that everyone seems capable of delivering throughout the course of this sordid story. And when coupled with an ending that literally leaves no sense of hope and which plunges straight into a hellish abyss of death, Alfredo Garcia will likely feel too morally, ethically, and spiritually repugnant for many viewers.
The action centers on a crime boss who tortures his pregnant teenage daughter in an effort to find out who has knocked her up. Once the boss, known simply as El Jefe, determines that it was his underling and possible successor who has impregnated his daughter, El Jefe offers a $1 million bounty to whoever can “bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.” Oates plays a habitually cocked and extra-skeevy piano player and broken-down bar manager in Mexico City named Bennie, and after hearing about the potential reward, he goes looking for Alfredo Garcia.
Upon learning that Alfredo has died in a car accident a few weeks prior, he sets off to find the body and remove the head so that he can get paid. Along the way there are double crosses, multiple murders, and all sorts of depraved acts of psychological violence, all carried out with a matter of fact bluntness that really pushes this movie into a very different category. It feels like the sort of film that could never get remade, even in the independent landscape (despite repeated attempts), because it feels so singular and so much a product of inner artistic turmoil that came from a clearly personal place.
As you might expect, at the time of its release, the film was a critical and commercial failure, but over the years, it has gained a rightful cult reputation as a movie that pushes buttons to the extreme. And within the overall context of Peckinpah’s striking filmography, this film feels even more important in terms of its comment about the human condition and psyche, to say nothing of its aesthetic successes. Jerry Fielding’s score is both jazzy and ominous, adding strong flavor to the entire film, while the stark cinematography by Alex Phillips Jr. never shied away from any of the harsh imagery being depicted.
The great team at Twilight Time have presented the film in it’s original 1.85:1 aspect ration, in 1080p High Definition color, and English 1.0 DTS-HD MA audio. Image quality is sharp but still retains that all-important grainy/film stock look that sets the immediate tone for the film moving forward. The disc is region free, with special features including an isolated score track, audio commentary with assistant to the director Katy Haber, and film historians Paul Seydor and Nick Redman, audio commentary with writer-producer Gordon T. Dawson and Nick Redman, multiple featurettes and interviews, as well as six TV spots and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
❉ Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (Encore Edition) (Blu-ray) is available here: https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/bring-me-the-head-of-alfredo-garcia-encore-edition-blu-ray/
❉ Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com
❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.
❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.