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  Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia Tête-à-tête
Year: 1974
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Stars: Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gig Young, Helmut Dantine, Emilio Fernández, Kris Kristofferson, Chano Urueta, Donnie Fritts, Jorge Russek, Chalo González, Don Levy, Enrique Lucero, Janine Maldonado, Tamara Garina, Farnesio de Bernal
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: A Mexican General (Emilio Fernández) is mortally offended by the fact his daughter is bearing an illegitimate child, and offers a reward to anyone who can bring him the severed head of the man responsible, Alfredo Garcia. Two of the men on the trail arrive in a bar, after asking around many other places the man was known to have visited, and coming up with no leads they sit at the piano of the bar's resident pianist, Bennie (Warren Oates). Everyone present knows that they mean business when one of them (Robert Webber) knocks out a woman who comes on to him, and as it happens Bennie has heard of Garcia. But how can he get the cash reward without getting in over his own head?

So, is Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia writer and director Sam Peckinpah's most personal masterpiece or is it a crushingly tedious, self indulgent bore authored by a man who had lost his sense of quality control? The jury is still out, as for every person who can't abide this film, there's a buff who will defend it to the end. Peckinpah claimed this was the movie which stuck closest to his own vision, with those famed troubles with his producers at a lesser intensity here, so much so that he was able to secure the final cut. At its heart is a remarkable performance by Oates, keeping things centred on his character's encroaching psychosis as much as his replenishing soul, which was supposedly based on a certain director's personality, a certain director not a million miles away from him when he was making it.

The atmosphere is almost obsessively sleazy, so much so that you can just about smell the sweat and booze soaking every scene, and when Bennie finally catches up with the head you'll be glad this project wasn't made with Smell-O-Vision in mind. For the first half, he has a companion in the shape of Elita (Isela Vega), the closest thing he has to a girlfriend, even fiancée, although as with most females in Peckinpah she is depicted with, shall we say, mixed feelings. The reason Bennie knows he can trace Garcia is because Elita had a three-day fling with him the other week, which in a unsanitary development has given her crabs which she duly passes onto Bennie. But soon after his liaison with Elita, Garcia died, and if Bennie wants that head he's going to have to dig up the body himself.

Which is where the drama turns into a road movie, with Bennie and Elita driving through Mexico to the graveyard, only dimly aware that they are being followed by a couple of hoods. Along the way the action moves at a snail's pace, with Oates looking as if he's suffering a permanent hangover, and Bennie only discovers his sense of purpose, his manliness in fact, by killing people. This starts with a couple of bikers (Kris Kristofferson is one of them) who attempt to rape Elita - naturally this being Peckinpah she changes her mind from resisting them to almost instigating lovemaking until Bennie outsmarts them and blows them away with his handgun. For the second half Bennie has a new friend to talk to: Garcia's head which is attracting flies despite the ice he packs into the sack it's carried in. The further the story progresses the more deranged it grows until it's a wild-eyed, staggering ramble of bloodshed; some have found bleak, grimy poetry in the film, but the presentation is so unfriendly that only Peckinpah true believers need apply. Music by Jerry Fielding.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Sam Peckinpah  (1925 - 1984)

American writer and director, a hard-drinking, producer-hating maverick who was as much reviled as he was admired. After a spell in the armed forces, he moved into television with a succession of westerns, and graduated to film with The Deadly Companions and cult classic Ride the High Country. When he worked on Major Dundee, the problems started, and, as would happen many times subsequently, the film was recut against his wishes.

In 1969, Peckinpah won huge respect for The Wild Bunch, which saw him employ the vivid, bloody violence that would become his trademark. He spent the seventies crafting a series of notable thrillers and westerns, such as the humorous Ballad of Cable Hogue, the reflective Junior Bonner, controversial Straw Dogs, hit Steve McQueen vehicle The Getaway, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the intense, one-of-a-kind Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Killer Elite, WWII story Cross of Iron, and comparitively light hearted Convoy.

Throughout this decade, Peckinpah's reputation amongst studios dropped to such an extent that he could barely find work by the eighties, and his last film, The Osterman Weekend, represented an attempt to reclaim past glories. Sadly, he died shortly after it was completed, while planning to bring an original Stephen King script to the screen. As an actor, he can be seen in friend Don Siegel's Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Monte Hellman's China 9 Liberty 37.

 
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