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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (MGM DVD)

Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B



My mouth quickly goes to yawn mode when I see or hear comments towards Sam Peckinpah because the dialogue becomes a recycled heap of things like ‘Bloody Sam’, slow-motion action scenes, lots of violence, or other ways to describe what seems to have followed his directing style to his death.  The point is that you never hear anyone talk about the story, plot, acting, or other elements of his films, but rather you get little tidbits about the most trivial things.  People act like Peckinpah was the only director to make violence popular or stylized.  While he may have invented a new language for the medium when it comes to style in that sense, it does not necessarily make the film entirely revolve around those particular moments.  Has anyone had a serious discussion on The Wild Bunch that had anything to do with plot or theme, or to they sit around and chitchat about all the violence and action? 


While I could continue my tangent it’s more important to go into more detail about MGM’s release of the long-awaited cult favorite Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, which remains a love-it-or-hate-it type of film, even amongst Peckinpah fans.  Interestingly enough this is the only film that he received his final cut of the film, versus what the studio wanted. 


The plot here is incredibly simple, yet executed quite well with lots of sensible direction and attitude.  A wealthy and powerful Mexican rancher finds out that his unwed daughter is pregnant with a man named Alfredo Garcia, who apparently has some ties to the family and thus the beginning of the film that understandably angry father executes his authority and sends out thugs to …bring him the head of Alfredo Garcia.  His two thugs come across a piano player (Warren Oates), who has some insight of the case through his girlfriend who may know his whereabouts, thus the adventure begins.  Oates’ character is solely interested in making financial gain from the case, but this is not ‘easy money’ as other bounty hunters are also on the trail and the end result is not very pretty.


One thing that I quickly noticed about the film is the relatively uninteresting camera work, which I think could have greatly enhanced the style and direction of the film.  In fact, if you think about this time period, which was mid-70’s the Godfather I and II, were violent, but also had incredible camerawork that made literally every scene tight, distinguished, and help visually narrate the story, whereas with this film its easy to see how some viewers could become bored in between the climatic moments.


Even MGM’s relatively solid 1.85 X 1 anamorphically enhanced transfer of the film still gives a lackluster quality, with the old Transamerica United Artists logo giving us a hint that the source may not be the newest copy.  Keep in mind that most of Peckinpah’s work has a neutral color scheme, which makes the film have a ‘realistic’ look that becomes interrupted by slow motion, and perhaps this is why sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.  Take for example the gritty texture to the film that completely gives away its 1974 origins, which had the film been shot closer to something like The French Connection, which still was gritty, but also very intelligent with its camera movement, the film may have a greater impact today.  The only real problems with the transfer here would be a typical problem of a film that do not receive a full restoration and that is minor debris and dirt, as well as a softness and slight unevenness in color management.  Notice in certain scenes how colors bleed and have a flat texture to them, which are certainly not enhanced by the films drab intentions to begin with.


Unfortunately the film also has a very fat mono sound too, which even converted here to 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono, it is still bland and could use a bit of work.  Dialogue is ok, but everything else is very lackluster in dimension, depth, and overall tonality.  Gunshots sound like cap guns, etc.  Would it have been worth trying to remix this for 5.1?  Perhaps, but that can lead to mixed results, although in the case of The Osterman Weekend (reviewed on this site), the film was remixed for DTS 6.1 ES sound, which was Sam’s last film.  I certainly don’t think that would have been necessary here, but 5.1 would have been welcome if done tastefully. 


The only extras on the disc are the theatrical trailer and a commentary track by the same scholars on Anchor Bay’s DVD edition of The Osterman Weekend, which included Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle, and Nick Redman, who all provide interesting things to introduce into the film and give a better context for the film, as well as Peckinpah than most people might expect.  It would be great if Warner releases The Wild Bunch in a special edition with all the extras available and gets these four to do a similar commentary for that film.  Steven Prince would be another candidate who dissected Straw Dogs on the DVD commentary track from Criterion.  All of these scholars are well versed in what they say and have interesting things to say, yet the average person will probably tune out after 20 minutes, and even that is being favorable. 


This is certainly not the place to start if you are not familiar with the body of work that Peckinpah has left behind.  A better starting place might be The Wild Bunch or Straw Dogs, then migrate towards some of his more ambitious films like those already mentioned in this review or Cross of Iron, Junior Bonner, and even the original The Getaway.  However, if you are perhaps looking for something a bit odd and uncommon and just want to take a chance than go for it, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is always in need of a few new fans.



-   Nate Goss


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