The Film: Bring Me The
Head of Alfredo Garcia
(1974)

The Principles:

Sam
Peckinpah, Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Gig Young

The Premise:  An American expatriate
living in Mexico thinks he can strike it rich when he learns there’s a
bounty on his girlfriend’s boyfriend’s head… and that the guy just
died in a car accident.

Is It Good: 
It’s possible that this is
the sleaziest movie ever made. It opens with a tranquil scene of a young
pregnant girl dipping her feet in a river when she is called away by
her father. Her father, who looks like a Don from the 1800s, wants to
know who knocked her up. He wants to know so badly that he has his two
goons rip open her nightgown and then savagely break her arm. And that’s
the opening scene of the movie.

There are some who will say that Bring Me
The Head of Alfredo Garcia
isn’t a Western, and those people
would all be wrong. In fact, Peckinpah plays with your understanding of
Westerns right off the bat – that opening scene could take place in the
Western territories in the 19th century, but it’s quickly followed by
all of the Don’s goons getting into 1970s cars and hopping planes. The
film expects you to be momentarily disoriented by this switcheroo.

Alfredo
Garcia
is
a Western because it’s all about lawlessness and the search for
freedom; Warren Oates’ Bennie just wants to make enough money to slip
off into the territories and be left alone. The cars may be late model
(at the time) but the world and its moral are just as grim and ugly as
they were on the frontier.

Warren Oates is one of the all-time
great motion picture actors, and this could be his greatest performance.
He plays a guy who sleeps in his sunglasses, after all. Bennie is a
dissolute loser, but he’s also got some ability – he’s not winning
gunfights by sheer chance. There’s a wounded vulnerability that Oates
mines perfectly; he understands that for someone to be this rough they
must be pretty soft on the inside. The people who end up the most
wounded are the ones open to wounds in the first place.

What’s
great about Bennie, though, is the journey he goes on. All of the
nastiness surrounding him teaches him the value of the smallest amounts
of dignity, and allows him to understand the meaning of love. These
lessons come too late, but in the end he manages to stand up for
something other than the money at stake. 

Is It Worth A Look: 
You should probably own this.
It might be my favorite Peckinpah film, and I think it’s just a blast
to watch. Peckinpah’s seedy Mexico feels like autobiography, but so does Bennie’s quest. What I love in Alfredo Garcia is how nihilistic it begins and how weirdly optimistic it ends up (hear me out). The Don sends his assassins everywhere to find Alfredo Garcia and to return his head, all for the crime of knocking up the Don’s daughter. Bennie knows Al, and better than that, Bennie’s prostitute girlfriend fucks Al… or at least she did before he was killed in an accident. Suddenly the idea of hunting a man down gets totally flipped, as the whole film becomes about Bennie robbing Al’s grave and stealing his noggin so he can claim the reward cash. It’s the least heroic, least manly quest possible. But Peckinpah isn’t just wallowing in the nastiness here (well, not always) – by going so low, by seeing so many people get killed over the already-dead head of a lothario, Bennie has an awakening. He never had anything to live for – his big plan for the money was just to go somewhere new, and he’s not a young man anymore – but suddenly he has something to die for. And then at the end maybe he has something to live for again, before he gets gunned down. It’s the 70s.


Random Anecdotes: 
Kris Kristofferson shows up as an Easy Rider-esque biker who tries to have his way with Bennie’s girl. In later interviews, Kristofferson would say that he thought Peckinpah softened the scene for him, and that it could have ruined the movie. I don’t know what film Kristofferson saw – the fact that Elita is at the very least okay with having sex with him, and at the very worst looks forward to it (shades of Susan George in Straw Dogs) really works contextually, especially in regards to what it means for Bennie. Alfredo Garcia contains one of the great scenes in cinema: waking up after a night with his girl, Bennie picks crabs out of his crotch and pops them with his fingers. Then he pours tequila on his crotch to get rid of the rest of them.

The
Tally So Far


 Positive  Negative
 Pontypool Deadgirl
 State of Play The Children
 Orphan  It’s Alive
 Grace  Friday the 13th, Part 3
 Inside  Hounddogaudition
 3000 Miles to Graceland Columbus

Day

The Last Supper  Angel

Eyes

 Things To Do In Denver
When

You’re Dead

Highlander:

The Source

 World’s Greatest Dad   The Killing Hour
(aka The Clairvoyant)
 Lady Beware   The

Neverending Story

 Pitch Black  

Battlefield
Earth

 For All Mankind Heaven’s Prisoners
 Splinter Adrenaline:

Fear The Rush


 Blessed

by Fire

The

Legend of the Lone Ranger

 Outland
The Kindred
  Top

Secret


  Beer Wars  
  The Brood  
The

Incredible Hulk 

 
Undertaking

Betty

 
 Cache  
 

Taxi
Blues

 
 

Across the
Universe

 
Lord of War
 
  Dead Heat
 
 

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Across the 8th Dimension

 
  Every Which Way But Loose
 
  The

Entity

 
  The Slammin’ Salmon
 
  Gremlins

2: The New Batch

 
Master Of The Flying Guillotine
  Against All Odds
 
  The

Last Waltz

 
  David Cross – Let America Laugh
 
  The

Vanishing

 
Tupac: Resurrection  
Daybreakers  
Rock

N’ Roll High School

 
Django