on 21 May 2009
I wish that Werner Herzog had taken his hero Strozek down the path that Peckinpah takes Bennie. Strozek ends in the suicide of a life that harmed no-one but could not rise to face a bad, bad world. But here, Bennie, the main character, faces up to the appalling world he lives in (the bars of the mexican border with Texas)finally redeems himself through a great act of sacrifice.
A modern american tragedy "Bring me the head..." I think exemplifies personal hubris; the west gone mad through an orgy fueled by drugs, alcohol , greed and lust. Bennie's just a tiny speck of dirt and his only hope is the love of a prostitute, and well.... you can find out what he does with that.
Some say this is flawed - but I dont understand that - Peckinpah shows you what its like living in that world and in 2009 that world is all around us.
Despite the violence (tame by todays standards), at its heart the film is about the ROMANCE between Bennie (played to perfection by Warren Oates) and his girlfriend (Isela Vega).
on 1 June 2006
Warren Oates, in a career best performance, unravels magnificently down Mexico way in Peckinpah's criminally underrated nouveau gothic masterpiece. This film is gradually coming into it's own, initially marginalised in the scheme of the director's work it is now reappraised as one of his major achievements. Weird romanticism, shattering violence, morbid subject matter, all combine to make it a unique cinematic experience. The obvious signpost to the progressively nihilistic tone of the movie is given earlier on when Gig Young is asked for his name by Bennie (Warren Oates). He replies "Dobbs. Fred C. Dobbs." The name is that of the Humphrey Bogart character in John Huston's classic "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre." Bogart's character was driven mad by greed in that movie, in his futile search for an elusive treasure. Peckinpah's vision encompasses many of the same themes, yet is far darker. As Oates' character spirals into psychosis during his journey through the searing and filthy Mexican badlands, he maintains a fractured, rambling dialogue with the decaying, severed head of Alfredo and coldly guns down those who get in his way.
Bennie is a loser, a pianist in a dead end bar, cuckolded by the woman he loves who got it on with Alfredo (a friend of Bennie's), broke and living in squalor, he perceives obtaining the severed head of his dead friend as a way out. This is his "golden fleece," a passport to a better life. In the process of digging up the body, his girl is murdered and Bennie's personality disintegrates. As he pumps bullet after bullet into the corpse of one of the hoods who whacked his chick, he spits: "Why? Because it feels so damn good!" The role is one that Warren Oates was made for. Seldom a leading man in Hollywood, his history of character parts provide him with the experience needed to invest Bennie with the complex traits of a complete anti-hero. Each tic, each mannerism, the almost improvised quality of his dialogue delivery, results in a totally believable performance.
Although many believe that Peckinpah's direction here is "messy and unfocussed" on reflection it seems more of a deliberate ploy to accentuate the nightmarish quality of the narrative. Bennie swigs Tequila almost constantly throughout the movie, and very often - combined with the obligatory slow motion violence and gunplay - the result is as if the audience is viewing the action through the languorous gaze of a drunk. Or maybe that's just my imagination running away with me. Or my own alcohol intake.
This is probably Peckinpah's most personal film, and his last masterpiece, and as such is one of the most original pieces of mainstream cinema ever produced. If you like Tarantino and Rodriguez, this movie will give a sense of where some of their roots are. Ultimately, a journey into the heart of darkness that makes Apocalypse Now seem like a paddle through Disneyland.
on 9 November 2006
Quite simply the most nihilistic film ever made but also one of the best ever made. This is truly Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece - the main character, Benny , played by the amazing Warren Oates at last given a great leading role is basically Peckinpah himself and Oates based his characterisation on him. Where else will you get a film where the lead character wears his sunglasses for practically half the film, where even though he has no redeeming qualities you still route for him at the end as his road journey leads him to the abyss of who he is. This is the only film I think where Peckinpah had little to no interference in making it, and boy does it show. I often wonder if the great man was alive today what kinda films he would have ended up making and what actors he would have worked with. If you like only one of Peckinpah's films, but haven't seen this, then trust me and buy it, it's a true master being let loose of studio chains and making a personal `up yours to the lot of you' style of film. Violent, funny, beautifully shot, downbeat and one of the greatest lead performances in the history of film by Warren Oates, it just doesn't get better than this
on 17 March 2008
A Sam Peckinpah film which was probably a bit maligned at the time of its release. I can remember a reviewer in the local Bournemouth free-sheet giving the film a panning. (Something about the director losing his OWN head.) Since then, "BMTHOAG" has grown in importance and is now viewed as being right up in the pantheon of great SP films.
It has a distinctly "un-glossy", almost "grunge-like" quality that must have seemed unusual at the time. Warren Oates is excellent, as he slowly goes off the rails and ends up becoming a sort of one-man Wild Bunch. Otherwise, the film features a bizarre cast. What are Robert Webber and Gig Young doing in there? Kris Kristofferson has a small cameo role, as do the guy who steals Doc McCoy's bag of money in "The Getaway" and the Generalissimo in "The Wild Bunch". I'm just left wondering if Ben Johnson, Bo Hopkins, LQ Jones, Slim Pickens or Strother Martin aren't lurking in the background, somewhere.
Seemingly a bit rambling and unfocussed in the first part of the film, "BMTHOAG" susequently develops into one of the vital Sam Peckinpahs.
on 6 May 2012
Since no one will likely buy the Blu-Ray unless they already know and like the movie, let me just say that this is a nice-looking Blu-Ray release from Suevia, which is not known for the quality of its typical DVD releases. There were only a couple of rough spots; for the most part, it was just like a theatrical presentation. Highly Recommended.
El Jefe is outraged to find that his daughter has fallen pregnant to a man who has upped and gone, after learning the identity of the rascal (Alfredo Garcia), he offers one million dollars to anyone who can bring him the head of the Lothario running man. On the trail are hit men Quill & Sappensly, Bennie & his prostitute girlfriend Elita, and some other Mexican bandit types, all of them are on a collision course that will bring far more than they all bargained for.
This was the one film where director Sam Peckinpah felt he had the most control, the one where we apparently get his own cut and not some chopped up piece of work from interfering executives. Viewing it now some 34 years after its release, it stands up well as a testament to the work of a great director. On the surface it looks trashy, we have homosexual hit men, grave robbing, potential rape, murders abound, prostitution, lower than the low characters, in short the film is awash with Peckinpah traits. Yet it would be a disservice to even think this film isn't rich in thematic texture, for the journey that Bennie, our main protagonist takes is one of meaning, he is a loser, but we find him on this quest to find not only fortune, but respect and love. It's a bloody trail for sure, but it has much depth and no little Peckinpah humour to push the film to it's bloody yet triumphant finale. Warren Oates is rewarded by Peckinpah for years of sterling work for him by getting the lead role of Bennie, and he grasps it with both hands to turn in a wonderful performance that splits sadness and vibrancy with deft of ease.
Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia has a harsh quality about it, be it the violence, or be it the sadness of the characters, but what isn't in doubt to me is that it's harshness is cloaked in Peckinpah splendour. 9/10
First of all, I agree with Gryphon X's review, I feel this is one of Sam Peckinpah's best films, right up there with Ride The High Country,The Wild Bunch,The Ballad Of Cable Hogue,Straw Dogs and Cross Of Iron. It's funny that he mentions 'The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre,' in one scene Warren Oates character (Benny) asks the hitman played by Gig Young "what's your name?" to which Gig replies "Fred C. Dobbs." There are many negative reviews of the film that are just plain ridiculous, I'm going to try to put them in perspective. I'll try not to give away too many SPOILERS, but it can't be totally helped......
1. "(it's) dull. There's so many scenes of characters just sitting around and talking..." Yes there are scenes of people talking to each other, some in Spanish. Even if their conversations are mundane they're in benefit to the plot and characters. If you find Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, the films of Quentin Tarantino or My Dinner With Andre boring, then stick to action blockbusters......
2. "(There's a) sensitive rapist, who gets his feelings hurt and walks away from his victim only to have her walk after him and ask him to make love to her." There's a scene where Benny and his girlfriend Elita, who earlier in the film was shown to be a working prostitute, are camping for the night. This happens after a tender scene where he asks her to marry him which makes her very happy. Two bikers then come along, one decides to take her in the woods to rape her, while the other holds Benny at gunpoint (played by cult musician Donnie Fritts) who then taunts him by singing a lascivious rendition of the old blues standard "Jelly Jelly." She goes willingly figuring it's better to submit than have themselves killed. The rapist becomes impotent because she shows no fear and walks away, takes out his gun and sits down, as if deep in thought. She thinks he's deciding to killing them, so she says "No, don't" and starts to seduce him to keep anything bad from happening. The point becomes moot when her boyfriend gets the drop on the bad guys......
3. "...all Peckinpah spends his time doing is figuring out different ways to disrobe the female lead..." The lead actress (Isela Vega, who's great, btw) is shown topless twice in the whole picture, for a minute or two when she's in bed with her boyfriend and for a couple minutes after the rapist tears off her shirt. The rest of the time she's clothed......
4. "... if you watch this film, you'll see why Peckinpah had the final cut taken away from him on ALL (my highlight) his other films..." First of all, this film hasn't an ounce of "fat," every scene forwards the plot, and there are no continuity problems like the ones found in the arguably TWO films that were "taken away from him." Major Dundee was the only film actually taken away from him, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was butchered by the studio head after Peckinpah completed the film as revenge. Peckinpah's cut has been available for a long time and is considered one of his best films......
5. "...Benny decides that the hooker is worth killing for when the fact remains that she is just a hooker..." It's obvious from the get go that Benny and Elita, a third-rate musician and a hooker, are on the losing end of a town for losers. When Benny figures he can make enough money for both of them to leave he greedily takes the chance so they can get out of the life they're living. Because he loves a hooker she doesn't deserve his love? It's obvious that Benny loves her and while not to happy about her other affairs, he accepts her as she is. It's also implied that they never had an exclusive agreement between them until he asks her to marry him. I'd love to hear this person's opinion on minorities and gays. Self-righteous twaddle, you deserve to be homeless for a while to learn empathy......
6. "...the same, routine Sam Peckinpah film, filled with lots of blood, guts, bullets and slow-motion action...but will satisfy those who enjoy ultra-violence in their movies..." I didn't catch the so-called "guts," but there is violence, some of it slo-mo. In all of the film's 112 minute running time there is about ten minutes of violence, tops. As for the slo-mo, didn't people ever hear the saying "what took seconds seemed like hours?" I feel that Peckinpah uses slo-mo to depict how you would feel if you were in the same situation, you'd be asking yourself "is this ever going to end?"
7. "...another nihilistic film from Sam Peckinpah..." OK, once more, Benny loves Elita. He's found a chance for them to get out of their miserable lives and be happy. Bad things happen to them and his dreams are over. He decides to punish those who took away his dream. Nihilism is "a doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated." Benny doesn't do what he does in the film for nothing. Standing up for your principles and being true to yourself whether right or wrong is the main theme running through almost all of Peckinpah's films, not nihilism......
I'm not a Sam Peckinpah apologist. He made a few films that I thought were just OK ('The Getaway,' 'Junior Bonner') and a stinker or two ('The Killer Elite,' 'Convoy') but I'm surprised at some of 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia's' reviews. They make me wonder if I was watching the same movie, or if the reviewers had even watched the film. Maybe they caught a truncated or censored version on TV with commercials. After some reviews that I read, when I first watched it I expected to see a crazed Warren Oates with a bevy of topless women driving around with a rotting head in his car, covered in blood and mowing down everyone in his path. He does ride with the head for a very short while, with it becoming his Yorick. There's never anything exploitive about it, they never even show it's removal. The head is actually a stand in for Benny's shattered dreams, dreams cut off with no chance of returning. Benny's rampage is to cause those responsible to suffer the same fate. 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" tells the universal story of people's dreams and length they'll go to make them come true, it's by turn dramatic and comic, but mostly heart-wrenching and heartbreaking. Warren Oates gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Benny. Forget the reviews, 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia' is an example of a filmmaker at his prime. Watch it with an open mind, you won't be disappointed......
One last thought, the hotel room where Benny goes to see the cronies of the kingpin ordering the hit on Alfredo immediately reminded me of the scenes with Dean Stockwell at the "This Is It" club in 'Blue Velvet.' I wonder if David Lynch was inspired by it, even subconsciously......
on 13 January 2015
"One of the greatest movies ever made!" (Uncut) That's the sticker on the box. Not sure I agree with that, but when you look at the films: The Getaway (my all time favourite Steve McQueen movie) Straw Dogs (grossly underrated and I don't know - given what I have experienced, entirely credible - Ride the High Country, a mellow tribute to the traditional Western movie and the two stars that lived it Randolph Scott and Joel Macrea - The Ballad of Cable Hogue with another all time movie star and theatrical legend, Jason Robards and the infamous Wild Bunch.
With a list like that you have to give it to Sam Peckinpah as one of the greatest Hollywood directors of all time. His particular vision may have been fuelled by drink and drugs and led to an early demise (59) and I note Barry Norman's typically middle England disapproval of this lifestyle in his write up of the TV Documentary that aired about Peckinpah in May 2005. But who are we, who is Norman, to question those decisions and judgements that led to the creative ouput? - After all, that can be left to people with more contact and hence more justification to utter a murmer. Not us.
Perhaps Peckinpah drew in like minded similarly fuelled actors into his circle all who perished or suffered in the bright flame: Robards, Oates, Gig Young - all heavy drinkers. And the drink is always there in this film: each scene seems veiled by it. The shower scene where Benny crawls back with his trophy to his hovel and the decision to reverse the process of vengeance, to make it mean something, is laid out in an acting tour de force by Oates. But laden with alcohol.
What a supporting cast! Peckinpah seems to have had no problem with casting: lots of talent wanted to work with him. Think of Slim Pickens in The Getaway, a small but critical role. He had an unerring touch with his leading ladies too. Isela Vega here is absolutely right for the part and so worldly without ever losing the essential loveliness Benny adored.
Gig Young and Robert Webber offer a sort of indeterminately wed locked heartless contract killers on the heels of Benny and Elita, Helmut Fantine the prissy manicured Grand Dame holed up in a protected flat organising the money end. These are all canny realisations - as are the general scene dressing and sets evoking the seamy rundown end of the road locus for the action. An air of general brutality and unbelievable hardship sits curiously side by side with genteel civility. Then there is the sunglasses...the cars...
The music by Jerry Fielding is absolutely outstanding and prices for the now deleted CD soundtrack album on Ebay reflect that! Modern music meets movie music - I got a similar feel from Johnny Mandel's score for Point Blank.
If I am not strictly allowed to do this I apologise - but all the same, I leave this expert, with the last words about this film and Peckinpah, much better I think than the precious and ungenerous Barry Norman in the Radio Times, from Rick Moody writing in The Guardian, it's an article well worth Googling and reading in full:
"Alfredo Garcia is more like a B-film than the relatively high-minded fare of which one imagined Peckinpah capable after The Wild Bunch, or Straw Dogs, and The Getaway. And more like the B-films of Roger Corman than John Ford's. In a way, here at the end of his major output, the garishness, the half-heartedness of the production values, the fuzzy story and fuzzier characters remind us that at the end of his career, Peckinpah is among the undisputed poets of alcoholic cinema. Peckinpah in Alfredo Garcia never misses a chance to treat a woman badly, to make sure she shows the camera her breasts, and his joyless men seem to lust after nothing but money and rotgut drunk straight from the bottle. They have come to the end of their luck. As had the director himself. There's a desperation to Alfredo Garcia, therefore, and yet, for all that, it is hard turn away from it. Train wrecks, after all, offer a visceral satisfaction, if only for their scale.
And the very last thing Peckinpah shot? Right before his death? Julian Lennon's music videos for Vallotte and Too Late for Goodbyes. Did he need the money? Did he like playing the underdog? Was there something moving about musical advertisements for the son of a famous victim of violence? However you answer these questions, there's something starkly beautiful about Valotte. Julian Lennon, his features and his voice so unsettlingly reminiscent of his late father's, sits alone at the piano in a recording studio, as the camera seems to hover, as if from hereafter itself, at the uppermost corner of the ceiling above the performance.
There's nothing flashy or cheap about the video (in an era when cheap was the order of the day), and everything about it feels understated, even graceful. But whose heavenly ken is depicted therein? From the top of that ghostly staircase? John Lennon's point of view, lamenting a son he insufficiently came to know? Peckinpah's, who knew his time was short and that his vision, as realised, was incomplete? Maybe Valotte was a sort of funeral oratory, too - one, as in David Warner's speech from Cable Hogue, in which the orator was unable to lie."
'Inside the Head of Sam Peckinpah' Rick Moody The Guardian, 9 January 2009
on 9 January 2013
When you watch a film and you know for fun you will review it on Amazon, perhaps a bit sadly, you have a kind of 'clapometer' in your mind going between one and five. Generally it hovers between two numbers and you plump at the end!I think with this it began about three and fell away because it seemed shoddy, even ploddy as the characters supposedly 'developed'; then it was roaring towards five by the end on my device. And the morning after(!), I wimped out and gave it four. There are so many things to admire in this and at the same time - sometimes in the same shot - things that detract. Flawed and great do sit happily together however. As do bizarre, unpleasant, lyrical, sentimental, unbelievable and realistic. I think as it gathers towards the finish you start to shed the sense of realism which, to an extent is there in the early passages with Warren Oates and his prostitute girlfriend and the surrounding peasantry. Then it becomes operatic as the character develops the cleansing madness of the tragic hero redeemed. The opening is cliched, averagely acted and yet clever and intriguing - suddenly you are thrown off balance. Warren Oates, despite playing a character with very little to like in his present state (who knows what history of sadness brought him here), does manage to create the depth of a true modern tragic hero of almost Shakespearean quality. He should certainly have won awards for a brave, contradictory, brilliant performance, as if awards mattered next to cinematic posterity.
on 2 September 2008
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is one of my favorite films of Sam Peckinpah and right up there with THE WILD BUNCH, THE GETAWAY, STRAW DOGS and PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID.
It also features the Peckinpah-style slow-motion gunplay that John Woo copied and perfected in his (pre-Hollycrap) movies - the violence is rather mild compared to most movies made nowadays.
Unfortunately this little gem is often overlooked and underrated - it even got banned for a short time in Germany (gasp!).
Warren Oats is the perfect choice for the role of Bennie, a bar pianist and a loser who goes on a bounty hunt for - you guessed it - the head of Alfredo Garcia - with his lover Elita (Isela Vega).
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is clearly NOT a Hollycrap movie - and it shows in a good way: Peckinpah even said this was the only film he made that was released as he intended. Despite being a commercial and critical failure, the film has become a cult classic.
5.0 OUT OF 5.0 STARS.
Reviewed version: 2005 MGM UK DVD
Feature running time: 108 mins. (uncut)
Rating: R (MPAA) / 18 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16:9 (anamorph)
Audio: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish (all 2.0 dual mono)
Subtitles: English for hearing impaired, German for hearing impaired, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish
Region: 2 and 4
Picture and sound are mediocre. You can't expect much from dual mono. There was not much effort from MGM to polish up the picture quality either. No extras.