Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 12th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1974
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Writer: Frank Kowalski, Sam Peckinpah, Gordon T. Dawson
Cast: Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gig Young, Helmut Dantine, Emilio Fernández, Kris Kristofferson
BluRay released: January 23rd, 2017
Approximate running time: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.851 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £14.99 (UK)
Synopsis: When a wealthy Mexican rancher discovers that his unmarried daughter is pregnant. He offers a reward for one million dollars to anyone who brings him the head of Alfredo Garcia, the man responsible for taking his daughters virtue. When tracking down Alfredo Garcia becomes too difficult, an American bartender working in a Mexican border town is approached by two hitmen who hire him.
Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia was co-written and directed by Sam Peckinpah who’s other notable film’s include, Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Straw Dogs, The Getaway and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Key collaborators on Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia include, cinematographer Álex Phillips Jr. (The Devil’s Rain, Demonoid) and composer Jerry Fielding (Johnny Got His Gun, Demon Seed).
When discussing the all-time great director, the term auteur is far too often liberally applied. And though there is also a far argument that these standards of what truly makes a director an auteur. To find the true essence of what is an auteur is weighs heavily on whether said director has a singular vision that is distinctively unique unto themselves. With that being said, one such director that epitomized the essence of having a “singular vision” was Sam Peckinpah.
His films often centered around loner’s who are forced to compromise their moral code in order to survive a nihilistic world that is at constant odds with them. And no Sam Peckinpah film more embodies these elements then his seminal masterpiece, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
The narrative for Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia opens with a rare moment of tranquility. Then the film quickly shifts gears towards a bleaker tone that builds to a boiling point by the film’s cathartic ending. The characters which inhabit this film are well defined and the majority of them are motivated by greed. With this film’s protagonist Bennie need for redemption being a rare example of a character who is not solely driven by their greed. And when it comes to this film’s moral center that distinction would be bestowed upon Bennie’s fiancée Elita.
From a production standpoint, the narrative is well constructed and the pacing is never an issues as key moments are given an ample amount of time to fully resonate. Another area where this films excels are its striking visuals which are filled with symbolic imagery, Standout moments visually include, the scene where Bennie and Elita have a tender moment as they sit beneath a tree. This is also a pivotal moment in the film as it marks a turning point in their relationship. Other standout moments include, a scene where Bennie and Elita have setup of the main road a place to stay for the night, Things take a turn for the worse when two bikers show up and hold Bennie at gun point while one of them rape Elita. And the scene where Bennie has finally found the grave of Alfredo Garcia and he digs up the grave to retrieve Alfredo’s head.
Performance the entire cast are deliver and then some. With this film’s standout performance being Warren Oates (Private Property, Dillinger) who delivers a tour de force performance as this film’s protagonist Bennie. Without a doubt this film’s most surprising performance is Isela Vega (The Bed, End of the Party) in the role of Elita. Other notable performances include, Kris Kristofferson (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Convoy) in the role of a biker that violates Elita and Robert Webber (Hysteria, Hired Killer) and Gig Young (The Shuttered Room, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) who portray hit-men who hire Bennie to do their dirty work for them.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer for this release was sourced from a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative. Details look crisp, colors and flesh tones look accurate, contrast and black levels remain solid throughout. Grain remains intact and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio is in excellent shape, dialog is clear and everything sounds balanced. Range and depth wise this audio mix is a robust audio experience that takes full advantage of the sound spectrum.
Extras on disc one include, a theatrical trailer for the film (1 minute 58 seconds), four songs by Kris Kristofferson that were filmed during the making of Man of Iron (One for the Money, Sam’s Song, Slouching Towards the Millennium and Sunday Morning), The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, a audio recording of the director s on-stage appearance at the National Film Theater (47 minutes 23 seconds), Paul Joyce s insightful feature-length 1993 documentary titled Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron (94 minutes 15 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary is with Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies and the second audio commentary is with Sam Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, moderated by Nick Redman.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Stephen Prince include, how Sam Peckinpah’s films were constantly at odds with the Hollywood system, the screenplay, the editing, themes that are explored in this film, the screenplay, the cast, the visuals and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle and Nick Redman include, producer Martin Baum, cinematographer Álex Phillips Jr. and the visuals, the cast, the origins of the film, the importance of locations in a Sam Peckinpah film, composer Jerry Fielding and the core, key moments and their thoughts about the film.
Extras on disc two include, Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron The Director s Cut a brand-new, extended version of Paul Joyce s documentary, containing more than ten hours of previously unseen interview footage, featuring actors RG Armstrong (30 minutes 47 seconds), James Coburn (39 minutes 10 seconds), LQ Jones (42 minutes 17 seconds), Kris Kristofferson (36 minutes 43 seconds), Ali MacGraw (31 minutes 32 seconds) and Jason Robards (27 minutes 21 seconds), director Monte Hellman (30 minutes 56 seconds), producers Michael Deeley (9 minutes 49 seconds) and Daniel Melnick (41 minutes 26 seconds), writers Alan Sharp (30 minutes 16 seconds) and Jim Silke (50 minutes 18 seconds), writer-producer Gordon Dawson (31 minutes 22 seconds), assistant Katherine Haber (51 minutes 19 seconds), editor Garth Craven (20 minutes 16 seconds), satirist Mort Sahl (32 minutes 19 seconds), property master Bob Visciglia (19 minutes 32 seconds), bar owner Tom Runyon (3 minutes 54 seconds) and cousin Bob Peckinpah (17 minutes 55 seconds), plus newly-shot interviews with Paul Joyce (8 minutes 34 seconds), Katy Haber (8 minutes 11 seconds) and actor David Warner (42 minutes 45 seconds).
This extra features two options, play all interviews together or a menu option that allows you to select each interview individually and each interview is prefaced by comments from Katy Harber. It should be noted that this second disc is exclusive to this limited edition release.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, reprint interviews and information about the transfer. Overall Arrow Video gives Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia a definitive release that is a strong contender for best home video release of the year, highly recommended.