Release Date(s)1974 (March 10, 2014)
Studio(s)MGM/UA (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: A
It’s been almost thirty years since Sam Peckinpah died but he remains one of the most divisive and discussed filmmakers of the late 20th century. He’s one of those directors whose name is synonymous with a very specific type of movie. But relatively few of his films received universal acclaim, especially at the time of their release. The typical journey for a Peckinpah film is a long, slow climb toward building an avid, vocal cult following.
Even members of the Peckinpah Fan Club can’t seem to agree on which movie to rally behind. You can probably tell something about a person based on which Peckinpah movie they cite as their favorite: the elegiac Ballad Of Cable Hogue, the dark and violent Straw Dogs, the flawed but ambitious Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, or, as in my case, the bleak, bizarre Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.
The great Warren Oates has one of the few leading roles of his career as Bennie, a hard-luck musician working in a dive bar in Mexico. A pair of underworld enforcers (Robert Webber and Gig Young) turn up looking for Alfredo Garcia. Al knocked up their boss’ daughter and El Jefe has offered a million dollar bounty on him…or at least his head. Al was also involved with a prostitute (Isela Vega) that Bennie has a relationship with, so Bennie picks her up and they embark on a road trip to find Al’s grave to collect his head.
Needless to say, this isn’t the most plot-heavy movie ever made. It’s a movie full of rambling digressions and whatever enjoyment you get out of it will depend in large part on your willingness to go with the flow. The movie’s greatness lies in its attention to detail, vivid characterization and stunning performances. Oates and Vega are wonderful together. These characters had a relationship before the movie and Peckinpah, Oates and Vega allow that relationship to unfold to us organically. We don’t need to be told exactly what’s happened between these two. We see it and feel it intrinsically. Oates delivers a magnificent performance and this is probably the quintessential Warren Oates movie. Bennie is something of a wreck when we first meet him and he gets both better and worse the closer he gets to the finish line. It’s a balancing act few actors could pull off but Oates makes it look easy.
I’ve been critical of some of Twilight Time’s releases but to give credit where it’s due, this is a top-notch release. The 1080p image is very good with nice attention to detail throughout. It isn’t exactly spotless but I doubt very much that this movie will ever look better than it does here. The DTS-HD MA mono audio isn’t spectacular but it doesn’t have to be to get the job done.
The real surprise here is the quantity and quality of the special features which, quite frankly, mop the floor with MGM’s previous DVD. That release included the trailer and an audio commentary featuring film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, moderated by TT co-founder Nick Redman. That track is carried over to the Blu-ray and is well worth a listen. It has plenty of background info and analysis. I particularly enjoyed hearing the group grapple with some of the movie’s more difficult sequences, such as the brief but unforgettable appearance by Kris Kristofferson.
The Blu-ray also includes a second commentary with Redman and co-writer/associate producer Gordon T. Dawson. This track is a real treat with Dawson sharing some great stories from his long association with Peckinpah. You also get an almost hour-long documentary, Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Favorite Film, and a 25-minute featurette with Simmons, A Writer’s Journey: Garner Simmons With Sam Peckinpah In Mexico. These both seem to be culled from footage from Mike Siegel’s 2005 Peckinpah documentary Passion & Poetry and both are highly informative and entertaining. Promoting Alfredo Garcia is a nice look at various posters and lobby cards from around the world. The disc also includes an isolated score track spotlighting Jerry Fielding’s work, several US TV spots, the trailer, and a booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
If you’re a Peckinpah fan, you need to pick this disc up. Don’t hesitate to head over to Screen Archives Entertainment and grab one of the 3,000 copies before they’re gone. Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia is an essential part of Peckinpah’s filmography and Twilight Time’s release is likely to remain the definitive version of it for quite some time.
- Adam Jahnke