Deep Cuts: “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” – 1974. Dir. Sam Peckinpah.

With Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gig Young, Emilio Fernandez, and Kris Kristofferson

“Listen! The church cuts off the feet, fingers, any other goddamn thing from the Saints don’t they?! Well what the hell? Alfredo’s our Saint! He’s the Saint of our money and I’m gonna borrow a piece of him.”

Peckinpah’s films and his center characters all deal with a world that has left them behind. In this film we find Bennie (Warren Oates) in a small cantina in Mexico where he plays the piano. Just by a matter of chance two impeccably well dressed Americans (Robert Weber and Gig Young) who are working for a drug lord (Emilio Fernandez) are on a mission to bring back the head of Alfredo Garcia; walk into Bennie’s cantina and ask around.

Robert Weber and Gig Young

These two Americans are older and gentle looking but they are just fucking brutally ruthless – as well as lovers (as in homosexuals). The scene is set up to where Bennie is playing a tune on the piano with his sunglasses on, and Webber and Young enter, everyone grows quiet. They delicately mingle and ask about their “old chum” Alfredo Garcia. No one has heard of him. They set their sights on Bennie who has been watching them cautiously. They approach Bennie, and he tries to soften them up, by calling over two girls for Webber and Young. They women begin to rub the men’s shoulders and whisper sweet nothings in Spanish to them. The men seem to enjoy it – and then Webber elbows one of the women in the face and knocks her out cold. Bennie asks why they want Garcia and Young calmly replies, “we want him dead.”

This is one tough fucking movie.

Of course Bennie knows nothing about Alfredo Garcia. They leave their hotel information with him before they leave. As soon as the two men jet, Bennie rushes out to find his girlfriend. She’s what you would essentially call an escort for rich Americans but she did spend some time with Alfredo Garcia a couple of nights ago to say goodbye to him.

She tells Bennie that Alfredo got into a horrible car accident and his body is still lying in whatever ditch he drove into. Oates quickly leaves his lady friend and heads out to the hotel where Young and Weber are staying; he walks into the room that is filled with other creepy white guys a couple more Americans and a few Germans. Bennie alludes to the two Americans that he may know where to find Garcia. They offer him 10,000 dollars to bring his head back. He asks for 5,000 upfront and they give it to him with one condition: bring Alfredo Garcia’s head back in four days, or we are coming after you.

Bennie and his girlfriend head out in search for the wreck armed with a pistol and a brand new machete. What ensues is the making of an epic film that stands among the best of Peckinpah’s catalog of epically great films.

One scene has always stuck out in my mind every time I think back to the film. While Bennie and his girl are resting in a field eating dinner – Bennie finally proposes to his girlfriend and she is so overwhelmed with joy. It’s the first time we see both of them happy. Then rides up two American bikers (now remember, this film takes place somewhere in the Mexican dessert). The two bikers are played by Kris Kristofferson and Donnie Fritts (Kristofferson’s frequent musical collaborator). Kristofferson is the alpha of the duo and proceeds to rape Bennie’s girlfriend.

Riders on the Storm.

This incredibly small role that Kristofferson had played has always stuck with me. The character (credited as “Biker”) is the scum of the earth. He drags Oates’ girlfriend into the tall grass and pulls a switchblade and cuts her shirt down the middle, ripping it open, exposing her bare breasts. She slaps him, and then he proceeds to slap her – knocking her down.

Now just think about this: Kristofferson was not only an established country/folk superstar and actor who starred in Peckinpah’s “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” where he plays the legendary Billy the Kid a year prior to this film, and in the same year as this film starred in Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” where he played the embodiment of what a man should be AND he was also extremely popular in the religious community due to his strong faith (always sighting Christ as his hero) and had recorded a ton of Gospel music. Imagine how this small role might have changed his image?

Kris Kristofferson has got some fucking balls.

The rest of the film builds up to an epic showdown of Bennie racing to get Garcia’s head before Robert Webber and Gig Young catch up with him. This builds up to a monumental showdown that isn’t quite worthy of the ending of “The Wild Bunch” – but it’s not too far off.

Bottom line this film boils down to the western film noir hybrid much like “Lone Star”, “Blood Simple” or “No Country for Old Men”. It fuses the two genres perfectly. Probably my favorite aspect of the film is that a decent part of the dialogue is spoken in Spanish yet there aren’t any subtitles to help guide us – but we still know what’s going on. “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” remains to be one of Peckinpah’s best and it’s the only film Peckinpah himself had final cut on. Far fuckin’ out man. Far out…

Review: 9.8/10

Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

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