#43 - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah)

"Why? Because it feels so goddamn good!"

Alfredo Garcia has vanished after impregnating the daughter of a Mexican crime lord, a man only known as El Jefe. This makes El Jefe utter the titular request for Garcia’s head, and a bounty of one million to anyone who brings it to him. The bounty hunters’ search brings them to a shitty bar in Mexico City where they find their first clue – Bennie, a gringo piano player recognizes the name. And after some investigating of his own Bennie finds out that his prostitute girlfriend Elita knew Alfredo, revealing that he is dead and buried. Seeing the opportunity for a quick buck and a ticket for a better life Bennie makes a deal with the bounty hunters, telling them that he can bring them Garcia’s head for ten thousand dollars.

This is the simple set up of “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia”, a set up that propels Bennie (Warren Oates) on a journey that will not only shatter his dreams, but send him down a path of madness and  bloody retribution. Yes, this is absolutely a Sam Pechinpah film, and in many ways it feels like the Sam Peckinpah film. The protagonist is a man at odds with the times he lives in, the portrayal of women is both loving and estranged at the same time and the story concludes the same way any other real Peckinpah story concludes - in a bloodbath.

Even Oates’ portrayal of Bennie reminded me of everything I’ve read and know about Sam Peckinpah as a man, which made me think that Peckinpah wrote Bennie in first person and that the character’s personality was very much based on his own. This notion was just further affirmed when after watching the film I read that Oates indeed based the character of Bennie on Peckinpah himself (maybe he was even directed to do so?), and Peckinpah claimed that this was the film that he had the most control on.

There’s nothing strange about this of course as most writers infuse their characters with the same ideals that they believe in and give them attributes that they admire. But the fact that Oates also willingly participated in this exercise as an actor gives this film a personal touch that is rarely seen or felt in fiction.

Warren Oates is of course a huge reason why this film works so damn well. He perfectly portrays a simple man with a shaky vision of where he wants to be and what he wants to do with the money, and once that vision is traumatically destroyed it rewires his purpose in to something truly frightening but it also intensifies his psychological deterioration.

This brings me to the fantastic humor of the film which is really great but also somewhat uncomfortable because of its sheer bleakness. It’s really some of the darkest humor I’ve ever seen on film and I am sure that most viewers will not even recognize it as such. So it’s very easy to see why “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” got such horrible reactions at the time of its release despite the craftsmanship, style and psychological nuance of the film, as it is a very shocking and provocative and quite possibly offensive even by today’s standards.

But then again it is also easy to see why it became such a cult classic. And after only one viewing I can safely say that this is the Sam Peckinpah film that I am most looking forward to watching again, and the sooner the better as I am still very much buzzing from last night's viewing.


Warren Oates - Bennie
Isela Vega - Elita
Gig Young - Quill
Robert Webber - Sappensly
Kris Kristofferson - biker

Bing Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia on IMDb

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