Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

I still remember the first time I saw Bring Me The Head. Hot afternoon, beer and passing around a few joints, celebrating the end of an interminable shoot on a film we shot for a bed manufacturer's Vegas convention (yes, they actually pay people to do stuff like this). A couple members of the crew were big Peckinpah fans. I was too but for some reason I wanted to see something lighter that day, mostly because the whole project had been such a hassle.

As I recall the film opens with Warren Oates checking himself for crabs. I was howling. I tried counting up the number of rules Peckinpah had broken by using this at all let alone in the opening. I really got into the film. A friend of Peckinpah's said at the time that this was "Sam's alcoholic nightmare." And I could see what he was talking about. The entire film is a krazy cat mixture of black comedy, extreme violence and an alternate universe feel for everyday life. I mean carrying a guy's head around in a bowling bag?

Oates as always is terrific. He continually plays against the big moment, mumbling through and even throwing away many of his best lines. And every person in the movie seems to have stepped out of a Richard Stark novel. Duplicity is the password. And crazy is the norm here. Oates' problem is that he's not quite crazy ENOUGH. I haven't seen the film in years. Now's a good time to rent it again.

That very good site Cinema Retro links to a piece by James Christopher in the Times of London that looks at Garcia as well as two other films that Peckinpah made near the end of his run.

How Sam Peckinpah shocked Hollywood with Alfredo Garcia

In the 1970s Sam Peckinpah shot a handful of brutal thrillers that redefined Hollywood’s reverence for the old Wild West. The most infamous shock was a contemporary western called Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, which Peckinpah assembled in 1974 while addicted to the booze and powders that would destroy his liver a decade later.

The film, which is rereleased on January 2, stars Warren Oates as a seedy piano player in a far-flung Mexican brothel. You can smell the failure. The actor has never looked so wonderfully crumpled. But his grimy hero, Bennie, seizes the dangerous chance for a fresh start when a local warlord offers a $1 million bounty for the severed head of the fool who impregnated his teenage daughter.

As luck would have it, Bennie knows exactly who this fool is. Alfredo Garcia is an old squeeze of Bennie’s prostitute girlfriend, Elita (Isela Vega). He is also, conveniently, already dead and buried after a fatal car accident. There is no tasteful way around the rest of this surreal story. Bennie must dig up the body, chop off the head, and kill dozens of foot-loose bastards who want to steal his rotting prize.

for the rest go here:


pattinase (abbott) said...

Gosh, I liked Warren Oates.

Anonymous said...

This post is going to be greatly enjoyed here in Livingston, where both Oates and Peckinpah hung out in the 70s. Chico Hot Springs nearby has its Warren Oates wing, and the Murray Hotel, four blocks from me, has its Peckinpah suite. He used to shoot holes in its ceiling.

Richard Wheeler