Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

51PNV2RYFZLMy DVD review on Sam Peckinpah’s twisted masterpiece “Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” is now up on eyecravedvd.com. Hop over there for the full review or read on for the movie review.

Bennie (Warren Oates) wants to get ahead in his life. Nobody loses all the time and he thinks it’s his time to win at least a little.

“Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia” does not aim to please the audience it aims to mess with it.

The movie starts out with a picturesque scene at a pond and a young pregnant girl sitting on a log, her feet dangling in the cool water. This idyllic moment is not going to last and we are shown early on what is going to transpire as we follow the young girl back to the hacienda to her father who wants to know who the father is. He has her stripped naked in front of everyone but she remains defiant and will not tell so he has her pushed to the ground and her finger broken. El Jefe (Emilio Fernández) gets the name. Alfredo Garcia. And he wants his head. A head he is willing to pay one million dollars for.

The next scene really starts the movie as we fly into Mexico and the hunt for the head starts. It quickly leads up to Bennie, a piano player in a small local bar, who is hired for 10,000 dollars to find Alfredo Garcia by two homosexual henchmen (Gig Young and Robert Webber). There is a scene in the pub that again has a woman in it that gets hurt in front of a crowd without anyone interfering. A hooker in the bar touches one of the henchmen’s legs and he knocks her unconscious with a blow of his elbow to her head. They then continue their conversation as if nothing happened, with the hooker lying unconscious on the ground at his feet.
This is characteristic throughout the movie, yet, it is the women who are ultimately in control and decide about life or death of the characters either directly or indirectly.

Bennie sees in this job a way out, a chance to start new and he wants to do this for Elita (Isela Vega), a prostitute and his love and also the former lover of the late Alfredo Garcia, who as we get to know early on died in a car accident not long ago.

Bennie and Elita go on a road trip to find that grave, pondering life and their future and while Bennie is obsessed with the head and the money as their only way out, Elita rather just wants him to commit to her and forget about the head altogether but Bennie is unable to let go at this point.

They make camp for the night next to the road and two bikers show up, one (Kris Kristofferson) of which is taking a liking for Elita and soon after some words are exchanged expresses his intentions by pointing a gun at Bennie and dragging Elita away to have his way with her while his buddy is keeping Bennie in check.
Again, we witness humiliation and violence towards a woman and again the woman does not cave in. It is a confusing and controversial scene yet again it is about control and as I wrote in the beginning, ultimately it is the women who are in control. Even when the biker tries or wants to rape her, Elita knows how to react. She says to Bennie, who feels almost impotent and angry beyond measure, that she can handle it since she has been there and he not. Even when Bennie manages to wrangle the gun from the other biker and knock him unconscious with the frying pan, he is not in control. Even when he shoots both bikers, it is not him who saves her, she does not need saving. He saves himself or tries to, at least but he already is beyond that point and just does not know it yet.

The two continue their journey through a beautiful Mexican countryside and finally arrive at the grave. I am not going into details from hereon but let me just put it that way, the body count will stack up pretty quickly from here on. Bennie digs up the corpse and at the same time digs Elita’s grave without knowing. He brings the two lovers back together in a very twisted sense but Alfredo loses his head and Bennie is left with nothing. He hunts down the other “head hunters” and takes back the head with which he is going to build up a relation of his own. The whole village at that point is chasing him because they want the head back, too. It’s right on the street in the middle of nowhere that we get to have the first big showdown with the people from the village, Bennie and the two henchmen who hired him. Bennie’s path is set and he now knows what to do. Money is no longer important. He is going to deliver the head to its final destination.

Back in town, he goes to see the people the two killers were working for, head in a basket. He wants them to look at the head. We never get to see it and neither do they. Bennie leaves a pile bodies in his wake and now nears the end of his journey with “Al” as he drives to the hacienda to hand “Al” over to El Jefe.

We have no illusions at that point how this must end. Bennie gets in but he does not hand over the head. When Bennie draws his gun on El Jefe it is the girl (now mother) who tells him to kill him. The girl gets her revenge and Bennie shoots him and the guards, grabs the head and the money and heads towards his doom, which he now fully realizes and embraces.

This is one tour de force through a life no one wants to live and we know Bennie is doomed to fail; yet he keeps struggling, trying to make the best of it. The performances are all great and Warren Oates is just insane as Bennie. As stated in the beginning, it is not an easy movie to watch but it is in its own twisted way a masterpiece. The movie ends with a shot of a smoking gun barrel pointing straight at us, the audience.

8/10

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