Release Date(s)1974 (March 9, 2021)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: Kino Lorber Studio Classics inadvertantly used the wrong master for this release and is replicating new replacement discs that use the proper 2017 4K restoration. You can find a link to their replacement program in the Additional Notes section of this review below.]
It’s been almost forty 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 of his works to rally behind. You can probably tell something about a person based on which Peckinpah movie they cite as their favorite: the elegiac The Ballad of Cable Hogue, the dark and violent Straw Dogs, the flawed but ambitious Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or, as in our 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 film ever made. It’s 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. Its 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 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.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics debuts their Region A Blu-ray release of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (the third in the US) sporting the same master as the Twilight Time releases and not the 4K scan from the original camera negative carried out by Arrow Video for their Region B Blu-ray release from 2017* (See below). Minor leftover speckling and scratches remain, but the entire presentation is clean with a stable, though not quite as refined, grain structure. The color palette offers a variety of hues, deep blacks, natural skin tones, and decent contrast. Levels of fine detail, particularly in the shadows, aren't as potent as the Arrow release, but aid in a nice presentation overall.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. There isn’t really much of a difference between it and the track from previous releases. Dialogue exchanges are healthy and sound effects are relatively canned outside of ambient activity, but Jerry Fielding’s score gives the soundtrack its boldest attribute. The overall track is fairly narrow, but clean without any leftover damage to speak of.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, David Weddle, and Nick Redman
- Audio Commentary with Gordon Dawson and Nick Redman
- Trailers from Hell with Josh Olson (HD – 2:08)
- Image Gallery (HD – 44 in all – 7:41)
- TV Spots (Upsampled SD – 6 in all – 3:57)
- Trailer (Upsampled SD – 1:58)
- Junior Bonner Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:30)
- Convoy Trailer (HD – 3:48)
The audio commentary featuring film historians Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle, moderated by Nick Redman, is well worth a listen. It has plenty of background info and analysis. Hearing the group grapple with some of the film’s more difficult sequences, such as the brief but unforgettable appearance by Kris Kristofferson, is particularly enjoyable. The second commentary with Redman and co-writer/associate producer Gordon T. Dawson is a real treat with Dawson sharing some great stories from his long association with Peckinpah. The disc also includes a Trailers from Hell commentary featuring screenwriter Josh Olson, an image gallery containing 44 behind-the-scenes stills and promotional images, six US TV spots, the film’s trailer, and two trailers for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases.
Sadly, a rather large number of extras from previous Blu-ray releases are missing. The Twilight Time Encore Edition Blu-ray featured an extra audio commentary with Sam Peckinpah expert Paul Seydor, director's assistant Katy Haber, and Nick Redman; an isolated score track in 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio; the Passion and Poetry: Sam's Favorite Film documentary; the A Writer's Journey: Garner Simmons with Sam Peckinpah in Mexico featurette; the Promoting Alfredo Garcia slideshow gallery; and the accompanying insert booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. The French Blu-ray release features the hour and a half documentary Sam Peckinpah: Portrait. The Arrow UK Blu-ray release features an audio commentary with author Stephen Prince; the original Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron documentary, as well as its director's cut; the audio featurette The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah; a set of Kris Kristofferson songs; and a 42-page insert booklet featuring liner notes by film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Mike Sutton, Kathleen Murphy, Richard T. Jameson, F. Albert Bomar, and Alan J. Warren. It’s also worth noting that an older Japanese DVD release featured a soundtrack CD of Jerry Fielding’s score. Needless to say, that’s a hell of a lot of content not carried over.
The ultimate positive to take away from Kino Lorber’s new release of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is that the film is back in print in the US, likely for much longer than previous releases. The presentation and extras that are present are all solid, but it’s a shame than none of those rich documentaries, commentaries, and featurettes, as well as the newer transfer, couldn’t be provided. If anything, it’s a nice budget release for Peckinpah newcomers.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke and Tim Salmons