Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia Blu-ray Review
"I've killed people... and worse, a whole lot worse."
Peckinpah's alcohol-soaked Western-infused Mexican noir is undoubtedly one of the most underrated and underappreciated cult classics of all time.Shot on a minimalist million-and-a-half-dollar budget while Peckinpah was in exile in Mexico, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia starred the great Warren Oates in a thinly-veiled self-portrait of the famously wild director (even wearing the director's own trademark sunglasses), as a character who too was increasingly obsessed with the self-destructive quest that he has been tasked with. Peckinpah was a director of wild hits and panned misses, whose own ideals about deglamourising violence had actually had the opposite effect, and who studios hated because he was both unpredictable and eminently unmarketable in that era. Indeed Alfredo Garcia remained the only one of his films which was not tainted by studio interference, as a result going on to be the director's own personal favourite film (as well as the favourite film of another great filmaker, 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano). It's easy to see why.Alfredo Garcia was grounded by this strikingly raw self-portrait in the obsessive, self-destructive, alcohol-soaked lead character but infused with a metaphor for Peckinpah's own hatred of the Hollywood money-making machine: he was the outcast who refused to give up; he was the world-weary veteran who was all-too-easily manipulated by those around him, dangling money like carrots for doomed quests; he was the one-man-army who wanted to take the fight to these rich oppressors, no matter how much damage it would do to his career. He was Bennie, the broken anti-hero wading through hell to make some damned statement, to make a difference, despite the fact that he knew that it was not going to end well for anybody involved. Despite the exiled Mexican setting, Alfredo Garcia has the same beating heart and aching soul – and the same very lifeblood – as all of Peckinpah's great revisionist Westerns.
Picture QualityBring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia makes a tremendous UK HD bow courtesy of Arrow, who deliver a Region B-locked 2-disc release that offers up fabulous brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, offered here in 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition glory, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Obviously this marks a considerable step up from the previous 1080i French release, but it also bests the Italian Blu-ray and even the former frontrunner, Twilight Time's US release. That last Blu-ray - so popular that it earned a second release - promoted the movie better than it had ever looked before, and it was a strong offering indeed, a solid 8, with the only real criticisms seemingly stemming from the original source material.
This is likely the best that it's ever going to look
Indeed it's hard to see quite how Arrow have managed to top it, but top it they have, returning to the original negative and rendering a 4K restoration which cleans up even the most imperceptible defects present on Twilight's release, offering up a richly textured image brimming with natural grain and impressive detail shining beneath. The colours, however grungy they have always been in this seedy, dirty setup, are warm and balanced, and black levels are decent too.
In terms of an upgrade, not every scene is a noticeable step up from the previous releases, but some stand out, and the image is brighter across the runtime, with more vibrant tones to boot. Grain is still a pervasive element but far better resolved than on the Twilight release, and detail, sometimes as a consequence of this, tighter and sharper, edging through the haze with finer clarity than in the softer mid- and long-shots on the TT release.
Exteriors benefit more obviously - at least in darker shots - with the rape sequence arguably the most troublesome (and not just in terms of content) sequence in the movie, as the black levels faltered and the image struggled to cope with the limited lighting. Arrow's 4K remaster doesn't eradicate this - and other - less visually impressive sequences, but it does look unquestionably better than before, and likely the best that it's ever going to look, perhaps until Arrow get into the 4K Ultra HD game.
Sound QualityArrow provide the original 1.0 mono audio here as opposed to Twilight's 2.0 track on its second release (but similar 1.0 track on its first), and there's little difference between them, with the limitations of the original source material always restricting this from being a demo track, but the elegiac score from regular Peckinpah collaborator Jerry Fielding nevertheless provides a robust backbone for the aural offering (so much so that it's a shame that Arrow dropped / didn't have the rights to Twilight's Isolated Score).
The elegiac score provides a robust backbone for this solid offering
It remains a step up from the DVD which region-locked UK fans would have had to put up with thus far, with better clarity for the dialogue, and more natural treatment of the effects, as well a plenty of room for that outstanding score. Those latter two elements stand out in an otherwise occasionally - and understandably - flat offering, but there's enough here between the haunting tones and the punchy gunshots and car screeches to engage, and it's arguably the best they can do with the original material and far from a bad job; indeed a solid, though far from demo worthy, offering.
ExtrasBring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia's other European releases boasted almost nothing in the way of extra features, however it's had two relatively recent Twilight Time releases Stateside, with the latest one boasting a trio of Commentaries, a hefty Documentary, Featurettes, Trailers and the Isolated Score.
Despite the bar having been set pretty high, Arrow do a tremendous job nonetheless, and come out on top mainly courtesy of their second disc. The main disc sports the previously available Commentary by Peckinpah scholars Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, which was available on both TT releases, but also a brand new Commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies.
The new material continues with The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, an audio recording of the director's on-stage appearance at the National Film Theatre, as well as Four Songs by Kris Kristofferson, filmed during the making of Man of Iron.
There's no doubt that this is the definitive release
Although the first disc also boasts the shorter (but still feature-length) version of the Documentary, Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron, the entire second disc supports the 'Director's Cut' of this same Documentary. It's a brand new, extended version which boasts an inconceivable 10+ hours of interview footage from myriad contributors, including frequent Peckinpah collaborators, on and off screen, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, RG Armstrong, and Jason Robards, as well as a number of crew members, fellow filmmakers and even relatives of the genius filmmaker.
There's no doubt that this alone makes this the definitive release, a wonderful package rounded off by Arrow's trademark reversible sleeve - boasting some great new artwork, as well as the original artwork - and their trademark booklet, packed with interview segments and writing on the production.
Blu-ray VerdictMany acknowledge the importance of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, flock to the controversy of Straw Dogs, trudge through the trenches of Cross of Iron, get swept up by the sorrowful poetry of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or simply enjoy the effortlessly cool, McQueen-centric action of The Getaway. Yet few are drawn to the far more personal, semi-autobiographical Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Blending the tragically flawed personality of the director himself with a metaphorical tale of his own self-destructive obsessiveness, channelled through the gritty teeth-clenched command of Warren Oates, and boasting all of the director’s trademark finely-tuned editing and distinctively stylistic action, as well as a hauntingly melancholy score by Jerry Fielding, it remains an underrated work of pure genius; one of those cult classic masterpieces that you may never have even heard of.
An underrated work of pure genius
Arrow's stunning release makes for one hell of a UK bow, a 2-disc lavish limited edition packed with extra material that will take even ardent fans hours - if not days - to get through in their entirety. With a fantastic 4K restoration delivering the film better than it's ever looked before, and solid audio to boot, it's an absolute must-have for all Peckinpah fans.
You can buy Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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