Whilst we await a US or UK release, Italian distributors Koch Media have delivered an admirable Region B-locked Blu-ray which sports a solid 1080p/AVC encoded High Definition transfer presenting the movie in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Although clearly not struck from a new master, the film cleans up surprisingly good when revitalised for High Definition. Certainly fans who have been double-dipping on each successive DVD release in the often-dashed hopes of a better picture will be pleasantly surprised by just how good Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia looks, even almost 40 years on. Detail is strong, clarity resolved without the need for any overt edge enhancement or grain-destroying DNR over-application. Fine object detail is present in some sequences, and facial observation allows us to see the ever-increasing lines on Oates’ face, as well as the weathered clothing textures and sun-drenched, dust-battered locales. The colour scheme is warm and rich, and black levels allowing for decent shadow detail, even if the darker sequences – like the rape and burial shots – don’t hold up all that well (most likely as a result of the source material rather than the encode). There are some minor print defects and a smidge of unwarranted noise – the kind of things a newly-minted master might have helped avoid – but the healthy, natural grain level has been left intact, preserving the original look of the piece and leaving this a good, if far from exceptional, video presentation.
The audio offerings are twofold – an English LPCM 2.0 track and an Italian LPCM 2.0 dub. The native English audio is a decent, authentic representation of the material which far outdoes anything the preceding DVDs had to offer, allowing better clarity for the dialogue, better distinction and dynamics for the effects, and better depth for the score, even though the track is unsurprisingly biased towards the frontal array. Of course it was inherently, inevitably, going to be a limited presentation – both due to the source material and as a result of the flavour chosen for the track itself – but these enhancements make it a sure-fire upgrade over previous releases, and the end result is free from distortions, hiss, pops or the like. A nice, solid upgrade – again, far from exceptional, but still a welcome, authentic rendition of the material.
All we get is the 2-minute Original Theatrical Trailer for the movie in HD (and English), although US fans should be wary because it’s 1080i, and so may not play properly on some Stateside machines.
“I’ve killed people... and worse, a whole lot worse.”
Many acknowledge the importance of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, flock to the controversy of Straw Dogs, or simply enjoy the effortlessly cool, McQueen-centric action of The Getaway. Yet few are drawn to the far more personal, semi-autobiographical Western-infused Mexican-set film noir 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, it remains an underrated work of pure genius; one of those cult classic masterpieces that you may never have even heard of.
Since we still haven’t got a US or UK release – Twilight Time appear to have optioned the title for an early 2014 US release but, whilst delivering decent editions, they often serve them up in only Limited numbers, as per The Driver, which I looked at earlier this week – we have to look overseas for a decent offering. Spain has a version, but this Italian package is pretty stand-up, with improved video and audio that should prompt any fans who only own the DVD to upgrade. And if you’ve never even heard of it? Correct that. Now.
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