director Sam Peckinpah
This is one movie that I’ve been wanting to see again since I first saw it about 20 years ago. Recommended at the time by a friend with a prescient sense of the most perverse films, it’s probably the first film that I ever saw by “Bloody” Sam Peckinpah. It’s a doozy.
Starring the amazing Warren Oates, who I was just discovering at the time, it’s the grittiest, guttiest, hard-drinkingest, crazy fest of a movie. It all begins in Mexico (in fact it was entirely shot in Mexico so it begins, is and ends there too), where the patriarch of a wealthy family wants to know who has impregnated his young daughter. When the answer is tortured out, he speaks the words that are the film’s title, “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.” And it does not need to be attached to a body.
An array of sleazy folks set out to find this ne’er-do-well Lothario, stumbling upon Warren Oates as the piano player in a wonderfully sleazy Mexico City bar. Via his prostitute/singer girlfriend, Oates learns that Garcia met his own end (after sleeping with the girlfriend for three straight days) in a random car crash and is buried somewhere in a small village cemetery. Oates takes off with her and a ton of booze and careens romantically to dig up his cash cow. Only, he’s hardly alone in his search, and it only gets bloodier from moment to moment.
The thing I remembered the most about the film was Oates rolling through rural Mexico with a bundle on the seat beside him, flies buzzing all over it, with him conversing with the detached head. I vaguely recalled a rape scene that was disturbing, but I think I got it a little mixed up with the really nasty one in Straw Dogs (1971) in which the girl being raped enjoys the act. The thing in this film is that the would-be rapist is Kris Kristofferson and he doesn’t end up raping the girl (though she wants to make love to him). It’s a little more ambiguous and ambivalent. Peckinpah has his creepy flaws. In the case of the film, this horrible attitude towards women sort of fits the despicable world that is everyone and everywhere.
It’s still very funny when Oates tells the rapists abducting his woman, “You guys are definitely on my shit list.”
The film is over the top in concept, grimy and sleazy, sweaty, and insane. Genius. Totally fucking genius. And perverse. An apex of perversity.