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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

It is perhaps the most shocking opening in cinema: a pregnant teenager is marched before her father, who demands the name of the man who deflowered her. When she refuses, she is first stripped to the waist, then has her arm broken. What follows is a catalogue of mounting brutality, as Mexico City bartender Benny (Warren Oates) takes it upon himself to retrieve the eponymous severed cabeza, in the process losing his girl, his self-respect and his sanity.

‘Alfredo Garcia’ is a work teeming with contradiction: it’s Peckinpah’s grittiest, ugliest film, but it centres on the most respectful, affectionate relationship he ever wrote. Benny is a multiple murderer, but also a sympathetic hero trying, in his way, to do the right thing. Oates’s performance is a revelation, ably supported by Isela Vega as his doomed paramour. Readable equally as a bleak, brutal exploitation movie and as a horrified, humanist cry from a disturbed soul, ‘Alfredo Garcia’ is a worthy rediscovery.

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday January 2 2009
Duration: 112 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Sam Peckinpah
Screenwriter: Gordon Dawson, Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Warren Oates
Isela Vega
Gig Young
Robert Webber
Helmut Dantine
Emilio Fernandez
Kris Kristofferson
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