Personal and Powerful

Personal and Powerful

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Aug 14th 2018

Filmmaking of a soulful, personal and powerful kind is rare: a current example is director/co-writer Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman, which combines deft storytelling and period/modern-day commentary in ways that rattle audiences and racked up the nation’s second-best box-office per screen average when it opened this past weekend. Another such project, which opened in New York 44 years ago today to polarizing reviews and so-so box office but has grown enormously in stature ever since, is director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah’s ferocious adventure odyssey Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). The legendary moviemaking maverick behind The Wild Bunch (1969) and Straw Dogs (1971) considered it the one film on his formidable resumé that emerged on screen the way he intended. Set in Mexico and centered on a hard-luck ex-U.S. Army man (Warren Oates in a career-high performance modeled on the director himself) who seeks to collect a $1-million bounty offered by a powerful landowner for the head of an associate who betrayed him by impregnating his daughter, the film somehow balanced grim nihilism, intimate romance, bizarre humor and shocking, gut-crunching violence in a remarkable fashion that occasioned the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert to remark that “I can feel Sam Peckinpah’s heart beating and head pounding in every frame.” Film producer and historian Garner Simmons, author of the great 1982 biography Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage, was on location with Peckinpah during the August-December 1973 shoot, and provides a illuminating look at the movie’s production process in this 2016 Sight & Sound essay, available here: https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/features/behind-scenes-peckinpah-s-bring-me-head-alfredo-garcia. He’s also part of the rich complement of Peckinpah aficionados and associates brought together on Twilight Time’s overstuffed hi-def Blu-ray of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia via three fascinating Audio Commentaries, three background-exploring Featurettes and an Isolated Music Track of Jerry Fielding’s monumental score, the combined force of which, like Lee's brazenly challenging and highly entertaining latest effort, will haunt your head for days.