Sam Peckinpah’s BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is not his best movie, but it is a good Peckinpah movie. And by good Peckinpah movie I mean you can feel the dirt heat, smell the alcohol sweats, and gag on the stale cigarette smoke.
Peckinpah used Oates as raw muscle. Warren Oates lives in the filth of his character, greasy and stained and surging toward painful insanity. He mutters his lines between sun-baked swirls of whiskey and grabs at Isela Vega with a calloused panic. The desperation of his plight underscoring the helplessness of the scuzzy loser on his last caper. So basic Oates role for the period.
The plot of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is pretty much summed up in the title. In the quest to achieve the titular goal, there is grave robbing, nasty bikers, fist fights, and a whole wild bunch of violence. So basic Peckinpah flick.
Having said that, this movie has its definite merits. Oates is fantastic as he chews his teeth after being resurrected from the dirt nap. His madness is profound and the scenes driving alone across the Mexican desert with a decapitated head are palpably uncomfortable. Not to mention the flies and the nosy children. All amazing.
Peckinpah and Oates in the 1970s were increasingly more famous for being Sam Peckinpah and Warren Oates, than they were for the work they were producing. Wild bad boys of the cinema – hard drinking, drug taking, assholes. The storied history of these films allows them to endure to a wider audience than the movies probably deserve.