Film / Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

"There ain't nothing sacred about a hole in the ground or the man that's in it. Or you. Or me."

A New Old West film from Sam Peckinpah, released in 1974. At the time, it was considered bleak and violent even by Peckinpah standards, it has since had a resurgence of popular and critical opinion. Peckinpah considered it his best and most personal film.

It begins with a feared Mexican landowner, known only as 'El Jefe' ('The Boss') brutally interrogating his pregnant teenage daughter over the identity of the father of the baby she's carrying. Upon learning that it was a trusted underling, El Jefe orders his henchmen to "Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia". This information eventually gets back to Bennie (Warren Oates), an American ex-pat who ekes out a living as the piano player in a dive bar, who in turn learns from his prostitute girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) that Garcia is already dead, having been killed in a drunk driving accident some weeks previously. Bennie decides that he can earn some easy money by digging up Garcia's corpse, removing the head and taking it to El Jefe for the bounty, and drags Elita along to help him.

Things go downhill from there.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: El Jefe's first scene has him breaking his daughter's arm to find out who impregnated her. Yeah.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Sappensly and Quill are glued to each other at all times and disdain the advances of prostitutes. When one of them dies, the other becomes extremely emotional and completely loses it.
  • Anti-Hero: Bennie is a type III or IV
  • Attempted Rape: Two bikers try to rape Elita. She ultimately "accepts" one of them (played by Kris Kristofferson), but it doesn't happen as Bennie shoots him.
  • Author Avatar: Bennie. Warren Oates admits his performance is a Sam Peckinpah impersonation. The sunglasses Bennie wears were borrowed off Peckinpah.
  • Badass Biker: A strange subversion. The rough bikers intend to rape the hero's girl, but Kris Kristofferson gets bashful, and she actually tries to comfort him!
  • Bilingual Bonus: Lots of Spanish dialogue.
  • The Casanova: According to the posthumous reports we receive Alfredo Garcia was apparently this in life, with at least two examples to back it up; as well as knocking up the Big Bad Boss's daughter, he's also apparently gotten with Bennie's girlfriend a few times. She even seems to be more fond of him than she is of Bennie himself.
  • Cool Car: Bennie's red convertible is a 1962 Chevy Impala.
  • Cool Shades: Bennie wears some.
  • Crapsack World: No heroes or villains here, gentlemen. Just opportunists and monsters.
  • Darker and Edgier: Bleaker, more hopeless, violent, cynical and nihilistic than any other film in Peckinpah's filmography... which is saying something!
  • Decapitation Presentation: Bennie gets the head of Garcia, and ends up fighting criminals and mercenaries for the chance to be one to present it El Jefe.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Bennie reaches thus upon the death of Elita. Before then, he's clearly going a bit mad for much of the movie, but that causes him to just completely lose touch with reality.
  • Downer Ending: Everyone dies.
  • Fanservice: An early scene has a completely naked Isela Vega for no particular reason.
  • Kill 'em All: Elita, Sappensly, Quill, El Jefe and Bennie all die.
  • Long Title: Bordering on Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death, and inspiring imitations.
  • Mexican Standoff: Possible Trope Namer.
  • New Old West: Sam Peckinpah returns to the setting of his Western, but this time has the story in the contemporary days.
  • No Name Given: El Jefe ("The Boss")
  • Outlaw Couple: Bennie and Elita.
  • Posthumous Character: The titular Mr. Garcia.
  • Professional Killers: Who look and act more like lawyers than anything else.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Bennie has difficulty killing though and must psych himself up for it.
  • Sanity Slippage: Bennie loses his sanity over the course of the film. He ends up having conversations with Alfredo who, let us remind you, is a rotting head in a sack at this point.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Bennie arrives with Garcia's head to El Jefe's house after dodging killers and going through some Sanity Slippage from the tension only for El Jefe to decide to pay him nothing — he killed his own daughter because of the dishonor of having Garcia's child in her womb and pretty much got bored afterwards. When he tells Bennie to dump Garcia's head in the trash on the way out, Bennie totally snaps and kills him... and then gets killed on the way out.
  • Take That!: When Bennie is first seen playing the piano in the Mexico City bar, a fake one-dollar bill on the brick wall directly behind him has a caricature of Richard Nixon. Sam Peckinpah inserted it there to show his contempt for Nixon, whose presidency was falling apart.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Sappensly and Quill.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Averted. The trailer is exceptionally blunt about how bleak and bloody the film is.
    Trailer Announcer: This man will become an animal. This woman's dreams of love will be destroyed. Innocent people will suffer. Holy ground will be desecrated. Twenty five people will die.
  • Title Drop: Said right as El Jefe learns of Alfredo Garcia's name.