New 4K restoration and generous extras put this UK Blu-ray release ahead of the competition
Smarting from the critical and box office failure of the previous year's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, 1974 found director Sam Peckinpah taking a break from the Western genre and interfering Hollywood producers. Heading to Mexico he set about shooting the story of a down-on-his-luck bar room pianist (Warren Oates) who believes he's found a way of turning his life around when he gets involved in the hunt for a man with a $1,000,000 price on his head.
Unfortunately, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia fared little better with critics and audiences of the time than its predecessor. But as with that film, the subsequent decades have seen its popularity grow and grow, as people come to appreciate Peckinpah's booze-soaked tale of obsession, redemption and self-destruction.
Watched today the movie feels like a complete one-off. While it clearly taps into a vein of anger and cruelty that is familiar from Peckinpah's other features, between the slow-motion set-pieces and sudden eruptions of bloody violence are unexpected moments of (black) humour and tenderness. This is because at its heart Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a love story. An offbeat love story to be sure, but also a very touching one.
While it may take you deep into Mexico's heart of darkness, it does so with a cheeky glint in its eye and a sense of poetry in its heart.
Picture: Prior to this UK release, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia had already seen the light of day on BD in France, Italy and the US. However, while those discs were based on off-the-shelf HD masters, Arrow has undertaken its own 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative (with a few shots coming from an interpositive element). The resulting AVC 1.85:1 Blu-ray encode represents a significant step-up in quality. Brighter and cleaner, with a tighter grain structure, the 1080p image also exhibits more refined textures and a warmer (but still authentically grimy) palette.
That said, there are several dark interior scenes that serve up rather muddy-looking blacks, as well as four close-ups of Warren Oates' face as he sits under a tree with Isela Vega in Chapter 4 (pictured below) that exhibit a striated texture in the sky behind him. But these all relate back to the source material rather than the disc itself.
Picture rating: 4.5/5
Audio: The Blu-ray's LPCM 1.0 soundtrack does the best it can with the material on hand, but it is still extremely limited when it comes to scale and dynamic range. Technically proficient then, but not especially exciting.
Audio rating: 3/5
Extras: The film is joined by a pair of audio commentaries; an archival interview with Peckinpah (audio-only); the trailer; four songs performed by Kris Kristofferson; and Paul Joyce's excellent 1993 TV documentary Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron.
Exclusive to this limited edition is a 42-page booklet and a bonus Blu-ray platter containing the original interviews recorded for Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron in their entirety – over 10 hours of them!
Extras rating: 5/5
We say: A superb Blu-ray release that will keep Peckinpah fans busy for days. Hunt it down now…
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia: Limited Edition, Arrow Video, Region B BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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