Sunday, April 4, 2010

Garcia, Oates, and Peckinpah

My son Kevin came home the other day with a bag of dvds of old films from the Seventies, including two by legendary director Sam Peckinpah: The Killer Elite and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

While The Killer Elite has a good cast (including Robert Duvall, James Caan, Mako, Gig Young, Arthur Hill, and Burt Young), it's an odd misfire. On the other hand, the 1974 film Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, starring the under-rated Warren Oates as Bennie, was something else. All I can say is that it's an over-looked Peckinpah masterpiece.

Though flawed, it's a fascinating story of evil, greed, love and revenge, featuring a terrific cast headed by Oates, with excellent support from Isela Vega, Robert Webber, and Gig Young.

Wearing annoying sunglasses for most of the film, Oates is a revelation. Several scenes were jaw dropping; for example, the bedroom scene where he pours booze on his crotch; the graveyard scene where he cracks up; and later scenes where he and "Al" (the severed head) bond and become partners.

My only serious objection is that the ending should have been a final scene between Bennie and Al, instead of a hail of gunfire. Imagine the bullet-riddled Bennie, a breath away from dying, turning to the blood-soaked head and saying, "We killed that son-of-a-bitch, Al. We killed him."

Oates should have won an Oscar that year for Best Actor. He and beautiful co-star Vega are amazing together.

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