Gordon T. Dawson & Sam Peckinpah’s screenplay for ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ went into production in late September 1973 and in an October issue of Variety magazine, Peckinpah was quoted as saying, “For me, Hollywood no longer exists. It’s past history. I’ve decided to stay in Mexico because I believe I can make my pictures with greater freedom from here.” This upset the Motion Picture and Television Unions and they openly censured the director for his statement at their National Conference in Detroit. They also threatened Alfredo Garcia with union boycotts upon its release, labeling it a “runaway” production. In his defense, Peckinpah claimed that he was misquoted. Before the film was to be released, the unions relented on their boycott threat. —Sam Peckinpah going to Mexico by Paul Schrader, Cinema Magazine, Vol. 5 No. 3, 1969
I think I can feel Sam Peckinpah’s heart beating and head pounding in every frame in ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ (1974), a film he made during a period of alcoholic fear and trembling. I believe its hero, Bennie, completes his task with the same dogged courage as Peckinpah used to complete the movie, and that Bennie’s exhaustion, disgust and despair at the end might mirror Peckinpah’s own. I sense that the emotional weather on the set seeped onto the screen, haunting it with a buried level of passion. If there is anything to the auteur theory, then ‘Alfredo Garcia’ is the most autobiographical film Peckinpah ever made. The film was reviled when it was released. The reviews went beyond hatred into horror. It was grotesque, sadistic, irrational, obscene and incompetent, wrote Joy Gould Boyum in the Wall Street Journal. It was a catastrophe, said Michael Sragow in New York magazine. “Turgid melodrama at its worst,” said Variety. Martin Baum, the producer, recalled a sneak preview with only 10 people left in the theater at the end: “They hated it! Hated it!”
I gave it four stars and called it “some kind of bizarre masterpiece.” Now I approach it again after 27 years, and find it extraordinary, a true and heartfelt work by a great director who endured despite, or perhaps because of, the demons that haunted him. Courage usually feels good in the movies, but it comes in many moods, and here it feels bad but necessary, giving us a hero who is heartbreakingly human—a little man determined to accomplish his mission in memory of a woman he loved, and in truth to his own defiant code. —Roger Ebert
“The whole underside of our society has always been violence and still is. Churches, laws — everybody seems to think that man is a noble savage. But he’s only an animal. A meat-eating, talking animal. Recognize it. He also has grace and love and beauty. But don’t say to me we’re not violent.” —Sam Peckinpah
A candid conversation with the screen’s “Picasso of violence,” controversial creator of ‘The Wild Bunch’ and ‘Straw Dogs’ — Sam Peckinpah Playboy Interview, August 1972.
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