And what better way to start this than with 1976’s Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia by the supreme auteur of violent cinema of the late 60s and 70s, Sam Peckinpah. Reviled and downright ostracized upon its release, the film found quite a cult following during the decades afterwards but is still not as appreciated as the milestone of violent cinema as it should be.
Equally tender, raw, extremely violent and brutal, sometimes all during the same scene, this is the kind of film Tarantino keeps trying to make but fails because he cannot keep his gigantic ego in check in order to tell a coherent story with fully-fledged characters.
When a Mexican crime lord, known only as El Hefe, finds out his young daughter’s been impregnated by a ladies’ man named Alfredo Garcia, he offers a million dollars for anyone who can bring his head to him. A hapless bartender named Bennie (A deliciously hammy Warren Oates) finds out from a prostitute named Elita (Isele Vega), with whom he’s also in love with, that Alfredo is already dead. Bennie decides to desecrate Alfredo’s grave in order to bring his head to the band of professional killers, who offer him a measly $10.000.
The first half of the film is actually quite a tender love story between two losers trying to get out of the ditch they are in by depending on each other. The scene where Bennie finally asks Elita to marry him is done in such an overbearing fashion, that it passes some kind of melodramatic threshold and becomes tender and real again.
There is also a fable-like element to the story where Bennie pays dearly for his blind obsession with the money they will make by desecrating Alfredo’s grave, despite Elita’s many protests. Alas, a tragedy that should not be spoiled here propels Bennie into an insane rage and sends him off to kill literally the entire crime element in Mexico in one of the most violent second half I think I’ve ever seen.
It’s not that Peckinpah uses gallons of fake blood and the body count is 1/50th of any contemporary action film, but the way the killings are presented in the raw, uniformly lit visual style of the film and with Peckinpah’s signature inter cuts between slow motion and rapid movement, the death scenes feel as disturbing and real as they ever could.
You might not think Alfredo Garcia is a great film (Which it is), but you have to admit it’s unlike anything you have or will ever see.