30 Days of The Plaza, Day 10: A Picnic of Peckinpah and Wild Oates for Memorial Day as The Plaza Says BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA

Posted on: May 27th, 2012 By:

 “This is one of the original balls to the wall crazyass movies. We saw that we could screen it through Tugg.com, so we had to.”

– Alex Orr, Fake Wood Wallpaper

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974); Presented by Fake Wood Wallpaper; Dir: Sam Peckinpah; Story by Peckinpah andFrank Kowalski/screenplay by Gordon Dawson; Starring Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber; Memorial Day Monday; 9:30 PM; $9; Plaza Theatre. Trailer here. Advance tickets here.

Innocents will suffer. Holy ground will be desecrated. And 25 people will die. So announces the trailer for BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Whether you’ve just seen THE WILD BUNCH or are a diehard follower of Sam Peckinpah, the seminal director who redefined ultra-violence and realism in the Western and action film genres of the 1960s and 1970s, the chance to see a 35mm print of a Peckinpah feature on the big screen is a rare treat – so you shouldn’t have to think twice about walking out of that cookout your family or friend throws every year. Sadly given the studios’ mad race to all-digital, it could be your last time, too. Not to mention a swell test to see how many bullets and blood your new squeeze can take. [Editor’s note: I once complained that THE WILD BUNCH wasn’t violent enough. Score!]

That being said, the under-rated ALFREDO GARCIA is pretty much universally dubbed as the most surreal and gruesome of his cinematic ventures. Set in contemporary Mexico rather than the Old West, the premise is pretty basic, a hit is out on a man named Alfredo Garcia, with a million dollars reward, and yeah, the title is literal – the proof of death is in the head. The man contracted to accomplish the bloody task is Bennie, a ne-er-do-well bartender and alcoholic with a penchant for not being afraid of dishing out ultra-violence if it means revenge and retribution, played perfectly by Warren Oates who had previously teamed so well with Peckinpah on THE WILD BUNCH. The Badass Hall of Fame calls Oates their “Patron Saint,” and while they wax about his swagger in THE WILD BUNCH, they dub ALFREDO GARCIA “his masterpiece.”

Warren Oates in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Photo credit: United Artists, 1974.

We could tell you more like there’s a sexy woman Elita (Isela Vega) with the misfortune of being along for the ride and in love with Bennie to boot, much tequila is consumed, and there will be slaughter. But if we told you too much, we’d spoil that wild ride. So instead, how about some fun facts to whet your appetite for art and violence. Yeah, you heard us right. We said “fun facts” …so what ya gonna do, shoot us?

– Peckinpah considered BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, shot in Mexico with an almost total Mexican crew, a snub on his enemies in Hollywood and his antipathy for Richard Nixon and the direction the U.S. was heading in the 1970s.

– Peckinpah also considered James Coburn and Peter Falk for the role of Bennie.

– Oates based his performance of the drunken protagonist on Peckinpah himself, even stealing his director’s trademark sunglasses for the role.

– Oates didn’t like the movie and told folks not to see it. While back then, reviewers agreed, they don’t any more, and the white suit and sunglasses Oates wears in GARCIA have become his iconic look.

Kris Kristofferson plays a biker in the movie.

Emilio Fernandez as El Jefe in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Photo credit: United Artists, 1974.

– Mexico film director, Emilio Fernandez, who plays El Jefe, was rumored to have killed men in duels. According to screenwriter Gordon Dawson, “Emilio would take out his .38s and start blowing the art off the walls.”  (He also played Mapache in THE WILD BUNCH)

– Frank Kowalski, who shares story credit with Peckinpah, wanted to write a movie that brought together two concepts. The first was  bartenders who “lead the most colorful lives going. They live fast and get broads, and, the next thing they know, they’re 45 or 50 and it’s all over. It’s a strange life cycle, like a moth.” The second, inspired by the real life case of Caryl Chessman who raped women at gunpoint and whose death penalty conviction caused controversy, was what would a man do if forced to watch another rape his lover. Shoot the hell out of him, of course, while she watches!

Sources: The Badass Hall of Fame and BLOODY SAM, THE LIFE AND FILMS OF SAM PECKINPAH, by Marshall Fine, Primus, 1991.

 

 

 

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Retro Review: Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef Blaze Trails and Guns This Saturday at The Plaza

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966); Presented by AM 1690; Dir: Sergio Leone; Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach; Sat. Aug. 13; 3 PM and 7:30 PM; Plaza Theatre. Trailer here.

1966. After shooting up a storm at the European box office between 1964’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and 1965’s FOR A FEW DOLLARS’ MORE, Italian movie-making maven Sergio Leone – against his deepest desires – agreed to make a third spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood, growing tired of filming in Spain, was skeptical, but with major US money (from distributor United Artists) and a substantial salary, finally agreed to reprise his role as “the Stranger.” With Eli Wallach on board as the sweaty, foul-mouthed, primal bandito, Tuco, and Lee Van Cleef returning at Leone’s request, too, the film was a “go.”

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS established the tone of Italian Westerns to come with its callous violence. FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE provided Leone with an expanded lexicon of cinematic storytelling which turned the classic American Western on its head. But with THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, well, Leone turned a TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE-like story, a quest for hidden gold, into a unique film which reinvented the pasta genre he had created and redefined the cinema-going experience.

Three men. One cache of Civil War gold buried in a coffin – story concepts don’t get more simple than this one. But it’s how Leone plays out the three strands of the stories, the three characters and their respective actions towards acquiring the goal which makes this movie special. Leone’s deliberate pacing – punctuated by shocking, explosive moments of unexpected violence – took a new turn. In certain sequences, seconds become minutes; preparation, psychologically and physically, became the calm before the storm. No director of Westerns had ever attempted what he achieved with THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

The Good (Clint Eastwood, L), The Bad (Lee Van Cleef, R), and The Ugly (Eli Wallach, center). Copyright United Artists, 1966.

Whether you love Westerns or the films of Clint Eastwood or not, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY also is a film which was designed to be seen and experienced on the big screen. The Civil War sequences are the most striking ever visualized, and the climactic scene will make your heart race (fans of the film know exactly what I’m referring to here; for those of you who haven’t, prepared to be wowed).

The copy screening at The Plaza this weekend is a pristine print of the 2004 remastered Director’s Cut,  struck from the original negative with the basic mono sound adapted into a crisp stereo mix. In 1967, when first released, United Artists cut 18 minutes from the original version to save on print costs and so they could squeeze an extra screening per day at US movie theatres. So this version of the film has barely been screened in American cinemas. A terrific experience all around. NOT TO BE MISSED!!!

ATLRetro Movie Trivia –

  • Although Leone’s first three spaghetti westerns are frequently referred to as the “Man With No Name” trilogy, Eastwood’s “Stranger” is called three different names over the course of the three movies: “Joe” in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS; “Manco” in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE; and “Blondie” – as Wallach’s Tuco loves to derisively call Eastwood in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (although Clint’s chestnut-brown hair hardly qualifies him for Marilyn Monroe status).
  • Speaking of La Monroe, rumor has it that when Eastwood first saw the Italian version of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and heard how the Roman dubbing artist had changed his voice – slower, more whispery – he decided to start delivering his lines like Marilyn (but with balls instead of boobs). So without the inspiration of a real blonde and an Italian actor who made money redubbing Americans, Dirty Harry would have sounded quite different…

And don’t forget that between the 3 PM and 7:30 PM screenings of this classic, revisionist Western, The Plaza is giving a free show (donations encouraged; remember, The Plaza Theatre is a nonprofit entity): COMING SOON! 35 Minutes of 35mm Trailers at 6:35 PM, a special, rare opportunity to see some of Plaza Manager Ben Ruder’s private collection of retro celluloid teasers! Give generously or pig out at the concessions stand!

Contributing Blogger Philip Nutman is a regular broadcaster for the The Night Crew, a podcast created and run by film journalists Sean Smithson and Thom Carnell. Over the past few months, Phil has presented “Philip Nutman’s THE WILD, WILD WEST” a multi-part, eclectic primer on must-see cowboy movies. The final installment will be live within the next two weeks.

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Retro Review: A Fistful of Eastwood at the Plaza This Summer

Posted on: Jun 9th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman,
Contributing Blogger

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964); Presented by AM 1690; Dir: Sergio Leone; Starring Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch; Sat. June 11; 3 PM and 7:30 PM; Plaza Theatre. Trailer here.

Clint Eastwood shoots up Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre over the summer, screening Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy over the next two months. In 1964, the Western, as global audiences knew it as essayed by actors such as Audie Murphy and John “The Duke”” Wayne, changed forever due to the rebellious vision of a 34-year-old Italian writer/director, Sergio Leone. An unabashed, blatant “adaptation” of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa’s classic “chambara” (samurai film), YOJIMBO, Leone took American TV’s favorite laconic ranch hand sidekick, Rowdy Yeats from the show RAWHIDE,­ an actor named Clint Eastwood, ­and cast him as the amoral, mysterious gunslinger cinema audiences around the world would come to embrace as “the Man With No Name.” The film, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, was so successful, it spawned two sequels: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the stunning epic, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Bullets and blood flew—Sergio never shied away from the sadistic nature of his vile characters—and A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS launched the “spaghetti western” and shot the spurs off the classic Hollywood visions of directors John Ford and Howard Hawks. Forget Monument Valley and Ford’s THE SEARCHERS (1956); farewell to Hawks’ RED RIVER (1948); goodbye Stevens’ SHANE (1953), or even Sam Peckinpah’s pre-THE WILD BUNCH (1969) old school saddle flicks like RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962). Once Leone pulled the trigger, the cinematic genre which America created started to mutate as the bullet hit the bone. A once vibrant but now stagnant genre was forced to either evolve or die.

Nihilism. Blood. Sweat. More blood, more sweat. Ford and Hawks and their fellow saddle riders had created a paradigm of moral certitude in which good was GOOD and evil was EVIL, a landscape of moral regeneration whereby a Man With A Good Heart and a Moral Cause could save the day via a chivalrous, judicious use of a six shooter at high noon and win the arms of a Good Woman. Well, Leone shot the horse they rode into town on.

You’ve likely seen it on TV; maybe you’ve rented the DVD, and you think you know A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. But unless you see Leone’s widescreen vision in a movie theater, you ain’t seen dirt, cowhand.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE screens Sat. July 9, 3 PM and 7:30 PM.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY screens August 13, 3 PM, 7:30 PM.

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