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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Drama, Action, Adventure, Western
IMDB rating:
John Huston
Walter Huston as Howard
Tim Holt as Curtin
Barton MacLane as McCormick (as Barton Mac Lane)
Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat
Arturo Soto Rangel as Presidente (as A. Soto Rangel)
Manuel Dondé as El Jefe (as Manuel Donde)
José Torvay as Pablo (as Jose Torvay)
Margarito Luna as Pancho
Storyline: Fred C. Dobbs and Bob Curtin, both down on their luck in Tampico, Mexico in 1925, meet up with a grizzled prospector named Howard and decide to join with him in search of gold in the wilds of central Mexico. Through enormous difficulties, they eventually succeed in finding gold, but bandits, the elements, and most especially greed threaten to turn their success into disaster.
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A Powerful Statement About The Power Of Greed
With its obvious warning about the consequences of greed, this film is surprisingly relevant today. True, we no longer suffer from the classic problem of "gold fever." Not many people go out free-lance prospecting anymore, but corporate greed is certainly much in the news and the economic collapse of late 2008 had at least partly at its root the problem of greed. This wonderful classic uses a more traditional setting, but manages to portray the same collapse of civilized behaviour and the problems that arise with simply looking out for Number 1. In this movie, that position is clearly held by Humphrey Bogart's Fred Dobbs, an American drifter in Mexico who hooks up with fellow drifter Curtin (Tim Holt) and "old-timer" Howard (Walter Huston). Together they decide to strike out into the mountains in search of gold, in spite of Howard's warnings about what riches can do to people - and gold they find.

The three characters each seem to represent a different aspect of human nature. Howard is past the age of being too concerned with wealth, and seems to treat this more as an adventure, Curtin is the honest one who wants to make sure that everyone gets treated fairly, and Dobbs is the one who catches "gold fever" and becomes increasingly greedy and unbalanced as he contemplates the wealth he can now posses. Bogart's portrayal of the man gradually losing his grip was brilliant, and of the movies I've seen him in I'd rank this near "Casablanca" as his best performance. Director John Huston made excellent use of the setting and developed the story nicely, with Dobbs and Curtin starting the movie as victims of dishonest greed, before having to deal with the temptation themselves. There's also some pretty good actions with local bandits. In the end, Dobbs' decision to give into greed robs them all of the wealth they thought would be theirs, and their reactions to their loss of everything were perfectly in character, Dobbs being murdered by the bandits, Curtin realizing that he really hasn't lost anything, while Howard, thanks to an encounter with some local Indians, discovers more than he could ever have hoped for if he had simply kept his gold.

An altogether wonderful couple of hours. 8/10
It's hard to avoid superlatives when writing about your favorite film of all time, so bear with me here if I tend to go overboard. The fact remains, however, that "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" contains what is arguably Humphrey Bogart's finest screen performance in a 25+-year career; one of John Huston's best directorial efforts; AND my favorite performance of all time--Walter Huston as the wise-with-experience prospector, Howard. For this terrific portrayal, Walter Huston won what is perhaps the most well-deserved Supporting Actor Oscar in the history of those dubious awards.

By now, everyone is familiar with the story of the three gold prospectors who go into the wilds of Mexico, only to be undone by gila monsters, banditos, and human and Mother Nature. This is perhaps the best (there's that word again) movie ever made on the subject of human greed...including the incredible 1925 von Streihem classic, "Greed" itself. The movie has so many quotable quotes--the "stinking badges" line is just one of dozens--and wonderful, classic moments, including a brutal fight in a cantina; the fight on the train with the banditos; Howard's jig when gold is finally discovered; the Bogart/Alfonso Bedoya conversation before the shootout; Bruce Bennett's arrival in the camp; and on and on and on. My personal favorite moment occurs when Howard looks straight into the camera as a pretty Mexican girl lights his cigar. The expression on his face is absolutely priceless. There is one extended sequence that takes place in a village where the banditos have come to sell their stolen burros. The entire scene is performed in Spanish, which I don't speak at all, but such is the power of the directing and the storytelling that no subtitles are required to understand precisely what is going on. This picture is a true American classic, and a wonderful retelling of a terrific Traven novel (which I also highly recommend). It seems to me that I may have given Humphrey Bogart (my favorite actor) insufficient praise in this minireview. The truth is, the actor's portrayal of a man transforming from a decent and generous human being into a venal and dangerous sociopath is little short of miraculous. This is a much more interesting performance than the one Bogart won his only Oscar for, three years later--as Charlie Allnut in "The African Queen." Go figure. To conclude, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is that rarity: a perfect motion picture. If you're about to see it for the first time, I envy you; if you're about to see it for the 30th time with undiminished pleasure, then you're like me. 10/10
"If you want somebody NOT to find it, . . . Put it in front of them"
In the 1920's, labor was hard to find. If you happened to be a laborer, work was almost non existent. Indeed, if you were unemployed and in Mexico, your chances were dismal. Yet, these were the times, which attracted many South of the border. The place was barren, yet many a fortune could spring up directly before you, . . .if you were luckily enough to see it. That is the story behind this incredible film. The legend of El Dorado was only one of the many myths which lured the adventurous to Mexico, another was "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." The gold of the Mother of Mountains was passed from father to son for generations. Thus when the film adaption was made, it was sure to be sculpted by men of vision. One such man is legendary John Huston who directed this film. Three common men are lured by the promise of discovering a lost treasure. The first is Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) a nice enough guy who wants only to be fair, but is hungry to 'strike it rich.' The second is Howard, (Walter Huston) as honest as you expect him to be and a man of considerable experience. The last is Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) who if given a chance, will use it. The trio make a PAC to share and share alike all the treasure they find. However, only Howard is aware of what the possession of Gold can do to a man. To find the treasure, they need the mountain, some hard work, a little luck. To bring it home, will require something only one of them possesses. The film is a Classic and is due to the combined talents of all the stars and the director. If you look closely, you'll see Robert Blake (Barreta) and John Huston in brief roles. ****
One of the best of All Time
This is personally my favorite movie. It was kind of updated to be "A Simple Plan" by Sam Raimi so if you liked that one you will definitely enjoy this movie. Excellent picture, good all around movie. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Houston star and John Houston directs. One of my personal top 100 films. It is a classic in every sense of the word.
Greed & Gold
An amazing film, 'The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre' is perhaps John Huston's best film. It certainly contains one of Humphrey Bogart's best performances as bad guy Fred C. Dobbs, who degenerates into a real psychopath when the lure of gold and riches is upon him. Walter Huston and Tim Holt also head a mostly-male cast in this fantastic parable of greed.

This must be one of the most entertaining films of all time. I watched it with some friends of mine who are non-familiar with the classics, and are wary of black-and-white films. They loved it. I think the reason it is so appealing is because there's no throwaway love angle, tacked-on happy ending or gloss added to the production. It's a great adventure story that holds the attention like no other. Huston's direction is amazing. One of the most fluidly directed and photographed films you'll see, this a real 'Treasure' for film fans of any age, sex, religion or race. The story is timeless (one of greed, ambition and the degradation of the human race when one acquires too much of those characteristics) and the screenplay breathtaking. It deserves all the plaudits that are heaped upon it.

Bogart is excellent in this film. Fred C. Dobbs must surely be one of cinema's most memorable characters and villains. Walter Huston (yes, John Huston's dad) won the Best Supporting Actor award for his fine work here as Howard, a grizzled old hand at the gold prospecting business. But Bogart wasn't even nominated! That I still find hard to believe...this definitely beats his work for Huston in 'The African Queen'. Holt's performance is also good, showing he was worth more than just B-movie westerns. One could call this a guy's film, but as female I must say it works for everyone. This isn't overtly masculine in the terms of a western/action film, this is more of a psychological study of human nature.

Absolutely mesmerizing film.

Ann Sheridan, my eye!
Ann Sheridan my eye.

I've just viewed the new Warner Brother's Classic DVD of this great film with commentary by Eric Lax and I have some commentary of my own.

Firstly, I saw the still of Anne Sheridan posing with the crew in Mexico among the 'extras' but I have run the scene where she supposedly plays the prostitute back and forth and even considering Hollywood's make-up know-how, the black wig, etc., there is no way at all that is her. I looked at it with a picture of Ann Sheridan next to the screen and the eyes and jaw-line are totally different than that. My theory is that Sheridan did go to Mexico and did film such a scene but Huston or Warners decided not to use it for some reason and it was reshot but the story that that is Anne Sheridan remained alive.

Mr. Lax identified the guy in the bar who warns Dobbs and Curtain about McCormick as Tim Holt's father Jack and goes on to tell the story of his life and career but in fact that actor, as the IMDb shows is Pat Flaherty. Jack Holt is the guy in the flophouse that Howard is talking to when we first encounter him.

Lax has a tendency to discuss the biographies and resumes of people involved with the film ad nauseum instead of discussing what we are seeing on screen, which is what commentaries are all about. At one point he describes the history of the Warner Brothers and how they got into the movie business.

One thing he could have spent more time on is Humphrey Bogart's hairpieces. In the barber shop scene, we see Dobbs setting all slicked up- and slicked down. He actually looks awful in this scene, like a 70 year old trying to make himself look half his age, (he is of course looking for female companionship but the prospects appear dimmer than he imagines unless money is involved). Later, when Dobbs is going nuts, he sports a wonderful thatch of thick curly hair. Even though his character is dirty and exhausted Bogart somehow looks a generation younger than he does in the barbershop scene. He looks downright handsome and a little wild.

Lax continually describes Bogart's character as 'loathsome' and compares him to the gangsters he played early in his career. I disagree. What this really is is the greatest departure from the 'star' system by a male actor in the history of the Golden Age of Hollywood. All the characters they played were either virtuous, with their virtue somehow granting them great mental and martial abilities, or tragically flawed but powerful, with a great 'Is this the End for Rico?' or 'Top of the World Ma!' ending. Here we see that Dobbs, even at the beginning is a rather pathetic man who has been beaten down by life. He still has a few shreds of common decency left, enough to forge a tenuous friendship with Curtin and a partnership with Howard. The thought that his ship has finally come in through the acquisition of gold becomes his undoing. He expects life to take it away from him and figures, wrongly, that his partners are the biggest threat to his salvation. His growing paranoia separates him from them and leaves him vulnerable to the bandits who fulfill his expectation of doom. He does a despicable thing but is a pathetic, almost sympathetic character who is in no way similar to the gangsters Bogie played in the previous decade.

Look at the careers of Gable, Tracy, Cooper, Cagney, Fonda, Stewart or any of the others and you'll not find a single Fred C. Dobbs.
Great psychological exploration, with a brilliant performance from Bogie!
There is a great deal to recommend THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE: the names in the cast, of course (including Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston); the writer/director (John Huston); the plot (three gold prospectors brave the land, bandits and one another to seek their fortune in the hills of Mexico); or simply word of mouth (it's one of the best-loved films of all time, and for good reason).

These are all wonderful reasons to catch the film. For myself, I find two in particular that stand out, the first of which is the wonderfully observed, carefully executed psychological journey on which the main character Fred Dobbs (Bogart) embarks when he and his buddy Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) decide to join old experienced gold-prospector Howard (Huston) on a new prospecting trip. The changes in his character are gradual but shocking, as he becomes increasingly more paranoid and suspicious of his partners. This is further complicated by the appearance on the scene of James Cody (Bruce Bennett), whose desperation to strike gold becomes clear following his death. But Dobbs becomes horrifyingly cold and unfeeling, even rejoicing when Howard is brought away to a Mexican village and leaves the 'goods' with himself and Curtin. The final denouement is painful to watch but true and not at all pat--in fact, it's a great Huston ending, realistic but also self-conscious, particularly at the end with Howard and Curtin realising that if they've lost anything, it's nothing compared to what Dobbs has lost. A good, simple message.

The other reason to watch this film is most certainly Bogart's lead performance. His lined, extraordinary face conveys emotion like few others can, and simply calls to the camera for attention. Little wonder that Huston loved working with Bogie so much--Bogie's face, creased in non-sinister joy, or twisted with crazed suspicion, is truly one for the camera. His work in this film is exceptional as well: we believe his descent into madness, just as we accept his rough but amiable pleasantness before he gets enticed by the prospect of striking it rich. We can't help being revulsed by the sea-change in the man, but we can't help feeling sorry for this man, so generous and friendly in the beginning, whose corruption through gold is so scary and complete. It's truly a fabulous performance.

So, for these two reasons and a host of others previously mentioned, THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE comes very highly recommended. It's a cracking film, suspenseful and funny with a great score as well. 8/10.
Bogie at his best!
There can be no doubt that as Fred C. Dobbs in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", Humphrey Bogart gives one of his very best performances, and is right up there with his playing in "The African Queen". The film relies so heavily on the acting of the three top stars, and they deliver with all the skill they possess. Walter Huston is absolutely brilliant as the old prospector, and Tim Holt certainly proved in this film that he should have been given many better roles than he received before and after this movie. John Huston's direction was spot on, and the musical score, along with the locations depicted, added a great deal to the mood and atmosphere of what was a brilliant movie. It has stood the test of time and can be seen time and again and enjoyed just as much as the first viewing.
One of Warner Brother's triumphs of the forties…
Having had his day as an idolized star and romantic leading man, it was now time for Bogart to get down to the serious business of acting… For eighteen years it had usually been Bogart playing Bogart in various shadings… Now that Bogart was gone and in his place was an older and far less romantic figure, one who found new challenges and was able to meet most of them successfully… This new phase of his continued growth began with a story of three men in search of gold…

Although "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is indisputably one of Bogart's best films, it was co-star Walter Huston who won an Academy Award as did the movie's director and scenarist, John Huston…

Based on a novel by the mysterious B. Traven, the film told a riveting tale which explored the degenerative effects of encroaching greed, distrust, and hatred on three prospectors who team up to search for gold in Mexico…

Bogart's Fred C. Dobbs was an amazingly complex creation whose slow disintegration into paranoia was brilliant1y managed on camera… He is a born loser with no potential for change in sight… Suspicious, unfeeling, savage, and easily corruptible, he seems clearly destined for a tragic fate almost from our first meeting with him…

Tim Holt was also excellent as Bob Curtin, a man who, like Bogart, is tempted but whose conscience will not permit him to exercise his baser desires. (He could have let Bogart die in a cave-in, but saved him instead.) Young, impressionable, and unprepared, he has never seen the likes of a Fred C. Dobbs and he finds himself overwhelmed and uncertain as to how he will cope with Dobbs's rage and greed…

However, it is the director's father, Walter Huston, who literally stole the picture from both Bogart and Holt as he played Howard, a wise old toothless codger who knew all along what would happen and took it all in stride, kicking up his heels and having a marvelous time… Life can't surprise him any more… He's already had successes and failures enough for one lifetime… Like a faithful dog, he's along for the thrill of the hunt, and should there be another pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, well, that's just a bonus…

It is mainly the interaction of these three men from their first meeting and uneasy partnership through their final confrontation that made "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" one of Warner Brothers' triumphs of the forties…
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