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. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
The reclusive novelist B. Traven was asked if he would like to visit the set during location shooting. He demurred, but said he would be sending an associate instead. The associate was actually Traven himself, using a pseudonym. See more »
During the fight with the bandits, a shadow of a crew member is visible against Tim Holt's shirt for a few seconds before he goes to check on the condition of Cody. See more »
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My Favorite Movie: Learn To Lose and Laugh My Friends
Greed is not presented as a force beyond conquering. It is a grave error to see this as simply a movie about greed by moralists. Curtain and Howard defeat it easily, Howard more easily because of his age and nearness to death. Dodds is destroyed; he is consumed until nothing of his personality remains. We see the predilections that led to this outcome. Notice his vanity with the haircut, hardly a necessity when begging, and his chasing after the prostitute. The little scene of his cruelty to the lottery boy all seem to be quite trivial and innocuous. Sadly, they are the inclinations that grow into monstrous proportions once the piles of gold begin to accumulate. Notice, Dodds is the one who wants it split up every night, this triggers hiding one's stash, always on the lookout for discovery. Huston takes some of the real bite out of greed and its partner murder by having the bandits arrive just when they are about to shoot Cody. Again, Cody is conveniently killed in the battle, again, sparing us from seeing the murder all three of them were about to commit for their gold. The voting to kill him is a nice reminder not to enshrine democracy, the majority is often wrong. Do not fall in love with the consensus of idiots.
Dodds begins spiraling out of control whenever temptation falls on him. Howard leaves to help the natives, Dodd's complaints about the extra burros is just a subterfuge for stealing Howard's goods which also is why Dodds endorsed Howard leaving with such enthusiasm. This is not good enough; he projects his greed onto Curtain and convinces himself he has to kill him to survive. As before, with his stash, earlier predilections in Dodds are growing getting more and more dangerous. After he thinks he killed Curtain, watch the fire grow and grow as he mocks having a conscience, trying to convince himself. You do not need me to tell you what the growing fire signifies. Do not feel sorry for Dodds at the waterhole where the bandits kill him; he would have joyfully shot all of them if he had any bullets. Many people think the natives slow down or wreck the film, they are there to remind us of the poor and suffering surrounding these gold mad maniacs.
The point of the movie is not that greed is evil; it is how to handle losing things which is an existential fact of human life. First Howard then Curtain laugh at losing everything, having it blown by the Hand of God back to where it came from. When they were saying what they would do with the money, listen to the beautiful music, re-prised again when Curtain talks about picking fruit with the poor and sleeping, singing under the stars. This is the film's message: a simple, basic spartan life free of desire. It is so hard within an economy that thrives upon creating eternal desire and boundless wants. The message is not just that greed is evil; it is how much do you require to be happy? Happiness is from within where all true wealth is, its reification into material goods will only be like drinking sea water; it makes you thirstier. Lose and laugh, my friends, for the last laugh is on all of us. We too blow away in the wind, love and goodness are all we can ever take with us. They are meant to be given to all we meet. MY FAVORITE MOVIE
"He who possesses is himself possessed." Nietzsche
"All that is not given is lost." A Hindu Saying
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