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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
eighteen years it had usually been Bogart playing Bogart in various
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
Although John Huston's directing is absolutely equal to the screenplay,
winning Oscars for both, it is the performance level of the actors that
makes "Treasure of The Sierra Madre" the classic film that it is.
and ending with Walter Huston's award winning role of the worn-out old
who is looking for one last big score, Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt are
equal to the task and draw us in to this tale of need and greed. So
convincing is Walter's portrayal of the seasoned old prospector, we come
believe that he is a gold digger by trade who only acts in movies so that
can dig and pan for gold again and again. His knowledge of mining and the
lifestyle it demands and forces upon those who partake, is so thorough
Bogart and Holt seem like school kids in awe of a new hero. Of course, we
know that his son John, did much research in preparation for writing the
screenplay; but we are nevertheless plunged into a sure belief that this
miner must surely have been there age upon age, mine upon mine, and has
therefore, a thousand tales to tell.
When, in the course of the story, Walter is taken away, somewhat without choice, to work the magic of a healer for a Mexican village, we are again convinced that he is a medical doctor hiding out as a prospector. This is the acting craft in full bloom. Walter becomes whatever is called for in the story. However, if one views his other films, the effect is the same. He is one of Hollywood's most under rated actors of all time. Those who have not seen this film have a joyous experience awaiting them. Great story, great screenplay, great acting. This is why we love movies the way we do.
This film made a huge impression on me when I first saw it at the age
of 15 or 16. A recent rewatching on DVD really served to bring home for
me what makes this film so special.
The whole thing is quite good, but it really hits you when Howard goes off to celebrate with the Indians, leaving Dobbs and Curtin to care for his gold and burros. The ensuing scenes of their spiraling mistrust and tension are absolutely spellbinding--the kind of thing that makes you lean forward in your seat just to get your eyes a little closer to the raw humanity unfolding in front of you. Their paranoia, the way you can SEE scenarios of betrayal dancing in their eyes, Dobbs' burgeoning madness--these are the moments that make this film one for the ages.
At its best, film noir (which this most certainly is--Western surroundings or no) makes the viewer complicit in the evil depicted on screen. We find ourselves scheming and plotting in our heads along with the unsavory characters we are watching--we start to feel the same temptations and desires that they do. "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" accomplishes this bond with the audience as well as any film you are likely to see.
A magnificent film--one of the few great screen tragedies.
The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
Certainly a consuming piece of cinematic achievement. I was delighted in viewing this film, especially when you have the talents of Bogart, Holt and Huston ..oh what abilities or should I say gifts'.
My eyes never strayed from the screen, I couldn't take the risk of missing one second of this tremendous adventure/drama film. Bogart played the character Fred C. Dobbs' so convincingly, it doesn't surprise me though he was at his career peak. It was like his portrayal of Lt. Comdr. Philip Francis Queeg' in `The Caine Mutiny' surely no one would disagree he carried the part to it's limit.
The B & W format gave an added depth and the direction by John Huston (as usual) was nothing more then what I would expect from an accredited director like him. I was amused to see a very young Robert Blake in the role of the boy selling lottery tickets and the brief appearance of Bruce Bennett as James Cody' . whom starred with Bogie in `Sahara' several years prior. Another reliable support actor was Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat' my fondest memory of any of his acting roles must be `The Big Country' in 1958.
Walter Huston stood out with his performance, this was the first time I've had the privilege to watch him in a film role. His portrayal was astounding ..and the script he had to work with was a treat to hear.
Another funny point I want to point out, I don't know why I kept comparing Tim Holt to John Derek. In some of the scenes his appearance and voice were so similar to Derek's it was uncanny. I'm probably the only one who thinks this, but I can't dismiss the similarities (to me anyway).
The plot was an interesting one, one that slowly draws you in until you can't stop watching. I really enjoyed `The Treasure Of Sierra Madre' certainly a must see' film highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wish I knew who B. Traven was. He wrote the novel this film is based
on, and it's a good read. There are stories that he was a German. Maybe
he was. The dialogue has little German touches in it. Traven surely
lived in modest circumstances in Mexico, the details of run-down hotels
being far too accurate to have been made up in a comfortable armchair.
But it's not really important. Huston and his cast and crew have turned the novel into a movie that is as good as anything likely to show up on the screen. It is in fact an astounding achievement. I can't even begin to list the moments that stamp themselves indelibely into one's memory, but I will mention one, just en passant, so to speak. After killing his partner and friend, Bogart lies down next to a fire and tries to go to sleep. He talks to himself about "conscience" and how it only bother you if you allow it to, and the fake, sulfurous fire blazes up higher and higher between the actor and the camera until he seems to be consumed by the flame.
Alfonso Bedoya. He made a few other movies but nothing resembling this one.
What lines he is given! "Aww, come on. Throw that old iron over here." "There's a good business for Jew." And the unforgettable "batches," which doesn't need repeating.
It is surely one of Huston's best films. A lesser director could have ruined the novel's plot. But Huston adds his own touches. Cody is killed, shot through the neck, and the old man reads a letter from his wife, retrieved from Cody's pocket. But -- he doesn't know how to read big words!
So Curtin takes the letter and reads it. It's not just a directorial flash in the pan, because the scene resonates at the end of the movie when Curtin rides off to meet Cody's wife in the blossom-blooming orchard. What I mean is that the letter-reading scene is there for a larger purpose than simply adding to our appreciation of the characters at that particular moment.
The fight with Pat in the cantina. Absolutely nothing happens the way it had always happened in previous movies. Huston stages it in a way that an artist would think of. In all movies before this one fights involved (1) a general melee in which no one wins or loses, or (2) one clip on the jaw and the guy is unconscious. Here, MacCormack, the heavy, done very nicely by Barton Maclaine, bashes one guy over the head with a bottle of booze and socks the other one. But somebody grabs his legs as he tries to walk out the door. More blows. Bodies slump to the floor and they have a hell of a time getting back up on their feet. More blows. Pat is finally beaten to the floor and he's not unconscious. "Okay. Enough, fellas. I'm beat. I can't see." Bogart and Tim Holt take only the money that is owing to them, and Curtin (Holt) comes up with, "Let's beat it before the law arrives." Before the law arrives. That's straight out of Traven's novel and is one of the reasons people believe he wasn't that familiar with the English language. Not that it doesn't fit -- because it does.
I could go on listing one scene after another that is simply outstanding but there isn't space enough to do it. I watched this repeatedly with my ten year old kid, Josh, who finally memorized almost every word of the script. I showed it in classes in psychology at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as an almost flawless depiction of an ego defense mechanism called "projection." The Marines loved it. I loved it. My kid loved it. John Simon loved it. Rush Limbaugh loved it. Martha Stewart loved it. Napolean Bonaparte loved it. Moses loved it. Lenin loved it. St. Peter, when not attending the pearly gates, watches it on cable TV. (No commercials.) Everybody loves it -- and for good reasons.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the great lesson of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the
effect civilization has on the behavior of man. Some people are only as
good as they ought to be and the case in point is the guys that go out
into the Sierra Madre gold prospecting and how their behavior changes.
Dobbs and Curtin a couple of down on their luck Americans stranded in Tampico, Mexico. They meet up with old Howard at a flop house and his tales inspire them to try gold prospecting. The plot of the film is what happens to them when they find the gold they seek.
The Treaure of the Sierra Madre is a film years ahead of its time for the stark realism it portrays. These are not classic movie heroes. I could see this film easily being remade today by some of our contemporary stars like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Russell Crowe.
It also has probably the most brutal bar fight ever put on film. Before going prospecting, Humphrey Bogart as Dobbs and Tim Holt as Curtin go out on a construction job for Barton MacLane who stiffs them when it comes time to pay up. They catch up with him at a Tampico dive and administer a terrible beating to MacLane. This is not some western saloon fight, this is probably one of the most realistic bar brawls ever filmed.
I like to compare this film to The Oxbow Incident. In both cases, stress and a crisis bring out the true characters in people. Tim Holt is a lot like Henry Fonda's character and Bogart would have definitely been found in the ranks of the lynchers.
Bogart as Dobbs is probably someone who in civilized society is no better than what he can get away with. His descent into uncontrollable paranoia is frightening on the screen, one of his best performances.
Tim Holt who most of the time was content to star in B westerns for RKO shows what a capable player he is. In the flophouse scene look for an unbilled appearance by his father Jack Holt.
Walter Huston capped a long career on the screen with the Best Supporting Actor Award for this film which also was the Best Picture of 1948. And son John Huston won his only Oscar for Best Director, making Oscar night a banner occasion for the Huston family. Huston's character of Howard you can see playing sidekick in many a Hollywood western. That would be a superficial impression. Howard turns out to be a wise old man.
The ending of what happens to the men and their acquired treasure in the Sierra Made mountains is something else. In a location far from civilization and far from law it's shown that the Almighty does have a wicked sense of humor.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre, is not only a stunningly visual treat,
but also a story and script of depth and magnitude, set in old time
As a Bogart fan, I found it at first, difficult to get past Bogart playing such a ragged and gritty character, once I did I realised him and his co stars - Walter Huston & Tim Holt were such a tenacious force in this 2.5 hour epic.
Sierra Madre feels fresh and could stand up well against anything put out today. I have not seen a film in recent years, with outstanding lines, powerfully delivered by Huston or with the conviction and honesty Holt does..with Bogart, all three characters are very different yet essential.
Do yourself a favor and go buy or rent this. It carries great moral and truth, in a story of rags to almost riches.
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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Huston's genius as a director is undeniable. From his beginning he
showed an uncanny knack for getting not only excellent acting from his
actors, but his movies always had a social conscience as well.
Mr. Huston loved Mexico and it shows in this film. It must have been a difficult task for him directing his own father in the movie. After all, Walter Huston was a major star on his own right. Both father and son made a great contribution, John behind the camera, Walter in front of it.
Basically the story is about men that have drifted into Mexico to escape jail, or in search of riches, as it was the case of the men that fate brings together in a Tampico shelter. Dobbs, Howard and Curtin start out as partners searching for gold in the Sierra Madre. They find it, but as luck will have it, none of them will live to be rich from what they find in that remote place.
In the most ironic of film endings, this one will be a classic. After the trio finds gold, greed sets in. Friendship turns sour and the three friends become enemies. When the bandits finally catch up with an exhausted Dobbs, trying to go north, they beat him up and discover some sacks full of sand....
Humphrey Bogart as Dobbs is excellent. Of course, Walter Huston made the best out of Howard, the clever old man who has seen a lot in his life. He is the only one that discovers a happiness living the simple life among the friendly Mexicans that welcome him into their community. Finally, Tim Holt, as Curtin is perfectly cast as an honest man who has gone into the adventure without any expectations.
The final sequence of Howard and the peasants riding their horses into the 'yellow dust' is amazing, as it it incredible. In retrospect, it seems to be telling us that sometimes dreams of becoming rich the easy way will not be sustained, but honest work will be more rewarding.
Some movies have certain scenes in them that hold the viewers interest
than others. However every single scene in this film holds the viewers
interest. There is never a dull or lagging moment. Three down and outers
at one time in their lives were maybe up and comers strike out in search
a fortune or at least enough to live better than they have
While Humphrey Bogart gives a superb performance it is Walter Huston who turns in the greatest performance as the old prospector Howard. The scene in the Indian village where he helps to restore a comatose child is one of the most touching in all of film history and is done virtually without any dialog. Mexican character actor Alfonso Bedoya of course steals all the scenes he appears in and delivers his classic "Stinking Badges" line. (what person would dress up as a Bandito for a costume party and not want to look exactly like Bedoya's Gold Hat character?) This film probably should have been a little higher on AFI's top 100. A must see!
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