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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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Bogart's Best Work, A Fantastic Flick
Humphrey Bogart's journey as a leading man started with The Maltese Falcon and reached its pinnacle in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. That's not just because his performance was so terrific. What's impressive is that Bogie goes from an ultra-cool detective in Falcon and a noble Nazi-killer in Casablanca to a crazy loser in Sierra Madre. He didn't coast by playing lovable heroes. He was willing to look terrible and to play a despicable human being in a character-actor kind of way.

Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) is a jobless American in Tampico, Mexico, begging for food money. He pools what money he has with that of a friend (Tim Holt as Bob Curtin) and they head out with Howard (Walter Huston) for the titular mountain to find gold. Howard has been on many such journeys and knows this isn't going to turn out well. It doesn't take more than few months for Dobbs' paranoia to cloud his vision. Before long, he's hiding his gold and proving he'll do anything to protect his burgeoning fortune.

Don't worry, "Badges? I don't have to show you any steenking badges", I haven't forgotten about you! Yup, this is the movie with that quote. People love (mis)quoting the line, but they shouldn't overlook the subtext: there's no law up in the wild Mexican mountains. Then again, the real villain is not a gang of baddies. It's Bogie. Dobbs' alienation of his friends not only proves how paranoid he is, but in doing so, he puts his gold and his life in serious danger from steenking bandits.

The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was highly ranked on both the 1998 and 2007 Top 100 lists released by the American Film Institute...and rightly so. It's nearly 66 years old and it holds up remarkably well. Writer/director John Huston made several fine films, but this was his peak. It's one of the best pictures of the 1940s and its dirty influence continues to this day, with Paul Thomas Anderson and Breaking Bad's exec producer Vince Gilligan citing it as highly influential of their recent projects. This one is rough, but for all the right reasons. Great, great movie.

If you found some gold in this quick take of the flick, check out the website I share with my wife ( and go to the "Podcasts" section for our 38-minute Treasure Of The Sierra Madre 'cast...and many others. Or find us on Itunes under "The Top 100 Project".
the descent into madness
By sheer coincidence, I watched this soon after viewing Werner Herzog's 'Grizzly Man'. Two films separated by 60 years, one a documentary the other an adaptation of a novel. The common thread is their insightful portrayal of man descending into paranoia and delusion. Timothy Treadwell is a real-life modern day Fred C. Dobbs. Both men seek glory - one gold, the other protection of bears - and in that quest perceive threats and dangers where none exist. Their delusion also blinds them to the very real threats that isolation and mistrust can cause to prey upon the mind.

Bogart is outstanding as the tormented Dobbs, while Huston gives a perfect counter-point performance as the seen-it-all senior who knows the demons Dobbs falls victim to, and the futility of trying to fight them. John Huston's directing is exceptional, the oft-quoted pub-fight scene a statement on the anti-glamourisation of violence; dirty, draining, squalid and animalistic. The screenplay is top class, with the minor character bandit leader Alfonso Bedoya truly fleshed out with some of the best lines. Each episode in the second act appears at a brisk pace - the mine collapse, the lizard, the arrival and demise of Cody, the Indian child, the need for Huston to separate, the betrayal, Dobbs getting his comeuppance. It all flows beautifully and never seems forced or unnatural.

The Treasure of the Sierra Made justifiably lives up to the mantle of classic.
the Hustons and Bogart in a perennial story of money being the root of all evils- even in good men
Fred Dobbs doesn't have a nickel to his name, at least when he's in the small Mexican village at the start of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But whatever the situation is, he wants what he can get, and if anyone tries to get in his way he'll let em have it. We see this early one when he and Bob Curtain have to beat it out of a sleazy boss at a construction site to get their earned wages. It's then no surprise that the two of them find it the best idea to take on Howard, an old seemingly-by-gone codger who once was a great prospector, on their ideal trip to look for gold in the mountains of Mexico. But then we start to see a kind of psychological head-trip go on with Dobbs, which makes the Treasure of the Sierra Madre that much more special of a film. The main characters aren't against any very dangerous adversaries- aside from the bandits- and it's not Cowboys and Indians. In fact, getting all the gold together isn't even the climax of the picture, which is usually where one might think a conventional picture would take this story. But John Huston, the director, has none of that here. In 'Sierra Madre', Dobbs becomes the "bad guy", but it's hard exactly to call him one.

I'm almost reminded of Crime & Punishment, the Dostoyevsky novel, where the morality is very blurred and the character becomes a fragmented version of himself (not to mention trying to reason out in a lack of inner monologue, as Dobbs rambles to himself), and as Dobbs tries to make out with the gold on his own, he meets an end that any lessor Hollywood picture wouldn't dream of going to. That Dobbs then is played by Humphrey Bogart adds, at first, to the initial confusion of the moviegoer. This isn't how it usually happens, is it, least of which since Bogart started playing "good guy" roles. But Huston knows, as well as Bogart does- who may be in a true career highlight here alongside In a Lonely Place- that a character shouldn't be just one thing. Even Howard isn't just a kind-hearted old fella, even as he is that to a large extent (he even admits that he might have been tempted to take the money too, had he been younger). And in a sense Dobbs, through Bogart, is a bittersweet reminder of the American dream, where all one really wants is enough money to get by- but then how much can really be enough?

Huston is brilliant in building on Dobbs's character, as is Bogart in showing little by little how his generous and genial personality gets stripped away when paranoia and fear settles into his mind-frame. Like when the men discuss how to divide up the money, or when the 'outsider' American comes in, the one who's definitely not invited- notice the striking body language of Bogart in relation to the other actors. Most especially, even if it's a small scene, when the three men talk about what they'll do with their share of the money- Dobbs's goals are in the short-term, unlike the practicality of Howard or Bob. By the last third of the film, if one were just looking at that set apart from the rest of the picture, one might think it's a flashback to Bogart's 'old days' as a character actor in the 30s. Yet he's the star here, which makes Dobbs's plummet a kind of sad testament to the American dream, so called, and to the corruptibility of goods.

But aside from building strongly on the characters, Huston is also a good storyteller, and his Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of the finest 'yarns' of the 40s, albeit subversive as his other great films, the Maltese Falcon and the Asphalt Jungle, were. It's such a simple story, really, but it works because we believe in the characters, the nature of the setting, of the outside influences (i.e. both bandits and the 'common' Mexican peasants). Huston doesn't clutter up his story with any unnecessary moments, even as he uses a lot more bits to build on character than just plot. While Howard ends up being usually expository or with all the information for the other two- as he IS the most experienced like a gold-digging Yoda perhaps- the story never gets clunky. And there's a great sweep to the style of the picture too, with just the right studio score by Max Steiner, and some wonderful desert shots (and shots of the men's varied faces) Ted McCord.

And one can't leave thinking about Treasure of the Sierra Madre, aside from considering the performances. Sure, Bogart might be at his best here, both an every-man and every-man-for-himself (plus his own worst enemy), but there's also Tim Holt, who has to carry the most restraint of the three main characters, and he's terrific at it, in what was probably his best remembered role among mostly B pictures. But it's arguable that Walter Huston, John's father, steals the show sometimes from Bogart, or at least gets in enough room to stand right alongside him as a presence to be reckoned with. The character ranges from being wise, to being a cook (like when he laughs wildly at the younger men being tired climbing the mountain), cautious, and always with a sense of truth and honor. Huston probably has one of the more deserved supporting actor Oscar turns here for the part, and if I had to show anyone one performance noteworthy most of all from him it'd be from 'Sierra Madre'. Bottom line, a must-see in the realm of the western/adventure A-pictures of the 40s, with enough to say on the dangers of greed and money to last so many years.
A well done masterpiece
Perhaps John Huston's most acclaimed film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was a pure and great adventure film. The movie tells the story of two American men named Fred Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt) who try to find work in Mexico by trying to convince a prospector named Howard (played by Walter Huston who won an academy award for the performance) by mining gold in the Sierra Madre mountains. The film goes on a par with some of the bet adventure films ever made, as well as very entertaining throughout. Director John Huston, and star Humphrey Bogart have came a long way with successes such as The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The African Queen as well as this film the best out of all the films I have seen that they did together.
Bogart outstanding in this classic film
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" won Oscars for best director (John Huston), best supporting actor (Walter Huston) and best screenplay (John Huston). The film was also nominated for best picture but unfortunately lost out to Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet". This was yet another remarkable performance by Humphrey Bogart in a difficult role and proves once again what an outstanding actor he could be when given the right material.

This was a superlative performance by Humphrey Bogart - one of his best - and completely different to his smooth portrayal of Rick in "Casablanca". His character of Fred C. Dobbs was shifty and devious verging on paranoia and madness. The film has now rightly become a classic and is much admired by "movie buffs".

Conclusion - An excellent film , One of Humphrey Bogart's best..
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.
a movie with a sobering message
This movie is unique as ,besides superb acting and direction,it has a message,possibly several. Given the time the book was written,early twenty century,with socialism riding high,holding many not to be materialized promises,the book which is the basis for the movie,aimed at depicting the corrupting influence of wealth,the gold treasure. I find another,in my opinion more important,message:-holding a mirror to our face and telling us how we behave in our natural state. This is raw ,uninhibited behaviour,personified in the main character,Dobbs,played by Humphrey Bogart. We witness the evolution of Dobbs who, like the other gold prospectors,is devoid of any restraining influence-laws,family,friends,community or neighbours ,with the only means of settling differences being the gun. It is interesting what a disproportionate number of classic movies are black and white,when color was available.It may be that black and white adds somber and serious atmosphere. I think that this movie not only retains its power and artistic value after more than half a century,it has secured a prominent place in the pantheon of classic movies.
Good old movie
This movie won some prizes in 1948 but I'm surprised Humphrey Bogart hasn't got even a nomination. I'd take the risk of saying that this was Humphrey Bogard's best performance in his life (okay, maybe the best one was in Casablanca). The movie is about how gold can change a poor but winsome man into a thorough-paced rascal. Three homeless guys decide to make money by digging for gold in Sierra Madre. In the beginning they are like brothers, help each-other, they work together hard, fight against the ruthless nature and Mexican bandits. But as the weight of gold is rising they start to suspect each-other stealing the other's share of gold... Recommendation: don't bother that this is a black and white, old movie, watch it!
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
The treasure that this movie is
The Treasure of Sierra Madre is a reflection on some of the most basic human values. Greed for money, trust in friends, courage and loyalty, always helping the needy are some of themes that manifest themselves on the screen during different times. The acting is brilliant in this movie. Humphrey Bogart is spot on with his portrayal of an impecunious bloke, who wants an opportunity to make it big, and his transformation from that to a mistrusting, nefarious lunatic. Tim Holt and Walter Huston complement Bogart wonderfully and act as models of rectitude and self-righteousness. The bandits and the Indians put in captivating performances. The scene at the end ,when Holt and Huston's characters laugh at the game fate put them through just to set them off to the next chapters in their life where they can feel contented, served as a fitting end to an impressive movie by John Huston.
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