TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE
(director/writer: John Huston; screenwriters: Robert Rossen/from story by Berwick Traven Torsvan; cinematographer: Ted D. McCord; editor: Owen Marks; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Fred C. Dobbs), Walter Huston (Howard), Tim Holt (Curtin), Bruce Bennett (Cody), Barton MacLane (McCormick), Alfonso Bedoya (Gold Hat), John Huston (White Suit), Robert Blake (Mexican kid selling lottery tickets); Runtime: 126; Warner Brothers; 1948)
“The film plays as a morality fable, showing that the deadliest dangers to man are in his soul and not from the external dangers.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A classic adventure tale about greed set in the Mexican wilderness. A good story is infused with too much symbolic pretentiousness, yet the overall effect is absorbing. John Huston won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and Director, while his father Walter Huston won for Best Supporting Actor. It was nominated for Best Film, but lost to Hamlet.
Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) is a disheveled drifter, down-and-out in Tampico, Mexico, where he spends his last few pesos on a lottery ticket. Curtin (Tim Holt) is another drifter who teams up with Dobbs after the two get cheated out of their wages by their hustler boss (MacLane), who ditches them after the job and the two get paid only after they find him in town and work him over. While staying in a flophouse shelter they hear Howard (Walter Huston), a toothless old buzzard, tempt them with stories about prospecting for gold. When Dobbs wins the lottery the three pool their money together for supplies and become partners, heading for the isolated hills of Mexico to look for gold.
Following Howard’s knowledge in prospecting, they find gold but are warned by Howard that gold can change a man’s soul. The three characters are archetypes: Dobbs is the bad one, suffering from paranoia. Howard is the wise old man. Curtin is the level-headed innocent who can’t get a break in life.
The men have trouble adjusting to their new wealth, as Dobbs becomes leery of the others and insists they split their share now before they reach the town of Durango.
When Curtin goes to town for supplies he will meet an American in town he couldn’t shake, who follows him back to the campsite. The nervy stranger, Cody (Bennett), wants to be cut in as a full partner in their prospecting find and refuses to leave. The men decide they have three choices: 1-Cut him in as a partner. 2- Kick him out and let him go back to town; or, 3- Kill him. They decide on the last choice but before they could plug him they are approached by bandits who intend to rob them, led by the notorious train robber Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya). In the shootout, Cody gets killed but the bandits flee.
Heading to Durango to cash in their gold dust, some Indians come to their campsite and request that one of them help save a young boy’s life. Howard succeeds and is honored by the Indian community, as the two other partners go ahead to meet him in town. But in leaving the two alone without Howard’s wisdom to guide them, Dobbs becomes increasingly more unstable and his greed takes hold of him leading to a tragedy.
The film plays as a morality fable, showing that the deadliest dangers to man are in his soul and not from the external dangers. This black and white film is very well acted, especially by Bogie and Walter Huston, but is not as gripping and intriguing as John Huston’s masterpiece — “The Maltese Falcon.”
REVIEWED ON 3/23/2001 GRADE: B