by guest writer
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) is a wonderful story which I came to love from the first viewing, almost ten years ago. It’s a kind of Henri-George Clouzot’s Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear, 1953) due to its close up of human nature and the torrid environment that plays out as a true character willing to change whatever good is left in a man. The difference in fact is the place of the action, which in this case is Mexico, and the plot, which is far more complex in parts on the psychological level. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) is the most interesting part that captures the interest of the viewer. Down on his luck and almost a beggar, he is firstly reluctant on going to dig up for gold in the mountains. Then he changes his mind as he has already been alienated by the thought of becoming rich overnight.
Although at first it may seem closer to a western from its style point of view, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is much closer to a film noir infused drama with powerful strings of greed, revenge and madness. The screenplay was adapted by John Huston himself after the novel written by B. Traven and it is a great piece. Against all odds, three strangers embark on a questionable trip that may or may not bring wealth to their current social status. It’s also a matter of choice for Huston that he picks up three complementary characters that don’t function unless as a team: Dobbs, Howard (Walter Huston in an Oscar winning role) and Curtin (Tim Holt). The Treasure of the Sierra Madre benefits immensely from a strongly influenced Expressionistic cinematography signed by Ted D. McCord. The contrasts are beautifully outlined in smart angles and takes that run freely for more than 2 hours. If you’ve missed it until now, get this chance to see Bogie in one of his most enduring parts.
photo: still from the film | Warner Brothers