Monday, May 9, 2011

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Directed by John Huston.
1948. Not Rated, 126 minutes.
Humphrey Bogart
Walter Huston
Tim Holt
Bruce Bennett
Barton MacLane
Alfonso Bedoya

Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) is an American living in Mexico in 1925. He’s homeless and jobless, making his way through life begging for handouts from any of his countrymen who happen to find themselves in his path. His standard line is “Say buddy, will you stake a fellow American to a meal?” Finally, he bumps into a guy who won’t give him any money, but offers him a job. He and Curtin (Holt), his buddy who is of the same social class, go to work. However, getting paid for their labor proves to be much more difficult than it should. Eventually, they manage to literally wrestle their earnings away, an absolutely fantastic fight scene by the way. With this money, they decide to go prospecting for gold, taking Howard (Huston) along. He’s the old man from the shelter who seems to know a thing or two about it.

Howard is our wise, old sage and something of a narrator. His mouth is moving a mile a minute and is constantly imparting his knowledge of gold digging and warning us of what’s to come. He tells us without blatantly doing so. Still, in “history repeats itself” sort of way, the things he says he’s seen often reoccur.

Someone once told me she didn’t like westerns. Hopefully, I’m not being disrespectful by saying she is of the age to have grown up when they were more popular. Her dad used to watch them all the time, so she’s had plenty of exposure. Her logic is that everything looks dirty, especially the men. She said that they look like they stink. This disgusts her. I don’t know if she’s ever seen The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or not. If so, it probably turned her stomach. I swear I could smell Bogart and his buddies through the screen. In Bogie’s case, this aids his performance. His sweat glazed face, scraggly beard and tattered clothing complement the crazed look in his eye perfectly. I’ve often said that he’s an overrated actor. Most of his performances are stiff, mechanical even. He drolly delivers his lines while standing still, except for the hand raising a cigarette to his lips. I still feel that way. However, he’s truly mesmerizing in this movie. His character’s descent into madness is completely well played. The way he portrays it, and understanding where he came from, it’s easy to believe that the precious gem clouds his vision a little more each day.

The ending is a bit curious. We know precisely how it turns out for Dobbs and Howard. We’re less certain about what lies ahead for Curtin. His story remains to be written. In that way, he is like us. After experiencing TToSM, we know we’ve been enriched, as he was. However in his case, neither he nor we can decide if it was a success. As we move forward and experience other things, we can revisit it and see how we feel at that moment.

MY SCORE: 10/10

No comments:

Post a Comment