Warners 2003 release in a 2 disc format of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is certain to please the fans of this now legendary film.Released in Jan/48 it managed to get three Academy Awards,two for John Huston as director and screenwriter and one for his father Walter Huston.Huston in the twilight of his career manages to steal the show many times over and his performance tops even that of the name star in this picture,Bogie.Not to take away too much from Bogie,it is an all around solid cast with Tim Holt as the third amigo in this tale of deceit,lust and redemption.
The story starts with a down and out Fred Dobbs(Bogie)stuck interminably in Tampico,Mexico.Having arrived years before working for big corporations exploiting the riches of the land he is now out of work and broke,living from hand to fist.He hits up the same man three times without realizing it as he never looks up(director Huston in a dapper white suit and panama hat).Getting enough money for a bed in a flop house he meets Bob Curtin(Holt) and an old prospector Howard(Huston).Howard talks up a storm about his prospecting days around the world while Curtin and Dobbs listen in.He claims the Sierra Madre Mountains contain a dearth of gold and wishes he could go after it.After a night of contemplation Dobbs talks Curtin into the idea of actually trying to hunt for gold and they approach Howard.Howard says it's alright with him but they're still a little short of money.Just then a small boy(cameo by Robert Blake) comes by to tell him he has won on the ticket he bought a few days before.With the money now in hand the three head into the mountains.
After days of trekking and climbing they reach an area that Howard says should be fine for mining.They set up their equipment,build a sluice and soon thereafter are finding what they came to seek.Dobbs slowly but surely,day after day,becomes paranoid about his partners and their intentions towards his gold.Even after Curtin saves Dobbs after a mine collapse,it still doesn't convince him of their good intentions.Several spats result and Dobbs becomes more and more withdrawn.The paranoia is set aside however when an unwelcome fourth man enters the picture asking into the operation.Before the three can carry out their decision to kill him bandidos arrive to steal from them.It's a shoot out to the death until the Federalis arrive and chase the bandidos away.The Bandidos inadvertently took care of the fourth man as he is found dead as a result of the shoot out.
At this point some local Indians approach the camp asking for some assistance for a sick young boy,close to death.Howard goes off with them,brings the boy back to consciousness,and returns to the group.More bickering ensues amongst the partners,much of it pressed by Dobbs,whose paranoia is now slowly rearing its' ugly head again after a brief respite.Just as the three decide to leave the area the Indians again show up wanting Howard to return to the village as an honoured guest.He does so and Dobbs and Curtin head back to await for Howard's return.Along the way Dobbs' paranoia hits a peak and he "kills" his partner.When he goes back to bury him in the morning the body is gone.He assumes he was eaten by a mounatin lion,but in reality Curtin dragged himself off to a nearby Indian village where he gets medical attention and Howard and he are reunited.He relates his sordid tale to Howard and they decide to leave and find Dobbs to reclaim their share of gold.Dobbs in the meantime has had a tough slug of it coming down the mountain and has lost one mule out of the team already.He is desperate and out of water when he finds a watering hole.As he and his team of burros quench their thirsts the bandidos from earlier happen upon him.There is no where for him to run or hide and he is killed.They steal his burros and pelts to sell but dump the gold thinking it was a red herring and just sand.When they attempt to sell their merchandise in town they are caught and the Federalis finally catch them.They are executed just as Howard and Curtin arrive.The townspeople saved the pelts for Howard and Curtin but the men inquire as to where the more important stuff is.A small boy overheard the bandidos say they dumped it in an abandoned village just outside of town.A strong wind storm is coming up and by the time they arrive all they find are empty bags.All Howard can do is laugh at the irony of it all,as do the Indians who accompanied them and finally Curtin.Curtin and Howard part with Howard going back with the Indians to live out his life and Curtin returning to the States.
Wonderfully acted throughout this film is certainly a classic of its' kind and still holds up well even today.Bogie gives a good performance in paranoia and an off state of mind while Huston gives a great turn as an eccentric and grizzled old prospector who has seemingly seen and done it all but still is nobodies fool.Tim Holt as Curtin is the one in the middle,the apparent more sane and grounded of the two,who has to deal constantly with both men's idiosyncrasies;like a constantly moving pendulum.The Academy awards were certainly well deserved.The novel by Travens from which this came from to my recollection was terribly socialistic.That is it came at the story from an exploitative angle of big foreign business interests that stripped the Mexicans of their well deserved resources and hired labour from all over the world cheap in order to reap big profits.To convert that into the movie took a considerable talent and Huston showed he was certainly up to the task.A shining hour in the Huston cannon.
Technically this two disc set has been transferred well.The blurb on the cover tells us this film was restored visually and audially and was newly transferred.Well generally the picture is good and quite clear and crisp,but there are many instances of scratch lines and wear throughout which should have been removed and weren't.I think it's about time that a new remastering be done on this film to bring it up to snuff.However being 2 discs there are plenty of extras.There are featurettes on the movies' making and Huston's career,commentary,a vintage newsreel,two cartoons a funny Joe McDoakes comedy short,galleries,the /49 Lux radio version of the movie and a trailer for Key Largo.
In conclusion you won't want to miss the now iconic performance from Bogie as the down and out Fred Dobbs and you cannot miss Walter Huston's Academy Award performance as the old prospector,a scene stealing turn all the way.A classic that belongs on everyone's shelf.