Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
During World War quite a few Holly stars joined the fight against the Nazis by joining the United States military. True, most did not actually see armed combat serving by using their fame to help fuel the war effort recruiting or selling war bonds. When Humphrey Bogart and John Huston came back to civilian life their popular acclaim was so incredibly high they could pretty much write their own tickets for projects. Having previously joined forces in the ground breaking film, ‘The Maltese Falcon’ the talented pair decided to attempt to have lightening strike again coming together once more to create ‘Treasure Of The Sierra Madre’. Not only was this repeat collaboration a success it create yet another film that made history both as part of the legacy of cinematic greatness and a major addition to the our popular culture. this movie earned John Huston a pair of Academy Awards with the exceedingly rare double play of Best Director and Best Writer plus an Oscar going to John’ s father Walter for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. It was certainly a night to celebrate in the Huston household that evening not to mention adding even more reasons for this film to be remembered as one of the greatest representatives of the cinematic art of all times. This is not your typical Hollywood good times flick. It depicts some of the darkest themes and most negative human emotions possible. Made in 1948 this was a shocking change for the American movie going public. They had gotten used to movies showing the archetype American hero as an altruistic man willing to put everything, including his life, on the line for his highly evolved moral code of honor. Films were used to show this spirit of America was instrumental to winning the war. Then this film came along showing a couple of Americans as greedy, self serving people interested in only increasing their own material wealth. This approach for a film was so far afield from war time movies that audiences were shocked but still throughout it all most realized that in that theater they were witnessing greatness.
John Huston was without a doubt one of cinema’s greatest luminaries. There is an old Hollywood joke that every director wants to actor and every actor wants to director. History bears out the fact that few have made such an incredible mark in both forms of artistic expression. Huston was fascinated by extremes in the human emotional spectrum. While many of his films took the usual approach of focusing on the positive portion he deemed to take particular interest in the darker manifestations of human behavior’. He started this trend in his career as one of the founding fathers of the American film noir movement continuing his investigation of the negative expressions of our psychological composition. With ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ Huston delves deeply into the themes of greed, jealousy, suspicion and lust. As previously noted this was a complete 180 turnabout from the films made popular during the resent war. Huston was part of the generation the generation that was born in the First World War and lived to see the entity of the second. Having lived through not only that but the great depression Huston had a firsthand vantage point to some of the most trying times this country endured. Huston adapted his screenplay from the bestselling novel of the same name by B. Traven. His book contained several thematic elements quite attractive to Huston including the social interaction between men. In The Maltese Falcon’ he painted the picture of a man who disliked his partner but was bond by his code of conduct to uncover his murderer. In this film he twists that male connection to one driven by distrust and self interest.
Humphrey Bogart was one of the greatest American actors ever. The regrettable thing in today’ over indulgence in looks he might not have made the same impact if he was starting out now. Bogart was not the typical handsome leading man and some considered his speech impediment would work against him in the industry. Point is he more than overcame these potential hindrances to become an iconic actor and Academy Award winner. His career proves that there was power and even sex appeal within even the regular guy. Bogart was the consummate actor able to surround himself in the persona of his character. He started as the villain in a lot of gangster flicks but soon cemented himself as a talented leading man. He had something that is woefully lacking in most actors today; a potent stage presence. When he appears in a shot you are inexorably drawn to watching him. In this movie he plays a down on his luck American looking for a handout just to eat; a far cry from the always in control Rick in Casablanca.
While the twenties were roaring up in the States down in Mexico it was a period of rebuilding after the violence of the Mexican revolution. The principle force for order of sorts were the Federales, the federal police effective but completely ruthless in their pursuit of outlaws and "Gringos’, Americans looking for a quick score. Two such mere were Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) looking to strike it rich in the desolate Sierra Madre mountains. In a small Mexican village they meet up with an old timer, Howard (Walter Huston). Together the hatch a scheme to prospect for hidden gold that can to set them up for life. They manage to find and extract a significant amount of gold but as they prepare to make their getaway their dynamic is disrupted by the appearance of a forth American, James Cody (Bruce Bennett).the decision to kill them is interrupted by a group of bandits which also handles the Cody issue for the trio. Eventually it comes down between Dobbs and Curtin each wanting to dispose of the other and take the treasure for himself.
There is a feeling held by some that there is little to be gained re-mastering an older movie like this to high definition. These people may forward the opinion that buying a Blu-ray ray of such a film will not offer significantly more than the Blu-ray. While the decision to move up from DVD to Blu-ray is less overt to most than the previous migration from VHS to DVD the fact is the advantages are real and considerable. I recently introduced my best friend and fellow film maven to the wonderful world of high definition. As expected he took immediately to the big block blusters that were designed to showcase the enhancements in video and audio but what truly amazed both of us was just how much more it made the experience of watching these older films. The change in the audio is less noticeable but the lossless audio sound field provide an excellent basis for the sound modification programs present in all modern 7.1 home theater receivers. With this movie I found that the program to reproduce the ambience of a plush old fashion movie house was excellent in providing just the right feel to maximize enjoying the film. This edition really shines with the video. The 1080p is definitely not over kill; it provides the absolute ideal way of seeing this film. I have watched this film literally hundreds of times but seeing this version was like watching it through new eyes. What comes across in Black and white films in high definition is the revelation of details previously not observable. For example the texture on the clothing is such that you can make out the stitching and fabric or the layer of dust on a jacket. The desert id bleak, fry and foreboding to an extreme lower resolution could never depict. The lines on the fasces, the stubble of the beard all contribute to a mood and atmosphere redefining this classic.
Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax