Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blind Spot Series 2014: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre


It's that time of the month again!  Another Blind Spot entry in the bag, another notch on my cinematic belt, another smile on this movie watcher's face!  I've said it once, I've said it seven times, and I'll say it again; these films have been so good to me this year!  This month I've tackled a real goodie, one that is beloved by many and marks my second Bogart (and my favorite of the two) that I'm seeing this year (for this series).

If you want to take a gander, here are the previous entries in this series:




Some movies just feel like movies you really need to see. They’ve been embraced by the cinematic community as treasures set to film, and they carry with them this identity of ‘must see’ cinema that makes one feel almost compelled to see and even enjoy them. ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ is one such film. We’ve all heard of it before. It’s a film that has been long talked, discussed and lauded over for years, many, many years. The names Huston and Bogart almost instantly call to mind the poster for this 1948 adventure film, and even if you’ve never seen it or even really know what it’s about, you know that poster. 

I knew that poster, but until last week I had never seen it or really even knew what it was about. 

‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ is a simple plot to describe. You have down of their luck Americans, searching for work in Mexico, who decide to dig for gold. Greed sets in. It rears its head in many ugly ways, and ultimately this tests their loyalty, their friendship and their lives. 

Sounds simple enough, but WOW does this film pack a serious punch. 


Beneath the rubble of a simple story lies some truly complex character development, using these three men to build a richly detailed account of human weakness, emotion and vice. Fred and Bob, two men who had once been taken advantage of, spark a friendship in their circumstances. They have nothing, absolutely nothing, and yet together they have the opportunity to make something. And then you have Howard, the old, wise prospector who is there to hold their hands and guide them towards their material destinies. Together, the three feel like a match made in heaven; a real goldmine of potential, but as the gold starts to appear and the panic, desperation and sheer paranoia sets in, things take an ugly turn. 

For me, this film lives and dies on the shoulders of Humphrey Bogart, who delivers a savagely powerful performance as the corrupted Fred Dobbs. I have to admit, I didn’t see this coming. I’m not always a fan of Bogart’s work, and I’ve often criticized him for being very one-note and limited in his talents, but here he completely took me by surprise. His decent into total paranoid madness and greed was truly unnerving. The way he allows the state of their current circumstances to shape his outbursts, and his eventual complete disregard for human life, even his own, is so powerful to witness. Without his dedicated performance (forget being merely unlikable, Bogart is downright despicable here) and the sharp direction from John Huston, this would have fallen flat, especially as a lead performance. I mean, we, the audience, is basically saddled with a very unsavory person as our point of interest, and yet we are wholly interested. Walter Huston is great comic relief (and his Oscar win is inspired and deserved) and Tim Holt is a perfect counterpoint to Bogart’s savagery, but this is Bogart’s movie, through and through. 


The film isn’t perfect, for there were some segments that felt a tad overlong or even somewhat redundant, and I feel like a trim here and there (maybe a good ten/fifteen minutes shaved off the run time) could have made for a brisker experience, but overall this one definitely lives up to the reputation. 

And that cinematography, especially during that bar fight scene in the beginning, is simply stunning.

8 comments:

  1. I LOVE THIS MOVIE! Where to begin? I love Humphrey Bogart and this might just be one of his best roles. It is fascinating the way your perceptions of him change over the course of the film, considering he goes from being an everyday man you can't help feeling sorry for to a to a complete and utter psychopath. He's fairly likable in the first act and yet by the end he's legitimately terrifying and because that change happens so gradually it feels like a natural progression.

    Walter Huston is also a lot of fun as Howard, with Curtin being the perfect foil as the poor guy who gets caught in the middle. Great choice for a blindspot.

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    1. Yes, that progression of character is pretty awesome. I'm glad I added this to my Blind Spot series for the year. And to think, I wasn't sure I'd like this...

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  2. Definitely one of the best films I saw last year. Very ugly and grimy yet I love it. Especially that scene with the Mexicans about badges.

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    1. Yes, it is really grim, but very well executed.

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  3. Glad you can cross this off the list. It's such a great movie. Like you, I'm not a Bogart fan. I often find him ridiculously boring - vocally monotone and physically stiff. Here, he was amazing. By far my favorite performance of his that I've seen (yes, this includes Casablanca). Excellent review.

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    1. I'd say, in a heartbeat, that this performance and The Harder They Fall are easily his best.

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  4. Yay! More love for the 40s! I agree the film isn't perfect, and it could use some trimming. Bogart is fascinating here. He's a close runner-up to Olivier in Hamlet that year for me.

    By the way, I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy (A-) and The Rocketeer (B+)! They're both highly entertaining, rewatchable flicks.

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    1. YAY, love the love for Guardians and Rocketeer!

      And BOO on Olivier winning over Bogart! Olivier directed Hamlet MUCH better than he acted in it! Bogart is astonishing here...just...wow!

      ;-)

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