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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

By the 1920's, violence in Mexico had largely subsided (after the Mexican Revolution). However, Mexico has to contend with a large number of bandits around the countryside, and in a manner of using a blunt weapon, the Mexican authorities relied on the Federal Police, also known as the 'Federales' to bring peace to remote areas. Both the bandits and the Federales relied on extreme violence. While getting caught by bandits meant death for travelers, bandits caught by the Federal Police faced a similar fate, often having to dig their own grave before being shot. This is the scenario of the remote areas of Mexico where the book and the movie are set.
With most of the shooting being outside the United States (most of it in Mexico), and some of it in sets in Hollywood, the scenes of the movie totally complement the situation, with some harsh yet beautiful locations.
The movie (directed by John Huston) is based on the 1927 book of the same name by German-English bilingual author B. Traven. It stars the famous Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and Tim Holt in the title roles of the 3 main treasure-hunters; who set out together, find the treasure, and are then beset by greed and wanting to claim the treasure for themeselves, in the end, losing it all.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The movie is about these 3 Americans who get together (with the younger ones being Fred C. Hobbs (played by Bogart), and Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt) being the younger ones; the 3rd parter is an old grizzled prospector Howard (played by Walter Huston, the director's father)). When Dobbs decides that his current wage-working job is not likely to lead anywhere, he decides to stake all he has on prospecting for gold. He is joined by his 2 partners, and they set out to the remote Sierra Madre mountains.
They meet trouble enroute, running into bandits, but surviving. Eventually, due to the experience of the older Howard, they strike gold, and managed to extract a fair amount. And this is when the movie turns into a fine study of the extent to which greed can turn a human character, with Dobbs getting increasingly paranoid, and desiring to possess the entire gold for himself. They meet more bandits (pretending to be Federales, with the famous line, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"). They manage to beat the bandits off, but soon internal struggles turn more problematic. When Howard has to go away to help some others, Dobbs and Curtin have a confrontation, and Dobbs wins and goes away with the gold. However, he soon is killed in another fight with more bandits, who mistake the gold for sand (a bit hard to accept), and who spread it over the desert.

Oscar Awards:

John Huston won the Academy Award for Directing
John Huston won the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay
Walter Huston, John Huston's father, also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this film, the first father-son win.
Nominated: Best Picture award, but lost to Laurence Olivier's film adaptation of Hamlet.

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