Anthony's Film Review
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Humphrey Bogart leads a stellar cast in a riveting tale about the quest for gold...
I watched the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for the same reason I watched Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon: a performance by the unforgettable Humphrey Bogart. It's hard to not admire this actor who has a unique voice and sinks well into the role of a cynical man. Certainly, you can see this in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, though one thing is different. Bogart plays a character who is ultimately unlike his previous major roles. This is a good thing, because it shows that he is versatile as an actor, not one who is pigeonholed into certain roles.
In this film, he plays Dobbs, a poor American man in Mexico who survives by being a beggar. The character's past is not explained here, though it doesn't matter because the focus is what he does next. Anyway, Bogart's character is sorrowful from the start, and he even has facial hair as a sign of desperation (definitely not handsome like Rick Blaine or Sam Spade). After spending time begging, as well as taking a construction job with a payment that is delayed too long, he makes a decision. He joins a fellow beggar named Curtin (Tim Holt) and a prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) on a quest to get rich quick by searching the mountains for gold.
The trio proceed on their journey and experience a lot of hardship along the way. Of course, it doesn't take long to finally discover gold, because a long story about just searching for gold would be boring. The real heart of this story centers on what happens during the gold mining efforts as well as after. That's one of the great things about this movie. The story explores something we all want, the desire for wealth, and presents interesting questions stemming from it.
For example, if you were part of a gold mining expedition, can you trust any of the people you're with? The interesting thing is that the answer is no, regardless of whether one person is guarding the gold before dividing it up later or the gold is divided at all times but each person has to keep his hiding place for the gold a secret from everyone else. Here's another question. What would you do if a stranger wandered to your gold digging site because he, too, believes there is wealth to be dug up there? Do you cooperate with him or kill him? And what happens when a whole horde of Mexican bandits enters your secret area for finding gold? Do you fight or not?
The best part of the movie is the last third of it, when Dobbs, Curtin, and Howard head on home with bags of gold mounted onto donkeys that they must carefully escort back to civilization. Obviously, a lot of drama could occur when so much wealth is concentrated in one place and weighs the characters down, physically and mentally. Speaking of being weighted down mentally, this part of the film is also great because the gold is a curse that puts these men to the test. Will it bring out the best or the worst in them? I won't say what the fates of these characters are, but I will say that the performances by Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston reach their peak here.
Ultimately, the theme is that treasure is anything other than money. It could be basic necessities, respect from people, or anything else that is beneficial without being excessively expensive. The way this film ends on that note is wonderful. For the filmmakers, the treasure is not how much the film earns at the box office, but rather how engaging and memorable the film itself is. And of course, film lovers like myself consider The Treasure of the Sierra Madre to be a treasure in storytelling and acting. It is an invaluable gem as a classic American film.
For more information about The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, visit the Internet Movie Database.