The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1947)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/10/14
Director: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett

A bleak and powerful portrait of greed and madness, masterfully crafted by the legendary John Huston. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) are a couple of penniless hobos trying to scratch out a living in a bustling Mexican town. A chance meeting with an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) gets them interested in mining gold, and soon the three of them head to the mountains in search of their elusive quarry. But gold fever does strange things to men's minds, and Dobbs becomes increasingly paranoid, greedy, and violent, until he can no longer tell friend from foe.

It's an excellent production and the Mexican locations are breathtaking, but an overuse of rear projection spoils the tone early in the film. Bogart gives a career defining performance as a desperate man driven mad by greed. What's fascinating to me is that Dobbs is so intensely dislikable, even in the beginning of the film, but Bogart manages to make him ever so slightly sympathetic and pitiable. He's not a good person, but his demons aren't his fault and you can really feel him struggling against the darkness that consumes him. Walter Huston nearly steals the show as the experienced and eccentric old prospector, and he is utterly delightful. His humanity and compassion are a perfect counter-balance to Dobbs' selfish conceit. The only real criticisms I have are that the film seems overly long, and the upbeat music score feels too lighthearted and cheerful for the subject matter. Other than that, it's an exquisite piece of dramatic filmmaking and a wonderful essay on the evil that lurks in mens' hearts.