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DVD REVIEW

Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The - 2-disc Special Edition  (1948)

 

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

Director: John Huston

Rating: NR

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: September 30, 2003
Review posted: October 20, 2003

Spoilers: Minor

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

"Can you help a fellow American down on his luck?" - Dobbs

 

Synopsis

 

Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) is an American down on his luck begging for money and looking for work in Mexico. He meets Bob Curtin (Holt) on a park bench and after some money trouble with a contractor they decide to stay at a cheap motel to lay low. There they meet Howard (Walter Huston), an old prospector who claims gold exists on the hills outside of town. Excited about this opportunity, the three make their way to the hills as friends. But later suspicions, paranoia, greed, and a handful of other complications threaten to destroy their plan to strike it rich. More and more it seems like they're selling their souls for the treasure of the Sierra Madre.

 

Critique

 

Based on the novel by B. Traven, John Huston creates an incredible character study with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston's script really delves into the souls of these men revealing the effects of greed and paranoia, in addition to a few other things.

 

Humphrey Bogart is excellent as Dobbs. In the beginning he holds a annoyed grudge against a young kid who tries to sell him a lottery ticket of some kind. Begging a fellow American for some money several times makes for a humorous confrontation, especially when Dobbs gets two coins to stop asking. The progression of the character becomes central to the story and Huston draws up some scenes to foreshadow Dobbs' decent into paranoia. Bogart simply nails the role. Some of his dialogue is very well-crafted and the way he delivers it is quite effective.

 

Joining Bogart on the search for the gold is Tim Holt and John Huston's father Walter. Holt is just the opposite of Dobbs, friendly, helpful, and strong, giving him the edge as being the film's everyday man and most likeable character. Walter Huston is really good here playing the old but wise Howard. There's a terrific scene in the hills where he starts to dance and laugh like a crazy man would. In fact, he keeps on laughing for almost a minute and I couldn't help but smile. In another scene he performs some kind of procedure to save a small child from a drowning accident.

 

Other noteworthy characters include James Cody (Bruce Bennett), a man from the village who follows Curtain to the hills and later helps our three friends fight off a gang of Mexicans, and Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya), who confronts Dobbs late in the film and recites the famous line, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."

 

Huston packs a lot of story into the film which runs only 126 minutes. He places a lot of emphasis on the characters and laces their interactions with smart, involving dialogue. A confrontation between Dobbs and Curtin some 90 minutes into the film are evidence of Huston's writing. In regards to the appearance of the film, Huston lines up a couple of really good shots. Scenes taking place in the forest or at night don't look like they're sets inside a studio, except for selected scenes that are obviously shot in front of a backdrop, such as the "Thanks, mountain" scene (chapter 23).

 

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a visually stimulating film and Huston structures it perfectly as there are hardly any slow moments. Also, Max Steiner's music here is befitting of the themes and moods. Again, the script is witty and well-crafted, and the performances are terrific, especially Bogart and Walter Huston. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ranks #30 on the AFI Top 100 Films of All Time list and remains a cool classic that still holds up today.

 

The Video

 

Warner Bros. presents The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in its theatrical 1.33:1 fullscreen format. Shot in black and white, this all-new digital transfer from restored picture elements states its case convincingly. The look of the print now is very much evidence of a re-mastered transfer. In fact, the brightness and detail here is outstanding considering the film is more than 50 years old. Problems occur during night scenes where heavy grain, scratches and artifacting occurs, but despite those discrepancies The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has never looked better. This presentation is great.

 

The Audio

 

Warner Bros. presents The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in English Dolby Digital Mono. Dialog is clear and usually easy to understand, except for a few of Bogart's lines that follow too closely of each other. Max Steiner's score is loud enough to fulfill its purpose; convey the danger, high spirits and emotions of the experience. Sound design, like punches and gun/rifle shots, is presented quite nicely and certainly emphasis is placed on the presentation of them. Even though only boasting a mono track, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre sounds as good as ever on any home theater audio system.

 

The Extras

 

Warner continues its two-disc special edition banner of classic films with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre featuring some really nice supplements. Previous titles include Once Upon a Time in America and Giant (click title for my review), among others.

 

Disc 1 starts off with an audio commentary by Eric Lax, co-author of "Bogart". Lax offers a very informative track as he includes just about every possible bit of trivia, though he also discusses the story, filming conditions and locations, director John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, and many others things. It seems like most of his words come off a prepared text, but Lax engages in a decent lecture. However, you might want to tune out at times because he talks a mile-a-minute and it can get overwhelming.

 

Also on the first disc is Warner Night at the Movies for the year 1948 hosted by film critic Leonard Maltin. Featured is a theatrical trailer for Key Largo, a newsreel, a comedy short So You want to Be a Detective, and a Looney Tunes cartoon called Hot Cross Bunny.

 

Put in the second disc and you're treated to even more extras. Two new documentaries are featured. The first is really good John Huston documentary hosted by Robert Mitchum, dating back at least 5-6 years since Mitchum passed away 5 years ago. The docu is like a journey from one place to another, except here it takes us from Huston's early directing gigs (The Maltese Falcon) to his later ones, like Prizzi's Honor. I think anyone interested in the director will welcome the wealth of information presented here. The docu also references the director's personal side as well as the films The African Queen, Moby Dick, and The Misfits, among a few others. It is organized into thirty-one chapters.

 

Following it is Discovering Treasure. The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the second all-new documentary chronicling the making of a classic. John Millus narrates the piece with enthusiasm, but at times his delivery is not overly stimulating. This docu is also like a journey as it takes the viewer from one event or idea to the next. A lot of people appear in interviews and they include Martin Scorsese, Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, Huston's ex-wife, Eric Lax, and many others. The information here is also wealthy and informative. One small discrepancy with the two documentaries is some of the information overlaps with that in the audio commentary, but it's not a big deal.

 

Next is another classic Looney Tunes short called 8 Ball Bunny where Bugs Bunny promises to return a lost young penguin to its native home, the north pole. Humphrey Bogart shows up a few times asking Bugs to help out a fellow American down on his luck. Sound familiar? It should, hehe. The cartoon is 7 minutes long and enjoyable. Rounding out the extras on disc 2 are a few cast & crew bios, some still galleries and promotional materials, as well as the Lux Radio Theater broadcast, an audio-only presentation where Bogart and Walter Huston recreate their screen roles to much enthusiasm of the listeners.

 

All in all, the extras here are a delight. You can select to view the film with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The 126-minute feature is organized into thirty-seven chapters.

 

Overall

 

Simply put, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a classic. John Huston directs expertly and the performances are terrific. An involving story and memorable characters give the film an additional boost. Video/audio quality is very nice and the special features are special indeed. This DVD is highly recommended and well worth a purchase.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 9
THE VIDEO 8

THE AUDIO

7

THE EXTRAS

9

OVERALL (not an average)

9

 

VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 


 

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