The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was one of the few movies I had already seen but had no desire to see again. I checked it out from the library a while ago, probably because I had been told it was an adventure movie, which I tend to love, starring Humphrey Bogart, who is awesome. It was so boring that I didn’t even make it halfway through before giving up. So I was really surprised this time around at how much I liked this movie. It’s amazing. Now I’m wondering what was wrong with me the day I watched it the first time.
So what’s the story? Dobbs and Curtain are two American men down on their luck in Mexico. Both of them just want to make enough money to make it back to America, but they can’t find work. They meet Howard, an old prospector, who is willing to help them find gold, but he warns them that gold always carries a curse.
The Good: Like I said before, Humphrey Bogart is awesome, but I’ve never seen him quite like this before. He often plays crusty people on the fringes of society, but he always seems to have a heart of gold underneath. Not here. He’s a little frightening, really. I’m not sure why he wasn’t nominated for a best actor Oscar. Tim Holt plays Curtain, who is just an all-around nice guy with dreams of a bigger life. Howard is played by Walter Huston, director John Huston’s father. Normally I’m not a fan of nepotism, but I think this was a case where the perfect person for the role just happened to be related to the director. Huston did such a good job. He was patient with the greenhorns, yet you could see him waiting for the other shoe to drop. He had enough experience and wisdom to know how things were going to go. Huston managed to show all of that without getting annoying, which can be tricky in situations like that.
The cinematography is gorgeous. It was shot on location in Mexico, and the cinematographer took advantage of that. But there are also lots of intriguing camera angles and good moody lighting which help contribute to the movie.
The excellent score was masterfully written by Max Steiner. I’ve decided he could score pretty much anything and it would be amazing. He could score a movie of someone silently reading a phone book and it would become interesting.
The Bad: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has the usual first half of the 20th century problem with racism, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen. It also moves a little bit slowly at times.
The Ugly: This movie has the single worst fistfight I have seen in any movie ever. The camera angles are all wrong, and you can see that the punches aren’t actually connecting, even though the foley artist is making the correct sounds. It’s sooooo bad. I was cringing all the way through.
Oscars Won: Best actor in a supporting role (Walter Huston); best director; best writing, screenplay.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture.