The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs

This is easily one of my favourite films of all time. Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs a down on his luck adventurer stuck in Mexico with no prospects. He meets another fella in the same boat by the name of Bob Curtin and along with old timer Howard they set off into the wilderness on a quest for gold. Released in 1948 and directed by John Huston this is a true classic about human greed and what it does to the souls of men.

The film opens in Tampico in 1925 and a grizzled man begs for coins in the street. Fred is seriously desperate and so when a chance for work arises he grabs it. Unfortunately the local businessman who hires him has no intention of paying up and as he tries to recover the wages he is owed he teams up with a co-worker called Bob. The two over hear an old man in a shelter talking about the riches to be made prospecting for gold and when Fred wins a small amount of cash on the lottery they figure what the hell and embark on an adventure to make their fortune

Howard provides the expertise and soon shows the younger men that they know little about the Mexican wilds. The going is tough and Fred and Bob are near to giving up when they finally find something worth mining. Howard's wisdom stretches beyond the knowledge of how to mine and his early predictions about gold causing problems between friends soon become a reality. The three men keep separate shares and guard them jealously and Fred in particular starts to become paranoid. Things get even worse when another prospector turns up closely followed by a group of bandits.

Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

John Huston adapted the screenplay from the novel by B. Traven and he wrote the part of Howard for his father. Walter Huston won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance and his son won the Best Director Oscar. John Huston also played the American tourist that Fred repeatedly asks for money. His father Walter is truly amazing in this film; he plays the grizzled old prospector perfectly and even threatens to upstage Bogart. Fred C. Dobbs is a terrific character and he starts out as personable and even generous before descending into a greed-fuelled madness. Humphrey Bogart is superb in the role and he campaigned avidly for the part. The able Tim Holt completes the trio as Bob Curtin.

If you have never seen this film then you really must seek it out. It is black and white and there are elements of the production that are dated but the central theme is timeless and the characterisation is incredible. This is profound stuff with an important message for everyone and it is also hugely entertaining with quality in every department.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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