BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
This was my second viewing ever of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The performances in the film are really its standout element. Humphrey Bogart’s decent into madness, Walter Houston’s cool-under-pressure old prospector, and Tim Holt as the trusting Curtain were played to different heights but work together to make compelling story. Dobbs (Bogart) and Curtain meet on a bogus job before making enough money to join Walter on a prospecting trip into the Mexican wilderness. Dobbs seals his fate by making the statement that he would never get greedy if he found gold. Of course, he ends up being the most greedy of them all.
The film is about the power of human greed. From the moment Dobbs sees that first seam of pyrite, he is obsessed. He is a changed man after that moment. Walter, the older man, has seen what gold can do to men and he sees it in Dobbs. Distrust grows like a mold between them and it breaks down every aspect of their relationship. Director John Huston, who also adapted the novel, is careful not take it too, far too fast, builds the mistrust naturally. The men grow suspicious if one of them leaves the tent at night or wanders away from the camp. They get to the point that they aren’t sleeping and keeping their guns at the ready.
The final forty-five minutes the film are a tense unraveling as Dobbs tries to kill Curtain and steal the gold and evade bandits. Ultimately Dobbs meets his inevitable end and Curtain and Walter are basically back where they started. I like that the film shows how fleeting wealth can be and how little it matters in the end. Walter ends up a hero to an Indian tribe and Curtain has a chance at his dream life in Texas with barely an additional cent between them all. My one complaint about the film is that it feels overlong. Events just take a long time in the film, and even though it is captivating, it does drag in places.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ranking: Cruiser