The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a misleading title, most films of the adventure genre employ such title formats; the search for the treasure mentioned in the title which takes a group through exotic lands and fantastic beasts in the course of a long voyage which would bring them to the treasure whose allure accentuated by myth. Recently a group of people complained loudly in the media that they were deceived by the film Drive, they had gone inside expecting something of a dithery version of Fast and the Furious; this in the age of multiple trailers and TV Spots. The Treasure is a film about finding lost treasure as much as how Drive is about drag racing.
Bogart plays Fred C Dobbs, a down on luck American wandering the streets of Tampico, Mexico; begging respectably and partly blaming his accursed life on the natives; wolfing a hooker even when he has not a peso for his stomach. A man who would prefer to shave his face to perfectness with his last coin, the characterization cannot be decided upon, one minute he is the helping friend and then he is the lynching one. Together with his similar friend Bob Curtin, spends the night at a motel; more of a story sharing tavern after coming into some money. This is where they meet Howard, an ageing prospector holding court, amusing impoverished men with his tales of gold, but these are not glorious adventures; but tales of fate driven by gold and greed.
“Never knew a prospector yet that died rich”
What is it with gold? Why has it captured us by our throats occupying both divine and economic status, not even money has been able to guarantee that. In a sense the movie is about how strong your morals are, Howard the old-timer who knows exactly what will happen on the expedition; and honestly admits that if he had been younger he would have done the same, with Gold comes greed, there is no saying no to more.
And that is exactly why, the title is a misleading one; the said treasure is found midway in the first act, leaving John Huston the rest of the movie to what really happens to the people who find the gold, shot almost entirely on location the film mirrors the bandit age of 1920s Mexico. It is also interesting to see what drives each character, Curtin remembers his childhood pleasure of growing up with flowers and fruits and yearns to return to them. Howard with most of his life already behind him decidedly makes the expedition his last, but it is Dobbs again who has no larger vision for what he will do with his share. “A bath!” he says.
But Dobbs somehow becomes the one who is the most attached to the treasure and hallucinates on how the other two are always taking notes to cross him out, most of the scenes are built up on this premise and Bogart simply shines in the role, interesting to note that he was not the first choice.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre is considered to be one among the early great American movies, for me it is about what one man would hope to do on a whim and be consumed by it in the process, in the end they all come to the beginning.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre made in 1948 stars Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston & Tim Holt directed by John Huston based on the novel of the same name by B.Traven.