The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

(On Cable TV, February 2018) I was impressed to see how, even seventy years later, there is still such a strong narrative drive to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and how well it balances character development with its plot. It helps that the film quickly sets up its core characters. Humphrey Bogart is fine as a downtrodden American willing to do whatever it takes to barely survive in Mexico, but the film’s highlight is Walter Huston (the director’s father) as an immensely likable grizzled prospector. Meanwhile, Tim Holt does serviceable work at the character who is tempted by various moral choices. With such good characters, the plot comes alive as our protagonist find a way out of a backwater Mexican town to explore a mountain for gold. That they find it so quickly only sets up more difficult choices later on, as gold fever grips the characters and paranoia sets in. Notable for having been shot on location, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of those (surprisingly rare) black-and-white movies that I wish had been shot in colour, given how much importance the setting takes. In other areas, however, the film hasn’t aged a bit: the dialogue is still sharp, the plot generally unpredictable and the actors do fine work with the dramatic arc they’re given. Writer/director John Huston did exceptional work and the result still speaks for itself.

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