Thursday, June 16, 2011

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" greed, adventure, gold and murder all wrapped up together

TITLE: "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"
DIRECTOR: John Huston
STARS: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
EDITOR: Owen Marks
AWARDS: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Oscar), Best Director (Oscar), Best Writing, Screenplay (Oscar)
RUN TIME: 126 min.

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is a thrilling adventure tale made in the fashion of classic Hollywood. Three men decide to embark on the journey of a lifetime to find gold in the hills of Mexico. The old man knows what he is getting himself into, while his younger counterparts expect to be able to pick it up off the ground. Even after his warning, "I know what gold does to men's souls," none of the men are ready to deal with the consequences that await them on their treacherous journey.

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is largely considered one of the best films to have ever been made. Not only did it win three Oscars (the first time to have both a father and son win in the same year for the same film), it was selected to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 1990 (one of the first 100 films to be awarded this honor).

John Huston was a young, sometimes considered "loose canon," filmmaker when he set out to adapt the elusive B. Traven's successful novel for Warner Bros. After getting the author's approval on a script he penned, and after his previous success (including the masterful "The Maltese Falcon" (1941)), Huston was able to find financing for this dream of a project.

George Raft, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield were considered for the three leads when the film was supposed to start production before WWII. When it finally went into production after the war, Bogart was Warner's biggest star, and a friend of Huston's. Huston then cast his father, Walter, as the old prospector, and western star Tim Holt rounded out the bunch.

So, what sets this film apart? Why is it a "classic?" Each of the three leads steals each scene they are in. Walter Huston earned his Oscar, and Bogart's complex character carried the film to the heights of a psychological thriller, while still being firmly set in the western/adventure genre. Tim Holt seems almost melancholy comparatively, but his everyman portrayal keeps the film grounded.

The story keeps this film in a league of it's own, and is something that will be forever remembered by those who've seen it. This film has been listed by many a director as a direct influence on their creative process, including: Werner Herzog, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Stanley Kubrick.

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" has been one of this writer's favorite films since watching it as a child. That says something. A black and white drama, sustaining the attention of an overactive kid in the 1990's, is a rarity.

For fear of spoiling the film, this critique will be as vague as possible. The reasons this film is considered a "classic" and the names of those who it directly inspired is enough for anyone to decide to see this film. The story is the standout reason though.

The film would have been different with different creatives behind it, but the story at the heart of this experience is stand out. A tale filled with adventure, greed, gunfights and campfire stories, all of which are centered on a character driven drama, gives the viewer an unmistakable experience.

Is this the best film ever made? No. Is it close? Yes. If you haven't taken a single recommendation off of this blog, take this one. This is one of the best films that has ever been made, and it stands the test of time in every way. The crowd this writer most recently viewed this film with consisted of hundreds of people who took their Saturday night and sat outside in a cemetery just to watch this wonderful piece of cinematic art. Seriously, take the time this week, and find this movie. It is worth every damn second!

MY IMDb RATING:  9 out of 10

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