Movie Project #22: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]
Director: John Huston
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt
Runtime: 126 minutes

This review contains potential spoilers for those unaware of this classic.

After reading the travel narrative God’s Middle Finger, I was inspired to visit the classic John Huston film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as the next entry in my project.

The critical acclaim for this film is staggering — 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.5/10 on IMDB (good for #76 overall), an entry in Roger Ebert’s brilliant Great Movies feature.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Fred C. Dobbs, a down-on-his-luck American currently living in Mexico who gets by via begging and working odd labor jobs. When one employer cheats him out of promised wages, Dobbs and another worker, Curtin (Tim Holt) beat the hell out of the guy and get their money. After realizing that hanging out in town is no longer a good idea, the two men team up with grizzled old prospector Howard (Walter Huston) to hit up the Sierra Madre mountains in search of gold.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

What transpires is a tale of greed, paranoia and deceit, as the men do end up finding a moderately successful spot for gold mining. Dobbs, in particular, becomes completely unhinged once the gold starts rolling in. He demands that the three men split up the gold equally every night, and that each person is responsible for their own treasure. He becomes suspicious of others, especially when someone spends too long alone for his liking.

The mental and physical deterioration of Dobbs happens quickly. While he was hardly a great man at the beginning of the film, he becomes much worse as the greed of gold and $$$ starts to set in. It is fascinating to watch Bogart take on the role of a character who has little, if any, redeeming values. By the end of the film, he is a despicable shell of a man.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

His companions in this are much more level-headed, especially Howard, who is full of energy despite his old age. Walter Huston, director John’s father, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor thanks to his charismatic and enjoyable performance. Tim Holt is outshined by the other two prospectors, but he doesn’t feel entirely out of place. In fact, his character may be the most level of them all.

As the film reaches its conclusion, it’s clear that things aren’t going to end the way ANYONE envisioned. In fact, as the remaining men sit down, knowing they have nothing to show for their efforts, all they do is laugh. After seeing the horrific depths a human’s soul can go to, what else is there to do?


Fun trivia: This film contains one of the most popular lines in cinematic history, although it is often misquoted:

Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!

27 thoughts on “Movie Project #22: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

    • Eric says:

      Haha I figured I might get some grief for that rating. 🙂 I definitely enjoyed it, but there are other Bogart movies I liked more (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon).

  1. SDG says:

    Probably the most significant or most talked about classic I haven’t seen yet. I need to catch it up soon. Nice Review !!

  2. Dan says:

    Love this movie. It was stunning to watch Bogart in this type of role and really take it into such crazy territory. It’s one that I definitely need to revisit.

  3. Chris says:

    You might want to add a spoiler warning for that review, Eric.
    The critical acclaim was what persuaded me to watch as well. I like how Indiana Jones-esque the film is. Who can forget that memorable scene when the old guy laughs, classic ( :

    • Eric says:

      Hmm, yeah I suppose I could add a spoiler warning for this one. I figure with a 60+ year old movie I could get away with dishing out more plot details than usual. But I’ll go ahead and add one. Thanks for the suggestion, Chris!

  4. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric and company:

    A great review of an even greater film. Superb visual dissertation of the slow, overwhelming and destructive power of greed. In a film with a very un-Bogart Bogart. That proved the actor could do paranoid and near psychotic when needed.

    • Eric says:

      Hey Jack, thanks for the kind words! In regards to Bogart’s performance, I got a kick out of this snippet from Ebert’s writeup:

      “Wait till you see me in my next picture,” Bogart shouted to a movie critic outside a New York nightclub. “I play the worst s— you ever saw.”


    • Eric says:

      I won’t mention it for spoiler reasons, but I read a really interesting bit of trivia on IMDB about Huston’s original plan for Bogart’s character. Would have been some pretty violent stuff for 1948.

      I would have loved to see what he would have done today without any restrictions.

  5. MikesFilmTalk says:

    One of my all time favourite iconic films. I love how it crops up in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia by Sam Peckinpah, When asked his name Gig Young’s character says, “Dobbs, Fred C. Dobbs. Great walk down memory lane.

  6. Jules M. says:

    Bogart was so good in this. I love him for the same tough edged detective and assorted ‘coolest mofo who ever lived’ roles as everyone else, but it’s in movies like this as well as ‘The Caine Mutiny’ and ‘In A Lonely Place’ among others where he really shows his acting chops.

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