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!

Movie Project #39 and #40: Last Tango in Paris [1972] and The Maltese Falcon [1941]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Last Tango in Paris [1972, Bernardo Bertolucci]
Last Tango in Paris [1972, Bernardo Bertolucci]
Starring Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi.

I don’t know if there is a more controversial film in my project. Last Tango in Paris gained a lot of notoriety with its theatrical release, as it received the ominous NC-17 rating. This is a movie that has no shame, and I would imagine that Maria Schneider was at least partly nude for half of the film, if not more. The movie focuses on an anonymous affair between the young Jeanne (Schneider) and the much older American hotel owner Paul (Brando). Paul is a recent widow, and Jeanne is a recently engaged woman who somehow seems pure and innocent. What transpires for much of the film’s 2+ hour runtime is a series of mindless physical hookups where not much else happens. The film’s last 30 minutes or so serve as a stark contrast to the rest of the picture, and this is when all hell breaks loose.

This final 1/4 of the movie is very interesting, but it took a hell of a long time to get there. Scenes of increasingly graphic sex can only do so much before they become trite and shallow. Brando’s performance is undeniably strong, but it is rather unfortunate how emotionally damaging this film was to Schneider. Apparently the uncut version of the film is a whopping 250 minutes — for me, two hours was plenty enough as is. Until the intriguing final act, Last Tango in Paris is a bit of a bore that relies too heavily on gratuitous sex to get by. 6/10

The Maltese Falcon [1941, John Huston]
The Maltese Falcon [1941, John Huston]
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George.

I am amazed that it has taken me this long to see The Maltese Falcon, which is widely considered as the grand-daddy of Film Noir. This is the movie that made Bogart a big star, and his role as private investigator Sam Spade is even more impressive than his later turn as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. This film revolves around an elusive treasure, a jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon. Spade gets drawn into the mess after working with a new client, the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Astor), and soon he becomes entangled in the web of crime and murder.

Director John Huston’s first directorial effort has a wonderful mix of action and slick dialogue, and he is aided greatly by the casting of Bogart, who delivers a performance for the ages. His turn as Spade ranks as one of the most badass characters in cinematic history. There are lots of familiar faces here — Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook, Jr. — and all involved are terrific in their roles. The Maltese Falcon is a fantastic Film Noir that is worthy of its classic status. 9/10

Movie Project #37 and #38: The Big Sleep [1946] and The 400 Blows [1959]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Big Sleep [1946]
The Big Sleep [1946, Howard Hawks]
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely.

I added The Big Sleep to my project because I had been reading Raymond Chandler’s novel at the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish the book due to my poor reading habits, but I was still excited to see the film. After recently seeing Casablanca, I was looking forward to more of Humphrey Bogart. In this regard, The Big Sleep does not disappoint. Bogart cruises through the movie, effortlessly playing the hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. His chemistry with the young Lauren Bacall is impeccable, and the cast is loaded with strong performances.

While I greatly enjoyed Chandler’s writing, especially Marlowe’s snarky and quick-hitting one-liners, I had a hard time keeping up with the plot during the second half of the film. A number of characters were introduced in a short manner of time, and it was a little challenging to keep track of everyone, as well as their actions. Still, there’s no denying that this is a fun watch with Bogart and Bacall working together, and it is a strong Film Noir. 8/10

The 400 Blows [1959]
The 400 Blows [1959, François Truffaut]
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier.

The 400 Blows offers a look into the life of a troubled teenage boy living in Paris. Antoine Doinel (Léaud) struggles in school, often clashing with authority and failing homework assignments. He has a rocky relationship at home, as his mother seldom wants anything to do with him. A series of unfortunate events leads Antoine into even darker times, as he runs away from home, skips school, and begins to steal from others. Nothing is going well for him, to say the least, and it appears that he doesn’t have a very bright future ahead of him.

The 400 Blows has a simple story, but it is an intriguing one nonetheless. While Antoine ultimately behaves like a juvenile delinquent, it becomes apparent that he likely would not act this way if someone would have just given him a chance. He certainly has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to realize this when every authority figure is constantly harping on the poor kid. Much credit must be given to Léaud, who is fantastic in the lead role, and I am curious to see some of his later work with Truffaut. This is a remarkable coming-of-age drama that still holds up today. 9/10

Movie Project #33 and #34: The Godfather: Part II [1974] and Casablanca [1942]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Godfather: Part II [1974, Francis Ford Coppola]
The Godfather: Part II [1974, Francis Ford Coppola]
Starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall.

As part of our traditional Thanksgiving movie marathon, my girlfriend and I opted to watch the first two Godfather films back to back, as well as a couple of other classics. I had seen the first Godfather before, but that was many years ago. The Godfather: Part II is a fantastic followup to the original, this time focusing on Michael Corleone as the new Don. Michael is an intriguing figure who clings to ideals that are starkly different from his deceased father, and many of his actions make him out to be a cold-hearted bastard. In fact, it was almost hard to watch the film at times simply because Michael was a complete asshole to everyone involved in his life. A phenomenal piece of acting from Al Pacino, but man, what a dick.

There is also a parallel storyline in Part II that shows the early life of Vito Corleone, this time played by Robert De Niro in one of his finest performances. I found this story to be the more fascinating of the two, as it showed Vito’s evolution from a young immigrant arriving on Ellis Island to his rise as the Godfather. The two unique storylines in the film are masterfully connected, culminating in an epic saga that never has a dull moment. Not enough can be said about the all-star cast (Pacino, De Niro, Duvall, Cazale, Keaton, etc.), and the ending is just as powerful as the original’s unforgettable conclusion. It’s not often that a sequel can be considered as good as its predecessor, and many even consider this to be the best of the trilogy. I still prefer the first film, mainly because I actually liked Brando’s Vito Corleone, but there is no mistaking that Part II is another masterpiece. 9/10

Casablanca [1942,  Michael Curtiz]
Casablanca [1942, Michael Curtiz]
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid.

I don’t know what is more shameful to admit: that I hadn’t seen Casablanca before this, or that I had never seen a Bogart film period. It’s easy to see why both Casablanca and Bogart are held in such high regard. The film is such a classic love story, and Bogart is just the man to play the cynical lead, Rick Blaine. Tough on the outside but broken hearted on the inside, Blaine is certainly a memorable character, and the chemistry between Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (as Ilsa Lund) is off the charts. The love triangle between the two of them, and Ilsa’s current husband, Victor Laszlo (Henreid), is brilliant in that all three characters are immensely likable.

One can only imagine how difficult of a decision it would be for all parties involved in this triangle. Will Ilsa run away with her long lost flame? Will Rick help Ilsa and her current lover escape from the Nazis, even though there is clearly still a spark between the two of them? It’s one of those great moments in film where the story could result in a number of endings, but I was very pleased with the final conclusion. It took some major cojones to not go with the typical Hollywood ending, and for that I am very grateful. I liked the movie well enough after watching it, but I just gained a whole new appreciation of the film after sitting down to gather my thoughts and write about it. Simply wonderful. 9/10