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?

8/10

 
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 #12: The Asphalt Jungle [1950]

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 Asphalt Jungle [1950]

The Asphalt Jungle [1950]
Directors: John Huston
Genre: Crime/Film-Noir/Drama
Language: English/German
Country: USA

I was on a big Film Noir kick a few months ago, which coincided with my playthrough of the great LA Noire, so I made sure to add more than a few titles to this project. The Asphalt Jungle, in particular, is one that I have been staring at for a while, as I have heard a lot of great things about it. The movie’s title alone brings to mind a gritty urban landscape with a world of crime at its fingertips.

The Asphalt Jungle is a heist film in which a group of criminal masterminds plan out and execute a major jewel robbery. ‘Doc’ Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), fresh out of prison, is the brains behind the operation, as he has developed an elaborate way to seize millions of dollars of jewelry. In order to pull off the heist, he hires the talents of a professional safecracker (Anthony Caruso), a getaway driver (James Whitmore), a hooligan thug (Sterling Hayden) and a crooked lawyer (Louis Calhern) who will provide financial support. Everything looks to go according to plan until a series of unforeseen events wreaks havoc on all involved, something that seems to be the case for most caper films from this era.

The Asphalt Jungle [1950]

The actual heist scene — 11 minutes in length — is tense and well thought out. In fact, the crime, its buildup and its aftermath are all realistic, and this helps give the movie a more authentic feel than I expected.

The cast is particularly brilliant, as the aforementioned criminals are joined by two lovely ladies: Jean Hagen and Marilyn Monroe. It’s hard to believe that this is the first movie I have seen featuring Miss Monroe, and she is downright stunning here. Both ladies hold their own against the males on screen. My favorite performance comes from Sterling Hayden, who is just terrific as the over-sized redneck thug. I have seen him in a few movies now, and he always seems to stand out above the rest.

As far as noirs go, The Asphalt Jungle stands among the best I have seen so far. It is gritty with sharp dialogue and a stellar cast, and its realism is a good change of pace. I felt the film slowed down a little too much after the heist, but it was still an entertaining movie overall. I am glad I was able to finally watch this.

8/10