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John Huston
Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya
Writing Credits:
John Huston

They Sold their Souls for the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

John Huston won the Academy Award for writing and directing this powerful saga that pits gold and greed in the wilds of Mexico and stars his father (Walter Huston) and Humphrey Bogart.

Box Office:
Budget $3.8 million.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Monaural

Runtime: 126 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 9/30/2003

Disc One
• Audio Commentary With Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
• “Warner Night At the Movies 1948” Introduced By Leonard Maltin
• Humphrey Bogart Trailer Gallery
• Awards
• Cast & Crew
Disc Two
• “Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” Documentary
• Classic Cartoon
• Still Galleries
• “Lux Radio Theater” Adaptation
• “John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick” Documentary

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Special Edition (1948)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 22, 2003)

2002 provided a slow year when it came to AFI 100 flicks new to DVD. Only three hit the shelves: M*A*S*H, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, and Sunset Boulevard. Of the 12 movies absent from the format at that time, another three materialized in 2003. The highest-ranking effort of these comes from 1948’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Placed at 30th on the AFI list, Treasure takes place in Mexico circa 1925. We meet down on his luck American Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) in Tampico, Mexico. After some ups and downs, he befriends a fellow American named Bob Curtin (Tim Holt). While they bunk at a cheap flophouse, they hear an old guy named Howard (Walter Huston) lecture about the dangers of gold. However, the prospect of shiny wealth entices them, and the three eventually join forces to seek their fortunes.

The movie follows their adventures and what happens along the way. They start out as cheerful partners, but the prospect of easy money starts to affect them, especially Fred. He begins to go a little nutty and particularly greedy. This causes mistrust and tension that eventually come to a head in a number of ways.

Essentially Treasure presents a morality tale spiced up with some action. Apparently the original story on which the film was based presented a strongly anti-capitalist theme, which the movie tones down substantially. However, that attitude remains to a degree, as the pursuit of wealth clearly causes the downfall of the participants; only when they go for less superficial goals do they achieve contentedness.

Director John Huston doesn’t pour on that attitude, though, as he keeps things more tightly focused on the tensions between the personalities. He seems more concerned with the psychological developments than a denunciation of capitalism, and the film presents solid studies of it characters, especially in regard to Dobbs.

That element becomes aided by Bogart’s deft performance. He seems taut and wiry in the role, and he demonstrates obsession and quiet fury nicely. I think Dobbs goes over the edge a little too quickly, but Bogart nonetheless makes the character’s changes come fairly naturally and believably.

Bogart maintains the movie’s center, but Walter Huston is its heart, and he creates the most vivid personality of the bunch. Huston seems nicely spry and wiry, and he conveys many of the flick’s most memorable moments. Holt maintains solid work, but he does get lost among his more accomplished costars at times.

Treasure easily could have turned into a screechy screed but Huston keeps things light enough to make the movie entertaining. The flick manifests a good sense of humor about itself and stages elements in clever and deft ways that prevent it from turning strident. No obvious moralizing occurs, even though those elements remain just below the surface.

Whether you examine The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as a political discourse or as a brisk tale of greed and its consequences, it succeeds. The movie progresses nicely and fares well in all domains. From the crisp script to the tight direction to the vivid acting, Treasure presents a lively and entertaining examination of its topic.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus A

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the picture seemed acceptable for a 55-year-old flick, it demonstrated more problems than I’d like.

For the most part, sharpness didn’t cause many of these. Some minor softness interfered with occasional wider shots, but those issues remained largely insubstantial. Overall, the movie seemed well defined and crisp. No problems with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and only a little light edge enhancement showed up at times. Black levels were reasonably deep and dense, and shadows appeared clear and appropriately opaque. Low-light shots didn’t look tremendously well developed, but they showed no problems.

Where Treasure lost most of its points stemmed from print flaws. The movie demonstrated quite a few of these throughout the film. I noticed a fair amount of white specks and black grit along with nicks, streaks, scratches, blotches, and general debris. I didn’t think the defects every became overwhelming, but they created enough distractions to lower my grade to a “C”.

The monaural soundtrack of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre seemed stronger but remained only moderately above average for its age. Speech consistently sounded intelligible but the lines could be somewhat rough at times. Those issues weren’t major, but the dialogue was a bit edgier than I expected. Effects mostly seemed acceptably clean and accurate, though some louder elements like gunfire were slightly distorted. Music appeared clear but somewhat flat, as the score presented somewhat flat range. Bass was occasionally loud but slightly boomy. Ultimately, the audio of Treasure didn’t suffer from any significant problems, but it did nothing to stand out from the crowd.

This two-DVD release of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre comes equipped with a nice collection of extras. On the first disc, we begin with an audio commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax. He offers a running, moderately screen-specific track that proves to give us a very solid examination of the film. Lax touches on pretty much every important topic related to Treasure. He discusses the story’s genesis, its reclusive author, its path to the screen, biographical notes about many participants, and scads of great notes from the set. We learn of studio chief Jack Warner’s growing concerns about the movie’s elongated shoot as well as animosity between John Huston and Bogart when the production ran long. Lax contributes many fine anecdotes and helps create a consistently informative and entertaining chat.

A creative and fun addition to the set, Warner Night at the Movies attempts to replicate the cinematic experience circa 1948. As explained via a three-minute and 45-second introduction from Leonard Maltin, this feature includes a preview for Key Largo, a flick from the same era as Treasure, plus a period newsreel, an animated short called Hot Cross Bunny and a comedic short entitled So You Want to Be a Detective. These are the kinds of pieces that might have preceded a theatrical showing of Treasure, so if you activate this feature, you get an attempt to duplicate a night at the cinema. I like this program and think it’s quite clever. Use the “Play All” option to run each of these features and then automatically launch into Dandy.

DVD One provides a Humphrey Bogart Trailer Gallery. This provides 12 promos for Bogart flicks, including one for Treasure. It’s a nice collection of trailers from a span of 12 years.

The first disc concludes with two text pieces. Awards shows some honors given to Treasure, while Cast & Crew lists a variety of main participants. The latter provides no details about the folks; it just shows their names and jobs.

Many more extras appear on DVD Two. These open with a documentary called John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick. It runs a whopping two hours, eight minutes, and five seconds as it examines the director’s life and career. Narrated by Robert Mitchum, we find clips from many Huston movies along with archival materials and interview comments from Huston, Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Evelyn Keyes, Michael Caine, Arthur Miller, Marietta Tree, Michael Fitzgerald, Tom Shaw, Anjelica Huston, Ossie Morris, Danny Huston, Zoë Sallis, and Lord and Lady Hemphill

Created in 1988, “Maverick” takes a close look at Huston’s life and career. It starts at the beginning and progresses steadily through his death in 1987. Virtually every element – personal and professional – receives good scrutiny, and though the documentary clearly respects and admires Huston, it never feels like a hagiography; the director’s flaws and foibles receive full airing. It’s an entertaining and illuminating program.

Another documentary appears next via Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The 49-minute and 55-second piece mixes shots from the flick, archival materials, and interviews with Eric Lax, director Martin Scorsese, film historians Rudy Behlmer, Leonard Maltin, Bob Thomas and Robert Osborne, biographer Judy Stone, actress/Huston’s ex-wife Evelyn Keyes. The program covers the movie in a solid manner. It starts with the origins of the novel and gives us some early career notes about Bogart and Huston. It then traces the production and lets us know about the various important elements. Between Lax’s excellent commentary and the Huston documentary, we’ve already heard a lot of this information, but “Discovering” nonetheless offers a nicely efficient examination of the movie.

After this we find a seven-minute and five-second cartoon called 8 Ball Bunny. The 1949 short shows Bugs as he attempts to help a lost penguin find his way to the South Pole. It’s a reasonably amusing cartoon, though it presents only a brief connection to Treasure via a running cameo from an animated Bogie.

Next we locate a Lux Radio Theater Broadcast of Treasure from April 18, 1949. In this dramatization of the story, Bogart and Walter Huston reprise their roles, but no other original cast members appear. Huston also acts as narrator. As necessary, the show omits many elements from the movie and it doesn’t tell the tale terribly well, but it seems generally entertaining nonetheless, and it’s a cool addition to the set.

Within the Treasure Trove Galleries we find four sets of stills. These include “Storyboards” (20 frames), “Dressed Set Stills” (20), “Cast & Crew” (25), and “Publicity & Posters” (13). The storyboards offer the most interesting elements, but each of the sections presents some useful material.

A worthwhile entry on the AFI 100 list, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre works for those who want a manly adventure or who prefer something with more subtext. It benefits from generally excellent acting, a compelling story, and deft direction. The DVD gives us fairly average picture and sound but offers a terrific set of supplements. Though the presentation of the flick itself doesn’t seem great, the set as a whole is solid, and the high quality of the movie makes Treasure a keeper.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5416 Stars Number of Votes: 48
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