The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)



Why am I not in love with this film?

Whenever critics compile their lists of great movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is among the honored.  Yet to me, the film seems to be … missing something.  This, well, “deficiency” prevents Huston’s adventure tale from being as emotionally satisfying as other classics from the 1930s-1940s.

The movie certainly has an impressive pedigree.  Some people think it’s Huston’s best work, and this is the same writer-director who gave us The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, and The African Queen.  You can find critics who believe the late, great Humphrey Bogart delivered his best performance in this film.  When I asked my own father to name his favorite movie, he cited this one.  So why don’t I like it more?  Again, something … isn’t there.

For the uninitiated, Treasure tells the story of three down-on-their-luck American expatriates in 1920s Mexico. They team up to prospect for gold, and during their pursuit must battle bandits, the elements, and their own self-interests.  There is lots of action, and everyone who sees the film agrees that Bogart and especially Walter Huston (John’s Oscar-rewarded father) are superb.

Huston’s script has the universal themes of greed, loyalty, and honor that one might expect from a classic.  The movie was mostly shot on location in Mexico, a rarity in 1947, which adds immeasurably to its authenticity.

So once again, why on earth am I so unmoved by this beloved movie?  Two reasons, I think:  Despite the bravura performances by Bogart and Huston, their characters aren’t particularly likable.  I didn’t care if any of them got rich.

And I finally figured out what was missing from the film:  women.      Grade:  B




Director:  John Huston  Cast:  Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Robert Blake  Release:  1948


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1 comment

  1. Sparky November 27, 2010 6:30 pm  Reply

    Nice review Grouchy. I understand what you are saying about why you aren’t in love with this film. Last night I watched IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT for the first time. Keep in mind that this film, along with only ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS has the distinction of winning all five of the major Oscar categories. It had Gable. It had Colbert. It was directed by Mr. Americana Frank Capra. Though I liked it, I really didn’t see what the extra fuss was about.

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