Sunday, October 14, 2007

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Tivo said this was "Action Adventure" and that got me thinking - what is the line between "action adventure" and "drama suspense" or "western". It's definitely a Western...except that it is set in it's not so much "west" as it is "south" so I guess it's a "Southern"?

Anyhow, it's a movie with a lot of plot so I guess it counts as Action Adventure. There are guns, there is treasure, there are bandits, indians and federales (which are like the sheriff and the cavalry and a local posse all rolled into one - they still are, I might add - I've been to Mexico and there is something strange about the local police being the army and riding around in the backs of pick-up trucks with rifles slung casually against their shoulders, makes the LAPD look tame).

And it's the movie that the line "we don't need no stinking badges" comes from, in case you were burning to know that.

The line is uttered by a bandido (that's bandit to you gringos) taunting three American prospectors hunting for gold in the mountains of Mexico.

Although it's full of plot, Treasure is about character (like a western) and it's full of morals and lessons...about greed, honesty, loyalty, and the futility of human effort against the power of nature.

Humphrey Bogart, who most of us think of as the likable underdog with a good heart, (because of Casablanca, of course), plays the likable underdog with a bad heart - or shall we say the likable underdog corrupted by greed?

This is definitely one of those movies that has great characters - you know them so well that you are gratified with every twist of the plot when they behave like themselves...I was happy just to see characters that have integrity and aren't subservient to the studio marketing team.

The plot itself is simple: a rag-tag band of prospectors goes hunting for gold: can they get it and get it back to civilization without being overtaken by bandits, found out by mining companies, or succumbing to greed and killing each other?

It's hard to watch lovable Bogey ravished by one twist of fate after another, but it's a good performance so it's enjoyable, even if kind of awful at the same time.

I love the way the movie builds you up for the discovery of gold, and yet when they find it, true to the prediction of the oldest prospector, it turns out to be a blessing and a curse. Also it's always good when the movie has you waiting for the entrance of the title character for a good half of the movie but you're excited for this case the title character is "treasure". They don't even mention gold for the first half hour, and they don't see it till we are halfway through the film. Excellent.

You're in suspense up to the last ten minutes of the movie but, even after you know the outcome (about 15 minutes before the end of the film), you're waiting to see how the characters react to the conclusion, which is great.

All I can say about Treasure is: why don't they make them like this any more? Do they really think special effects make up for a lack of character and story? Well, okay, maybe they do...but it would still be nice to get some good characters like this now and again.

Four stars. Will watch again someday, but since the bulk of the joy is in the plot twists, probably not till I've had a chance to forget the plot a little....

Trivia: name of the boarding house where the three main characters meet: El Oso Negro. At the beginning of the film Humphrey begs for a meal three times from the same man - he gets mad and to show how mad he is he gives him twice as much money as he did the first two times he begged - huh? The character never reappears. Also, some of the longest un-subtitled scenes in Spanish I've ever seen. I don't really even know what happens in the two scenes at the end with the bandits in the village.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

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