The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Written & Directed by John Huston

Humphrey Bogart is undeniably one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history,appearing in such classics as Casablanca,The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and of course this famous film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Also a Hollywood legend is director John Huston, who was nominated for 15 Academy Awards, winning two. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a very important and famous entry in the history of Hollywood, but it is also a fascinating examination into the principles of Thomas Hobbes’ State of Nature.

I has seen this film once before when I sat down to see it a second time in my Intro to Philosophy class. I fondly remembered loving the film and its adventurous, gold rush type story. Dobbs (Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) are down on their luck bums in Tampico, Mexico in the 1920s. So when they bump into old timer Howard (Walter Huston, the director’s father), who knows what it takes to be a gold prospector and make it rich, Dobbs and Curtin strike up a deal with Howard in the hopes of striking it rich with his expertise. They make their way out to the deserted desert and begin mining a mountain of gold. But soon greed and paranoia strike the trio and their fate seems destined for trouble with outsiders and insiders alike.

What makes a film like this so great is the simple fact that it is massively entertaining and that is fueled by both the great script and the great characters on screen. Humphrey Bogart is a legend for a reason and you can see in this film that, despite his small stature, he is a giant on the screen. Even if sometimes his delivery can be too calculated and too scripted, Bogey is immensely watchable and entertaining. And at his side the quite capable Tim Holt delivers a much more subdued performance than his fellow actors on screen. The third of the trio, Walter Huston, is the one that actually won an award for his performance here and who am I to say he didn’t deserve it? He is delightfully over the top as the happy-go-lucky man who has seen it all from men wasting their wealth because of greed to the economic business of the Federalis when dealing with bandits. And might I also add the fact that he has the best laugh in Hollywood history. I am completely confortable saying that this film features not only the best scene of laughter ever caught on film, but also the best laughter in the history of the world by a cast of characters delivered throughout the entire film.

The laughter is just one of the many reasons to love this film. It is a great adventure of gold hunting and escaping from bandits and the paranoia of one’s self. It is a fun romp and also a deep investigation of philosophy and the state of nature and of man. The only things about the film I may take exception to is the quick paced ending which seemes to wrap everything up almost too quickly, though maybe I just wanted to spend more time with these great characters. And the other would be that Bogart’s delivery was too calculated and scripted sometimes, but thoe few dislikes were few and far between the great things The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has to offer.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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