The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Classic Oldie | In English | 126 minutes | 1948
Staying in a flophouse, two vagrants, Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, encounter Howard, a grizzled but wise old prospector, who regales them with stories about finding gold in the Sierra Madre mountains. Luck is with them as Dobbs surprisingly wins the lottery, enabling the three to finance their hunt for gold. After several days of hard climbing, Howard’s keen and experienced eye spots a major vein of gold. After some harrowing experiences with the bandit Gold Hat and his gang, and encountering an intruder named Cody, Howard is called away to a nearby village to help cure a sick boy. While Howard’s away, Dobbs and Curtin become suspicious that the other might steal the sacks of gold. They lose sleep watching each other. When Curtin does fall asleep, Dobbs shoots him, takes the gold, and moves out. He’s ambushed at a waterhole by Gold Hat and shot dead. Curtin did not die. He locates Howard who helps him recover. Meanwhile, Gold Hat and his gang are found by the authorities and executed. Reclaiming their pack animals, Howard and Curtin head to town with their gold. Will they ever get to enjoy their new-found wealth?
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 100% 100%
- Metacritic Score 99% 99%
- Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Walter Huston), Best Director and Best Screenplay (John Huston)
Golden Globes: Best Picture, Best Actor (Walter Huston), and Best Director (John Huston)
BAFTA Awards: Best Film From Any Source
New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Film, Best Actor (Walter Huston), and Best Director (John Huston)
Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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Greed, a despicable passion out of which other base ferments may spawn, is seldom treated in the movies with the frank and ironic contempt that is vividly manifested in this film. Director/writer John Huston has shaped a searching drama of the collision of civilization’s vicious greeds with the instinct for self-preservation in an environment where all the barriers are down. One might reckon that Huston has filmed an intentional comment here about the irony of avarice in individuals and in nations today.
THE TREASURE of the SIERRA MADRE is a story in the Joseph Conrad tradition, using adventure not as an end in itself but as a test of its characters. It involves moral disagreements between a wise old man and a paranoid middle-aged man, with a young man forced to choose sides. The movie has never really been about gold but about character. Dobbs is a pathetic, frightened, selfish man—so sick we would be tempted to pity him, if he were not so undeserving of pity.
This film is one I am sure will stand up in the memory and esteem of qualified people alongside the best of the silent movies. And I have no doubt at all that Huston, next only to Chaplin, is the most talented man working in American pictures. This story and Huston’s handling of it are about as near to folk art as a highly conscious artist can get; both also approach the global appeal, to the most and least sophisticated members of an audience, which the best poetic drama and nearly all the best movies have in common.
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