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Blu-ray Review: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the third time director John Huston and Humphrey Bogart teamed up and together they created another film classic. The A.M.P.A.S certainly thought so as the Huston family struck Oscar gold with John winning for Directing and Adapted Screenplay and his father Walter winning Supporting Actor. Warner Brothers now offers the film on Blu-ray, which will be a treasure in your collection.

Based on B. Traven’s 1927 novel, the film tells the story a few Americans down on their luck in Tampico, Mexico. Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) panhandles in the streets, eventually coming across Pat McCormick (Barton MacLane), who offers him a job. Dobbs accepts it as does Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), an acquaintance of his in similar financial straits. After the job, they stay at a flophouse where they meet Howard (Walter Huston), a prospector who shares stories about gold in the nearby Sierra Madre mountains. Although he warns “what gold does to men’s souls,” Dobbs and Curtin partner up with Howard. The trio is tested by the terrain, by bandits, and by each other in their pursuit.

The story is well plotted, taking turns that keep the audience off balance, yet always remaining believable because the characters’ actions are authentic. It also speaks to a larger theme about greed. Bogart delivers one of his better performances since Dobbs’ personality changes throughout. Walter Huston’s Howard is always engaging and is more of a lead character than a supporting one in terms of his importance to the story.

Warner Brothers provides a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 that shows off the beauty of Ted D. McCord’s black-and-white photography. The gray scale is well represented and blacks are solidly rendered. Whites get a little too bright on occasion, but contrast is strong throughout. There’s a great deal of texture on display, from facial details in close-ups to the features of the terrain. The print looks free from damage and retains a light, natural grain structure. There are the usual complaints of films this age with fade transitions not always retaining the same amount of sharpness and rear-projection footage looking less realistic.

The DTS Master Audio 1.0 mono track is pleasing. For the most part, it sounds clean and doesn’t show its age. The dialogue is intelligible and doesn’t get overpowered by Max Steiner’s score.

Warner Brothers delivers a great number of enjoyable special features that were previously available on the 2003 two-disc special edition DVD.

With an optional introduction by Leonard Maltin, “Warner Night at the Movies” presents an evening at the movie theatre in 1948 (SD, 29 min). There’s a trailer for Key Largo; a newsreel that offers items such as a tornado aftermath in Cotton Valley, Louisiana, and the Chelsea Arts Ball at the Royal Albert Hall; “Hot Cross Bunny” features a scientist attempting to use Bugs as a test subject; “So You Want to be a Detective” features George O’ Hanlon (the voice of George Jetson) as Joe McDoakes in this Ricahrd L. Bare-directed, comedy short that offers some mild laughs.

John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick (SD, 127 min) is a thorough biography from 1989, two years after he died in 1987. Narrated by Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall, Paul Newman, and his daughter Anjelica are among those collected singing John’s praises and discuss his interesting life. “8 Ball Bunny” (SD, 7 min) finds Bugs attempting to take a penguin home. Bogie’s Dobbs makes an appearance. “Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (SD, 50 min) is a 2003 TCM documentary featuring Martin Scorsese along with film historians and critics discussing the film. There is also an audio commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax, a
Lux Radio Theater Broadcast from 4/18/49 (60 min) with Bogart and Walter Huston reprising their roles, and the film’s trailer.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre may be more precious than gold so get yourself a copy.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Greg Barbrick

    Great review of a classic film. Nice work Bicho.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Thanks, Greg

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