Monday, 12 January 2015

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

When we first meet Fred Dobbs he is down and out on the streets of a town in Mexico, begging the occasional American he sees for the price of a meal - and then generally spending what he gets on something else, like a shave, a packet of cigarettes, or even a share in a lottery ticket.

Then he gets a job offer, where he becomes friends with another man named Curtin.  The two get stiffed by their employer, which cements their friendship.  Bedding down in a flophouse, they overhear an old prospector talking of gold, and the effect it can have on those who search for it.  Dobbs is dismissive of the prospector's tales of greed gone mad. "I'd take what I'd come for and leave the rest." he claims.

You get no prizes for guessing that Dobbs will find it much more difficult to walk away from gold than he thinks.

He gets the opportunity to find out when he and Curtin stumble across their former employer.  They force the man to hand over the money he owes them, and join forces with the prospector to search for gold.  Even then, though, they only have enough money for the expedition because Dobbs's lottery ticket proves a winner.

Naturally, the three men find gold.  Equally naturally, Dobbs soon displays a worrying degree of greed, and an even more worrying tendency to suspect his colleagues of treachery.  Frankly, given the behaviour he exhibited back in town, this could hardly be considered a surprise.  If the film is trying to make a point about the corrupting influence of wealth, they should perhaps have started with a more upstanding fellow than Fred Dobbs.

There's one genuinely emotionally-effecting scene in the film, which comes not too long after the famous "stinking badges" sequence, but generally speaking this film is a bit like being repeatedly thumped with a pillow.  It's clumsy and annoying, but it doesn't really have any significant impact.

While all the performances are solid enough, I didn't find the script effective, and at a full two hours the film felt too long by at least 30 minutes.

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