The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1947)

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Released 2-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Eric Lax (Biographer)
Featurette-Discovering Treasure: The Story Of (49:59)
Listing-Cast & Crew
Awards
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:43)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1947
Running Time 120:58 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By John Huston
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Walter Huston
Tim Holt
Bruce Bennett
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Max Steiner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

And so, chronologically speaking, we get to the last of the films making up The Bogart Collection - Two - and one of the best. Indeed, so good that when the American Film Institute came to decide upon the Top 100 films of the twentieth century, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre came in at number 30. This was a film that had a fairly long gestation and whilst efforts were made with the film during the Second World War, production seems to have been stymied deliberately in order to await the return from the services of director John Huston. He had long been a fan of the book, by the mysterious B. Traven, and prior to going into the services had made a couple of attempts at a screenplay. Given the masterpiece he turned out, it seems strange that anyone else was even contemplated for the film.

By this time of course, Humphrey Bogart was a well established star and had signed a new contract with Warner Bros. that guaranteed him $200,000 a picture (given the amount talentless jerks are now paid for lousy half hour sitcom episodes, this is worth about $100,000,000 in today's terms). He was also given control over directors and screenwriters, and one of those directors named was John Huston. There were also some named films in his contract - and one of those was The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. Humphrey Bogart was therefore already set for the part that has produced what many argue is his finest performance ever - Fred C. Dodds. However, the other cast members were a little more problematic to cast. Eventually the choice for Howard was settled upon as Walter Huston. Cries of nepotism you say, since he was John Huston's father? No way - he was a well known actor and a d*** fine one. The role of Howard gave him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1949 and it was thoroughly deserved. He was nominated for an Oscar four times and this was the only one he won. The film is the one for which he is most often known, with good reason. Tim Holt was a B-grade movie star and the choice for the role of Bob Curtin. A much different actor in both style and appearance to either Humphrey Bogart or Walter Huston, the casting was inspired as it produced a very divergent range of characters on-screen. It was undoubtedly his finest moment on film, but did not generate for him the leap from B-grade film to stardom. After his almost non-entity role in Dark Passage, it seems rather odd that his very next role saw Bruce Bennett not only teamed up with Humphrey Bogart again but again playing an almost non-entity role. Whilst this time he had a bit more influence on things, it sure was not a whole lot more.

With a very well crafted story, a very well cast collection of characters and the three main actors turning in arguably career best performances to complement perhaps the best directorial performance of the director's career, this was almost a once-in-a-lifetime coming together of all the right elements for turning out a classic film, which this obviously is since it ranks so highly on many a Top 100 film list.

Yet despite even the enthusiasm of the legendary Jack L. Warner himself for the film that he actually did not want to have made, and heavy promotion, the film pretty much tanked at the box office. It would seem that the ever-present dullness of the American viewing public simply did not want to see Bogart playing such an unsympathetic character. Now let me see if I get this straight - they loved him playing the gangster, shooting people to death with little rhyme or reason, they loved him making out with some hot chick but simply did not want to know him as a down-on-your-luck person succumbing to the glitter of gold. Don't ask me why this was so - I found more sympathy with the ever-increasingly unbalanced Fred C. Dodds than any number of those earlier characters he played. Whilst the audiences stayed away in droves, at least the critics pegged the film right with almost universal acclaim (which might well be the first time that has ever happened).

The passage of time has revealed the film to be the classic it is and it is now very much a film that is evoked by the very name of Humphrey Bogart. As such it is a very fitting way to end The Bogart Collection - Two.

Fred C. Dodds (Humphrey Bogart), a down on his luck American is stuck in Tampico, Mexico trying to raise a buck. He puts the sponge on fellow Americans on the street in order to raise money for a meal. One such touch turns him down but does offer him and another down-on-his-luck American, Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), a job for the princely recompense of $8 per day. It sounds too good to be true because it turns out to be too good to be true - their benefactor, Pat McCormick (Barton MacLane), often gets Americans with this con and never pays them. This time Dodds and Curtin extract their money, which comes in handy when they decide to go prospecting for gold after listening to an old-timer, Howard (Walter Huston), spouting about it in the local flophouse where they spent the evening. By pooling their resources, they manage to raise $500, but they need more. This fortuitously arrives in the form of a wining lottery ticket that Dodds had bought off a pesky local kid. So with money and enthusiasm, they head off in search of the untouched wilderness where they will seek their fortune. Of course, finding fortune is not going to be easy, especially when Dodds in particular starts casting wary eyes over his partners. And that is even before worrying about the local banditos, quite ready to separate them from money, clothing, burros and whatever else they can grab. With everything, including themselves, ready to deny them their fortune, the Sierra Madre might just provide them with good fortune - providing they can trust each other long enough to dig it out.

One of the genuinely great classics that Humphrey Bogart made, this is an essential film for any collection, Since it is only available in the box set however, you will have to endure it with a couple of other great films. Gee, life is tough sometimes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Of all the films in The Bogart Collection, this is the only one that has quite obviously been subjected to a full restoration. The result is a most amazing looking transfer that really sparkles at times. At times you would be able to compare this to the very best that The Criterion Collection produces without fear of being ridiculed. It is amazing how much difference a transfer of this quality can make in how easily a review session goes. This one was real easy.

The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format that accords with the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 pretty well. It is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

What the restoration has done is left us with a film that certainly looks as good now as it did when first released. Whilst there might be the odd quibble about it being just a tad overbright, what we have here is a very sharp and wonderfully detailed image that makes the most of the location shooting whilst also not giving away too many clues as to the sound stage shot bits. Shadow detail is very good, although obviously to heighten the suspense at times the image has been deliberately kept a little darker. Clarity is wonderful with very little in the way of grain noted, and even when it is present (mainly in some of those night-time scenes) it remains at very low levels. There is nothing in the way of low level noise in the transfer.

The black and white tones are very good too with some nice depth to the blacks and whites. Indeed, the white clothing that Walter Huston is wearing towards the end of the film in the Mexican village could almost pass muster for inclusion in one of those washing detergent commercials. Tonal contrast is very good and the transfer is generally quite vibrant - certainly more than usual for a black and white film of this age.

There were no obvious MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although some inherent resolution loss is seen in the source material (the reputed cameo of Ann Sheridan at the beginning of the film for instance is a little blurry if you step forward frame by frame). There were very few indications of any real issues with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Aliasing is hardly an issue, although some instances of cross colouration are noted - notably in the shirt at 23:38 and 83:15. In fact, these were the only times I felt the need to make any notes, so anything else present must be rather minor indeed. The restoration has virtually returned the image to a pristine state, with only the odd mildew blemish still to be seen, aside from rather obvious white blobs on the image at 41:40 and 91:01. Most film artefacts seen are of the very small speck variety that barely get any notice.

This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change occurring at 58:06. Once again I could not note the layer change during playback and it was only found during the checking and confirming of the DVD specifications on my computer.

There are ten subtitle options on the DVD. The English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are very good efforts, with barely any lapses noted in the dialogue. Interestingly, the Mexican dialogue does not always have subtitles to assist with understanding what is going on.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There are the four soundtracks on the DVD, which is quite a difference to the previous new releases in the two box sets. One of them is an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack of course, but what of the other? It is a French Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack to add to the usual English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack and Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack. I listened to the English soundtrack in full and about 75% of the Audio Commentary.

It might be mono but it is restored mono by the sounds of it. There is certainly nothing wrong with the dialogue and it is easy to understand, other than where it was supposed to be otherwise. There are no problems with audio sync in the transfer.

The original score is from Max Steiner, another of those renowned score composers from the 1930's and 1940's who turned out many of the great scores of the era. This one is very good indeed, even if it does go a little over the top at times - I am not sure that Max Steiner could ever be accused of understatement! Still, in general terms it does a terrific job of supporting the film.

At normal listening levels, this is undoubtedly the best of the new releases in the two box sets from an audio point of view. There is very little evidence of any sort of hiss, and certainly nothing in the way of any other problems like stridency or drop-outs. Thankfully the restoration has been very true to the original intent of the sound and simply has been used to remove the blemishes and freshen up the mono sound a little. The dialogue as a result has a bit more presence, as do some of the sound effects, but in an entirely natural, sympathetic way.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

So we get to the eighth DVD in the two box sets making up The Bogart Collection - and we finally get something truly worthwhile, something to really drill home exactly what we missed on the other seven DVDs.

Well, truly worthwhile until such time as you wander down to the R1 vs R4 section...

Menu

Slightly different in style to the other new releases in the two box sets, perhaps a little less decent to look at but with adequate audio enhancement.

Audio Commentary - Eric Lax (Biographer)

Whilst I will admit to not listening to the entire commentary (aside from hating these things as you well know, the review session was conducted whilst I was not very well and I was simply not up to watching the film twice in rapid succession), this one is very informative indeed, if rather dryly presented. Eric Lax obviously has a pile of background information about the people involved in the film, as well as the production itself, and tries to communicate as much as he can! If you don't discover a whole raft of stuff about the film from this effort, as well as about the Warner Bros. studio and the mysterious B. Traven, then you simply are not paying any attention whatsoever.

Featurette - Discovering Treasure: The Story Of The Treasure Of the Sierra Madre (49:59)

So there I was expecting another of those interesting but slightly too short featurettes that have graced the previous new releases in the two box sets. Nearly fifty minutes later and there is no way that this is in the same vein at all. This is what we have truly missed on those earlier new releases! With a wealth of information contributed by the likes of Martin Scorsese (you know who he is right?), Rudy Behlmer, Leonard Maltin, Robert Osborne, Bob Thomas (all film historians), Judy Stone (author of the book The Mystery Of B. Traven), Evelyn Keyes (John Huston's wife at the time of the making of the film) and Eric Lax (Bogey's biographer), this is essential stuff that fills in a vast amount of background to not just this film but the careers of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, along with Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Bruce Bennett. Wonderful, wonderful stuff that is tremendously satisfying as well as tremendously annoying - why could the other films not get this sort of treatment? The presentation is in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, with the audio being Dolby Digital 2.0. There are selectable English, Italian, French and Dutch subtitles. There is some aliasing to found, especially in the photographs, but nothing really annoying. Surprisingly, there are some outtakes included in the featurette too.

Listing - Cast and Crew

Exactly what it says it is. One day someone will be able to explain to me the point of simply repeating in part the information already seen in the credits to the film and set out in the booklet included in the box set. Where are the biographies and the filmographies?

Awards

Four pages of text listing out some of the accolades given the film including the three 1949 Oscars (Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor), three 1949 Golden Globes and so on.

Theatrical Trailer (2:13)

Err, you just might get the idea that Humphrey Bogart stars in the film and John Huston directed the film from the trailer! One thing stands out about this trailer - just how good it looks. This is certainly one of those rare instances where the theatrical trailer as well as the feature film have been subjected to full restoration. Of excellent quality, I doubt you have seen a film trailer of this age look quite so good. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (although it is windowboxed in that ratio), it is not 16x9 enhanced and features very decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are no subtitles.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Released late in 2003, Region 1 has a two disc Special Edition version of the DVD. In comparison to that release, the Region 4 is woefully lacking the following essential inclusions:

You seriously expect me to say anything nice about the package Warners have foisted on Region 4 when that veritable treasure trove of additional extras is being deprived us? What do we get instead? A couple of language soundtracks we don't really need and a bunch of subtitles that could cheerfully have been lost. Another travesty of the highest order from a major distributor.

In Region 2, the DVD is only available as a part of their version of The Bogart Collection Volume 2 - partnered with To Have And Have Not and They Drive By Night. Staggeringly, in the promotional release for that set, the DVD is actually referred to as a Special Edition. Do they really think that people are that stupid that they don't know the lack of content of the Region 2/Region 4 release compared to the genuine Special Edition available in Region 1? This comparison is so far in favour of the utterly superb Region 1 Special Edition that the Region 2 and Region 4 versions don't even leave the starting gate. In fact, they probably have not even made the starting gate.

Summary

Even the legendary hard man Jack L. Warner called The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre the best film that Warner Bros. had ever made. That it was hardly a box office success says more about the stupefying idiocy and dullness of the American cinema-going public, who only wanted to see a real Humphrey Bogart film (lots of gangsters, beautiful dames and happy endings), rather than the quality of the film itself. Naturally you find none of those things in this gritty, down-to-earth (literally) drama played out in the mountains of Mexico. That the film survived the initial hammering at the box office and came to be regarded as one of the greatest American films of all time is sufficient proof of how good the film really was. It features what many consider the finest performance of Humphrey Bogart on film - and makes one ponder why he never even got nominated for the Best Actor Oscar of 1948. It was a film that John Huston was born to make and it is rightly regarded as amongst his finest, if not the finest work he ever did (and considering some of the films he did make, it is no small accolade). Warner Bros. have shown the film the care it deserves with a remarkably good restoration that has left the video transfer almost breathtaking in its quality at times. The audio might not be quite in the same league but for its age it is still remarkable. On the face of it we have an excellent extras package - at least until you see how much more is available in Region 1. Up until that extras package, The Bogart Collection Two was an essential purchase simply for this film alone (let alone the other excellent films it contains) but once you see that travesty then it really horrendously diminishes the worth of this DVD and hence the whole package. We can but hope that Warner Home Video see fit to redeem themselves with a reissue of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre in a full two disc Special Edition.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, April 05, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Missing Treasures? -
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Extras? -
If anyone from Warners Australia reads this - garumph (read my bio)
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