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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

John Huston

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Warner treats its film archives with respect, like the historical documents they are, and this two-disc reissue of the 1948 classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of its jewels. The film, which starred Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt and Walter Houston as prospectors seeking gold in the mountains of remote Mexico, was a storied shoot and a box office disaster, even while it piled up critical acclaim and Oscars for John Huston (for writing and directing) and his father Walter (for supporting actor). In retrospect, despite its status as one of the greatest films ever made, it's a surprise that it got made at all. Bogart, finally coming into his late-blooming life as a superstar, is grimy and unrecognisable, not to mention mean, throughout the film. Its themes of greed, betrayal and paranoia, combined with a downbeat ending, made it a studio headache from the beginning. Writer and director John Huston suspected as much, and thus insisted on shooting most of it on location, a very unusual move at the time, in Mexico — in other words, far from screenings of dailies and more than a quick phone call away from studio executives. It paid off, and Huston was able to complete one of his greatest film accomplishments largely unbothered, despite continuous scheduling overruns. The DVD reissue goes all out not only on the film but on Huston's career. In addition to Discovering Treasure, an hour-long documentary about the film, we get The Man, The Movies, The Maverick, Frank Martin's fascinating 1989 feature documentary about Huston's bombastic personality and spotty filmmaking career. A full-length commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax is intelligent, considered and full of fascinating anecdotal quips along with some studied analysis of the film — a rarity in these days of disinterested actors and directors silently watching through their commentary opportunities. Add to that Warner Looney Tunes parodies, newsreels, a recreation of a 1948 Warner "Night At the Movies" and this is more treasure trove than bitter disappointment blowing away in a desert storm. Plus: Lux Radio Theater broadcast, photo galleries, storyboards. (Warner)
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