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Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, the

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    Ian Jane
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  • Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, the

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    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 10/05/2010
    Director: John Huston
    Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett
    Year: 1948

    The Movie:

    One of a few classic collaborations between esteemed director John Huston and leading man Humphrey Bogart, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre follows Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), a drifter who wanders into 1920's era Mexico and eventually teams up with a young man named Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) and an aging prospector named Howard (Walter Huston). They head towards the mountains of the Sierra Madre hoping to strike it rich and find the gold that's rumored to be out there, but as they get closer and closer to their goal, greed and selfishness give way to increasing paranoia and distrust amongst the three men.

    Combining that wanderlust that makes much of Huston's location films so interesting with the increasing claustrophobia and paranoia that the characters experience makes for a pretty interesting movie. The acting is all top notch, and if Bogart is a little bit typecast here, so be it, he plays tough guys well. His interaction with Holt and Walter Huston, the director's father, is obviously integral to making the film work and as it's completely believable here, the movie winds up working incredibly well. On top of that, it fits in well with a lot of the themes that permeate some of Huston's other films, particularly the 'men on a quest' storyline and dusty setting.

    Shot primarily on location, the film has exactly the right look for the story that it's trying to tell, giving the picture a welcome air of authenticity and plenty of local flavor. You'll believe that the Federales and the bandits roaming the area, vying for control over the village, are there because they need to be, not because they make for an interesting plot device (though they do). In short, Huston and his team just seem to nail all the little details into place, getting the right atmosphere, the right tone, and exactly the right sort of cinematography and camerawork to get the story unfold properly. The contrasts that the black and white film stock affords give the picture a noirish touch, as Huston's film plays off of natural shadow and light providing a rich image that, like the storyline itself, is ripe with suspense.

    Rightly awarded classic status by most, the picture holds up well even by modern standards. It hasn't aged the way some films have and its themes, dealing with the after effects of corruption and greed, hold true today just as they did over sixty years ago when the picture was made. While this film may stand in the shadows of better known Bogart pictures like Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, it deserves to be recognized alongside those two as one of his best, and so too as one of Huston's best.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Warner Brothers presents The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre in an excellent 1.37.1 fullframe transfer in full 1080p high definition with VC-1 encoding in glorious black and white, just as it should be. In short, the transfer is pretty much perfect. There's a welcome coat of fine film grain present throughout but no serious print damage to note and the improvement in detail, contrast and clarity compared to previous standard definition DVD releases is instantly noticeable, especially in close up shots where you will notice a very substantial upgrade. Texture, too, is very obviously quite well improved over previous offerings. Blacks are nice and strong while whites look smooth and natural, never too hot and never showing any evidence of blooming. There are no noticeable problems with mpeg compression or edge enhancement to complain about. The image has been cleaned up nicely, so that we're left with a strong, sharp, clear picture that never feels overly processed which results in a very film like presentation.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with an optional Spanish Dolby Digital Mono track, English closed captioning, and French and Spanish subtitles, is nice and clear. There is some hiss present that you're going to notice if you're paying attention but other than that, things sound quite good. Dialogue is always easy to follow, there are no problems with any distortion to note, and the score has an appropriate amount of emphasis put on it when the movie calls for it. For an older movie, the audio here is very good.

    Treasure Of The Sierra Madre doesn't get quite the 'extra feature love' that The Maltese Falcon did on Blu-ray but again, WB has carried over a bunch of stuff from the previous DVD special edition starting with a massive two hour plus documentary entitled John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick which was narrated by the great Robert Mitchum. Made up of archival clips and a wealth of interviews conducted with friends, family members and co-workers, this is a ridiculously in-depth and thorough look at the director and his influential and important body of work. Complimenting this documentary nicely is Discovering Treasure: The Story of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a fifty minute look at the making of this particular film that follows its story from the original novel to the finished film we all know and love.

    Rounding out the extras is the Warner Night At The Movies 1948 collection of short (a vintage newsreel, a Joe Doakes short, a vintage cartoon, and a trailer for Key Largo), an audio version of the film that originally played on the radio, and a bonus Bugs Bunny cartoon entitled 8 Ball Bunny, and last but not least, the original theatrical trailer for The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    The Final Word:

    It would have been nice to see WB put some new goodies on the Blu-ray but the magnificent transfer and improved audio alone are reason enough that fans of this particular masterpiece should have no qualms about upgrading from their standard definition DVDs. The film remains as tense and exciting as ever and the Blu-ray is definitely the best way to see it outside of a revival screening.
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