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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Special Edition

The critical firmament is in near total agreement on John Huston's paean to the destructive power of greed; ergo, it is precisely in the face of such allegedly inarguable greatness that the determinedly independent thinker often expects to find a wild, streaking emperor. Look elsewhere. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) is the goods, a model of clean narrative invention, unimpeachably great acting, and unfussy direction so devoid of ostentation, the viewer is immersed in the story without ever feeling the need to utter "great shot." This is not to say the film isn't shot through with visual genius — it is, but its money-shots are economical transitions or subtle framing best appreciated on repeat viewings. Until that level of familiarity is reached, it's merely one of the bleakest assessments of human nature to ever escape Hollywood's conforming grasp. While critical enthusiasm has not dimmed in the decades since the film's release, there's still a sense that Sierra Madre is beloved more by the buffs than the casual fan. This is likely attributable to the quick deterioration of its ostensible protagonist, Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), a descent made all the more jarring by the intensity of Bogart's fearless performance, the uniqueness of which is the real reason the film sticks in memory. Bogart's portrayal of Dobbs is perhaps the finest example of a movie star fearlessly going against type in the history of film. Nearing his level of brilliance is Walter Huston, the director's father, as Howard, the grizzled old prospector who leads Dobbs and another fortune hunter named Curtin (Tim Holt) into the baking Mexican back-country searching for that most corrupting of all treasures: gold. Along the way, they encounter a nosy, calculating plunderer, Cody (Bruce Bennett), and a murderous swarm of banditos led by the smiling Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya), who gets the film's famous (and famously misquoted) line about not needing to show any "stinking badges." The film is a smart, nearly uncompromising depiction of human avarice, and it's never less than wildly entertaining thanks to Huston's sure hand. Warner's special edition DVD of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre offers a full-screen transfer (1.33:1) that looks positively stunning. Audio comes in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0, and it is similarly impressive. The extras on this two-disc set are mouth watering, and it's a pleasure to report that they're immensely satisfying and entertaining from top to bottom. Disc One offers up a commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax, a "Warner Night at the Movies, 1948" option (25 min.), which allows the viewer to experience the film as it would've been viewed a half-century ago by watching a theatrical trailer, a newsreel, a comedy short subject and a Merrie Melodies cartoon. Also on Disc One is a Humphrey Bogart trailer gallery. Disc Two features the exhaustive documentary "John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick" (128 min.), and the shorter "Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (50 min.) There's also the classic Looney Tunes short "8 Ball Bunny," in which Fred C. Dobbs is used as a running joke, and the Lux Radio Theater 1949 broadcast of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, to which Bogart and Huston lend their voices. Rounding out the disc are several galleries. Dual-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Clarence Beaks

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