BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Screenplay info
Written by: John Huston, based on B. Traven's novel
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0040897
Filmsite.org link: http://www.filmsite.org/trea.html

Synopsis
Film opens with Dobbs tearing up losing lottery ticket. He asks an American for money, who refuses and throws away his cigarette. A bootblack gets to the cigarette first. Dobbs asks a man in a white suit for money, gets some. He buys cigarettes, eats, throws water into face of lottery boy, but ends up buying 1/20 of ticket.

Dobbs offers cigarette to other guy on bench, Curtin. They talk about the lack of jobs in Tampico (Mexico).

Dobbs panhandles again from white suit as the latter gets a shoeshine. Dobbs gets a haircut, looks at a prostitute, sees he doesn't have enough money for lodging. (shows what he spends his money on) He again panhandles from white suit, who upbraids him.

Dobbs hits up McCormick, who offers job instead putting up rigging He and Curtin are among group who work in the jungle (sweating, hot, 16-18 hours a day). McCormick promises pay in Tampico. On landing, McCormick gives Dobbs and Curtin ten pesos, says will meet later but doesn't show. Other man clues them in.

Dobbs and Curtin get cots, overhear Howard talking about gold, greed, losing sense of values. Howard would still go, preferably alone. "As long as there's no find, the noble brotherhood will last, but when the piles begin to grow, that's when the trouble starts."

Dobbs and Curtin talk about gold. Dobbs: "The way I see it, gold can be as much of a blessing as a curse." They spot McCormick, who buys drinks, offers another job. They insist on being paid. He hits, they fight him in relays, eventually overcome him, he pays up.

Dobbs and Curtin discuss prospects. They decide to try gold-digging (no risker than job-hunting, gold plentiful, living cheaper), decide to talk to Howard. Dobbs thinks Howard too old to actually go. Howard says he'll go. Seems they don't have enough money for supplies, but a lottery boy spots Dobbs and asks for his 10 percent of winning ticket. Dobbs puts up his 200 pesos winnings for Curtin. "So put'er there ... partner."

Dobbs, Howard and Curtin on train. Howard talks about terrain (no trail). Bandits, including Gold Hat, attack, but are repulsed by soldiers on train. Dobbs boasts about kills (already competitive with others).

At general store, Howard discusses map with storekeeper -- tough terrain, deadly insects, huge snakes, etc. Dobbs picks out clothes (belt with fancy buckle). They get burros.

They climb a mountain. Howard is fine, other two are exhausted. Dobbs thinks he spots gold, but Howard sets them straight. There is gold around, but not enough to be worth effort. He also says not to waste water, it can be even more precious than gold.

The three walk. They are hit by a norther (flying sand). Terrain obstacle and enemy.

They use machetes to hack trail through brush. Dobbs cries, wants to give up. Howard mocks them, other two think he's nuts, Howard points out gold. It looks like sand. Howard plans how to set camp, go for supplies to hide site from discovery.

They build water wheel for sifting dirt. Dobbs thanks Howard for teaching them -- he'd thought it was all in the finding.

Howard weighs dust. Dobbs: when will start dividing? Curtin says there's no point. Dobbs: should divide as they go along. Howard points out he's the most trustworthy of the three. Once pile is big enough, would be tempting to pack up and leave. Howard: not as fast as you two, so most trustworthy. Also points out that will eventually have to hide shares, and be on watch. "Only I know what sort of ideas even supposedly decent people can get in their heads when gold's at stake."

Part of the ceiling in Dobbs' tunnel collapses on him. Curtin hesitates, comes back, pulls Dobbs out. "I owe you my life, partner." "Forget it." Which Dobbs does later.

Gold is being split up. Dobbs goes to hide his share. Howard, Curtin discuss plans. Howard: find business, settle down, no more prospecting. Curtin: buy land, grow peaches. Dobbs: Turkish bath, haircut and shave, new clothes, swell cafe, dame(s). Howard: let's put limit on take. They argue. Dobbs wants higher limit, says he'd have right to demand more because he put up more. Curtin gives gold to Dobbs, but Dobbs throws it into the fire. They decide on $40,000 each or six months. Curtin goes to hide his gold.

Dobbs wakes up, to find Howard's blankets empty. Suspicious, he goes looking, confronts Howard, who says he went to check on burros. Dobbs checks on his gold. Curtin wakes, sees Dobbs gone, checks on his gold. Dobbs back, sees Curtin gone, starts to go, Curtin enters. Howard tells them both to relax.

Dobbs talks to himself as he washes sand. He's paranoid. "Can't catch me sleeping." He blows up at Howard: why send him to village? Other two are plotting against him. Howard tries to reason with him, but gets nowhere -- Dobbs answers each explanation with a new plot.

Curtin sees Gila monster, which hides under a rock. Curtin tries to lift the rock. Dobbs thinks he's going for Dobbs' gold, threatens to shoot Curtin, doesn't believe story about Gila monster. Dobbs hesitates to put his hand under rock. Curtin mocks him, Dobbs raises his gun, but Howard knocks it up and Curtin disarms him. Howard turns the rock over, revealing the Gila monster, which Curtin shoots through the head.

Curtin, in village to buy supplies, sees an officer talking to the villagers, and other soldiers guarding some men. Cody, another American, translates: these are some of the railroad bandits. Bandits are executed. Cody follows Curtin as he buys supplies, asking questions. Curtin says he's hunting, and that there's no gold in them thar hills. Cody says he wants company, but Curtin says not to follow him.

Curtin goes back to camp, followed by Cody. The three talk about how to handle situation. Cody shows up. They say share food for one night, but best be getting on in morning -- no gold here. When alone, the three talk about getting rid of him. Howard says they'll take turns at watch (Dobbs the most worried). Howard, naturally, goes to sleep.

Dobbs wakes, finds Cody has taken water for coffee. Dobbs hits Cody. Howard says Cody should leave, but Cody asserts right to say. Cody says options are to kill him (can't kill everyone), run him off (he'd inform), or take him on as partner for future profits. Alone, the three talk. In film, Dobbs and Curtin vote for killing. In screenplay, Curtin demurs. Both are interrupted by Cody's shout, alert of men. Dobbs thinks it's an informer's trick, but others realize men are bandits. Howard organizes defense in trench.

Bandits come into camp, spot Dobbs. Gold Hat tries to pose as a Federale. "I don't have to show you any stinking badges." Gold Hat tries to get Dobbs' gun, offers watch. Howard shoots. Bandits still think Dobbs is alone, approach trench. All four shoot, kill two bandits.

Bandits try a night attack, are repulsed. Cody is killed.

Bandits make moving barricades, but up and leave. Again, Dobbs suspects a trick. Soldiers come, go after bandits.

Howard looks at Cody's belongings. Dobbs looks at picture (a look Curtin doesn't like). Howard reads a letter from Cody's wife (mentions kid, lovely country).

Howard measures gold -- getting less and less. They decide to call it quits (have upwards of $35,000 each). They make mountain look as it was before, burn water system, load burros. Each man will be responsible for his own.

Curtin proposes giving Cody's widow 1/4 of goods. Howard amenable, Dobbs thinks they're nuts. Indians arrive, ask help for unresponsive boy. Howard goes, cures boy with artificial respiration, hot towels, and tequila. Later, Indians return, insist on thanking Howard properly. Dobbs says for him to go and stay a few days, will meet him in Durango, they'll take care of packs for him (otherwise Howard would be easy to rob). Curtin gives Howard receipt for gold.

Dobbs, Curtin struggle without Howard's help. They argue about stopping. Dobbs: let's take everything and head north. Curtin: no, I'll defend him. Dobbs thinks Curtin's plotting, goes to take Curtin's gun, but Curtin hits him and disarms him. Curtin: better to separate? Dobbs: that'd suit you just fine.

During the day, sleepless Curtin stumbles. At night, he falls asleep. Dobbs takes his gun and kicks him awake, then shoots him twice and leaves him for dead. Again, he's talking to himself about conscience, how to make things look.

Dobbs is traveling by himself, finding it hard going. More talking to himself. He goes back to remove and bury Cody's clothes, only to find the body gone. He convinces himself that a tiger dragged Curtin away.

Indian finds injured Cody.

One of Dobbs' burros is too exhausted to go on. Dobbs must lighten load, decides one water bottle is enough.

Howard is living the life of Riley. He is told about Curtin, and is taken to him.

Dobbs looks for the Rio de la Saucella, finds it's dried up.

Howard takes care of Curtin, who explains what happened. Howard says Dobbs is as honest as next fellow -- he himself would've been tempted. They ride after Dobbs.

Dobbs is dust-covered and dazed, exhausted. He finds water, is found by Gold Hat and others. He tries to bluff them (not alone, carrying hides), tries to shoot, but gun's empty (Curtin had taken out cartridges). Dobbs is killed. Gold Hat takes his belt, other two argue about rest of clothng. They think gold is sand, empty sacks.

Bandits go into village to sell burros. The burro boy, then the storekeeper recognize Dobbs' belt and boots. The villagers are summoned. Bandits don't know brands, are captured, taken to Federales and executed.

Howard, Curtin arrive at village. Their goods are restored -- all except for the gold. Howard laughs. He's fixed for life as medicine man. He tells Curtin to sell burros and hides, keep Howard's share, go to see Cody's widow.

Last shot -- sack of gold, intact.

My notes
-- form is that of adventure, but ending is different (no one gets the gold, no characters are heros)
-- greed (no matter what G. Gecko thinks) ain't good. Novel is indictment of capitalism, movie indictment of materialism.
-- lots of close-ups on faces.
- realistic dialogue (except for Howard's speeches, several of which were cut)
-- noticing things off screen, characters' reaction (suspense)

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