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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  

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  1. 1. Does The Treasure of the Sierra Madre belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes
      8
    • No
      1

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  • Poll closed on 04/26/19 at 07:00 AM

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Amy & Paul excavate 1948's Humphrey Bogart thriller The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre! They ask if Fred C. Dobbs qualifies as an antihero, look at the wild career of director John Huston, and explore how Treasure inspired everything from Breaking Bad to There Will Be Blood. Plus: film critic extraordinaire Leonard Matin explains how he became a Bogart fan.

 

For Chinatown week, complete the famous line "Forget it Jake, it's ___" with the town of your choice! Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer.Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

Edited by DanEngler

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I might not chime in too much on this film since I'm probably going to be more down on it than everyone else, but I'm halfway through the podcast and Amy and Paul's interpretation of parts of it baffles me.

For one thing, they're talking about how the movie is about greed, and about how Dobbs not taking all of McCormick's money doesn't seem to make sense.  Well, the answer is that the film isn't really about greed.  Amy and Paul mentioned how Howard very heavy-handedly spells out the plot of the movie early on in the saloon, but they've missed when Howard very heavy-handedly spells out the theme of the movie later on: honesty vs trustworthiness.  Dobbs is an honest man, and Howard is not (or so he says).  But Howard is a trustworthy man, and Dobbs is not.  Dobbs only takes the money he's owed because of his honesty, and he never schemes to screw the others out of their money.  He does what he does because he's incapable of trusting the others, and therefore unable to be trusted himself.  But he remains honest, telling Curtin exactly what was going to happen if he fell asleep.

Finally, the bandits are neither honest nor trustworthy, and the film posits that Dobbs is closer in character to them than to Howard.  I would argue that greed is only manifested in the idea of not wanting to lose what one has worked for, which is not greed so much as a lack of charity, or a warped sense of Ayn Randian justice.  (Okay, okay, maybe "Ayn Randian justice" does count as greed, but hopefully you can see my point.)

Again, part of why I don't like the film is that this is so heavy-handed and overly simplistic, so I was shocked that Amy and Paul seemed to read it differently.

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3 hours ago, bleary said:

I might not chime in too much on this film since I'm probably going to be more down on it than everyone else, but I'm halfway through the podcast and Amy and Paul's interpretation of parts of it baffles me.

For one thing, they're talking about how the movie is about greed, and about how Dobbs not taking all of McCormick's money doesn't seem to make sense.  Well, the answer is that the film isn't really about greed.  Amy and Paul mentioned how Howard very heavy-handedly spells out the plot of the movie early on in the saloon, but they've missed when Howard very heavy-handedly spells out the theme of the movie later on: honesty vs trustworthiness.  Dobbs is an honest man, and Howard is not (or so he says).  But Howard is a trustworthy man, and Dobbs is not.  Dobbs only takes the money he's owed because of his honesty, and he never schemes to screw the others out of their money.  He does what he does because he's incapable of trusting the others, and therefore unable to be trusted himself.  But he remains honest, telling Curtin exactly what was going to happen if he fell asleep.

Finally, the bandits are neither honest nor trustworthy, and the film posits that Dobbs is closer in character to them than to Howard.  I would argue that greed is only manifested in the idea of not wanting to lose what one has worked for, which is not greed so much as a lack of charity, or a warped sense of Ayn Randian justice.  (Okay, okay, maybe "Ayn Randian justice" does count as greed, but hopefully you can see my point.)

Again, part of why I don't like the film is that this is so heavy-handed and overly simplistic, so I was shocked that Amy and Paul seemed to read it differently.

I haven't listened to the ep yet, but I might be with you on this. And I'm totally with you on the honesty/trustworthiness bit. Dobbs goes mad, not because he's greedy, but because his inability to trust leads to mad conspiracy theories about what the others are up to, likely based on his own ideas of what he'd do if he were greedy. 

I didn't not enjoy this one, but I don't think I find it that great. Everything is so blatantly explained and foreshadowed, that it feels a bit empty to me. But I do see its influence. And I liked the performances in it, generally.  

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4 hours ago, bleary said:

For one thing, they're talking about how the movie is about greed, and about how Dobbs not taking all of McCormick's money doesn't seem to make sense.  Well, the answer is that the film isn't really about greed.

I don't know, I think there's another way to read this. He doesn't take all of the money then because the guy is still alive and people are watching, but when he's alone in the jungle he feels freer to just murder his companion and take all the gold. If anything, this scene serves as a misdirect to make us think Dobbs might be kind of a good guy at heart, but really he's just barely maintaining a civilized face while still surrounded by society. His darker instincts come to the fore when he's removed from that.

I find the filmmaking in this kind of surface-simple (the dialogue and the filmmaking style are very straightforward and obvious), but the more you think about the story and where the characters go the more complex it seems. Did Dobbs go mad because of his nature or because of the influence of having all that gold at hand? Little of both? How much? Did the others maintain their moral stances because of their natures, or because they are reacting to Dobbs? I'm not sure the film actually gives you an easy answer on that.

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I’m listening to the episode right now, and I’m trying to word this carefully as I can as I don’t want to come off as too critical. Please understand, I’m not trying to be an asshole. Just something I wanted to get off my chest.

So, I love the show. I love the hosts. But what kind of disappoints me is that when they choose quotes from listeners, whether it be from here, Facebook, or Twitter, it feels like lately they’ve only been choosing from people that agree with them. I’m not saying that shouldn't ever pick posts that agree with them, nor am I suggesting that they should only pick posts that disagree. And I really don’t feel they should have to relitigate their position at the top of every episode. I guess I just feel like if you say, “Most people disagreed with us” then it’s a bit lame to go out and pick out posts that agree with you. We’ve already heard you speak for over an hour about why you think such and such movie deserves or doesn’t deserve to be on the list. And that’s great, that’s why we’re here, but in order for people to grow they sometimes need to have their assumptions challenged. In my experience, Unspooled listeners tend to be an intelligent lot and it would be nice to hear other points of view rather than the just the same points of view reiterated.

Of course, this is just my opinion. Others may feel differently.

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I feel like there have been times where they have read off quotes from people who disagree, though I'd have to go back through to come up with a specific example.

But yeah, there was such a significant disagreement in both the Facebook and Earwolf Board polls that it was a little weird to not read off any of that.

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4 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I feel like there have been times where they have read off quotes from people who disagree, though I'd have to go back through to come up with a specific example.

But yeah, there was such a significant disagreement in both the Facebook and Earwolf Board polls that it was a little weird to not read off any of that.

Oh yeah, they definitely have. It just feels like it’s been awhile. I could be wrong. I’d just like to hear multiple opinions/viewpoints and at least get their brief take on that, rather than them just repeat what they’ve already said.

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I have to admit, I’m kind of sad they’re doing away with the Zocchihedron. I get why they’re doing it, but I really enjoyed the randomness of the picks. 

It also means that we probably won’t get Star Wars out of the way until Rise of Skywalker - which bums me out. I love Star Wars, but I am sick to death of talking about Star Wars - for good or ill. I was really hoping to get it out of the way sooner rather than later. Oh well...

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On 4/18/2019 at 11:47 PM, bleary said:

I might not chime in too much on this film since I'm probably going to be more down on it than everyone else, but I'm halfway through the podcast and Amy and Paul's interpretation of parts of it baffles me.

For one thing, they're talking about how the movie is about greed, and about how Dobbs not taking all of McCormick's money doesn't seem to make sense.  Well, the answer is that the film isn't really about greed. 

 

Making my way through the movies/podcasts after a long break. (Not by choice, just Life. I don't know how all y'all have time to watch so many movies. It's impressive and I'm jealous :)

The above comment is SO right, and I have to feel disappointed in the hosts as well. This film has long been one of my favorites, probably because when I was young I thought I stumbled onto some mysterious subtext like I was prophet with sudden epiphany, ready to grab others by the collar and shout with wild eyes "don't you get it?! It's NOT about the treasure at all!"   

It's about selfishness, not greed. About individualism versus community. Dobbs is so consumed by being an individual, and proudly so, that he can't even look others in the eye when asking for help. He slowly builds a community but is consumed and ultimately destroyed by protecting his Self. The key turning point is when Dobbs demands that the gold be split three ways. There is no turning back from that point, which creates the atmosphere of ever-growing existential dread.

And it's community that "saves" our other heroes in the end. As problematic as it might be in our 2019 perspective, essentially the others give up on the gold and choose instead to find fulfillment in others. Hobson returns to a community of locals, and Bob "returns" to a farm and family.   

I guess what's doubly disappointing is that the theme of the dangers of individualism is very resonant for our political times these days. It's important not to miss such stuff in our art.  

 

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Paul mentioned something about how this film might work on the stage, and I totally had multiple thoughts along those lines when re-watching the film this time. As a drama teacher and amateur player, I've been more conscious of this lately. I can see so many ways to emphasize the themes, tension, etc by staging it. That being said, one of the reasons I place this movie so high on my personal AFI ranking is that the setting plays such a crucial role. It could have been pushed more, cinematically, perhaps, but there is a lot of specific attention given to personifying the mountain while also placing the camera in medium and close shots to lend intimacy to the characters. Ultimately, it would lose a lot if transferring to the stage, whereas some other films, like say Sophie's Choice, wouldn't have such a problem.   

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A sort of petty problem that I noticed that the podcast barely touched on- gold is really, really dense. Like double what lead is, as I recall. Gold dust probably couldn’t even be blown away by a serious storm. In fact, sometimes wind is used as a way to separate gold from dirt, because it’s so difficult to blow away.

if that’s correct, than the best that the storm could have done was blow regular dirt on top of the piles of gold, covering them. But it’s not like they haven’t uncovered gold from under dirt before.

Or am I just too caught up on technical details?

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4 hours ago, CaptainAmazing said:

A sort of petty problem that I noticed that the podcast barely touched on- gold is really, really dense. Like double what lead is, as I recall. Gold dust probably couldn’t even be blown away by a serious storm. In fact, sometimes wind is used as a way to separate gold from dirt, because it’s so difficult to blow away.

if that’s correct, than the best that the storm could have done was blow regular dirt on top of the piles of gold, covering them. But it’s not like they haven’t uncovered gold from under dirt before.

Or am I just too caught up on technical details?

You're probably right that the wind as depicted in the movie would not blow the gold dust as depicted in the movie in that manner.  But if the wind were strong enough and the particles of gold dust were small enough, it is possible that it could scatter the gold far and wide so as to be a hardship to reattain.  So imagine that happened.

It's like the door in Titanic.  Mythbusters did a show in which they showed it was likely that a door of the size depicted in the film could be rigged with the materials they had to support two people.  They told James Cameron and his response was basically, "So imagine the door in the film is the size so that it can't support two people."  The mechanics of the film need a thing to happen, and if the mechanics of physics allow that to happen under some circumstances, just imagine that those are the circumstances at play.  Some people can suspend their disbelief enough for this, and some people can't.

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19 hours ago, bleary said:

You're probably right that the wind as depicted in the movie would not blow the gold dust as depicted in the movie in that manner.  But if the wind were strong enough and the particles of gold dust were small enough, it is possible that it could scatter the gold far and wide so as to be a hardship to reattain.  So imagine that happened.

It's like the door in Titanic.  Mythbusters did a show in which they showed it was likely that a door of the size depicted in the film could be rigged with the materials they had to support two people.  They told James Cameron and his response was basically, "So imagine the door in the film is the size so that it can't support two people."  The mechanics of the film need a thing to happen, and if the mechanics of physics allow that to happen under some circumstances, just imagine that those are the circumstances at play.  Some people can suspend their disbelief enough for this, and some people can't.

That’s a pretty good answer. There was definitely something unusual about this gold in that it could somehow be mistaken for sand. Maybe it was a lot of really tiny bits of dust that they could only separate from the dirt so well in their makeshift sluce.

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