DK’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a story in the Joseph Conrad tradition, using western-adventure not as an end in itself but as a test of its character. Even though the first impression of this film is about the adventure of looking for treasure in a mountain in the Tampico, Mexico, nevertheless there is a particular implication in this point. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre involves a moral contradiction between a wise old man and a paranoid middle-aged man, and a young man who is forced to choose sides. Broadly speaking, this film does take us to the battle of the human soul when it comes to wealth. Gold can become a curse, turn people into evil. Suspecting comrades, betraying a friend to the point of killing a comrade in arms is a "curse" rather than glittering gold.
Tells the story of two desperate beggars named Dobbs and Curtin, one day they meet a mining expert old man, Howard, at a cheap inn. After Dobbs luck won the lottery of 200 pesos which was enough money to buy some mining equipment, the three of them finally decided to dig for gold in Tampico. Their adventure is not without obstacles, apart from the long and tiring journey, the three of them also have to set about the risk of encountering “bandits” who can rob them of their ‘goods’ at any time.
Since the beginning, Howard had warned Dobbs and Curtin that meditating gold could mess with the human soul, so that the person was not the same person before he got it, in other words, wealth could blind human reason and conscience. Technically, every scene in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre intriguing the viewer's sights. There is never a dull or lagging moment. Three characters at some time in their life may ascend and newcomers attack in search of wealth or at least enough to live better than before. The three of them had to deal with lawlessness in central Mexico at the time; bandits literally roam the country killing anyone with stuff, and taking the thing away. Federales is the violent solution to the problem of violence, killing bandits after a brief decision and bandits have dug their own graves. So the three main characters don't only have to worry about bandits after getting gold, they also have to worry about the darkness of their own souls.
John Huston insisted on shooting on location in Mexico, which angered studio executives, but the image quality paid off. Using a real-life setting, Huston perfectly achieves the cruel, dusty atmosphere of the poverty-stricken Mexican city in its earliest scene. The sense of scale and grandeur of the mountains in the main part of the film is also very important to get the right effect. Huston's background is in fine arts, and it was at this point in his career as a director that it really started to show. His use of lighting is exquisite in a way that is almost impossible to achieve in black and white, he also has this unique framing style, where he uses the figures in the foreground and background to give close-up and mid-shot effects at the same time.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is really one of the greatest treasures of the Hollywood Golden Age that we can witness its brilliance until now. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an in-depth look at human greed and into the human soul. And as a film, The Treasure of Sierra Madre will stand as an artistic landmark for all of film history with its great character study.