“Treasure of the Sierra Madre” won three Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Walter Huston), Best Director (John Huston), and Best Screenplay (John Huston), and is listed as the 30th Greatest Film in the AFI List.
One of writer/director John Huston's greatest films, Warner Bros' 2-disc set is also an unofficial companion piece to “Casablanca,” forming a perfect snapshot of the Humphrey Bogart-John Huston partnership. Each set contains an excellent array of historical and biographical materials, and “Treasure” shines the spotlight on Huston's lengthy career, with an obvious slant on his Warner Bros films.
“Treasure” comes with a Leonard Maltin intro to set up the short features that are worth citing: a hysterical Bugs Bunny cartoon, with our rabbit participating in a brain transplant with a chicken; a vintage newsreel (with a ‘Mummers' parade section, featuring a crowd in minstrel attire); and Richard Bare's witty “Maltese Falcon” spoof, that fans of “Airplane” and other sight-gag comedies will find very enjoyable.
Disc 2 carries the bio material, and it's a good mix of extras that highlight one of Hollywood's most colourful hyphenates. “John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick” was produced in 1988, a year after his death, and expertly combines past and present day interviews with friends, associates, and family members. Hosted by Robert Mitchum, the doc is a bit heavy at 2 hours, yet condensing Huston's life and career in that timeframe is still a tough job; each film deserves a lot of space, and it's a challenge reducing focus on “Moulin Rouge,” so there's some extra room for “The Man Who Would Be King.” What's unique about the doc is its frankness: even Lauren Bacall admits women never really enjoyed an equal social standing with the director, and family members cite some of his failings as a father. Admittedly, the real treats are behind-the-scenes footage from several films, and extracts from rare interviews (including a lengthy portrait done by the CBC, while Huston played Lord of his Scottish manor, during the Sixties.
The making-of doc is another treat, which assembles fans Martin Scorsese, narrator John Milius, and several key production associates from the film and Huston's career. It's a balanced portrait of a wily director who had an executive angel on his side (Henry Blanke), and kept the “Treasure” project out of the hands of other parties until Huston's return from WW II service. Charting the script development, casting, location filming in Mexico, and audience reception, there's also an amusing thread involving “Treasure” author B. Travers; a mysterious anti-Capitalist/anarchist, who may or may not have pretended to be a consultant for the production.
Co-author (with A.M. Sperber) of the 1997 biography “Bogart,” Eric Lax ties together disparate production elements with pertinent bio material, and while there's some overlap, Lax gives a balanced portrait of the film as a rare location production, and concise bio sketches of the cast and crew.
Warner Bros has a long history of spoofing itself, its stars, its blockbusters, and massive music catalogue via cartoons, and “Eight Ball Bunny” is the perfect capper to the set. Starring Bugs Bunny and the World's Saddest Penguin (“Hoboken? Ooo, I'm DI-YEN!”), it features an animated Bogart persona, badgering Bugs for small change all the way to the Arctic, and is a treasure in its own right.
This DVD is available separately or as part of “The Bogart Collection” boxed set, which includes “Casablanca,” “The Big Sleep,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “To Have And Have Not,” and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan