A morality play like most Westerns, Treasure charts the descent into madness of three Americans in search of gold in Mexico. “I know what gold does to men’s souls,” an old-timer played by Walter Huston says early on. Not that it prevents him from once again seeking it. Huston’s Howard teams up with a young cowboy named Curtin (Tim Holt) and a cocky panhandler named Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart). They start out as honorable, if rough men – after beating up a foreman who refused to pay their wages, Curtin and Dobbs only take the money that’s owed them. Yet honor doesn’t last long in the desolate mountains, where paranoia and the promise of great riches hold sway. Bogart turns the nastiest, which may have put off audiences for whom Casablanca was still a fresh memory (Treasure was an initial box-office bomb). Yet Bogart began his career playing various thugs and gangsters, and so his cruel, desperate Dobbs is something of a return to early form. Hair wild and teeth bared, Dobbs launches into Shakespearean soliloquies on conscience and greed, all while guarding his share of the treasure like a cornered mother bear. The legend’s physical ugliness has rarely made a better fit. Director John Huston, who was Walter’s son and has a bit part early on as a rich American Dobbs hassles for change, doesn’t shy away from the story’s violence. Even when it occurs off-screen, the deaths are jarring, especially for a 1948 release. Like its milieu, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is unrelenting and harsh. There’s nothing soft in it – and certainly not many women. The most feminine presence in the film comes from a letter written by a wife to her husband, who has snuck onto the trio’s prospecting camp. You can guess what happens to him.