John J. Puccio
, November 2009
Every day in every way, they’re getting better and better. The budget-priced Naxos label is reissuing many of Marco Polo’s full-priced recordings, including many of film scores. The Marco Polo discs were worth the money, and now the Naxos reissues make things even easier on the buyer. For those of you, like me, who love old movies, the reconstructed scores have been godsends; but with the restoration of Max Steiner’s music for the 1948 John Huston classic, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Naxos/Marco Polo have outdone themselves. This may be the best movie music recorded in the past few decades, it’s that good, and it’s an album I have fallen in love with.
The film, of course, is an adaptation of B. Traven’s novel of greedy gold prospectors in Old Mexico, starring Humphrey Bogart in his most startling role as the paranoid Fred C. Dobbs, with Walter Huston (the director’s father) and Tim Holt as his partners. The film won Academy Awards for Best Direction and Screenplay, and Walter Huston won for Best Supporting Actor.
Anyone familiar with the story, and that’s probably everyone reading this review, knows the plot (although I have the feeling that people younger than twenty tend to think that any film predating themselves is an old-time movie not worthy of their consideration and that anything made in black-and-white is ancient history). Listening to Steiner’s score, restored by John Morgan, the man responsible for many other Naxos-Marco Polo efforts, one can picture every detail of the story line and hear it in some of the best sound ever heard in this music (from the seemingly unlikely source of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus). I delighted in every minute of it. But I will not go on at length describing the “Windstorm” or “Bandits, Outnumbered, Federales” or “The Ruins” or the marvelously evocative “Texas Memories.” I suggest you just listen for yourself. With over an hour of music, the album also includes three bonus tracks—music for the theatrical trailer, an alternate Main Title, and an alternate Finale.
Trivia notes: If Bogart’s fedora in the movie looks familiar, think of Indiana Jones; it was Spielberg’s inspiration. And if you are tired of hearing Alfonso Bedoya’s famous words misquoted time and again, here they are verbatim: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”