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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, 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!”

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2007

The year 1948 was particularly busy for the prolific Max Steiner. He was sixty at the time and astonishingly scored twelve feature films including The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a film that won two Academy Awards the year following. Though often accused of writing score for films in too many genres, and was subsequently taken to task for applying a Spanish idiom when a Mexican backdrop was required, the music was an integral part in creating the film’s suspense. The story was of three prospectors who set out as friends, but when they discover gold greed takes over. Though there has been recordings of musical highlights from the film, this is the first time that the complete music has been placed on disc. In his notes, John Morgan, who was responsible for the restoration, points to the fact that he has omitted snippets used to link scenes and has reduced the repetitive music that depicted a mind going deranged. In this form we have over an hour of music using a large orchestra and chorus, together with the specially composed music for the trailer advertising the film. Morgan has linked several short excerpts to form more substantial symphonic tracks, the result able to stand-alone divorced from the story. The recording was made back in 1999, and first appeared on the Marco Polo label. Under the guiding hand of film expert, William Stromberg, the playing abounds in tonal colours that belie this is a Russian orchestra playing Hollywood music. The sound engineers create the epic quality Steiner wanted, and as a whole it is highly recommended.

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