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#053 John Huston: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre vs. Phobia

Download MP3 In today's episode Nate and Austin compare John Huston's best and worst rated films, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and Phobia (1980), respectively. Nate thought Phobia was fulling of surprising and exhilarating twists, Austin can't seem to get anything right, and Peter Lorre and Omar Sharif are the same person. Check back Sunday, March 26 at 7pm PST where we will compare Bong Joon-ho's Memories of a Murder (2003) and Snowpiercer (2013), his best and worst rated films.

Also check out a recording of John Huston's 1949 Best Director Oscar win for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

Phobia Notes
Worst Rated
PLOT: A psychiatrist involved in a radical new therapy comes under suspicion when his patients are murdered, each according to their individual phobias.
  • Ratings: IMDb 3.7 | RT N/A C / 20% A
  • Released: 1980
  • Director: John Huston
  • Writer(s): Gary Sherman & Ronald Shusett (story), Lew Lehman, Jimmy Sangster, Peter Bellwood
  • Cinematographer: Reginald H. Morris (A Christmas Story, Porky's, Black Christmas)
  • Notable actors: Paul Michael Glaser, Susan Hogan, John Colicos, David Bolt, Patricia Collins, David Eisner, Lisa Langlois, Kenneth Welsh
  • Budget: $5.1 million
  • Box office: $59 thousand
  • Fun Facts:
    • Gladys Hill, for years John Huston personal assistant and co-writer, contributed greatly to the preparation of the final shooting script for Phobia uncredited. She was given a credit as assistant to Mr. Huston.
    • Melvyn Hill (no relation to Gladys) was also a major contributor to the development of the script. Professor Hill, a psychologist whose knowledge about the criminally insane as well as his credible creative writing skills also advised Mr. Huston with the preparation of the script, uncredited.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Notes
Best Rated
PLOT: Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
  • Ratings: IMDb 8.3 | RT 100% C / 93% A
  • Released: 1948
  • Director: John Huston
  • Writer(s): John Huston (screenplay), B. Traven (based on a novel by)
  • Cinematographer: Ted D. McCord (The Sound of Music, East of Eden)
  • Notable actors: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya
  • Budget: $3 million
  • Box office: $4.3 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • John Huston was fascinated by mysterious author B. Traven, who was a recluse living in Mexico. Traven approved of the director and his screenplay (by letter, obviously), and sent his intimate friend Hal Croves to the location to be a technical advisor and translator for $150 a week. The general consensus is that Croves was in fact Traven, though he always denied this. Huston was happy not to query him on the subject but his then-wife Evelyn Keyes was certain Croves was the mysterious author, believing that he was continually giving himself away, saying "I" when it should have been "he", and using phrases that were exactly the same as those to be found in Traven's letters to Huston. All very ironic, especially considering that Traven was offered $1000 a week to act as technical advisor on the film. It is known that "B. Traven" was a pen name, and Traven's true identity remains a mystery to this day.
    • On seeing the depth of Walter Huston's performance, Humphrey Bogart famously said. "One Huston is bad enough, but two are murder."
    • One of the first American films to be made almost entirely on location outside the USA.
    • Humphrey Bogart started losing his hair in 1947, round about the time he was making Dark Passage (1947), partly because of hormone shots he was taking to improve his chances of having a child with wife Lauren Bacall (although his excessive drinking and lack of vitamin B were probably also factors in his hair loss). He was completely bald by the time he arrived in Mexico. Once on location, Bogart started taking vitamin B shots, and some of his hair grew back. But he did sport a wig throughout the entire shoot, albeit one that was artfully muddied and matted to cover up the joins.
    • John Huston played one of his infamous practical jokes on Bruce Bennett in the campfire scene in which he eats a plate of stew. Bennett knew that his character was starving so he wolfed down the food as quickly as possible. Huston then demanded another take. And another. In both extra takes the rapidly filling-up Bennett again had to eat a large plate of stew. Unbeknownst to him, Huston had been happy with the first take. The cameras weren't even rolling for the second and the third. He just wanted to see how much food Bennett could lower before he became too stuffed. As soon as the joke was revealed, Huston added insult to injury by calling for a lunch break.
    • A doctor was assigned to the unit in Mexico and one night he had to attend to John Huston, who had an adverse reaction to marijuana, having smoked it for the first time with his father. He never touched the stuff again.
    • To lend authenticity to his role, Walter Huston was persuaded by his son John to perform without his false teeth.
    • John Huston stated that working with his father on this picture and his dad's subsequent Oscar win were among the favorite moments of his life.
    • In his Oscar acceptance speech, Walter Huston said, "Many, many years ago, I brought up a boy and I said to him, 'Son, if you ever become a writer, try to write a good part for your old man sometime'. Well, by cracky, that's what he did!"
    • There were scenes in which Walter Huston had to speak fluent Spanish, a language he did not know off camera. To fill this need, John Huston hired a Mexican to record the lines, and then the elder Huston memorized them so well that many assumed he knew the language like a native.
    • Initially thrilled at Walter Huston's scene-stealing performance, as the shoot wore on producer Henry Blanke started to have second thoughts about Huston upstaging the film's star, Humphrey Bogart, and so John Huston started to get notes from the studio telling him to tone down his father's performance.

Intro music: Calm The Fuck Down - Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0

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