By the 1920s the violence of the Mexican Revolution had largely subsided, although scattered gangs of bandits continued to terrorize the countryside. The newly established post-revolution government relied on the effective but ruthless Federal Police, commonly known as the Federales, to patrol remote areas and dispose of the bandits. Foreigners, like the three American prospectors who are the protagonists in the story, were at very real risk of being killed by the bandits if their paths crossed. The bandits, likewise, were given little more than a "last cigarette" by the army units after capture, even having to dig their own graves first. This is the context in which the three gringos band together in a small Mexican town and set out to strike it rich in the remote Sierra Madre mountains. They ride a train into the hinterlands, surviving a bandit attack en route. Once out in the desert, Howard, the old-timer of the group, quickly proves to be by far the toughest and most knowledgeable; he is the one to discover the gold they are seeking. A mine is dug, and much gold is extracted, but greed soon sets in and Fred C. Dobbs begins to lose both his trust and his mind, lusting to possess the entire treasure. The bandits then reappear, pretending, very crudely, to be Federales, which leads to the now-iconic line about not needing to show any "stinking badges". After a gunfight, a real troop of Federales appear and drive the bandits away. But when Howard is called away to assist some local villagers, Dobbs and third partner Curtin have a final confrontation, which Dobbs wins, leaving Curtin lying shot and bleeding. However, as he staggers away through the desert, Dobbs is found and killed by some surviving bandits, who, in their ignorance, scatter the gold to the winds. Curtin is discovered and taken to Howard's village, where he recovers. He and Howard witness the bandits' execution by Federales, and learn that the gold is gone. They part ways, Howard returning to his village, and Curtin returning home to America.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Posted by David Ballela at 9:21 PM