I hope that we can all agree that greed is an ugly thing. If not, wait until you watch this week’s two cinematic suggestions.
In this world, it’s not hard to compare ourselves and our belongings to others and what they have. If we are not content with our lives and possessions then in the process of comparing, it is easy to slip into coveting. Sure, we can set goals for ourselves and plan and save up for purchases, but it’s that selfish streak that gets us into trouble.
Without temperance or self control, our desires for what we think will make us happy end up directing us. Like tunnel vision, our hearts and minds become set on this craving and are blind to the harmful and isolating effects it has.
As demonstrated in the films below, greed is a slimy slope that sends anyone caught up in it down a spiral of madness that has no happy end.
The Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum plays the hunter, Harry Powell. His camouflage: The suit of a parson, complete with a wide brimmed hat and Bible. Under the black ensemble is a heinous killer. With tattoos reading “Love” and “Hate” sprawled across his knuckles, he sets out for his game: Two young children, and more specifically, their toy doll.
Before being released from a prison cell he shared with the children’s father, Powell learned his cellmate’s stolen loot was hidden somewhere on his farm. Once out, only a poor family stands between Powell and the money. Filled with greed and bad intent, Powell is an evil force that stalks the children as they flee through dark rural landscapes.
Powell’s presence and even absence is unsettling, knowing he could be lurking behind any corner, prowling in the gloom of any shadow. The immoral determination that drives Mitchum’s character is frightening (not unlike his Max Cady character in Cape Fear) and his deception and cruelty is disturbing. The film has some genuinely startling images; one in particular will stay with you long after viewing. This was actor, Charles Laughton’s only time in the director’s chair, and his product is a gritty tale of light and darkness. Tonight’s the night, at 6 p.m., on TCM.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre
Humphrey Bogart plays one of two men living down-and-out in Mexico, begging in order to get by. The two hatch an idea to solve their life’s problems by finding their riches in the mountains. When they convince an older gold miner (Walter Houston) to join them and show them the ropes, he proceeds with caution, warning the two loners of the wickedness he has seen gold exude.
They set up camp and are ready to strike it rich. The mining process is pretty detailed though and to the newcomers’ surprise, the gold that is found is in its very fine, dust form. The trio divides each day’s findings among themselves and eventually greed enters the camp. Accusations are made about who has more in their pile and trust and teamwork begin to slide. Bogart’s character takes the worst turn and becomes obsessive and neurotic. With tension already soaring, a number of tight situations are thrown in that push the men’s morals to the limit.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a great movie, and sometimes upsetting to watch. Most of the time, you want to shake the characters, but only because it’s a realistic portrait of how greed tears into the lives of those it infects.
You can find it on Wednesday, July 23, at 10:15 p.m. on TCM.
(Reece Kelly, a native of East Liverpool, studied film at Regent University. Let him know what you thought of this week’s featured films by sending an email to ReecesReviews@gmail.com)