The Baron of Arizona

Vincent Price in The Baron of Arizona (dir. Samuel Fuller, 1950).

Loosely fact-based story of James Reavis, the brazen swindler who faked centuries-old Spanish documents bequeathing the entire Arizona territory to a woman he groomed from childhood to this purpose, finally marrying her in order to obtain the title of "Baron of Arizona" for himself. Vincent Price pitches his performance just right: he's shifty, hypocritical, a cad--but eminently smooth in a way that hints at deeper strengths of character.

This is Samuel Fuller at his most cinematically conservative--the camera work and editing are reserved, efficient, and quietly elegant. The most audacious visual is the set for Reavis's office, with its bold, stylized full-wall map of Arizona behind the desk. Reed Hadley makes a good foil for Price as John Griff, the government forgery specialist who smells a rat, and Margia Dean (one of my favorite midcentury bit-players) has a charming moment as a gulled Marquesa.

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