Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Baron of Arizona

Ever the newspaperman, Fuller sets out in his second film to reveal the story behind the (true) headline “19th-century con man passes self off as Baron of Arizona, cheats residents, brought to justice”. Clumsy exposition cedes to an extended flashback wherein Price emerges atmospherically from the rain to present an orphan girl with long-lost deeds of entitlement. Three years in a Spanish monastery forging documents and he comes back to marry the now-grown waif and assume the title. Fuller hammers the story points, while Price is all arched eyebrows and smug self-belief, and Drew is given almost nothing to do but rise above the sentimental ending with dignity. The picture and Fuller’s blunt camera style are aided immeasurably by James Wong Howe, culminating in a thrilling mob scene, but the finer points of a petty civil servant’s presumptive aristocratic dreams are left untouched.

d/sc Sam Fuller p Carl K. Hittleman ph James Wong Howe ed Arthur Hilton ad Frank Paul Sylos m Paul Dunlap cast Vincent Price, Ellen Drew, Vladimir Sokolov, Beulah Bondi, Reed Hadley, Robert Barrat, Robin Short, Tina Pine
(1950, US, 97min, b/w)
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