The Baron of Arizona

baronofarizona6

Every master filmmaker has to start somewhere. Through his later films, Samuel Fuller made a reputation as being a hard-hitting filmmaker who had a knack for holding up a mirror to the worst parts of society. Before he could get there he had to learn how to tell a story and translate it into a dynamic image. He learned how to tell a story from his decades as a journalist. You can tell this influenced his films mainly because most of the narratives borrow from real stories. But the only way you can learn how to make films is to make them. This film was one of his first and you can tell that he will become the dynamic filmmaker that he is, but he has some room to grow.

The Baron of Arizona tells the story of a land grant clerk who goes to great lengths in order to produce forged documents that proved he (through marriage) owned all of Arizona. His great lengths involve becoming a monk in a monastery in Spain, becoming a gypsy, and carving a stone for some reason. Once he lays claim to the land, the United States government (who only have it as a territory at this point) tries to reveal his claim as a fraud. The last half of the film is just Vincent Price denying the government’s acquisitions with more and more flamboyant speeches.

Vincent Price plays the part of the Baron with uncharacteristic refrain. He never hams it up or turns on his Vincent Price voice at any part. I actually think this is to the detriment of the film. To put it quite frankly, land grant issues are very dry and boring. No matter what Samuel Fuller does, he cannot make it any more exciting. No shot of an ancient Spanish monastery or Vincent Price carving something on a rock in the rain will put out of your mind just how droll his motivations are.Vincent Price’s dull characterizations are not helped by the various women he entangles himself with. At one point when her is at a trial with the baroness, the prosecution accuses him of being a liar. The baroness stands up and delivers a speech that is supposed to show how much faith and love she has for him. Instead she just puts on her mousey face and utters words with no impact at all. It is frustrating because the character has so much potential and yet she just plays her as a boring pretty lady. Maybe the actress should have stuck with making alternatives to hot fudge sundaes instead of venturing into acting.  If she were alive today I would ask why she had it out for such a delicious sundae…

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