Story: James Addison Reaves (Vincent Price) is a conman with a long game in mind, a heist that will require years of planning and execution. Reavis will need to call on all of his skill and experience as a swindler to pull off this heist, but he has no intention of failing in his pursuit and his patience is endless, it would seem. A lesser grifter would rush the plan and make mistakes in the process, but Reavis is nothing if not patient and attentive to detail. His target? He wants to be recognized as the sole land owner of the entire state of Arizona. That sounds impossible, but Reavis believes he has an ironclad scheme and after years of preparation and tying up various loose ends, he has managed to install himself in a position where his goal might be achievable. But can Reavis pull off the land heist to beat all land heists, or will even a man with his skill and patience make a crucial mistake?
Entertainment Value: The Baron of Arizona boasts some cinematic credentials, with Vincent Price in the lead role and Samuel Fuller in the director’s chair. But while the movie is by no means bad or dull, I can’t help but feel left disappointed here. The plot is solid, but the overreliance on flashbacks can be tedious at times and there just isn’t a fluid flow to the narrative. I was more dialed in with this than many other viewers, perhaps because I enjoyed Price’s performance so much, but I can understand why others would find this less worthwhile. For me however, Price elevates the otherwise forgettable movie and manages to do a lot with what he was given. The production values are good, with good atmosphere and visual touches, such as costumes and set design elements. The Baron of Arizona just needed a more punched up script and better flow within the narrative, as it has some solid aspects, only to be weighed down by the lackluster material. Although I wasn’t bowled over by this one, I would still recommend it to fans of Price, who is easily the main draw here.
While Samuel Fuller’s direction will likely lure some viewers to The Baron of Arizona, this was only his second feature film and his style was still finding its path. In case the previous paragraph didn’t make it clear, the hero of this production was Vincent Price, who delivers a skilled, but also fun performance that balances the dramatic with some sly humor. He isn’t as over the top as some of his later pictures, but he does dial up his acting and chews up the material at times. Which is fine, since the material needed to be dealt with and Price gets much more out of the script than most actors would. I also think it speaks volumes that this was one of Price’s favorites of his own roles, as his energy resonates on screen, even when the material holds him back. For fans of his work, The Baron of Arizona is certainly worth a look and has a terrific effort from the screen legend. The cast also includes Ellen Drew, Vladimir Sokoloff, Beulah Bondi, and Reed Hadley.
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