Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, . . Story by , Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by .
Samuel Fuller never met a criminal who didn’t thoroughly fascinate him, in this case making his second feature film as director about a man who tried, and almost managed, to steal an entire state. has a great time playing James Reavis, a character based on a real figure of history, who sees the opportunity to become rich and powerful thanks to the U.S. government’s decision to honour previously existing land grants in its newly acquired territories. He moves into the life of a little orphan girl (who grows up to be played by ), convincing her guardian that she is the long lost heir to an ages-old Spanish dynasty, raising and educating her to eventually have her lay claim to the state of Arizona as its rightful owner. To accomplish this deed, Reavis spends years in a Spanish monastery forging documents before going back to America with the goal of marrying his now fully raised ward, which makes him the wealthiest tyrant in the southwestern state. Fuller’s intelligent avoidance of moralizing always served him well and is on display here, though his style hasn’t yet achieved that richly brutal tone that would make films like Pickup On South Street so memorable. While it plays like a studio period piece, sumptuous in its visual display, it makes no bones about its character’s villainy through the casting of the great Price, who has no end of fun in the role. Fuller takes as much delight in Reavis’s misdeeds as he does in his comeuppance, judging the sinner as harshly as he does the angry mob that judges him and, as a result, very little of it feels corny today.