Rancho Notorious (1952)

“Go away and come back 10 years ago.”

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Synopsis:
A rancher (Arthur Kennedy) whose beautiful fiancee (Gloria Henry) is raped and murdered by a thief (Lloyd Gough) vows revenge and goes undercover, helping a known outlaw (Mel Ferrer) escape from jail in order to learn the location of a “safe-ranch” known as “Chuck-a-Luck”, where a former saloon singer (Marlene Dietrich) temporarily houses wanted criminals for a percentage of their earnings.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Pear writes that this “enjoyably silly western” — directed by Fritz Lang as his third and final western after The Return of Frank James (1941) and Western Union (1941) — has “an interesting premise and it’s fun to watch Dietrich holding court over the men, but the direction is a bit static and [the script] should be much more outrageous”. Indeed, it’s hard to know what to make of this clever but unevenly toned vengeance-tale: the opening idyllic exchange between Kennedy and Henry — followed immediately by Henry’s murder and rape (which is unambiguous, despite taking place off-screen) — make us believe this will be a clear-cut, serious revenge flick, but the “love triangle” between Ferrer, Kennedy, and 50-year-old Dietrich (she IS the star of this flick!) detracts from the primacy of Kennedy’s quest. Other distractions include the terribly obvious painted back-drops often used in place of natural outdoor settings, and the laughably over-the-top theme song (“HATE. MURDER. AND REVENGE!” intones bass singer Bill Lee). In the film’s favor, Kennedy demonstrates leading-man presence, and George Reeves makes a charismatic appearance in a small but pivotal supporting role as a perennially cheerful outlaw who insists he “never loses a face”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Arthur Kennedy as Vern Haskell
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  • George Reeves as scar-faced Wilson
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  • Several memorably racy moments
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Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one time viewing given its cult status.

Links:

One Response to “Rancho Notorious (1952)”

  1. Not must-see.

    Director Lang serves up a rather standard western. For what it is, it’s not bad – and it’s watchable – but it’s not exactly memorable.

    Being more or less the only woman in the cast, Dietrich gets to stand out in a number of pretty things to wear.

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