Rancho Deluxe (1976)

Rancho Deluxe (1976)

“A Sharps buffalo rifle… This is gettin’ downright romantic!”

An arrogant ranch owner (Clifton James) enlists the help of his two cowhands (Harry Dean Stanton and Richard Bright) and an aging detective (Slim Pickens) in capturing a pair of anarchic young rustlers (Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Cat-and-Mouse
  • Harry Dean Stanton Films
  • Jeff Bridges Films
  • Ranchers
  • Sam Waterston Films
  • Thieves and Criminals
  • Warren Oates Films
  • Westerns

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this “modern-day Western” by director Frank Perry “curiously uninvolving”, noting that the characters “aren’t very likable”, and that the “skillfully” shot individual scenes never coalesce into a meaningful whole. Indeed, the sloppy script by Thomas McGuane (I disagree with Peary that it’s “well-written”) fails to generate much authentic interest in either the characters or their situations, and is often incomprehensible. Although Bridges and Waterston:

are clearly meant to embody counter-culture anarchists rebelling against The Establishment (as represented by the buffoonish James and his sexy wife, Elizabeth Ashley):

they never generate our sympathy, given that they’re essentially trigger-happy scofflaws who disrespectfully kill animals for kicks. A brief attempt is made to provide us with some background “motivation” on why they’ve chosen their current lifestyle — Bridges is fleeing an unhappy marriage and a “stifling” life of privilege, while Waterston is posited as a “lost” Indian divorced from his tribal values — but both threads are dropped without a trace. Meanwhile, the central drama of the story — whether James will discover the identities of Bridges and Waterston — carries no genuine suspense or interest, given that he’s just as unappealing as his nemeses. Not even the auspicious arrival of Slim Pickens in the final third of the film redeems this disappointing revisionist western.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Harry Dean Stanton as Curt, one of James’s two cowhands
  • Beautiful outdoor locations in Montana

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one.


One thought on “Rancho Deluxe (1976)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though my reaction was not as harsh as the assessment above. I don’t think the film is “often incomprehensible” – but neither is it satisfyingly cohesive enough. Not that that ultimately matters, since the plot is thin anyway. FFs who enjoy shaggy-dog slice-of-life stories would most likely find enough here of interest.

    It’s mostly too bad it’s not better than it is, because there’s potential here for a better film. But that’s nothing new for a film by Frank Perry – a director who had a longer career than one would think possible for someone with such a non-conformist (and distancing) sensibility. To my knowledge, he never had anything resembling a commercial hit – but somehow he found the means to keep going in his uniquely eccentric way.

    In the case of this particular film, I think what keeps things afloat is McGuane’s equally eccentric script. Yes, it leans toward “sloppy” but, against my own expectation, I was often held by the natural, believable flow of its rhythms and observations and I found sections of it quite funny.

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