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A cowboy infiltrates a bandit hideout in search of his girlfriend's killer.
A cowboy infiltrates a bandit hideout in search of his girlfriend's killer.
Marlene Dietrich Arthur Kennedy Mel Ferrer Lloyd Gough Gloria Henry William Frawley Lisa Ferraday John Raven Jack Elam George Reeves Frank Ferguson Francis McDonald Dan Seymour John Kellogg Rodd Redwing Lane Chandler John Doucette Dick Elliott William Haade I. Stanford Jolley Emory Parnell Fuzzy Knight Fred Graham
El refugio, Die Gejagten, Engel der Gejagten, Encubridora, De Ranch der Verdoemden, Chuck-a-Luck
Arthur Kennedy's fiancé is raped and killed in a bank robbery and the trail leads to Dietrich's legendary hideaway for wanted men.
Lang spins all sorts of plates at once, throwing in montages that play with both the genre's stereotypes and Dietrich's iconic legend, a ballad that elevates the movie to high camp at the same time as the vicious composition of the early scenes make sexual assault obvious well before the dialogue confirms it. The first half of the movie has Kennedy piecing together the legend of Dietrich's character (only vaguely removed from the legend of Dietrich herself) as told in the form of long cherished memories of dozens of men. Alongside the site of Dietrich riding a man…
The best metaphor I can think of for the gender politics in this movie is a scene in which Marlene Dietrich's character slyly wins some money off of a rigged roulette wheel. By all appearances to the bystanders, she's a tough, willful, risk-taking dame. What they can't see is that a man has his foot on a pedal that controls the (literal) wheel of fortune. She's at his mercy.
In Typical Lang fashion, a common man, here played by Arthur Kennedy, is driven to murderous rage, exposing the bestial desires at the heart of all mankind. Even a small town election takes on a sinister air of mob violence through his lens (the participants being arm-band wearing warriors of "virtue"…
Proudly artificial, complete destructive pushing Lang's fatalism to extremes. It is a series of mirrors, violent impulses and movie tall tales allowed to cancel each other out. All three leads are remarkable pretty much because they seen so stylized removed of their western setting. But this is Lang's movie, collapsing so many differemt tones and pushing his self aware artífice in ways that both comment in the action and make it even more punishing and he finds often fascinating ways of spinning Dietrich myth.
Imperfect in the same exhilarating way that The Searchers is, as filmmakers struggle to explore themes that their chosen art form (studio film), genre (western), and its social context (1950s America) heavily limited the depiction of. Still, it can be tempting to give this thing a lot less credit than I think it deserves - it's a pretty dark and unforgiving look at two people twisted by their surroundings into monsters (in other words, a Fritz Lang movie), and a subversive take on sexual politics (this is up for debate, but I don't really buy that we're meant to accept Vern's mission as a righteous one - this is Lang we're talking about, remember).
It's about as far as you…
Rancho Notorious is a special kind of revenge western. This is not one of those movies where a man turns into a badass when he decides to seek vengeance. There's no glorification or glamorization of violence here, it's all about anger and hatred and how deep they'll drive you into a bottomless pit of despair and (self-)destruction.
When Vern Haskell finds his innocent wife wantonly murdered, he throws his entire life away—what little he had left of it, anyway. They had plans, they were going to buy a ranch and start a life together, but not anymore. Now he travels around the country, drifting from town to town, looking for any small bit of information he can find, an empty…
The first half of this is a narrative mess where Lang front loads the info needed at a fast and furious pace. The movie seems to be pretty uninterested in the set up and in a real rush to get to the next chapter. Once things settle down and we arrive at the ranch though, things get a lot more fun. Not only do we get a decent revenge story, we also get Marlene Dietrich as a bad ass outlaw leader, which is a pure delight to behold. The interspersions of old time Western throw back jingles narrating the story and the snippets of the legend of Dietrich's exploits are pretty great (minus, as everyone points out, the weird use…
Bobby Joe the Greek chorus country crooner sings in the beginning of Rancho Notorious that this will be a tale of “hate, revenge, and muuuuuurrrrdeeeeeerrrr.” (sic) It is, in fact, a tale of hate, revenge, and murder, but it’s also a tale of Marlene Dietrich (Altar) running sh*t. Altar oversees Chuck-A-Luck, a ranch that functions as a shelter of sorts for ne’er-do-well cowboys on the lam. Arthur Kennedy (Vern) comes to the ranch to track down his wife’s murderer, and EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
Arthur Kennedy does his best, but his snarling stare is about as subtle as a rigged through the floorboards Chuck-a-Luck game. Vern transitions fairly quickly from a single-minded quest to avenge his wife’s murder to a single-minded…
For a noir this is rather thoroughly a musical, not to mention a bevy of repeating "Altar Keane" and "Chuck-a-Luck" ad nauseum. Naturally, no circumstance can hold Marlene Dietrich back from giving a great performance, and it's nice to see a badass western dame in this era who isn't just written as a dude. Her sexuality is confusing in all the best ways, and she's funny and constantly in control.
It's hard to care about Arthur Kennedy's secret revenge quest by comparison and there's some cheese to the back half on top of the already cumbersome singing narration (in the Western Noir collection alone, the Burl Ives songs in Station West and Josh White's in The Walking Hills really bury this music). I didn't think a Fritz Lang would play broader than M, but here we are.
Fritz Lang is one director I'd really like to see more of. However, this movie doesn't seem to have the Lang punch that so many others have. Even though it's only an hour and a half, it drags in places. There's some good acting and some beautiful scenery, but a lot of time is spent just sitting around the rancho. It isn't awful, and I would probably watch it again if I ran across it. It was nice to see a strong woman in a Western.
Beautiful Technicolor is really what makes Rancho Notorious worth its while. Yes, the performances are great, especially Mel Ferrer who typically is a nothing presence on screen but fits into the gun slinging outlaw archetype like a glove (who woulda thought), but the color photography is what makes this film stand out a bit more from the rest, since the plot is fairly standard and could have benefited from maybe 15 more minutes to elaborate on the relationships. Also, not sure why this is part of Criterion Channel's Western Noir series, this is a Western to the bone.
Starts out real cheesy, ends real bleak, wobbles precariously between the two poles throughout. It gets exponentially better in the second half when they stop saying (and singing) the word "Chuck-a-Luck" every two minutes and the characters' obsessions start running more consistently hot. There are moments where you remember this is a Fritz Lang joint.
The phrase "Technicolor Lang" may feel like an oxymoronic statement and to a certain extent, it is: his use of color in Rancho Notorious is never as visually expressive as his monochromatic work (nor as impressive as his contemporaries, ie: Ray) and its best scenes are those which are engulfed in darkness or low light. As is often the case in Lang's work, its greatest strength is in its cynicism - perfectly encapsulated in Arthur Kennedy's ever-snarling face - and in his ability to construct dense cages for his characters to reside in (often times, I found myself ignoring characters entirely for the sake of admiring the complex environments they find themselves in).
Criterion Channel streaming
A Langian tale of hate, murder, and revenge in the Old West.
It turns out even lower tier Fritz Lang is still enjoyable, so I'm glad I checked out this entry in the Criterion Channel's Western Noir catalog before it leaves the channel at the end of the month. It's not my favorite of his work by any stretch (nor is it near the top of my list of favorite Westerns), but it does have a certain charm to it. It's a fairly straightforward tale of "hate, murder, and revenge," but Lang's sentiment does occasionally seem to peek through (in fact, I even felt like some of the scenes had hints of his more expressionistic past). I'm not a huge fan of Arthur Kennedy in his role as the man seeking revenge…
More films should have singing narrators.
Fun, tense, and patiently paced with a hint of darkness at its core, Rancho Notorious is great way to spend 90 minutes.
Unusual western that works well enough to keep one engaged to the end. Arthur Kennedy is mostly good as the bereft fiance in search of his lover's killer and much is efffectively made of him nearly taking out the wrong man. Everyone is upstaged by Dietrich of course, who kicks ass and takes no prisoners and is best when she isn't singing. The entire enterprise is nearly brought to its knees by the Chuck-a-Luck ballad which mercifully fades away after the opening credits.
With the setting of a western, but the atmosphere and themes of a noir, Fritz Lang takes advantage of the limitations of this stage-bound revenge tale and makes it quite claustrophobic, tense, hot, and sultry.
We're mostly indoors, but even when we're "outdoors", the exaggerated rocky sets make the characters feel trapped, and push them closer together towards violence or sex. They also evoke memories of Lang's German Expressionist sets from decades past, giving this film a uniquely bizarre feel.
Continuing on with the Western Noir collection. Really loved this one. Splendid technicolor cinematography by Hal Mohr and directed by Fritz Lang. This was the first film I’ve seen starring Marlene Dietrich, whose World War II era songs I’ve always enjoyed. I loved the story, setting, and characters. My only real gripe is that the song that is sung throughout the film feels very dated.
there’s a lot of great stuff here, but almost feels like production was rushed or something of that sort; so many interesting things to mine and lang, completely out of character, mostly doesn’t take advantage of it
The chuck-a-luck song grows on you.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Fritz Land directs this rather dry western that has a spark of life when Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy) stops acting like he’s a gunslinging bandit and reveals the truth about his true intentions. It takes quite a while before that happens and what we’re left with is Vern teaming up with Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer) who may or may not have killed Vern’s fiancée. The real problem is that we know exactly who killed Vern’s fiancée, Baldy Gunder (William Frawley) is the perpetrator of the crime. The movie shows us this early in the film when Vern leaves Maxine (Lisa Ferraday ) to mind the store on her own when Baldy sees Vern’s departure. He sees the place as easy…
“I wish you’d go away,
and come back ten years ago.”
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