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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
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…
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…
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"…
Pretty straightforward film noir masquerading as B-western. Occasionally meanders, punctuated by some pointless musical interludes (not to mention a godawful theme tune), but mostly solid and mythic and features Marlene Dietrich as head of a haven for wild west outlaw gangs, so you can’t really lose.
Marlene Dietrich sings a song in this that literally proclaims that when a woman says "no" she really means "yes." While the general plot of revenge for an implied rape and unimplied murder was already not winning me over, about the time she sang that, I gave up. That the film put the ostensibly strong female character of Dietrich's Altar (what an unfortunate name, too) as the crux of a romantic struggle, thereby reducing her to an object of desire, really drove home the overall sexist attitude of the film.
There are Westerns from before 1960 that, even if they don't feature strong female characters, even if they aren't feminist, even if they don't manage to have any female characters…
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).
Fritz Lang doing a technicolor Hollywood western seems weird until you realize the plot of Rancho Notorious is almost pure film noir. A Wyoming rancher finds his fiance brutally murdered and sets off on a quest for revenge, leading him to the Chuck-a-Luck, a horse ranch that secretly doubles as a no-questions-asked safe house for on-the-lam criminals run by a beautiful former chartreuse played by the incomparable Marlene Dietrich. So the first act plays out like a murder-mystery detective story before it runs the gamut of all the classic hard-boiled tropes: honor among thieves, femme fatales, tangled loyalties and agendas, plus an overriding sense of moral ambiguity that throws a wrench into the black hat/white hat dichotomy that defined the…
At Home - PLEX
A woman is raped and murdered during a heist and her fiance, played by a masterly vengeful Arthur Kennedy instantly will stop at nothing to find the person who did it even if his towns people and authorities are more concerned with jurisdiction lines and their own to-do lists back home. He then finds a double crossed an dying accessory to the crime who says the words that correspond with the incredibly corny ballad throughout the film CHUCK-A-LUCK. The following segment is the real treat of the film when Kennedy starts his Citizen Kane investigative flashback scenes he learns about the history of Alder Kane and CHUCK A LUCK which is actually almost a legend…
Uneven Western is (as the silly theme music will tell you repeatedly) a ‘tale of hate, murder and revenge’. Too bad it can’t decide whether the lead (Arthur Kennedy) should maintain his integrity or become what he despises to get even. You have to go one way or the other and here, they can’t make the call, which weakens the film. It doesn’t help that Kennedy is too old for the part and that Dietrich seems to be sleepwalking through her role.
Marlene Dietrich has the most powerful big dick energy I've ever seen. I'm not crazy about the term, but I don't know how else to convey the allure she commands on screen at all times. That dress-up scene, my God. So impossibly sexy.
All the grizzled cowboys in this film look the same. Honestly could not tell the difference.
Westcember: Film 25
"Every year's a threat to a woman."
My third and final Lang Western, and it's pretty solid. Dietrich is a pleasure as always, and the final shootout is really fun. Some of the detective stuff in the first act is definitely a bit rote. The song is weird. But, it's worth the watch.
I'd never seen any of Lang's Westerns before, or even any of his colour films, so this was an interesting watch. It's certainly not one of his best, but it's a perfectly decent Western, with a few great scenes and some novel touches, and it still feels pretty Langish at points. Dietrich is always worth watching too, of course, although this isn't her at her best either really.
Another departure to Westerns for Fritz Lang. This one seems closer to his noir works like FURY or THE BIG HEAT where honest men make moral comprises to get justice (or revenge, depending on your perspective). Cowboy Verne (Arthur Kennedy) is out to find the man who killed his fiance in a robbery. His only clues are the word "Chuck-a-Luck" (the name of a casino game) and the name Altar Keane. Verne learns that Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich) was a legendary saloon singer and lover of Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer). Vern finds Fairmont, becoming a wanted man in the process. This leads them to Altar and her horse ranch Chuck-a-Luck. The ranch doubles as a hideout for outlaws, one of whom is the killer but Verne doesn't know which one. Verne also becomes involved in a love triangle. With Lloyd Gough (unbilled because he was blacklisted), Jack Elam, and George "Superman" Reeves. Look fast for Russell "Professor" Johnson.
Two decades after Josef von Sternberg 'discovered' the iconic female star, Marlene Dietrich still had it—the ability to dominate the screen with her sensual demeanour and illustrious presence in a role that predates both Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar and Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns by a number of years, all being films that feature authoritative female characters in roles traditionally filled by men.
Fritz Lang only made a few westerns, the earlier ones being rather generic and unremarkable but in Rancho Notorious his signature style and themes are much more evident. The violence and brutality is suitably shocking, with the saloon fist fights and climactic shoot-outs packing a satisfying wallop to a narrative fraught with sexual and bloodthirsty tension.…